The particle way

Monday, March 14, 2005


I went to a full day training last Saturday (3/12). The training were organized by 角聲, together with American Cancer Society - Northern California Chinese Unit. It was about how to give mental support to cancer patients. Well, I learnt many things. Basically, we need to be good listeners, while trying to get more information from the patients. Easy, right? You wish. The instructor opened my eyes.

Because the patients could be angry / scare / guilty / sadness / and with many mixed emotions, we need to choose our words carefully. I was trained as an engineer, we always ask ‘why’. But the instructor told us never ask ‘why’, because ‘why’ implies questioning the patient, and they might get defensive. So we need to ask in a very different way. For example, if the patient say, “I am not sleeping well lately…”. Even if we wanted to know more why he can’t sleep well lately, we cannot say “Why are you not sleeping well lately?”. Instead, we need to say, “Are you worry lately?” / “Not feeling well lately?” / “Since when you’re not sleeping well?” (in a nice tone, of course). This is just one simple case.

The instructor also talked about patients’ feeling. Mostly, they said, patients felt they are not in-control. For example, many relatives / friends will give many treatments advices / secret potions / healthy foods to the patient. They do those things out of good intention, and the patient might accept their kindness. But the sad truth is, most patients hate those things a lot. This is particularly bad in Chinese community, as in our culture it is not nice for us to reject others. But the instructor told us, we need to help the patient to get back their rights. To help give more control back to the hand of the patient. Of course, it would not be easy, as we outsiders are working against the relatives and friends.

Then there are the patient mental problems, which might come together with cancer. For example, depression is a common side-effect of certain common cancer-treatment drugs. We need to be non-judgemental to the patients, and help them to get professional help. Sometimes, we might need to identify their suicidal intentions, and immediately contact help if he really want to kill himself.

We also need to identify and might need to also help the patient’s close relatives. The closer the relative, the more they might suffer from patient’s problems. Because this service is organized by a Christian charity, we also need to identify our chances and help the patient to understand our God. Another interesting task, as we serve patients from all background, Christian, no Christian. We have to be careful not to push the patient to know Jesus. They told us a lot of mistake made by Christians were trying too hard to convince the patient to accept Christ before their death, and forgot the most important thing we should be doing - behave as a listener.

This is a tough job. If you are a Christian, please take the next moment, and pray for the patients and their helpers. Thanks.


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