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Confiding Our Fears

Lung cancer is a remarkably frightening diagnosis for most patients. It comes with a deep mythology of its own, fueled by stigma, and enhanced by devastating media portrayals from which it might seem nobody survives. Statistics are bleak. Support often seems out of reach. And the disease itself is a heavy burden for friends and family who may also come with their own baggage. Cancer's deadliest killer, lung cancer claims an average of 433 American lives every day and yet falls far short on its share of research money. Fears inevitably surface for lung cancer patients -- but they may have trouble finding a safe place in which to confide those inner thoughts.

Finding the right support

It is important to open pathways of support for patients and their loved ones alike. But the support system may be better served going in separate directions. Patients and their partners who lean upon each other too much, in too insular a manner, might find that their levels of stress grow too high. While everyone is different, of course, there is the risk of overload when two people feed one another's anxieties too much.

Even with a proper, organized support group, it may be difficult for a patient to find a comfortable area for revealing personal fears. Online support groups tend to feel more anonymous, which may or may not enable the type of connection required for such revelations. In-person support groups offer the opportunity for forging relevant, personal connections with other patients, and through such connections, relationships can be forged. However, as people, we all tend to put on a "public face" when participating in a group, and removing that mask can prove to be a difficult task.

Opening up to someone your trust

In my experience, there is no singular solution that works for every patient, or anyone involved in the caregiving process. I write about my own fears, but that is really only a way to enhance my own understanding of them. Maybe it will help me work through some, maybe not for others. Talking or writing openly about whatever fears we have is a good first step. Still, beyond that, gaining a confidant who will be there for you, even if just to listen without judgment, is an amazing gift in itself.

My suggestion is to find a good friend, but one who you do not see very often, and ask if that person would be willing to be a genuine listener for you who can hold your secrets. This would have to be someone you trust and yet are not so close to that the sharing would prove burdensome.

Never keep fears bottled up

While talking to spouses or partners or caregivers about obvious concerns is necessary, and open dialogue should always be encouraged, there is a role that remains for the confidant. Not all fears are rational, but they may still be valid to the patient. Not all fears need to be brought right to the table where we live, either. If we have collectively determined to trudge down a specific path, undermining it with too many questions might make it that much harder to forge forth. But withholding those fears and keeping them bottled up ultimately may cause a new set of problems.

Finding someone with whom to articulate those fears, however, will keep them from causing more internal stress. It can also help to better understand the issues underlying those fears, before bringing them back home. But eventually, back home is where these discussions must return. Either the fear can be vanquished, or there might be a need and means for addressing the fear further. By giving the fear some distance and an objective ear, however, it might now be possible to sort it into its proper context and move along.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on October 21, 2018, Jeffrey Poehlmann passed away. Jeffrey’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. He will be deeply missed.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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