Uncomfortable Words

Cancer’s vocabulary is full of harsh words. 

Words that make you sweat. 

I was talking to a group of folks today, some who were former cancer patients and some who were and still are care-givers.  We were talking about palliatvie care.  That word “palliative” stuck in my throat.  I wasn’t alone.  One man even shrugged his shoulders and asked “What does it even mean?”  “Can’t we come up with a better word, one that isn’t so intimidating?” 

Good idea. 

Palliative is a word that makes me sweat.  I remember when I first heard it and I immediately made the leap from palliative to hospice.  I found out I wasn’t alone.  Many care-givers go there.  Many cancer patients go there too.  In fact, they think it’s what you get when the hospice nurse comes to call and explains how treatment changes from that point on,  but that’s not right.

Palliatvie care belongs in the first phase of treatment.  It is designed to help manage pain, nausea, treatment side effects.  It’s about quality of life.   And it’s not just a medical treatment helper, there are experts who are trained to help with depression and other psychological problems that come with fighting cancer. 

It turns out some one who writes curriculum in med school has decided “palliative care” is an important piece of the cancer pie.   The catch is, teaching young doctors how to deliver the message to their patients.  If a doctor is suggesting palliative care, the news isn’t good and breaking that kind of news takes a special touch.  You all know what I’m talking about.  We all have memories of awkward doctors who couldn’t quite find the right words. 

Palliative care is one of cancer’s harsh words.  Just typing it makes me sweat. 


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