The Dallas Morning News ran a story on the front page of today's Health section entitled, What Not to Say to a Cancer Patient. For the article, special contributor Melissa T. Schultz interviewed me, two other survivors (scroll through photographs) and Dr. Walter Baile of University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC).
For those of you who follow this blog regularly, the article will review ideas we've discussed over the years. First, a few things not to do:
- Don't share anecdotes of patients who died.
- Don't tell patients they will be fine.
- Don't tell patients what to do to get well.
- Don't do something for the patient without first asking for -- and getting -- permission.
And a few things that are usually helpful:
- Listen without judgment. ["I hear what you are saying."]
- Let them know you care ["I care about you."]
- Invite them to ask for assistance and let them know what specific tasks you can do ["If you would like me to (drive you to treatments, do research for you, bring meals, go grocery shopping...."), I would be happy to help out."
I say "usually" helpful, because no formula exists for the "right" thing to say to a survivor. What is best for one person may be harmful for another person (and vice versa).
Two useful resources;