A woman with newly-diagnosed colon cancer recalls being alone in her hospital room. She is scared about a pending surgery and uncertain about life after treatment. She is angry. And she is struggling with the question, “Why me?” She remains silent, reluctant to reveal any of her emotions and spiritual distress to her loved ones … to burden them.
This is the very type of situation in which a professional chaplain can help. Supporting individuals regardless of religion or beliefs, or no religion or beliefs, multi-faith professional chaplains are trained to listen, to be nonjudgmental, to tap into a person’s inner strengths, and to provide comfort and meaning. They help patients and their families navigate serious or life-threatening illness, end of life, and grief.
In the cancer community, there are many people keen to talk about finding a cure, or about the experience of living with and/or surviving cancer. We try so hard to stay positive that we end up avoiding any discussion of death and loss…leaving those with metastatic and advanced cancer feeling deserted and isolated. At CKN we are looking to start publishing more on death, dying and “living while you’re dying”. We want to create a platform where people are free to explore the mysteries, fears and hopes surrounding death with the same enthusiasm and curiosity that we bring to all other aspects of life.
When I was 27 years old something happened to me that changed my life. At the time, it felt like the rug was pulled out from under me and I wasn’t sure I would survive it. Now, looking back, I can appreciate the experience for the gift that it has given me.
When I was 27 years old, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – a cancer that originates in the white blood cells (lymphocytes) and spreads to the lymph nodes. I had masses in my neck, under my arms, and a 15 cm tumour in my chest. By the time I reached the cancer centre, after all the preliminary staging tests, my lungs were so full of lymphatic fluid, I felt like I was drowning in my own body. Following my diagnosis I endured 6 and a half months of chemotherapy and a month of daily radiation. One of the biggest turning points in my relationship with my cancer came after my last radiation treatment.
Using scientific research as a springboard for discussion, CKN is distilling this research into practical narratives that will improve the quality of life for patients and offer deeper understanding and connection for physicians. Please join this Doctor-Patient conversation about relationship changes after a cancer diagnosis.
by Dr Michelle Peate, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Royal Women’s Hospital, University of Melbourne, Australia
The idea that we can have a child when we choose to is an important part of human identity, and having this taken away from us can be really upsetting. Unfortunately, many young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer face this issue. Treatments for their cancer such as chemotherapy, may mean sacrificing their chances for future children.
Up until my early twenties, the only doctors I really knew were my pediatrician, dentist, and OB-GYN. The doctor/patient relationship was cordial, routine, and a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of my life. I mean, doctors are people who give you a z-pack and send you on your way, right?