It is easy to be caught off guard when someone announces they have a terminal illness. Cancer is one the most tricky sicknesses. A friend of mine announced she has advanced cancer; one if she had done something earlier could have been addressed with success.
Fear is one of the major reasons why people avoid seeing a doctor. Fear because they do not want to be told they have a dangerous terminal illness. It is sad because many lives are lost because of fear. This was the case with my friend, she feared being told the worse and when the pain and suffering became too great decided to see her doctor – sadly too late. But even with the lateness hope still remains and with medical science today success even in the most dire of situations has occurred.
But that is not what I wanted to write today, what I wanted to talk about is what happens when someone close or you know tells you they have an advanced illness.
I have learnt, with practice I might add, to not say the wrong thing. Several years ago I had a friend die of breast cancer and my only words of comfort was – you will be fine, don’t stress. Well in the end as she spoke her final words, my words of comfort were plainly stupid. That friend reminded me that I said months prior she would be okay and clearly she did not make it.
I have learnt because of practice that my approach worked much better done differently.
When this latest friend told me she had advanced cancer, I took a deep breath and asked sensible questions. Questions like “what medical treatment was she taking”. I comforted her with not stupid words like “you will be fine” but rather, “okay so now your illness has been diagnosed there is hope”. Let’s now work through this and make a difference.
I have now learnt not to say uneducated things like “oh you will get better”
Planning and giving comfort is the best way. After I ask about what medical treatment is being planned then my words of comfort is – “well you are on the way to managing the illness – this is great”. I find this approach more sensible and don’t give false hope but rather true hope.
Be savvy and think about what you say and the probability of wellness brings possibility.