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Dealing with 'Fortune Tellers'

by Dave Balch, Founder,

When you are dealing with a serious illness, it is only natural for people to want to help. They want to make things better, remove some of the burden and lighten your load. That’s a good thing. But sometimes their idea of “helping” isn’t helpful at all. In fact, it can be the exact opposite, adding to your stress rather than relieving it.

These people fall into several categories but today let’s focus on “The Fortune Tellers;” people that tell you what’s going to happen to you based on something that happened to them or to someone they know.

My wife and I were in a restaurant talking about her upcoming chemotherapy and a stranger walked by and said, “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help overhearing that you’re starting chemotherapy next week.  Look out for that third treatment, IT’S THE WORST!”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Why would anyone want to put an expectation like that into someone’s head? Even if the third treatment is just like every other, anticipating a horrible result would be very stressful.  In fact, the power of suggestion could actually make the third treatment worse than the others when it wouldn’t have otherwise been.

After we talked a bit we discovered that this woman’s chemo had been every week; Chris’s was every three weeks.  I’m sure that there were many more differences but the point is this: everyone’s situation is different and just because something happened to one person doesn’t mean it will happen to you.

Think of all the variables in a given medical situation: doctors, nurses, drugs, geography, weather, clinics, treatment protocols, disease, personalities, physiology, hospitals… need I go on?  All of these things (and probably a few more that I didn’t list) play into the total experience, and no one is going to have exactly the same situation. NO ONE. EVER.

When someone offers their opinion of what will happen to you, take it with a grain of salt.  In fact, take it with a whole SHAKER of salt! I’m sure they mean well, but you have to be aware of all of the inevitable differences between your situation and theirs; thank them politely and then, as Paulie Walnuts from the Sopranos would say, “fuggedaboudit!”

© 2010 by Dave Balch. All rights reserved.

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