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We often do not know what to say to someone who is suffering from something – an illness, or a loss. Often we are conditioned to how the one suffering perceives it. Here’s a POV.
I’d like to take a moment to pen down my thoughts about breast cancer and what that has taught me about communication.
My maternal grandmom had breast cancer. Till her last breath, she did not want to make it known to anyone. I’m not sure she even knew I knew about it. So much is the stigma and shame attached to breast cancer.
I don’t feel comfortable talking about her with respect to this illness since it was not her desire to have people know about it. Now, she is up in heaven… but I do feel it is important for those living with the illness not to feel this way.
I know another friend (who I consider close although we are only intermittently in touch) who had breast cancer. She used to run in marathons and was very active in the runners’ circuit. She still is. She, too, developed breast cancer a few years back. She openly spoke about it through articles in newspapers where she gave readers advice on how to handle a patient who has had breast cancer or who is suffering from it.
I’m not sure even my initial whatsapp message to her once I knew of her illness was appropriate. I truly just didn’t know what to say. It may have come across badly although I’m sure she knows that I meant well.
This is why it is so important to spread awareness about illnesses and how to handle someone with an illness. Often, even well-meaning people who care about us express their concern in a way that hurts us. We may realize years later that the person meant well, but the damage is done to that person.
As a communication specialist, I recognize the need for better interpersonal communication. The irony is that despite being in the field myself, I have often been severely misunderstood. It is important to know how one is coming across to another person. It is important to listen to understand, than just listen to respond.
There is no shame in having an illness. But as a friend or relative of a person with an illness, it is more important that you not shame the patient!
Everybody has a story of their own. Everybody has emotional baggage. It is important to realize that when a person acts a certain way toward you, it is more a reflection on that person rather than a reflection on you.
This may seem like psychobabble to some people, but don’t books and psychology have most of the answers to life? I think they do!
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