It is a while since I have been on the forum and I found this thread quite thought provoking and the original article really interesting. I am what you might call a glass half full person, which could be annoying to others! I think it all comes down to the need of the indvidual and the ability to read that need, which can only come from listening and understanding. Before my diagnosis I felt there was a chance I had breast cancer and although that was a concern it wasn't even on the first page of my worry list. When I went for my mammogram and they went on to do ultrasound and biopsies I thought there was now a strong chance I had breast cancer and it became a worry, but one I didn't know how to evaluate. When I saw the registrar before I left and pressed him to confirm whether "looks abnormal" meant it was probably cancer then I knew I needed to be prepared for the diagnosis. So I did my research and decided my chances were very good of achieving a more positive prognosis than death (!) and that there was a range of likely outcomes, some a lot better than others. When I received my diagnosis I was therefore able to feel happy/lucky that although I had cancer, treatment was available and I seemed to be at the favourable end of the range. I looked at my options and decided to go for full mastectomy and sentinel node biopsy rather than WLE and have to have rads. I knew that if the biopsy was clear I wouldn't have to have chemo. It was clear and again I told myself how lucky I was. For me it was the right thing to regard the loss of my breast as a small price to pay to avoid rads/chemo/ongoing worries about the cancer still lurking. For another person that loss would be huge and be an enormous psychological blow. So for someone talking to me, a blunt conversation along the lines of "it's better than losing something useful like an arm or a leg" would be hugely supportive of my decision. For someone else saying that would be incredibly hurtful and belittling of their loss, which to them is much greater than mine. Someone who has felt that loss would be best placed to advise but does their conversation need to be along the lines of "I can understand how difficult it must be to you, not just to undergo the physical treatment but also that loss of part of your femininity, and to have the worry of it coming back. You need to allow yourself to grieve, we can understand your sadness. If you want to talk about it I am here to listen". Are we good at communicating our support needs or do we just expect others to know, and if so is that a bit harsh? Would I have known how to support someone in a similar situation - I am not sure I would. I might have been one of those people saying "Try to stay positive" as a way of showing I cared and was being supportive. When people say "Stay positive" I think the majority have read that positivity is a good thing and they are trying to be supportive in an untrained/inexperienced way, and who would think that "I'm worried you are going to die" is a good thing to say, apart from children (who need to express that fear and be reassured). Maybe we need to feed back to people who say the wrong thing so they will better know how to support us and others in future? Maybe not people who we don't know very well, but those close to us. Perhaps it is for us to provide the training for friends and family.
... View more