1935 – 2009
"You really just want to have fun and get away from the disease. It is important to show people that you want to be out and act like you did before your illness."
To read more about Buddy's Journey - Here is a link to his Facebook page
"You look great!"
Written by Buddy Squyres
I haven’t posted on the Journey of a Prostate Cancer Patient page in a while and thought I’d catch up.
First of all, I want to thank you all again for your prayers and concern and report that I am doing fine. Although I have some testing to do in a couple of weeks, the results of the surgery look very good.
In 2009, I was fortunate to help produce a program called Live Strong, Die Well. This documented the work of Jim Holston, a prostate cancer patient and Hospice advocate. Jim’s diagnosis came too late and the disease had metastasized to the bone. He allowed us to document his final days as he shared his love for the great work of Hospice and his thoughts on death and dying. He made presentations to civic and church groups answering questions about his disease and work. Ironically, Jim had spent much of his life as a Hospice worker and now he had become a patient.
Jim decided it was his mission to educate the public about his situation so that people would understand how to treat a patient and the process involved. While he focused on the virtues of Hospice, he also talked at length about what you should say and do for a person who is on a journey with a life threatening disease. Unfortunately, there are no text books that deal with this subject, so Jim decided to share his observations and I learned firsthand what he was talking about. I felt it was necessary to share his thoughts and expand on them a bit.
Hopefully these recommendations will help you understand things that will make you and the patient more comfortable in conversations about their situation. Believe me, as a patient, your mind is on the disease constantly and it impacts everything you do. Sometimes you wish for a time out so you can just have a day to rest your mind from the worry.
First, it is ok to ask how they are doing and feeling in a private conversation and in an intimate setting, but be prepared; this may be a time when the patient opens up. There are times when a patient needs to vent or share frustrations and may share details that you may not be ready to hear. Make sure your curiosity is genuine.
Avoid asking these questions in a crowded and especially festive atmosphere with many people around. The patient is going to tell you everything is fine, even if it isn’t true. The patient doesn’t want to be a downer in this situation and honestly, you probably don’t really want to hear the truth if they are having complications. Most days you are tired, you may be sick at your stomach or worse, and these things shouldn’t be shared with everyone. Also avoid asking about treatments, chemotherapy and radiation, there is nothing pleasant about any of these things and it is a bit too personal. It is difficult when someone won’t let go and keeps prying deeper into your situation. I had this happen to me several times in a club and it is almost ghoulish. Let it go.
The only people this doesn’t apply to are doctors, survivors of the same disease or current patients. These folks have “Carte Blanche”.
Proper things you can say to a patient if you see them at a club or party is, “It is great to see you”, “I am very happy to see you here”, “I’ve been thinking about you and hope you are doing well”. These not only show your concern but can be answered with a simple thank you and there is no need to elaborate. Remember, the patient is going to deal with many people in a social setting, and it is really tiresome to continue explaining things over and over to everyone. The patient usually seeks out those friends that they feel close to, and want to confide in at these times. Sorry, not everyone qualifies.
Probably the best thing you can say is “You look great!” This is a good thing to say because the patient has probably spent a considerable amount of time making sure they look their best before they go out into public. I found this really made me feel special. As Billy Crystal‘s character said, “ It is more important to look good than to feel good, Darling”. You really just want to have fun and get away from the disease. It is important to show people that you want to be out and act like you did before your illness.
Jim Holston was a good friend and active until his final day. He was also the first host of The Friends of Fogelberg concerts here in Amarillo. Jim was a friend to everyone and only wanted people to be at peace with the situations that confront them. His insights into dealing with his cancer and fate are testament to his desire to educate and inspire. I hope you will remember these suggestions when dealing with friends that are dealing with difficult diseases, and use them in the future.