When offering help, he said, be specific about what you can provide to support the patient: meals; child care or elderly care; transport to and from treatments; company during doctor visits (especially useful if you can take notes), tests or treatments; a soundboard, maybe even in the middle of the night; a lunch date or a fun outing; even a blank diary without instructions on what the patient records in it.
Dr. Harpham is the author of "Healing Hope: Through and Beyond Cancer," among other very useful books on how to live with and after cancer. Both she and Mrs. Wolters warn against offering patients unrealistic advice and predictions standing in the sky.
"The most ridiculous thing I heard was" The best thing you can do for your cancer is to stay positive, "Ms. Nodjoumi said." Does that mean if I don't stay positive, my cancer will come back?
One patient told Mrs. Wolters: "Sometimes I feel I can't cry or get angry because they think I'm not being positive."
She wrote: “It can be too difficult to handle when a follower is full of unrealistic ideas of rainbows and unicorns regarding our diagnosis, prognosis or treatment. This is a horrible fight, and we are sick and tired, and sometimes your life on la-la land is more than we can bear. We want to be positive and we appreciate you as our cheerleader, but we also need realism. ”
At the same time, Dr. Harpham suggests asking patients, whatever the state of their disease, what they expect. Encourage them to focus on short-term goals and ask them if there is any way to help them achieve those goals. Lead them to talk about hopes that they can do something and listen without interrupting, judging or trying to fix what they say. In all cases, he said, the underlying message should be "I hear you … I believe you … I'm here for you."
But never ask about the cure. "Cure is a word too big for most of us to feel comfortable," Wolters wrote. “As a patient who has been told that there is no cure for his illness, the word remission feels as if the heavens opened and the angels sang; it really doesn't improve much. "