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How to talk to people with cancer? “I understand it's hard for you” is better than “you have to be strong”

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“I have cancer, so call me that” – this is the slogan of a social campaign on how to talk to a person suffering from cancer. In social media, Małgorzata Sajan tames the topic of cancer and breaks stereotypes.

– The first reaction was shock – says Małgorzata Sajan, a supporter of the “Rak'n'Roll. Wygraj Życie!” Foundation, who was 27 years old when she heard that she had breast cancer. After treatment, she was in remission for four years, but last year she learned about metastases. – I have a broken spine between the shoulder blades, broken by metastases, and I have a lot of metastases throughout my skeleton, but they are currently healing – says Sajan.

On social media, Małgorzata Sajan shows what her everyday life looks like. It tames the topic of cancer and breaks stereotypes. In the hospital, she was called the happiest oncology patient. He also wants to educate us, because not everyone knows how to talk to a cancer patient. – “It will be fine”, “you have to think positively”, “you have to be strong”, but they are so emphatic on “you must”, “necessarily”, “now”, “you have to”, and this is not always the case – explains Sajan.

SEE ALSO: Promising tests of a new drug for pancreatic cancer. “I've never seen results like this”

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Frequent visits to the doctor, stress and waiting for further results, exhausting treatment. Often there is a lack of strength. – Sometimes this person has the right to cry, get angry, and have time for himself. Forcibly comforting her is not always good, says Dr. Joanna Kufel-Grabowska, a clinical oncologist from the Department of Oncology and Radiotherapy of the Medical University of Gdańsk.

That's why Mrs. Małgorzata, together with the Rak'n'Roll Foundation, prepared a recording with the slogan “I have cancer, so call me that.” She wrote on the boards what she thought we could say to the patient and what we should not say.

For example, instead of saying “you can do it, who else but you” we can simply offer help at every stage of treatment. Instead of “don't worry, it'll be fine” – say “I'll always be there for you.” Instead of “you have to be strong now” – “I understand that it's hard for you.” It is worth asking the sick person how they want to talk about cancer.

Not everyone likes war rhetoric

– Let's talk, listen and follow the patient. Here, Małgosia shows what she would like. This does not mean that every patient has the same condition – explains Małgorzata Ciszewska-Korona, a psycho-oncologist from the “Rak'n'Roll. Win Life!” Foundation.

Likewise, not everyone likes war rhetoric. – When I was diagnosed in 2018, the word “fight” did not fit the disease. Because somehow I felt so intuitively that when you fight something, you either lose or win, admits Agnieszka Kuźma. – I'm not waiting for winning or losing, I'm waiting for health – explains Ciszewska-Korona.

READ ALSO: WHO: By 2050, there will be 77 percent more cancer cases. Three main factors

The next phase of testing of a drug that may be a breakthrough in the treatment of pancreatic cancerDominika Ziółkowska/Fakty TVN

Hence, for example, the demand not to call February 4 World Cancer Day. – We would like to translate it simply as “World Cancer Day”, says Jacek Maciejewski from the “Rak'n'Roll. Wygraj Życie!” Foundation. – To make this “fight” disappear – he adds. Words have enormous power. – I am on supportive treatment. (…) Day by day I feel that I am getting healthier, says Sajan.

Main photo source: “Rak'n'Roll. Win Life!” Foundation

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