Submitted by Dr. Robert F. Lane on
Remember this blog deals with cancer on a timeline from diagnosis through making treatment decisions, overcoming the personal, interpersonal, social and spiritual impacts of diagnosis and treatment, and then remission, possible relapse and, for some, the home stretch when treatment is no longer effective. You have to start at the beginning as each entry builds on prior blogs. We are now still focusing on the early stages of dealing with the life impacts of diagnosis and treatment. The rest comes in the weeks ahead. Todays topic:
Avoid fearful people. Don't give them any airtime; none at all. Surround yourself with safe people and be on the lookout for the dangerous ones that are often uncomfortable talking about life with cancer. They will default to expressing their sympathy or their fears, or to telling you about someone else who died or had a terrible experience. Be prepared, interrupt them and change the subject. Ask them a question about themselves or tell them about some other aspect of your life. They will be grateful and you will be spared.
It is exceedingly unlikely that someone else's cancer experience will biologically match your own even if it is the same type. It is more likely that their story will a source of confusion or alarm.
I caution patients that breast cancer is like an apple. There are countless varieties, red delicious, Fuji, Gala, and Granny Smith. They look different, taste different, some good to eat and others good for pies. All cancers are like that. Same name, but different behaviors, different treatments, different outcomes. Unless your friend brings an encouraging story about someone’s inspiring, triumphant life in spite of cancer, change the subject. All their other stories are just anxiety-fodder for the Dragon to feed you. You don't need them.
Be intentional in initiating conversation about the rest of your life. It will help sustain your relationships. Many people are uncomfortable talking about cancer and run out of things to say pretty fast. Understand that their discomfort comes from fear and ignorance. If you are afraid, they will be too. If you are relaxed, they will usually follow your lead. You can take control and help them be comfortable around you. Otherwise you can experience a growing sense of loneliness and disengagement from life if such people need to avoid you to protect their own relational inadequacies. Save both of you and your relationship by steering conversation into other topics.
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