THE BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH BLOG: DAY 4
The Actual Dance as a play presents the events of the year 2000 from my point of view as the spouse of the woman going through breast cancer. Now, seventeen years later, it is apparent that I did not fully understand how deeply the experience impacted me. It took me 12 years to write the story, so to speak, and the last nearly 5 years I spend telling it through performances of the play. And every October I do a daily blog to help in raising awareness and to share elements of the story that I hope are of value to those who read these blogs.
Day 4: Getting the News: Getting the “It’s Cancer” news is never easy. Giving it isn’t easy either, though that is a topic for another day. It is really, really hard to be Aware at that specific moment a doctor says: “It’s is breast cancer.” If you have been there you know. Everything stops. Time stops. Reality stops. Breathing stops. One of the standard bits of advice is that the patient should never be alone when they hear such news. It is hard to be Aware enough at those moments to hear what is really said. As it turned out, while I was there to hear the news with Susan, it was me who struggled. “Susan never indicated she was worried, or if she was she didn’t’ tell me. She was always matter of fact. …” is the line in the show about those moments. The next moment – the moment when we get called into the doctors’ office to get the bad news -- it is me who sense the import of the words. Later in fact it is me who asks the doctor all the important questions, like “what about the other, the left breast.” The role of the Buddy is to try and listen a bit more objectively, though I have to admit, and the play make clear, I was often more emotional than Susan.
Stat of the Day: Communicating “bad news” is not easy for either the patient or a doctor. In one study 73% of the respondents did not understanding the term “median” survival when it was used by their physician. They also didn’t understand a lot of the technical terms used by the doctor.
Task of the Day: Who is your buddy? This might be obvious to some people. A husband or wife or a life-partner. Yet for many there isn’t that person. Is there a trusted friend? A clergy person or someone from your church or synagogue?
Resources of the Day: Patient Navigators can also be helpful in the process. Most hospitals have “patient navigators.” The American Cancer Society has a helpful for locating one here. There are also a growing number of independent “patient advocates” services that help navigating the larger health care system, including insurance. You can search for someone here.
The Actual Dance: Performances. Donate.