Speaking with Cancer Survivors: Comfort, Courage, and Control

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By Jeff Hutchins, PearlPoint Cancer Support


I LOVE my "work." I get the opportunity to cross paths with anywhere from five to fifteen cancer patients a day. Speaking with them is one of my favorite things. Why? Because they teach me so much. Allow me to share…

When I tell people about what my job entails, I often receive a number of questions—how do you do it? Don’t you get tired of it? Does it make you depressed? What do you say? (The last one is my favorite question.)

Some people think it's so important to say the right things. I tend to take the opposite approach. What do I do? Listen.

You can often comfort someone just by listening. Sometimes it’s better to listen to what someone has to say than to "say the right things." I've learned that many times cancer is an invisible illness. What I mean by this is you can't walk down the street and pick cancer patients or cancer survivors out of the crowd on looks alone. Many deal with their diagnosis internally, and sometimes internalize their feelings as well.

Which brings me to my next point. It takes courage to reach out and seek resources, to ask for help. It's not a sign of weakness; it’s quite the opposite. It’s a sign of strength and courage. Whether you need a friend, a support group, a registered dietitian, or someone else, there are some things in life we aren't supposed face alone. Cancer is one of them.

Thinking of asking for help? Do it! Make that call. Send that text. Draft that email to an organization who offers help. It'll be one of the best thing you do during your cancer journey, even if only for your own mental health. There's a little something you can gain from reaching out for support—a sense of control.

This is where I offer my last point. Take control of what you can. You may not be able to control your diagnosis, physical reactions, or chemo side effects, but there are still things you can control. Want to talk? Call a friend or family member. Or, call me! Want to go for a walk? Go outside and take a walk. Want to eat better? Talk to a registered dietitian. We can’t control everything that happens to us, but we can control our reactions.

There is nothing more I love than cancer patients telling me that they feel like they have a plan, like they have some control again. Is it easier said than done? Yes, maybe so, but there is more peace in taking control of what you can than allowing something to run wild in your life. You don’t have to take it punch by punch.

I talk to the strongest people every day. What a privilege! I want to tell them all: You are courageous, you are comforted, and now, you are in control.

I’ll leave you with a quote.

"Happiness is happenstance. It depends on what happens. Joy is a choice. Let's choose that more."

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