TALKING ABOUT CANCER
If you have cancer
Talking with your doctor isn’t always easy, but you can learn to do it. It’s important to feel at ease with your doctor. How well you are able to talk with your doctor is a key part of getting the care that’s best for you.
It’s also important to discuss your concerns about how cancer will affect your life and the things you do. Never hold back information. Be honest about your habits – even if you’re not proud of them, like smoking or drinking.
Taking an active role in your cancer treatment can help you get the best care from the team of doctors, nurses, and other health care providers taking care of you. Each person has skills that you may need. They can answer your questions, support you and your family, and help you find people and places near you that can give you more help.
In general, tell the people close to you how you’re feeling. This is sometimes hard to do, but it’s healthy to let others know about your sadness, anxiety, anger, or other emotional distress. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, you may want to find a support group or a mental health counselor to help you. Your support group or counselor will be there for you at a regular time set aside for you to focus on and talk about your concerns and issues. Some people prefer workshops, peer groups, or religious support.
If you know someone with Cancer
Basic do’s and don’ts when someone you know has cancer
- Take your cues from the person with cancer. Some people are very private while others will openly talk about their illness. Respect the person’s need to share or their need for privacy.
- Let them know you care.
- Respect their decisions about how their cancer will be treated, even if you disagree.
- Include the person in usual work projects, plans, and social events. Let them be the one to tell you if the commitment is too much to manage.
- Check before doing something for your co-worker with cancer, no matter how helpful you think you are being. Keep them up-to-date with what’s happening at work.
- Listen without always feeling that you have to respond. Sometimes a caring listener is what the person needs the most.
- Expect the person with cancer to have good days and bad days, emotionally and physically.
- Keep your relationship as normal and balanced as possible. While greater patience and compassion are called for during times like these, your friend should continue to respect your feelings, as you respect their feelings.
- Offer to help in concrete, specific ways.
- Offer advice they don’t ask for, or be judgmental.
- Feel you must put up with serious displays of temper or mood swings. You shouldn’t accept disruptive or abusive behavior just because someone is ill.
- Assume your co-worker no longer can do the job. They need to feel like a valuable contributing member of the company or department.
- Take things too personally. It’s normal for the person with cancer to be quieter than usual, to need time alone, and to be angry at times.
- Be afraid to talk about the illness.
- Always feel you have to talk about cancer. The person with cancer may enjoy conversations that don’t involve the illness.
- Be afraid to hug or touch your friend if that was a part of your friendship before the illness.
- Be patronizing. (Try not to use a “How sick are you today?” tone when asking how the person is doing.)
- Tell the person with cancer, “I can imagine how you must feel,” because you really can’t.
- Go around someone with cancer if you are sick, or have a fever or any other signs of infection.