Tips for talking to someone with cancer, and perhaps other serious illness as well

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    Aug 25, 2013 12:15 AM GMT
    I came across this accidentally. Some interesting suggestions, and at some point most of us will encounter someone with cancer. Plus I think a number of these things apply to any serious illness, to include HIV/AIDS.

    http://www.cancercenter.com/community/caregiver-tips/cancer-etiquette/?source=OUTBRAIN
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    Aug 25, 2013 5:50 AM GMT
    These tips are great, not just for interacting with people with illnesses, but with anyone who's going through a major challenge in their lives. I often find it best to just talk to them as I always have done; some people can be really sensitive to changes in demeanour and it scares them even more when people start acting differently around them.
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    Aug 25, 2013 4:07 PM GMT
    stevee90 saidThese tips are great, not just for interacting with people with illnesses, but with anyone who's going through a major challenge in their lives. I often find it best to just talk to them as I always have done; some people can be really sensitive to changes in demeanour and it scares them even more when people start acting differently around them.

    Agreed. I find that's also true with most HIV/AIDS patients. But as the article says, everyone handles their illness & challenges differently. You do have to be cautious at first in what you say, how you act, while not running away, either, or appearing too obviously guarded in your response.

    When I myself was in cancer treatment my husband & I were having dinner with another couple. I was just beginning another treatment phase, and we mentioned the hassle of the early morning appointments for daily radiation sessions, which meant we couldn't take any trips with this couple for a few months, as we'd done previously.

    They volunteered to drive me there themselves, to give my husband a break, which we accepted. When I mentioned my doctor's name and where he's located one of them said he knew the place, that's where he his own cancer therapy had been, with the same doctor.

    What? We didn't know he'd had cancer. Yep, same kind as mine, same as my husband had, but before we'd met them. As I remarked on the coincidence of 3 of us sitting there having the same cancer, and all 3 treated by the same doctor, his husband chimed in that he'd had cancer, too, but a different kind. All 4 of us, then, and they were only in their 50s!

    But they'd never said anything about it before, a private matter for them, until the issue of my own cancer came up. After that we all talked about it quite comfortably, the other 3 having beaten theirs already, it was an encouragement for me and I wanted to hear more. In that circumstance, with those good friends, it was OK to be open and unconstrained with me. Now, BTW, I'm coming up on 2 years and still cancer-free.

    I found that our other friends would rarely broach the topic with me when I was undergoing treatment. So I'd mention it in conjunction with something else, usually related to my schedule and the impact on my other activities.

    And focus on my amazement at the sci-fi equipment being used on me (I posted some pics here), and how really easy it was. Stressing that I wasn't having chemo, wasn't losing my hair, wasn't getting sick & nauseous nor losing weight, anticipating questions I figured they wouldn't want to bring up themselves. So I did it for them, and then they'd know it was OK, since naturally all of them knew that I had cancer, and I didn't want to start getting shunned socially, as this article says does happen.

    Because I felt I had a responsibility, too, it wasn't all on their side, to help make everyone comfortable on the topic, to let them know it was OK to talk with me about it. I made sure I was smiling and upbeat, not being a downer, (though in private at times I feared my doctors might be lying to me, as had happened to my late father with the same cancer), that I was doing fine and not to be pitied and worried about.
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    Aug 25, 2013 4:55 PM GMT
    Useful tips indeed, thanks for sharing!
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    Aug 25, 2013 4:58 PM GMT
    Thank you.
  • LJay

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    Aug 25, 2013 5:34 PM GMT
    Useful tips for sure.

    Just to add: keep it real. When I was dealing with cancer it was always strange to be treated as though I would break or could not handle everyday things. One way that folks could assure me that life would go on was to let it. A wonderful eight-year-old asked me one day why my fingernails looked that way. I said it was because I was sick but I hoped it would get better. She just said, "Oh, so do I." and moved on. She was just honest. It was refreshing after being avoided and handled so gingerly. Twenty years later I can still hear her.

    A fellow I knew vaguely had AIDS. He was asked about something irksome. He said, "You know, I just don't have time for that, there is so much more important stuff that I want to enjoy right now." I got the same sort of comment from an 87-year-old lady recently. Her point was that life is about living, not dying. A lot of cancer patients would like to keep on living life, not in false hope, but in reality.
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    Aug 26, 2013 1:10 AM GMT
    LJay saidUseful tips for sure.

    Just to add: keep it real. When I was dealing with cancer it was always strange to be treated as though I would break or could not handle everyday things. One way that folks could assure me that life would go on was to let it. A wonderful eight-year-old asked me one day why my fingernails looked that way. I said it was because I was sick but I hoped it would get better. She just said, "Oh, so do I." and moved on. She was just honest. It was refreshing after being avoided and handled so gingerly. Twenty years later I can still hear her.

    A fellow I knew vaguely had AIDS. He was asked about something irksome. He said, "You know, I just don't have time for that, there is so much more important stuff that I want to enjoy right now." I got the same sort of comment from an 87-year-old lady recently. Her point was that life is about living, not dying. A lot of cancer patients would like to keep on living life, not in false hope, but in reality.

    Thanks, great anecdotes. One of the reasons I took up golf, as I was beginning the radiation treatment, was to demonstrate to myself, to my husband, and others, that I was planning for a long future. You don't invest in all that equipment and take those months of lessons if you've written yourself off. (Lessons coordinated through RJ member rigsby, BTW, with whom I sometimes play, still golfing today)

    I chose golf because it was something I'd been wanting to do for a while, and it seemed not unreasonably demanding for my age and physical condition. But it did represent that long investment in the future that I wanted to have.

    So I must agree with your observation of the need to keep on living, even taking on new commitments in time & effort. The best way to convince yourself you're going to live is by continuing to live.