Article contributed by Cancer Education Center staff member Lonnie Fynskov, R.N.
A diagnosis of cancer affects almost everyone at some point in our life, either our own health or that of someone we love. Frequently, a new cancer diagnosis comes with a lot of unsolicited, and sometimes unhelpful, advice.
Very concerned and well intentioned people may offer a huge variety of suggestions in an effort to be supportive, but sometimes it actually increases our stress and anxiety. Some suggestions may cast doubt on the chosen treatment plan or they may be just one of many seemingly unending conversations that all deal with this tough diagnosis. What’s the best way to handle this situation?
Despite everyone being different there are some things that seem to be universal. Everyone has the right to decide how much information they want to share about their health status. Even if you know someone has your good health as their priority, you are not obligated to share personal information or verbally respond to their suggestions. If not answering feels awkward, it’s good to have a plan that comfortably meets your needs. Some people choose to be very direct and just politely say they prefer not to talk about their diagnosis or treatment right now. Others may choose to utilize a form of social media to do a mass communication with friends and family as a way to let them know that is how they prefer to share information. Or, some people will take control of the conversation by providing a brief answer, and then change the topic by asking the other person a question. For example, “I appreciate your concern. That’s an interesting idea…And how’s your family doing?” Just like there is not only one way to respond, there is not only one right way to respond. The best technique for you is whatever you are comfortable with that achieves your desired result. These are just a couple of examples. What has worked for you in these situations?