400 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 77 PART 3 MAY 2019
If you have just heard the news of the diagnosis and want to get in touch,
give the person some breathing room at first and send a card. Include a note
that you’ve heard about the situation, you care and will be in touch in a
short while. Knowing people care—and that they know what is happening—
is important. Responding to many people, or sometimes even a few, may be
If you are close to the person diagnosed (let’s call them the diagnosee)
and want to take on a big role, the best thing you can do for your friend is
volunteer to be their “point person”.
So if you feel you can take it on, tell your friend that you are willing to be
the person who will send e-mails and take calls for them, passing along the
information they would like people to know. If a good friend can take on
this task, it takes a huge load off both the diagnosee and their family.
It is important to assure your friend that you will pass on only what they
would like you to share, and you must stick to that commitment. Also let the
diagnosee know that it is fine for them to forward e-mails or phone calls to
you for reply. Once things settle down, the telephone situation won’t be
necessary. But in the beginning this can be such a big help.
Being There for Treatment
Until I was the patient I didn’t realize how different cancer treatment is for
each person. Chances are, your friend won’t have known that either. How a
person is treated depends on the type of cancer and the stage to which it has
developed when it is discovered. Not every person has surgery or chemo or
radiation. Some have all three, some two, some only one. Each treatment
plan is based on what the oncologist thinks is best for that particular patient.
In my own experience (and I have found it to be true of quite a few fellow
cancer travellers), the first walk through those clinic doors is hugely emotional.
“What am I doing here?” seems to be the overwhelming first thought.
Sometimes this is the first time that the reality of having cancer really sinks
in. The diagnosee needs someone with them for emotional support on the
first trip to the clinic.
Then there is the meeting itself. Current medical thinking is that it is best
for the patient to participate in the decisions about treatment. Therefore the
patient will be given several options for treatment. In presenting the
options, the doctor talks about mortality rates. Anyone who hadn’t considered
that this disease might be fatal will not be able to avoid that possibility
after this meeting starts.
The oncologist will tell the diagnosee about the relative chances of being
alive five years later, and ten years later, for each treatment option. The
impact of receiving this information, when it relates to your own life, is not
exaggerated when described as “brutal”.