[MOL] Sexuality, Sex and Cancer Series-15 [00747] Medicine On Line

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[MOL] Sexuality, Sex and Cancer Series-15


So now you've identified the person with whom you stand the best chance of having supportive conversation -- what next?

Well, first of all simply because you have cancer doesn't mean you're not allowed to talk about anything else! Most people find it quite normal to talk about the minor aspects of everyday life as well as the major issues confronting them -- so don't feel limited. Talk about the day-to-day things if you want to, and when you want to.

But when it comes to talking about your current situation, here are a few hints that may make the conversation easier:

  • If possible, try to decide which things are most important to you, and are the things that you really want to talk about. Quite often you'll find that it's only two or three things that you really want to discuss -- and that's fine.

  • In order to introduce the topics that matter to you, it's quite helpful if you can give a headline first. It may be something such as `Look, I want to say a couple of things that are on my mind. Is that OK with you?' The advantage of doing this is that it alerts your listener to the fact that what follows is something that really matters to you.

  • As you talk about the things that concern you -- or worry you -- try to be specific. You may find it easier to take that in stages. You can start off talking about awkward subjects with generalities (such as phrases we all use, `Can we talk about the way things are at the moment' or something like that) and then it's easier to move to more specific areas (`Look, I'm just not sure how long I'm going to be in hospital this time'). If there is something you've been thinking about or worrying about a lot, it's perfectly OK to say so. `For the last few days, I've really been wondering about...' etc. That way you'll ease your way into important topics and your listener will be drawn into focusing on what it is you want or need.

  • As the conversation continues, when you're doing the talking it's a good idea to break up your own speech to see if the other person is following you. You can use any little phrase you like to do that: `Do you see what I mean?' or `Does that make sense to you?' or the more universal `Are you with me?'

  • Towards the end of the conversation try to make sure that what you've said has been heard. If you have asked for some things to be done, for example, it's worth summarizing (`So you'll ring your mother about next weekend, and also ask Dorothy to collect the children on Friday'). And after you've covered the main topics, don't feel embarrassed to go back to small talk (`Let's talk about some little things -- I like talking about small things -- ordinary things'). As someone once said, `Small talk is the mortar of human communication' and it's true: the heavy bricks of important issues would just collapse without normal human nattering in between!

  • A lot of people ask whether humour is a good thing to use when talking about tense issues and subjects. The simple answer is this: if humour was useful to you before you were ill, it will be useful to you now. Humour is primarily a coping strategy -- it helps the user to draw a frame around something that is threatening, and by laughing at it to reduce its importance and the size of the threat. If humour has been part of the way you have coped with threatening crises in the past, it will help you now, and you needn't be afraid of its effects. If on the other hand you have not used humour as part of your armour in the past, this may not be a good time to start doing so.
So these are some of the guidelines that will help you keep a conversation relatively comfortable -- now let's talk about how you bring your own feelings into it.