News / Health

Book Details How to React When Friends Fall Ill

Being seriously ill is usually a frightening experience, but it can be even more challenging when friends and family are unsure of how to support a loved one. (File Photo)
Being seriously ill is usually a frightening experience, but it can be even more challenging when friends and family are unsure of how to support a loved one. (File Photo)
TEXT SIZE - +
Adam Phillips
— A few years ago, after Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a founding editor of Ms. magazine, was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was struck by how difficult it was for some of her friends to talk about her illness in frank and supportive ways.

She began asking other cancer patients how their friendships had changed since their diagnoses, and a timely book idea was born. She titled it “How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick.”

“It is really about how to relate to somebody who is in extremis, who is suffering, who makes you feel awkward because you have to face your own vulnerability and your own mortality and people are not good at it naturally," Pogrebin said. "It does not come naturally so they really pause, they blunder, they cannot find the right words.”
x

Pogrebin found that fear is at the bottom of many communications problems. Some people feel so uncomfortable in the presence of a sick person they do not want to see him or her at all.  

Rhonda Waithe says that is how her brother felt when her son Jody was born with a grave disease and could not leave the hospital for nearly a year.  

“He was like ‘I do not know how to act. I would not know how to be around these people,’" Waithe said. "And I would say to him ‘Just be yourself.'  Because this is what they want, for you to just be you.”

Pogrebin also that found some people try a little too hard to be “nice.”     

“And that there is really a whole misperception of what it is to be nice to a sick person," she said. "Sometimes the nicest thing you can do is simply treat them normally. The luxury of the normal. It is the miracle of the ordinary that I sought. I did not want to feel like ‘Cancer Girl.’”  

Pogrebin says be mindful of what might actually help the loved one feel better, not what you think the “proper” thing to say or do is.        

“It is very tempting to feel good about yourself when you are in a tough situation like that. ‘I called when I heard. I did the right thing.’ ‘I sent a bouquet of flowers. I did the right thing.’ I said, ‘you will get past this’ or ‘I am sure it is going to be OK.’  All those bromides we've heard people say for a million years," she said. "But you do not know on the other end if that is what is really needed, and if that is what is really wanted.”    

Often, what is needed is practical hands-on help. That's what Nicole Brown craved when her late father became bedridden.
Cancer survivor and veteran journalist Letty Cottin Pogrebin is the author of "How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who's Sick." (Photo by Mike Lovett)Cancer survivor and veteran journalist Letty Cottin Pogrebin is the author of "How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who's Sick." (Photo by Mike Lovett)
x
Cancer survivor and veteran journalist Letty Cottin Pogrebin is the author of "How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who's Sick." (Photo by Mike Lovett)
Cancer survivor and veteran journalist Letty Cottin Pogrebin is the author of "How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who's Sick." (Photo by Mike Lovett)
   
“We needed people to actually come and help us, be there for us," Brown said. "Bring some food. Help give him a bath.”   

Pogrebin adds that simple courtesy often is the best policy.
 
“I know somebody told me that her friend said 'It is too cold in here' and went rummaging in her drawers for a sweater for her. Which is a very nice impulse," she said. "But she did not want her friends in her drawers. So sometimes an act of kindness can be an act of invasion.”  

Pogrebin says to let the loved one take the lead.
 
“If you are the friend, ask the sick person ‘What do you really want us to do during this period? Do you want me to offer or just come and take the initiative?'" she said. "'I will take the advice you give me right now and I will run with it for the rest of the period of time that we are in this together.’ It is the simple Golden Rule, when you get down to it.”

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid