Share information carefully
The moment was surreal as we asked so many questions regarding Travis’ cancer, I struggled to keep it factual and not let my emotions into that appointment. We knew that Travis had cancer again, and I went in prepared to hear that information, but nothing can prepare you for the moment they tell you it’s terminal, it could be months or years, but he won’t be cured. I remember trying to keep it together as the tears pushed against my will to stay strong, and evidently, they won, streaming down my face. So, if me, prepared for such a prognosis, could struggle so much, then how can I expect others to handle the news, how can I soften the blow for others to help them process the information?
Learning how to share information and how much to share is hard for me! I am willing to share everything anyone wants to know. However trying to gauge how much others can handle or how much others really want to know can be hard!
Know your Audience. There are many who want to know the nitty-gritty details. They like to know what the contents of his drain look like or all the details of his emotional state but then there are others who cannot handle that much or really just want a 5-second answer. I have found that in a world with Facebook, many people know the actual details (but do not assume all do) and so when they ask questions, it’s to show they care. So, I start small and try to read the situation. If they ask questions or seem interested then I’ll go into more detail.
Be Honest. We’ve all done it before, someone asks how you are doing and you say “I’m great” and then as you walk away you realize you aren’t doing great, in fact, it’s been a really hard day. I often fall into my old routine, and say “I’m good,” and some friends will pause and just ask me again, at which point I am reminded to give an honest answer. However, I am trying to be honest, instead of always giving the reflex answer, I try to be more aware myself and aware of how I’m doing. I’m trying to be more honest in my passing responses. So, I may not be doing great, but I’m doing alright, decent, okay, maybe I’m having a rough day, or I’m not okay! Whatever type of response, be honest!
Share the Joy. When I first started sharing Travis’ diagnosis I always had something prepared to lighten the mood. Whether it be a joke or some sort of a positive spin, the goal for me was getting to the positive point in the story! Travis was given a 5% chance of survival and so we used to quote Jim Carey “So you’re saying there’s a chance.” Maybe it was a little too light, but laughing is a way Travis and I have found to survive! Sometimes all I have been able to muster is sharing what I have been hoping for, whether we hope for a new drug to improve some side effects, or we are looking forward to an outing, whatever it may be. As Travis’ health has declined, finding the sunlight in the clouds can be increasingly difficult. When Travis was recently hospitalized I saw the good in so many people and so the updates may have been bleaker, but I tried to share the good, such as how blessed we were to have our kids taken care of, the timing was convenient, we were grateful that he was at such a great hospital, etc. Find some joy to share!
As the patient’s spouse, I have found that I field most of the questions about Travis. It’s my responsibility to share what’s going on with him, especially when he’s too sick to share the information himself. Don’t be afraid, to be honest, help others to know where you are at, and what you might need to help you survive another day of cancer.
Copyright © Stacy Fredericks 2016, All rights reserved