Life-Threatening Illness: Cancer and the Trauma From Within
First, you cry.
—Betty Rollin (1976)
When you get a call from a patient diagnosed with cancer or from a family member, a loved one, or a good friend asking to see you professionally, before you can even respond honestly and appropriately to that call, the first person you have to confront is yourself. Being mere mortals and, in that sense no different from cancer patients, our initial free association to the word cancer often is the word death. And you, the professional, have to drop your protective professional cloak, your well-trained understanding of “self” and “other,” and go into your soul to explore your deepest feelings about cancer. You must go to that scary place within each of us, the place that says “That could be me!” You must look at it and feel it and understand it.
And after you have dealt with that place, after you have acknowledged its existence, after you have allowed yourself to fully experience the meaning and depth of the situation—to feel the quality of terror and fear that the diagnosis evokes, not only in your patient but in yourself—only then can you start to work with your cancer patients, their families, and their friends. Because that self-knowledge will change your life, it will alter you, it will