For many, receiving the diagnosis of cancer will begin the most intense period of self-exploration and self-revelation of their lives. They will discover how they handle crisis, what is really important to them and who the important people in their lives are. Some will find a voice for their thoughts and feelings that they rarely spoke of to others. Among these revelations, I have often found that cancer patients also discover a great deal about how they problem-solve and how much tolerance they have for the unknown. This understanding often comes in the form of discovering how much they want to know about their diagnosis.
The oncologist I work with is able to tell his patients a great deal about the specifics of their type of cancer, what their treatment options are and sometimes the likelihood of survival for the various treatment options. This presents them with important decisions about how much they want to know about these many facets of their disease and its treatment. Many people find that the more they know, the better equipped they are to face the challenges that confront them. These folks are gobbling up every shred of information they can put their hands on and are genuinely comforted by knowing what's going on.
They are able to use this information to formulate important questions, guide them in more intensive searches about treatment options and ultimately make the most informed decisions possible about how they are going to attack their cancer. However, there is another group of people who find all of this information to be fuel for their already anxious minds. For them, all of this knowledge is overwhelming and unwanted. It brings them face to face with all that is most frightening for them about their disease and highlights the ways in which they have always struggled to confront their fears.
No matter which group you may fit in best, it is important for your treatment team and family to know your thoughts on this matter. This will help them know how best to help you. There is no need to apologize for being in the "don't ask, don't tell" group. It's just a matter of personal style. However, if you find that these anxieties block you from taking action to fight for your own well-being, you may want to ask your doctor or nurse to speak to someone about how you might address these concerns.
Published On: June 19, 2006