Posts Tagged ‘how to handle a friend with a cancer diagnosis’

Cancer and Language

There are two types of language that surround the cancer diagnosis. The language that the doctors speak to you in, and the language you speak with your friends about the situation. Both need to be minded carefully.

For example, whenever a medical provider referred to my situation as “Your cancer,” I would either wince, or I would gently ask them to not give me ownership of that situation. I mean, yes I had been given a diagnosis of stage 2 grade 2 cancer, but to me, it was going to be “out” soon, so why would I want to own that? Why would I begin to identify with this deadly disease that would soon be a part of my past? If you are a medical provider, consider the words you use and if those words could be programming an unintended relationship between the patient and the illness. My friend Michael Ellner wrote a book for health care providers called “Hope is Realistic” https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Realistic-Physicians-Patients-Suffering/dp/1478300477 several years back that gives more detail about the unconscious mind and how it is influenced by words-particularly words from medical practitioners.

And as a side note, another way the medical community can change lives is by NOT using male pronouns to refer to doctors and medical specialists. This goes from the pharmacists to the surgeons. It really does perpetuate a stereotype that continues to keep our young ladies from being seen as successful professionals.

The second type of language that we deal with is the language we use with our friends, and that they use with us. Most of the reasons given as to why friends back out of visiting or saying something to a friend or loved one who is stricken is that they just did not know what to say. So to those of you who are dealing with this situation right now, if you have a loved one or friend who is suffering, and you are avoiding them because you don’t know what to say, I say, don’t worry about it. Show up. Say nothing. Say “I don’t know what to say.” But show up. Bring a magazine, a juice box, a bouquet of weeds. It doesn’t matter. Just show up.