Taking The Lead – Communicating with Others about Your Diagnosis and Treatment

Dr. Rick Wirtz Health Guide
  • Over the last several weeks I’ve been writing about some of the upsetting things that people say without even knowing that they have hurt you. In this week’s blog I’ll be turning the tables and addressing what happens when people don’t know what to say at all.

    In the women’s group that I’ve mentioned several times in the past, I heard a number of stories about how relationships with long time friends changed after a cancer diagnosis. The women who had experienced this talked about how hurt they were when these friends didn’t call or visit after learning of their illness. It was totally beyond their comprehension that anyone could desert them like that and they would remark about how they could never do that to anyone themselves.
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    From my experience, most of us don’t feel very confident when it comes to addressing really emotional issues. We try to avoid discussions about divorce, losing jobs, illness, death of a loved one, legal problems, bankruptcy, etc. because they are loaded with anger, fear, embarrassment, sadness, and uncertainty. Maybe you can remember a time when you dodged a conversation with someone you knew because you weren’t comfortable talking about something going on in their lives at the moment. If you can, what were you feeling or thinking? Did you hear yourself say “I don’t know what to say” or “I don’t want to upset them”? Most of us have been in that spot.

    When your friends and acquaintances learned about your illness, maybe some of them felt the same way. Maybe they really didn’t know how you were taking it or theywere scared because it’s serious. If that kind of thing makes them the least bit uncomfortable or they don’t really know how you handle problems they might say nothing at all.

    This is where you get to be in control of how the conversation goes and can actually make it a little less awkward for both of you. By starting the conversation about your diagnosis and treatment you help them understand what your comfort level is by how much detail you want to share. You might not want to tell an acquaintance too much but you might want to share all the details with a really close friend. Whatever you do in that conversation sets the stage for the next time you see them and takes a lot of the guessing and discomfort out of those encounters.
Published On: October 05, 2006