During my journey with cancer, visitors who appeared at my bedside delivered an array of reactions–no two were the same. It taught me a lot about what to tell someone going through cancer and how to treat them. What I really didn’t want was to be treated differently because of my condition. Cancer patients strive to be “normal”, and I was no exception. I wanted my friends and family to be how they had always been towards me- to make me feel like I was still myself. However, there was a fine line between treating me normally and denying the fact that I had cancer. I suppose that it depends on whether or not the patient is in denial, but turning a blind eye to what has overtaken a child’s life can leave them frustrated. No one should let their personal inability to deal with another’s illness prevent them from helping a cancer kid through their journey…although for some, the best help may be no help at all.
Communication with a child going through cancer should be truthful and sincere. Don’t be afraid to ask questions…for me, talking with others about cancer-related things extracted the “hush-hush” aura that surrounds cancer. I wanted truth and reality and nothing but that. However, it is also hugely important to talk about things that have absolutely no correlation with cancer. Suddenly dunked into the world of everything cancer, distraction is key in order to temporarily remove kids from that stressful place of scans, chemo, pill schedules and more. Having everyday discussions can make a child forget where they are and what is happening to them at the moment.
Above all, I wished to be treated with love and compassion, yet not sympathy. The natural reaction when seeing someone suffering, especially a child, is sympathy. Feeling another’s pain can cause one to be dramatically over-sympathetic. However, this is exactly the opposite of what the sufferer wants; it can actually cause them to feel sicker than they are and draw attention to their own plight. It was compassion that showed me that someone cared about what I was going through and made my experience that much easier.