Today I was listening to a Beyond Cancer podcast- Episode #5 "Stupid Things People Say". It was a great discussion with two young women and the interviewer, a middle age man, all of whom are cancer survivors and their reactions to how people interact with them regarding their cancer diagnosis. Often well meaning people say things that are unhelpful, hurtful or confusing. It is a good podcast and is a helpful resource to increase self awareness as we talk with people who are facing any serious health issue. It got me thinking about how disruptive and uncomfortable it is to lose the sense of control when we are "the patient".
As a patient in the health care system, a serious diagnosis can disrupt our life in such a way that we lose our sense of self and control over our life. We go from our identity of being a professional, a mother, an engineer, a state representative to a novice in the world of "XYZ diagnosis." We struggle to gain a sense of mastery over the process; to be an active participant in decision making and planning; to get the support needed in place; to organize the logistics for getting through treatment; to get our life "as-we-once-knew-it" back. Throughout the process of regaining our stability communication is critical.
Listening is a critical communication skill. For a patient, having people who are available to listen is invaluable. I think listening helps validate not only the feeling and subject being discussed, but the individual as a person. Seek out the people in your life who listen.