Our current blog series is about holiday gifts for cancer patients and their loved ones helping care for them. While reflecting on this idea and thinking about my time taking care of cancer patients, both professionally and personally, there was one gift that kept coming to mind, and that is honoring the person’s wishes. While it is not tangible, I can assure you that it is valuable to patients and their loved ones. Let me explain a bit.
When a person is diagnosed with cancer, they lose some control over their life. They are sprung into a calendar filled with appointments and treatments. They are having testing done with results that can change the trajectory of their lives. They have a disease that they are doing their best to manage but that sometimes has a mind of its own. Providers do their best to give the patient control by making a treatment plan together and listening to goals and wishes, but most times there is a sense of a lack of control. Along with them, their loved ones closest to them, also have a sense of losing control. Their lives change very quickly along with the patient.
So, what does it mean to honor the person’s wishes? Well, you can start by asking them what they would actually like. Do they want a present? Time with you? A hot meal? Their home cleaned? Privacy? Maybe what they want is to not make a decision! The possibilities are somewhat endless. Now for the important part, get them what they requested. It does not have to be what you think they want or need, it is all about them and their wishes. And this isn’t something for just around the holidays, this should be all the time. Feeling respected and knowing that others are valuing your wishes, is a huge gift in itself.
By asking a person what they would like not giving them what you think they want or need, you are giving them back some control. You are honoring what they find most valuable during a very challenging time.
Karen practiced as an acute care nurse on a medical-oncology unit at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for several years. She joined OncoLink as an Educational Content Specialist in 2014. In her blog, she shares stories about her personal experiences with cancer, both on the floor and in her personal life.