Cancer: Confronting Cancer with Humor (cont.)

Event_Moderator How can a cancer patient optimize their doctor/patient relationship?

Wachs_Speaker I feel like if they remember that they themselves are a human being first and a cancer patient second and the doctors are humans first, doctors second, that levels the playing field. Their opinions are equal if not more important than their doctors. The doctors can be seen as consultants and not authorities.

Event_Moderator What treatments are there for 3-b lung cancer and lymph cancer?

Wachs_Speaker I often use my humor to knock the doctors off the position of authority. I'm not a doctor so there's the things that were suggested to me, chemotherapy and radiation. I wasn't given a good prognosis cause it was extensively spread throughout my chest, neck, and lungs. I'm not sure what exactly it is you're going for.

I think the point I want to make is that there wasn't a tremendous amount of hope given to me when I was diagnosed and I didn't want to buy into that. No one can tell anybody .... talk about absurd ... they simply don't know how long someone has to live ....they really don't know.

Event_Moderator What is the best way to handle a loved one's cancer diagnosis?

Wachs_Speaker I don't think there's a one way at all. I think it's a very complex, very individual process. I would say that what was helpful to me as someone facing it was for my family to do what they needed to do to take care of themselves. But, with much respect, I might not agree or need or want to hear everything that they want to find out about. My family was extremely supportive of that. My husband checked out things on the internet and there were things I wanted. They weren't always in agreement and that can be more than okay! Nobody's cancer is the same.

vikki3_Lycos Hello, How are you this evening? I have a question for you. My father was diagnosed with colon cancer and three weeks ago had surgery to remove a tumor in his large bowel. Approximately 12 inches of intestine was removed and after the surgery he seemed to be doing fine. He is a very active, healthy 70-year-old (otherwise healthy anyway). Approximately three days after the surgery he started having problems urinating. It reached the point that he couldn't go at all. He's now on medication and an ultrasound was done. We were told by the pathologist that two lymphnodes had been found in the tumor and one of them was cancerous. The doctor that did the ultrasound said that his prostate was also enlarged and he would have to more than likely have it removed soon. My question is this: Since cancer has been found in his lymph nodes, shouldn't we HURRY and start Chemo?? And what do you think is a good approach to this psychologically?

Wachs_Speaker Not being a doctor, I don't know how to specifically address whether or not they should do chemo. From a psychological standpoint, it's a very hard place to be as a family member, to watch someone not have hope. And, to find a place ... find a balance between trying to instill hope or just accepting wherever her father is in this very difficult time. My heart says, my heart goes out to her as a family member, and also says that in allowing her father to feel whatever he's feeling, he might move on to a place of hope. You can't force someone to have hope. But, I'd encourage her to ask her dad what is the craziest and most absurd part of this entire experience and to really listen to what his answer is.

Event_Moderator In what ways has cancer changes your goals in life?

Wachs_Speaker There's been a lot of priority shifting which I think happens whenever we're faced with our mortality. But, I feel like I've been given huge gifts from the cancer. One of which is to find out that the ability to laugh in the face of your own mortality is a very powerful, powerful place to be. My goals in terms of being a therapist and in terms of being someone who helps facilitate people's senses of humor in he face of trauma have been strengthened. It's made it almost a moral imperative to me.

Event_Moderator Why is group therapy such a positive thing?

Wachs_Speaker I think group therapy is powerful for a number of reasons: The energy in a room is just that much stronger because there's so many voices and thoughts, people interacting. If one person is in a room with a therapist, the power of the words are on a certain level. The same thing being said and witnessed by other group members is way more powerful in it's impact. Sometimes when you're in a group and are seeing things in a sad way and talking about it, and people are in agreement about how horrible it is, there's something funny about it and you may not find that by yourself. When we work together with groups, we ask people to share things they've written down and there's always relief and humor when they share them.

Event_Moderator Are people surprised that so many others are afflicted with the same diseases that they have?

Wachs_Speaker Well, because we tailor-make the workshops to specific populations, everyone has something in common. In businesses, it's everyone in middle management, or in a hospital, it's people with a specific disease. But, there's commonality in the horror.

Event_Moderator How can cancer affect the workplace?

Wachs_Speaker I would ask the question the other way around! (laughs). There's a tremendous amount of research that points to stress as activating cancer, and not just stomach cancer, which most think of as when people get stressed. It's not just stomach aches or ulcers, but all kinds of cancers! So, the idea of finding some kind of stress relief is a smart way of cutting down on all kinds of diseases in the workplace.