Thursday, September 11, 2008

What "Not To Do" Once You Hear Someone Has Cancer

You may know of someone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. This is a very traumatic time in the patient's life as well as that of his/her family. It is a time when support is needed, but do it gradually and in the proper way. One very important thing to keep in mind, is to not intrude. You need to wait until the patient and family have time to deal with the emotional shock. The following will not be for the faint of heart, but I do need to say this honestly.

Be careful when you visit!!! Every patient's diagnosis and situation is different, so one cannot assume that however you responded to an earlier patient, it would be similiar now. If the patient is in a health care setting, don't rush right over and demand to see them. Believe me, it does happen! If you insist on going to the hospital, check first at the nursing station to see if visitors are allowed....if not, then don't persist and "please" respect the patient's or family's request if they desire "No Visitors". Maybe the patient needs complete rest, and your entrance and vocal chit-chat will only cause disruption. Maybe the patient does not wish to see anyone except the immediate family at this time, so you should be mindfull of this, and abide by their wishes. If however, visitors are allowed, then respect the hospital's visiting hours. Don't overextend them just because you were late arriving. Patients are usually on a rigid schedule and getting plenty of rest is high priority. Don't stay there for extended periods of time unless specifically asked. This will only increase stress levels for everyone!
Don't visit someone whom you have not seen for many months, just because you've heard they may be dying.......... Oh, and please don't go see the patient just on speculation, visit because you truly care. If the patient is at home, ensure to ask the family whether visiting would be appropriate. I know people usually mean well, but just take the time and think out your actions first to ensure you are not intruding. Patients, caregivers and their immediate families are already under enormous stress at this time, and believe me, any of the above only makes the situation worse as well as cause additional stress to the patient. If however the patient does not need to rest and wants to see visitors, by all means go ahead and spend that quality time. Having people around them, might just be the best medicine in many cases, so as I said earlier, every situation is different.

Leave your camera at home....please!!! If you were diagnosed with a serious illness, would you enjoy having people take your picture? Just take a moment and think about that. I know, everytime someone would press that shudder, I'd shutter in a much different way. At the end of the day it only adds more stress to the patient, knowing that those pictures might possibly be the final shot. People mean well, but just don't take the time to step back and think it all out. If you missed that photograph with your favorite person, now is not the time to have that photo memory. Patients usually look ill and have lost considerable weight and this is not the time for that photo opt. I trust everyone can respect what I am saying. Sometimes you have to be in that situation to understand.

Don't pry......please!!! Most people are fine and will never ask anything personal, but sometimes it does happen. This is not the time to ask personal questions....heck, it's never the time, unless the questions relate to you directly. Never ask patients or families personal questions about whether they have their will completed, if they have life insurance and if so, how much and other invasive inquiries. Would you appreciate the same invasion into your private lives?

Don't talk about cancer, unless the patients wants is the time to be a good listener. Try to be very normal in your conversations and not focus mainly on the patient's cancer diagnosis. If they wish to bring up the subject, then it's ok to discuss it, but if not, then respect their desire not to talk about it. Keep the conversation as normal as possible and be yourself.

For the most part, people really do want to help, but sometimes don't take the time to think of their actions...


Anonymous said...

Similar events also happened to our family. It's certainly true, that everyone does not always think before they act. I guess those who are not faced with the situation are unsure as to how to react.
Good comments!
Enjoy your postings

Anonymous said...

Very true! Family and friends should be there to support the cancer patient and their family. However, there is a difference between being there and intruding.
Good comment!

Anonymous said...

The only problem with this is that those very people who come or call at the wrong time or say the wrong thing would never realize they are doing this. They seem to think they have a right to be nosey or to come visit just as I'm getting home from work or when my husband(he has pancreatic cancer) is sleeping. They never call before coming over. I have tried to get over getting so agitated but it just irks me!

Anonymous said...

Like you say every situation is different but I as a cancer patient appreciate every visit no matter the time. I have had family travel from all accross the country to see me and as if it were their last. I'm glad they made the effort and they have all been so understanding if I just need a little rest,or alone time during the wake of their visit. they have shown so much love for me with their visits and phone calls, I believe they have a true interest and care in how I am....I try not to think of it as nosey. Its not an easy approach for them either. What are they suppose to say but each words binds me a little closer to them I would not have made it this far without their loving support. I love for the door to open and it be a friends voice....WELCOME

Anonymous said...

I can relate to what you have said Debbie with regards to people who come visit in the hospital just to take a look. It happened to us when my wife was a patient there two years ago. Although we requested that there'd be no visitors, the people still continued to just walk right in.
Rest is very important for cancer patients and alot of people don't realize it.
Most people mean well but I do appreciate your putting the what not's on your blog in a hope that people will better understand we do have alot of things to deal with at a time like this.
Keep writing here as I'm finding so many similarities to our own situation.