Showing posts with the label Talking to People with Cancer

Do You Really Want to Know How I am Doing?

I’ve always struggled speaking with people who are going through a personal crisis…the death of a loved one, a serious illness, etc.   For a long time, I decided it was probably better to say nothing because I feared making them feel badly by bringing it up.  Not sure what my thinking was here: Chuck’s wife died last week but I bet he’s forgotten all about it so best not to say anything? After discarding the ‘ignore it’ strategy I decided that, if I was going to acknowledge the subject, best to keep it short and positive.  So my conversation would quickly end with an “I’m sure it will be OK” or even more lame “Hang in there”. Now that I’m on the receiving end, I’ve learned a few things. Yes, it’s OK to ask me about my terminal illness.  It hasn’t slipped my mind so no worries about reminding me of that unpleasantness. Try to resist telling me about your uncle, cousin, or neighbor who also had cancer.  At a minimum, please omit the details of their long and painful death. If

The Four Stages of Cancer Redefined

Once people know that you have cancer some will reveal that they too have - or had - cancer.  While it is comforting to be reminded that you are not alone in this, the conversation sometimes evolves into them explaining what a harrowing experience they’ve had. This can be dangerous territory if the person moves too rapidly into their story without first understanding the basics of yours.  I’ve listened to a number of people declare that they too are in the Cancer Club and then describe in great detail the suspicious mole removed from their forehead. This is like being introduced  to Joe “who was in the Army too” and then attempting to bond over the tough duty you endured while playing tuba in the Army band.  If Joe is missing a limb, you may want to dial it back. The point is that not all cancer is equal.  I don't mean to sound harsh, but it's true. Doctors use stages to describe cancer: Stage 0 - Abnormal cells with the potential to become cancer. Stage I - Cancer i