DON’T BE AFRAID TO ADDRESS ISSUE DIRECTLY, DOCTOR SAYS …
If someone close to you has cancer, it’s often hard to know what to say or do. Dr. Richard J. Shaw of Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford offers these tips to help make the situation more comfortable for everyone involved:
• Instead of simply telling someone who has cancer to “get well soon,” or “stay strong,” ask them how they feel, whether they want to talk about their experiences, and how you can help them.
• Don’t be afraid to talk about your own feelings, but try to do so calmly. You don’t want the patient to have to console you.
• The disease is not a forbidden discussion topic. Don’t be afraid to say the word “cancer” and directly address the issue when talking to someone who has it. To most patients, it’s a relief to talk to someone who is comfortable with the topic.
• There can be a lot of secrecy surrounding the disease, and that often affects families. Shaw suggests that families see therapists together and that parents should include all family members in discussions so other children do not feel left out or worried about their sibling.
• Both the cancer patient and his or her family should look into support groups. Shaw said that some patients (and their family members) don’t want to share all the details of their experience because they don’t want to burden the person with whom they are speaking. However, group sessions with people who have had similar experiences often help.
— Lena Wong,
Mountain View High School