How do you talk to the newly diagnosed?
There is no more a potent reminder of how fragile and fleeting life is than being diagnosed with cancer.
You may have family or friends who have been affected by cancer. Based on that, you may think that you understand what they are going through and how best to support and help them.
Unless you have had the words “you have cancer” directed at you, you have no idea.
And I know this first-hand. I thought I understood, but apparently mortality is nothing more than an abstract concept until it is not.
Today, I want to share with you three suggestions on how best to talk to and help a loved one who is newly diagnosed with prostate or another form of cancer.
1. Appreciate the disorientation.
When I was diagnosed, I felt an immediate and deep sense of loss. And not just of my health, but of what I had envisioned as my shared future.
Recognition of loss of control is profound. I lacked answers not just for myself, but also for all those for whom I needed to be strong.
My initial goal was to try to make sense of it all. And this takes time. So give your loved one time to live with and make sense of his new reality.
2. Don’t try to fix it.
You cannot fix this problem for him.
It is going to take time to properly assess and profile the disease prior to choosing the best course of treatment.
Knowing the anxiety that uncertainty causes, please do not add to it by asking for answers or decisions on your timetable.
This is his life, and he is seeking the best possible solution to a new and complex problem. He also wants answers, and the best possible outcome.
So respect that.
3. Give him what he needs.
Offer patience, understanding, and unlimited support.
Simply let him know that he matters to you, that you are thinking about him, and that you are here to help. He just needs to ask.
He neither needs nor wants a pep talk, particularly one that includes the phrase “positive mental attitude.” He is already highly motivated to rebuild his health and reclaim his future.
If you simply cannot help yourself, limit your pep talk to encouraging him to take his time, to get educated on his disease and its treatment options, to assemble a great medical team, and to then choose a course of action that makes best sense to him.
And that’s it.
Yes, cancer is a fact of life. It is a life-threatening condition that requires a lifelong commitment to keeping it at bay. A newly diagnosed man is just beginning his journey. Engage with him correctly, and he will appreciate knowing that you are here to walk beside him.