I believe that both of the instances (referred to in my last blog) of initial reactions and responses, point to a need for all concerned to ensure that what is said and heard (which are by no means always the same thing, especially around the time of diagnosis) is taken on-board; at least by someone else close to the patient. As we have already witnessed, this is by no means as easy to achieve, as might at first sight appear. Some patients – a bit like my SAS patient referred to in a much earlier blog (although in reality, of course, both male and female) – do for a variety of reasons, prefer to attend for clinic appointments alone; and this is a choice which must always reside with the patient concerned.
Then what about a portable tape recorder in order to monitor the discussion, just for that vital confirmation later on? And should the patient agree to be accompanied, he/she can be relieved altogether of the handling of this side of things by a loved one or trusted friend attending with them. Believe me, an act of interest and support expressed in this way and at such a time, can speak volumes; not only at that instant but also in days yet to come. In this way the problems associated with selective and only partial hearing, can be ‘planed out’ into the context of the overall message. You may be assured that no hospital consultant nowadays would ever be likely to object to the deployment of such an important and often invaluable aid. Indeed, he/she is much more likely to be glad to see that his/her patient and their loved ones, are taking steps to ensure that the information and counsel offered is being taken fully on-board.
Let me conclude this particular blog with the true account of how love and its desire ever to uphold and support, was expressed in an entirely unfussy but practical and – as things turned out – invaluable manner. Some months after initial diagnosis, a patient described to me how it was that she and her husband had attended the clinic with further suspicious symptoms (which, in the event, required and received prompt and expert attention). At that point, her husband seemingly turned to his computer and to the Internet, in order to learn as much as he could for himself about his wife’s condition. She told me, “He came across an article entitled, “Taping the Bad News” (in fact, a paper written by an expert in what nowadays we call psycho-oncology). “The following day he came in with a portable tape recorder”. She continued; “At first and to be honest, I thought it a rather daft idea, although I appreciated his thoughtful gesture. How wrong I was! That tape recorder has proved to be a “God-send” to the pair of us”: “And what about your oncologist?” I enquired. “Oh” she responded, “From the very first, she said it was “a damn good idea”. Above all, I suppose”, then pausing, she added, “No, I don’t just suppose, I know; it shows just how much both she and my husband really care doesn’t it!”
Over the coming weeks, I intend to direct the focus of my attention onto the subject matter of “Anxiety” and “Depression”: what is it? and how to identify and distinguish normal and/or appropriate mood swings from evidence of genuine psychopathology.