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  • Writer's pictureAnne Anderson

How to talk to a cancer sufferer. Cancer is still a taboo subject, and sufferers still admit feeling a bit ashamed and lots of fear. Susan has experienced it, let’s read what she would have liked.

Updated: May 16

As a teacher she felt eager to educate herself on this early stage tumour, but what she discovered was too scary. She couldn’t say cancer out loud never mind say, ‘I have cancer.’ 

As far as she was concerned, the cancer was in her body and she didn’t need to make it 'my c....r.' Surgery would show it the door.

However meeting others in normal everyday life became so difficult, she isolated, because she couldn’t cope with stories of others dancing with death or how many people they knew who they’d lost. She longed for people just to listen, for a hand to hold, an arm around her shoulder, for inspiring words, for other to ask her questions so she could offload. 

She needed an army, not sympathetic condolences. A cheer leading, praying, or even just thinking of her army, who were brave, even though they were grieving too. An army who could sometimes make themselves available for a phone call or to hold her hand.

How can we help others like Sue?

The most reassuring, caring responses she heard were 'Oh F, Hell, Oh No,' and they were all followed by 'I'm with you, I've got your back, you are not alone.' 

Ask solid questions. 

How are you feeling, how are you doing? Listen, nod, listen some more. How’s the treatment going? Not when’s your next appointment, what are they going to do? (this filled Sue with so much dread and fear) Do you want me to check in on you, how often?

Don’t fold your arms. Keep open body language. This will relax your terrified friend. Ask, what help do you need? Can I grab some groceries or order them online for you? Show you care by simply listening, don’t try to fix this. Don’t look at your watch or phone. Ask courageously, "If you could remove fear from this situation, how would you handle this? If we could wave a magic wand, what would you want, need, or ask for? 

This will help with setting some goals and working towards them. Reassure that you will be with them and become the vidulant bugler reminding your new Sue, how well she is doing and how brave she is. 

Amazing Care at U H D Bournemouth/Christchurch/Poole hospitals. 

Susan received the most loving, caring, organised and synchronised treatment anyone could wish for. Every corridor was filled with smiles and offers of help. The staff had time to listen and were brave enough to give bad news with such love and hope. Her treatment involved three different hospitals: Poole, Bournemouth, and Christchurch Hospital. Throughout the entire experience, all three hospitals and various departments worked together seamlessly. From the moment she was diagnosed, Susan never had to endure long waits in queues, or feeling anxious. The staff at all departments were not only friendly, and professional, but also well-informed and compassionate. 

Early stage cancer is the best to get. Early intervention can lead to simpler treatments. Check and listen to your body and don’t be scared of getting through the doctor’s receptionist. You are as important as every other patient and when things are frightening and you are really worried, say so and save yourself the heavy consequences of not speaking out earlier.

Last year I ran Communities against Cancer workshops and taught that one in two people will get cancer in their life, also that 40% of all cancers can be avoided.

Last year the prevention talks saved 9 lives, now we know 10 lives have been saved. 

Please, Please, Please, look and listen to your body. 

You are worth it. 

Receptionists and doctors get paid for doing their job 

and you are worth people’s care. 

A massive big thank you is extended to the Breast Screening Unit, Poole, Belinda Pierce surgeon, Ladybird Clinic Poole, Jigsaw Clinic 

Bournemouth, Bone Scanner radiography lady at Christchurch, All the Radiotherapy team, Poole and all the amazing administrators who hold patient care and accurate communication at the centre of the core of their beings.

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