When I was going through cancer treatment, a lady who hadn’t been a close friend before my cancer, seemed devastated by my diagnosis. She wanted to visit me . . . every other day. It was strange as we hadn’t been close before. But stranger still was how she seemed to be compelled to share bad news with me.
“Did you hear about old Mrs. Dingbat? She’s been diagnosed with cancer – same as you. They don’t expect her to reach the end of the year.” Gee thanks!
“I had an aunt that had the same diagnosis as you, but I must admit she did well. She lasted about two years before she died. Mind you, it was an awful death.” I really needed to hear that.
Apart from her need to share all the bad news she could dredge up, she also didn’t know when to go home. She would sit down and stay and stay and stay. It’s not that she didn’t show an interest in me. She wanted to know every detail.
“How do you feel today?”
“How did you sleep last night? I don’t suppose you managed to get much sleep. I wouldn’t in your condition.”
“How are the kids dealing with the knowledge that you might be . . . you know.” (Tears would flow at this point.)
“Are you in a lot of pain . . . ?”
“Oh, I think you’re just being brave. I know cancer is terribly painful . . . “
On, and on, and on she would go. Her gloomy persona and probing questions left me drained and depressed. Eventually my husband stepped in. If we saw her turn in the gate, Rob would send me to lie down so that he could truthfully tell her I was resting and it wasn’t a suitable time to visit. Of course, she was then distressed to hear that I needed so much rest, but at least I was spared from hours of negative talk. So, a few things come out of this.
- Put on a cheerful face, and keep the conversation positive.
- Don’t stay long. You can always come again . . . if the patient wants you to.
- Set your goal for the visit to lift her spirits .