Is it possible to share your experience with other people? Can they really understand what having cancer means to you? Do other parents know what it is to have a child ill with cancer? Do clinicians understand their patients?
Maybe not completely, however people are capable of incredible empathy. The most significant part of empathy is arguably, sharing. Empathy is not only the ability to feel sorry for someone it is a gift to put oneself in the other person’s situation. It is an attempt to reach deeper understanding. When someone is trying hard to comprehend your illness do not turn them away. Talk to them and help them develop their sense of empathy.
Talking about issues involving cancer may seem morbid. However to open up and share is actually life-affirming. Indeed this sort of sharing is at its core, an attempt to improve the cancer journey. This is visible at so many levels. Whether it is a patient passing on a tip about coping with chemotherapy to another patient, parents talking about the impact on them or clinicians discussing improved treatment sharing is there.
For me sharing my cancer journey is a source of strength. To know that someone may be helped for even just one moment through my sharing is incredible. It is also a way for me to understand my reactions, thoughts and actions are normal. I realise that I am not alone.
Although there is a great deal of diversity of cancers, their effects and treatments, there are shared experiences within that multiplicity. Those things might include, amongst others, pain, scans, blood tests, isolation, fear and boredom.
Likewise there are shared concerns within families. When parents and families talk together they may find out to deal with important issues. Cancer is not a disease that affects the individual with it but the whole family unit.
When clinicians and other health professionals exchange ideas they are increasing their knowledge. They find out about the latest drugs, the best anti-emetics and so on. As doctors they want to persevere and continue life so sharing information is so important.
Being a part of discussions about cancer has made me cry, understand myself and others better and even made me laugh. Above all though it has inspired me and given me courage. I have made some incredible people along my cancer journey. I have drawn strength from other patients, doctors, nurses, people within charities and those within society as well.
I recently spoke at a conference about cancer. It was incredibly moving and wonderful to feel the strength from the sharing there. Patients, nurses, doctors, charities, patient groups and researchers were united in sharing their individual contributions. Those parts made for an amazing whole. There really was ‘strength in numbers’. The more people that share, the greater the drive to cure this illness.