Every year I complain about the “commercialization” of Christmas and that it should be about Christ birthday, not needless exchange of gifts and expensive wares we really cannot afford. We have a chance to celebrate our own birthdays, let take Christmas back and celebrate Christ. Yet every year, my Christmas tree goes up, I decorate with my family, buy gifts and enjoy the festivities of it all. Hypocritical? No not really. The true meaning of Christmas is about Christ … Christ being the ultimate gift. But this is not about religious or philosophical debates. No, it is about caring and showing compassion to those experiencing a rough patch during this season. Imagine cancer treatments during the holidays.
Amidst it all, it can be difficult to tell patients actively being treated for cancer “Merry Christmas” and “Enjoy your holiday!” Especially during this COVID-19 pandemic when family gathering is almost all together banned and social distancing is the norm. What then? So how can we share positively with patients being treated for cancer during this season, survivors and caregivers alike? Meaningful, brief conversations, that is how. Not short sound bites of rhetoric. You may be surprise to know that they are aware of all the shallow, quick pity comments and looks (thank goodness for mask now) and frankly, mostly irritated by them. They most definitely (well for the most part), dislike pity. Read my previous blog here on dealing with Cancer During The Holiday Season.
Can we truly still be encouraging and positive without appearing insensitive to those experiencing hardship in a seasonally happy time? Of course! Tactfully. First rule to remember, it is not about you. It is about using your God given imagination to pause for a minute and think of what it must be like for someone dealing with cancer, or remembering a love one lost during this time, or survivors recalling their own battles from one year ago, 5 years, or even 10 years ago. How do you communicate compassion without dampening your own? Skillfully and rooted in your own gratitude. Not with texting. Definitely not with messenging. Please, no email that can be easily lost. You can communicate compassion by using the lost art of conversation. (SEE MY VIDEO ON “Showing Compassion” 2014: Keynote Speaker White Coat Ceremony HERE)
I am not saying you should “act” sad, or “hide” your joy. Just be able to recognize other’s pain, acknowledge it, give a quick word of encouragement, or simply just speak. The art of communication can be resurrected. If someone is newly diagnosed with cancer you may find some ideas HERE, that may not require conversation per se. However, here are few tips on conversation starters that may be applied in various settings (you determine which works best for you):
Admittedly, survivors can be challenging if you do not have a relationship with the person. For one, some do not like to be called “Survivors” but prefers “Overcomers” but initial lack of recognition of the difference is quickly forgiven. The journey after cancer treatment can sometimes produce more anxiety than the treatment itself. Many survivors had to re-establish a new norm and determine how they want to live their lives post cancer treatment. That discovery is a lengthy process. Depending on the phase they are in, will determine their mindset and response to any conversation starter. Unless you are in the correct environment, mentioning “cancer survivor” may not be appropriate. The key here – do not take anything personally. Here are few neutral questions to get started for let’s say, a patient presenting for follow-up appointment
Yes, it can be exhausting for the untrained, who is not used to caring … deeply. Think of communication like a muscle – it gets better with practice. The most important thing to recognize is that Christmas is truly not Merry for Everyone, but there is still joy to be shared. Maybe there is something you can do to brighten someone’s day, lend an encouraging word, or simply spend an extra few minute of genuine interest in someone’s well-being – that could make all the difference in the world. In the COVID19 pandemic era when social distancing is required, our words of acknowledgement and simple conversation could be that warm hug that keep someone else going. Let’s get back to the art of conversation. You can make a difference!
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Until next time know that,
Life is beautiful and God is awesome. And know, you are pure awesomeness!
Ipsa Scientia Potestas est ——— Knowledge itself is power!
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Queen, Your Family Friendly Cancer Doc!