Cancer – Communicating With a Cancer Patient and Their Family During Life and Death

The human nature mystifies me sometimes as I have observed people’s reactions to the news that someone they know personally has Cancer and may in fact die. A Cancer diagnosis sends out an invisible announcement to the hearts and minds of many that you better contact this person now. It is very difficult to understand to people on the outside what is really going on within a Cancer patient’s confinement to the disease. I know that family and friends mean well when they start calling someone with Cancer but they fail to realize that they aren’t the only ones compelled to make contact causing the Cancer patient and their family to be flooded with phone calls that are difficult to keep up with especially since there are so many other things to deal with.

My mother was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in the summer of 2008 and once word of the diagnosis got out the phone calls began to roll in. At times; all of the phone calls made me mad because I wondered where these people had been when she was healthy. It plagued me that people were calling at the time of the crisis that hadn’t called or visited in months or even years for that matter. The last thing a Cancer patient needs is an overwhelming amount of phone calls and visitors. Who has time to answer phone calls or return messages when they are fighting to live? Who wants to be bombarded with visitors when they have lost so much weight that they look like a skeleton and making it to the bathroom on time or being able to eat or exist for a few moments pain free is a major accomplishment.

I am not saying that no one should call or visit, I am just saying be mindful of what you are doing not from the perspective of what you want to do to help or stay in touch but from the view of the Cancer patient and their family because it is difficult to understand what someone is going through when it is not you. My dad cared for my mom as much as he could during the disease, as well as, a close friend of the family. At times phone calls were coming in one after the other and there were people that insisted on visiting even when we told them it was not a good time. Some people survive Cancer and others don’t but those that live and those that die are all busy during the process doing what it takes to survive or live a little longer.

There are multiple doctor visits, applications of medication, times when peace and relaxation is needed and times when people with a very serious disease just need to be left alone in the company of their families. Since I have personally gone through this experience with a loved one I have come up with some helpful tips on communicating with a Cancer patient and their family. If you want to contact a Cancer patient please take some of these suggestions into consideration and realize that it can be exhausting to deal with so many communications while fighting the battle of Cancer.

Phone Calls: When placing phone calls to a Cancer patient you might not get an answer on the phone because of what they are going through or what they may be dealing with at the moment you call. Know that you aren’t the only person calling and they have more important issues to concentrate on. The best thing to do if you call is to leave and encouraging message that lets them know you are thinking about them and that your prayers are with them and be sure to add to the message that you do not require a return call but that you were just calling to offer love and support. If you happen to get the Cancer patient on the phone remember that they may be taking pain medication that alters their mind and that you are in essence speaking to a different person than you are used to talking to. Some things they say may not make sense and it is possible that they won’t remember the conversation later. It is not their fault so be understanding. When you speak with them say positive things and let them know that you are believing for their recovery. Even under the influence of medication positivity sinks into the subconscious and helps.

Cards:Greeting cards are a great way to communicate with a Cancer patient. They confer a positive message and display beautiful visual pictures that can be comforting and gazed upon often. If you can send a card rather than calling please do that and if you have any extra money send it in the form of a Visa or American Express Gift Card even if it is only $ 25. Every little bit helps because Cancer is an expensive disease to treat. Send cards weekly even if they don’t all have money in them to let the family and Cancer patient know that you care. The cards my mother received were such a highlight and a ray of sunshine as she and we her family were going through this.

Flowers: My mother received many flowers during the course of her sickness and they brightened up the house and made it smell good. Cancer stinks in both an emotional and physical sense and flowers are a great thing to send. The flowers that came to my mother lifted her spirits and it will also uplift the family. Roses are nice but I also recommend fragrant springtime bouquets and extraordinary arrangements that peak the senses.

Online Communications: My brother enlightened me to a wonderful website during my mother’s sickness that made communication so much easier. You can literally set up a website that anyone and everyone can go to including friends and family where they can get updates on how the Cancer patient is doing so they don’t have to call. On this website they can also post comments and helpful suggestions and supporting words. The website is customized for the person that you know with the disease and helps to cut down on phone contact while allowing people to be informed, communicate and be connected. You can visit this website to set up your own Cancer information and communication portal by clicking on this link: Cancer Communication Website

Communication During Hospice: The Hospice experience is a very sensitive time because if someone is in hospice it most likely means that they are dying. Hospice provides a very nurturing and peaceful environment for someone to pass on while providing adequate care and a place where friends and family members can visit and be close to the one in need. At hospice the family will be informed as to the death process and what to expect, counseling is usually available and pain is managed for the patient to keep them in a state of comfort. My suggestion for communications during the hospice experience is let close friends and family members know that they can visit. Visitation is usually around the clock. Let people know that their visits are welcomed but also let them know not to extend the visits too long. The family should make sure they stay hydrated, rested and nourished during this time to stay strong for their family member with Cancer. Hospice is a time to communicate love, peace and support with the person that is dying. Let them know that you love them and that you are there. Talk to them even if they are in a state where they can’t seem to respond. Another important factor is to be a loved one that lets go even when it is hard to do so. Sometimes if you won’t let the person go they will refuse to die lingering on in pain. I know it is hard but think of them and don’t be selfish. Release.

Communication After Death: The death of a loved one is one of the hardest things a family will ever have to face. It is best not to say that you understand even if you have lost someone because while you may understand the pain of loss you will never understand exactly how they feel. It is also important to know that the experience of death is different for people based upon the loss. The loss of a mother is different than the loss of a wife. The loss of a sister is different than the loss of a child and so on. In death experiences the best thing to say is that you are sorry. Send cards, send flowers and send money. The death itself will be communicated in the obituaries which from my own personal experience I have found can be quite expense. Once the funeral or memorial experience is over there are still communications that have to be made. Creditors have to be notified that will most likely require the death certificate to be faxed to them to close out accounts. The insurance companies must also be notified in order to collect on any life insurance policies and it may take a few weeks to receive the check from them. One of the hardest notifications you will have to deal with regards the people that call for the deceased after their death not knowing they are dead. Just let them know and take proper time to grieve and recover from your loss.

I hope this article was helpful to you. Be encouraged and know that death is a part of life. Even if you don’t have a terminal disease…no one knows how long they have on this earth so communicate while you have a chance. Live happy and live in manifested love which is the actions that display the love you have for another. Please visit my health focused website by clicking on this link: Healthcare Tips


Deneene A. Collins