There are a couple of really good books on this topic that your readers may want to find. Help Me Live: 20 things people with cancer want you to know by Lori Hope (Celestial Arts, 2005) and Cancer Etiquette: What to say, what to do when someone you know or love has cancer by Rosanne Kalick (Lion Books, 2005). I encourage newly diagnosed clients to have a canned description of what they do and do not want to hear or have done by otherwise well-intentioned friends. It's the best way to try to avoid those few but long-remembered irritating things that most cancer patients have experienced.
I wish my doctor knew how scared I was to tell him I wasn't happy with something because he might not put quite as much effort into working on my case. I've never felt as scared because of a difference in power since I faced a soldier with a loaded gun in another country. I wish he would encourage reasonable complaints so I could believe that my honesty wouldn't hurt me.
Debbie - Thanks for this insight into how therapy saved you. I went through my NHL chemotherapy 5 years ago and saw too many people with trouble coping with their cancer in the treatment rooms. But I don't think many of them got help. Why NOT? (That's another column for you). The worst time for many is after diagnosis and before the first oncologist appointment. I keep telling people that just as there are on-call counselors for trauma, abuse and disaster sufferers, there should be on-call counselors for those who have been blind-sided by the cancer bus. And I'll be one of them.
Thanks so much,
Gary S. Grubb, MD, MPH, LCSWA