Like most of us these days I lead a busy life, and wherever I go, people know that I work in the field of cancer. If I am not talking personally to people about it, I am communicating through this blog, on the phone or emails etc. As people who know me will know, I can talk adequately on other subjects too, but cancer is generally a common theme.
If people are not asking me about my treatment and progress, they are talking about someone they know, who has either been newly diagnosed, or is having treatment themselves. I guess like most people too, everyone, I know, knows someone who is affected by the disease.I think we are all aware of the official stats in the UK which tell us that 1 person in 3 will be affected by cancer at some stage in their life.There are times when I feel that figure must be higher, but I guess that is because of the area I work in.
It has taken a very long time for some of that stigma to be removed, and still today, most of us feel uncomfortable talking about the disease. Some of the old fashioned reactions still remain, but I think we are making good progress in that direction. I often replay some of my conversations that have taken place at parties, football or restaurants and think that these would never have happened a few years ago.
In my opinion, if you can start talking about something, that is when the fear factor starts to reduce, so that is why I am so keen to raise awareness of cancer and it’s effects on everyday lives. So I take it as a compliment that people are very happy to talk openly with me about their feelings and experiences. If we as a society can maintain that progress, then some of the things that disease feeds from, will be removed.
I am still concerned though, about the psychological and emotional issues that people carry about with them and find it difficult to share.Certainly there is room for improvement in this area. I saw some stats recently that showed that the two people that cancer patients were least likely to confide their inner thoughts to were, a) Their Consultant, and b) their partner. Firstly they thought their doctor didn’t have enough time, and they didn’t want to let their partner know how bad they were really feeling in case that made them worse!
That means that there are still a lot of very concerned people out there. For them, treatment is improving, information about almost every subject is available, support groups and counselling are also open to them, but we don’t seem very good at sharing our problems.
My personal experience has shown me that very rarely, will people I don’t know, approach me if I am in a hospital environment. However, if I make the initial approach, very quickly the barriers start to lower and people feel more comfortable. This tells me that maybe a more proactive approach with patients need to be taken rather than a reactive one. I do feel that in general, health professionals prefer to say nothing much, for a fear of saying the wrong thing. Maybe this is a weakness in training or maybe certain people skills are lacking?
Do you agree or disagree?? The above are my opinions based on my experiences. Please feel free to share yours. As I have mentioned at times previously, if there is a particular subject that you would like me to write about, please feel free to let me know.