Patience For and With a Cancer Patient

In Breast Cancer, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

I recently had a dream wherein I saw a car exiting from a medical facility early in the morning. When the stop light changed, everyone started to make a right-hand turn until the car on which I was focused stopped dead in the intersection and everyone started to honk their horns. I also saw a policeman on a motorcycle who ultimately started to step off and walk up the the stalled car and I saw the woman driving just burst into inconsolable tears. In that moment I felt that she had just had a chemotherapy treatment and already, not feeling particularly well, this was the last straw to a day that had barely begun. And then I woke up.

“You might just think for a moment before you treat that patient with a lack of respect or just reacting thoughtlessly when judging that patient’s situation.Barbara Jacoby

As I lay in bed pondering what my dream may have meant, I suddenly became aware about something I had never addressed nor even really thought about and that is patience for and with someone dealing with cancer. And suddenly I felt very sad. It is often hard enough for a person to deal with a cancer diagnosis and treatment while trying to deal with everything else that is required for them to live their life let alone the lack of thoughtfulness and respect from others around them, especially when those others know of the things with which the patient is dealing.

For example, in the workplace, when others learn about a co-worker having cancer, it is not unusual for them to think about how this news affects them. Will I have to hire someone who has to be trained while they are out of the office for surgeries and treatments for an extended period of time? Will I be expected to pick up the slack for them on many levels and have that added to my already overwhelming schedule or list of personal expectations already on my list. Will I have to be understanding when I have to deal with that person’s diminished capacities, either physical or mentally as a result of their treatments, when they are returned to the job site? What if the last thing that I need in my own life is to deal with another’s expectations of me when I am at the breaking point myself.

And how about the situation at home! Maybe the caregiver or other family members are not equipped to deal with patient on any level. They may not wish to do laundry or cook or worry about getting and keeping any children on their normal schedules or routines. Maybe a relationship before the diagnosis for the patient was already on rocky ground and this seems like the perfect time for the support person to walk away. What if other family or friends or people in other community circles are not inclined to help the patient for any number of reasons? And worst of all, what if the members of the own patient’s medical community have neither the desire of empathy to help the patient on any level other than treating the cancer itself.

I understand that no one can walk a mile in my shoes and unless you may have personally dealt with cancer yourself, it may be difficult to understand what it could even be like to have to do so. However, that does not preclude another person having some patience with the cancer patient. Just think about how hard it is to be patient with others who cut into line ahead of you at the store or who are in such a hurry that they lay on their car horns for you to get moving at the stop light as soon as it changes. Now just imagine what that might be like if you are in pain or sick from your cancer treatment or can’t get enough sleep or keep your limited food and water in your stomach. You might just think for a moment before you treat that patient with a lack of respect or just reacting thoughtlessly when judging that patient’s situation – or anyone one else’s situation, for that matter. It doesn’t take much to do so and may ultimately be the patient’s best experience of their entire day.