Carolyn Hax: Cancer patient wants others to understand this could be the end

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Carolyn Hax is absent. The sequel dates from March 2, 2008.

Dear Caroline: I was recently diagnosed with aggressive cancer and dutifully went through treatment so miserably. The prognosis? Who knows. The whole “every day is a gift” thing has become a bit cruelly – and a bit wonderfully – a day-to-day, waking thought.

How do I get the people in my life to confess out loud that this could, and in all likelihood, kill me? Everyone around me insists on being optimistic and denying the truth that this disease kills people every day, and I could be one of them. I try to talk to them about what will happen to my business and their plans when and if I die, like being hit by a bus, but they stick their heads in the sand and refuse to talk. have conversation with me.

Carolyn, I could die of this. I will die one day. These are two statements of fact. So why won’t anyone discuss it with me?

V.: I am sorry. I’m sorry for the cancer and the miserable treatments and, in the spirit of your question, I’m even more sorry that your well-meaning but cowardly intimates left you no choice but to suffer alone.

Your question is, why? And my answer is, I don’t know. I can guess, though: you live in a society that can’t get enough of fictional death, but prefers the real thing to be pat, antiseptic, and (this is key) offstage. The difference can be as simple as the ability to click “off” when emotions start to feel too real. They might even think that their forced optimism is a favor for you.

You probably can’t call people cowards as easily as I do – you want candor about your impending demise, after all, not enthusiasm. However, I think you want to use almost that level of candor to get your point across.

As your “somewhat wonderfully” observation suggests, you have clarity, urgency, and courage on your side here. Collect them, then recruit two more allies: specificity and selectivity. Identify exactly what you need, focus on the person who represents your best chance of getting a straight answer, then ask.

For example: “I will need someone to distribute my things. Can you help me please?”

And when you get the oh-it-won’t-come-to-that answer: “Yeah, it will, and you’ll die someday too, and I feel better talking about it than avoiding it.” Can you help me please?”

And when the heads start touching the sand: “Can you explain why you’re not helping me?”

Clearly this presses someone well past the point where, under normal conditions, I would advise backing off; you cannot “get” anyone to confess or even claim anything.

But these are not normal conditions, and your needs justify extreme measures to bring your loved ones out of hiding – as a favor, I might say. Target the overlap between people you trust and people who have said to you, “If there’s anything I can do… Collect those offers and tell people you’re doing it.

Ideally it wouldn’t come to that, I know. Ideally, people would not try to escape the inescapable fact of life. But, ideally, you wouldn’t be sick. I am really sorry. Be with people as you were with cancer: without flinching.

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