It’s Cancer. It’s Not a Competition

Patient-to-patient boards on social media websites can be a real boon to newly diagnosed lung cancer patients. More often than I can remember I read the words of a newly diagnosed lung cancer patient who reached out in fear and confusion, looking for answers. They describe stage one or two cancer and want to talk about their options.

Most are met with kindness and understanding

Most don't even know what questions to ask. They need to know what to expect. They need to know what it is they need to know in other to ask their doctor questions. The newly diagnosed are vulnerable, they are in pain and they are afraid. Most are met with words of kindness and understanding.

Sometimes, not always, but often enough, they are met with a response that belittles their fears. They are told, "You're lucky."

"You're lucky, I have stage 4 lung cancer and I'm probably going to die soon. You have stage one (or two) cancer. You can have surgery and be cured. That will never happen for me." (This is often the response when talking to those with other cancers, too.)

Let's get this straight...it's cancer

There’s a strong probability that it will come back one day. That's why doctors do follow-up testing on all cancers. When we meet others on the pages of the lung cancer boards we don’t know how aggressive their cancer is or if they’ve even completed the diagnostic process.

No one deserves cancer and the experience is different for each of us but our personal response will always be the same. "It's the worst thing that could ever happen." We don't really know what is going on in someone else's life. We need to empathize with them and imagine how this will affect them. This is where we need to meet the newly diagnosed.

Compassion costs us nothing

Cancer brings with it a world and a culture different from the one we expected to find ourselves a part of. There is a new language to learn. And with it comes a whole new set of behaviors. We need to guide them. They need information and they need it badly. We need to make sure they know that they are not alone and that there are hurdles that can be overcome. Most of all, they need to know where to start so they can live their best life whether it’s twenty more weeks or twenty more years.

Education is key

When meeting with someone newly diagnosed I try to learn what they know or what they have been told. In education, it's called checking for prior knowledge. Knowing what correct or incorrect information and preconceived notions they have will inform you where you need to start to help and guide their education.

Share your story. The good and the bad. Knowing that you overcame cancer’s obstacles will make a difference in someone’s life, it may even save one.

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