• what should I have done?

    Asked by LiveWithCancer on Friday, September 12, 2014

    what should I have done?

    When I was at the hospital for my treatment yesterday, I noticed a woman who was alone and wiping tears from her eyes. She was obviously upset, presumably about her condition (she had on the white hospital bracelet we patients have to wear). I don't recall her from the past, but I rarely seem to see the same people, even though or maybe because I go every 2 weeks.

    My question is ... what should I have done? I wanted to get up and go offer her some comfort but instead I sat there at war with myself until she left the waiting room. I was torn about barging in on her private time/space, knowing what to say, I was frozen into inaction even though my heart was breaking for her.

    How should I have approached her? Should I have approached her? Thanks for your thoughts. Usually the people I see have it pretty well together or, at the least, are not alone. I always have a smile and a hello for others around me, but I was really frozen with confusion today.

    25 Answers from the Community

    25 answers
    • GregP_WN's Avatar
      GregP_WN

      It's hard to know how someone will react to us coming over and saying something to them. Some people want to be left alone, others would welcome it, 50/50 shot. I usually say something if I notice someone in a store or out in public that appears to be fighting cancer, I will tell them I am a survivor and understand what they are going through. Sometimes they will look at you like you're a axe murderer and get away, others will say thank you.

      almost 7 years ago
    • msmonkii's Avatar
      msmonkii

      I agree with Greg. I would have probably tried to comfort her to some degree. A kind word can go far for a lot of people. Either way, don't beat yourself up. If you see her again, maybe try to make conversation.

      almost 7 years ago
    • cam32505's Avatar
      cam32505

      I have been through 2 cancer diagnoses myself, but I also took my mother to her onc too. One day we were there waiting for her shot, and a woman sitting by herself just started talking to me. She had pancreatic cancer, was alone at the treatment center, and I think she just needed someone to talk to. I was caught off-guard and didn't really know what to say. But, I wished her well on her treatment, it was her first. But, when I was having my treatment, there was a woman in the next chair to me who was just crying like a baby because they couldn't access her port and they had to find a vein. The nurse was excellent and got her on one poke, and I was thankful for that. But, she had me upset, This was one time I had driven myself because I had nobody to bring me. I was getting blood and other vitamins, whatever I needed through the I.V. I know she couldn't help it. I'm sure she had been poked many times and not always by someone who was good at their job. In some ways, I would like to have my treatment in a private room, sometimes you feel like talking. I guess it depends on who you end up next to. Maybe, if that happens again, you could just offer a tissue and then see if she wants to talk.

      almost 7 years ago
    • KLC's Avatar
      KLC

      As Greg said, it's difficult to anticipate how someone may react. Also to even know why they're upset. The assumption was obviously about her health, but, unfortunately, we've all heard of many "less than stellar partners" who decide they didn't sign up for a cancer ride that decided to end the relationship. So she could have been crying about some upsetting thoughts going through her head. I had a friend years ago who was going through treatment for breast cancer while her Mom in Holland was dying and she was unable to travel and see her. . .she seemed to cry all the time. Tough call. If you see her again and she happens to be upset again, maybe just ask her if you can get her a water or something - if she wants to talk it will open the door.

      almost 7 years ago
    • gonewest's Avatar
      gonewest

      I was sitting next to a beautiful woman in the waiting lounge at the cancer hospital. She looked so sad, tears falling, crying silently. I reached over and put my hand on hers. She grasped it with both hands and fell into me. I held her in silence for awhile. Her name was called. She looked me in the eye and said thank you, gave me a hug. I often think of her. I have never, in my journey with this monstrous disease, had to go it alone. Her anguish just broke my heart.

      almost 7 years ago
    • barryboomer's Avatar
      barryboomer

      WOW.....Intentions are Great but we need to act on them when we can.
      I would have gone over and asked her if she needed a hug. I would then tell her that I could really use a hug today. Then ask if she wanted a good listener and try and engage her in a conversation. We are born alone and die alone BUT in between WE are Social Animals that don't get enough People ever touching us......
      ALWAYS act on your intentions if they are good ones....Don't ever wait or wonder should I or shouldn't I......the worst thing is they'll reject you but 99 % of the time they will be really glad you came over.......What goes around comes around.....Always be kind and NEVER worry IF you are doing the right think....IT IS THE RIGHT THING.......

      almost 7 years ago
    • LeslieR's Avatar
      LeslieR

      This brings to mind someone I saw while at my onc appt just before Christmas last year. She was in the room next to me waiting to see the doctor, she did have two ladies with her, one pushed her wheelchair and the other held her hand. She was so very thin and weak, we left the clinic at the same time. I watched as they wheeled her passed me. I got the thumbs up, clean bill of health and this very fragile soul left in absolute tears. I felt to sick for her, my heart was in my throat. I thought to myself she may not live to see the holidays and what did I do to get such good news? I'll never forget that image, it haunts me to this day.

      almost 7 years ago
    • JoyceD50's Avatar
      JoyceD50

      I had a similar experience in an airport waiting area. As we were waiting for our flight to be called, I noticed a young woman in tears near me. She appeared not to have a tissue, so I offered her one, (I always carry tissues.) I asked her if there was anything I could do to help her, She said no. She had an experience with a cheating boyfriend and was going home. I felt her pain and tried to encourage her. I know this is not the same as being alone in a Doctor's office, but the sorrow was the same. And I tried to encourage the young lady as I would anyone in a similar situation. I never saw this young lady again, but I know she got thru her situation bravely.

      almost 7 years ago
    • alimccalli's Avatar
      alimccalli

      No right or wrong answer here...it is hard to know how people will react, and it could have been anything that upset her so much...but I know sometimes the kindness of total strangers helped me get passed a rough spot...I always go with my gut...sometimes I will feel the need to say or do something, and other times I just offer up a prayer that they will find comfort for whatever their situation is.

      almost 7 years ago
    • barryboomer's Avatar
      barryboomer

      Always err on the side of being kind and compassionate......We MIGHT need it sometimes and you know how the world works....Karma and all that.

      almost 7 years ago
    • Keith59's Avatar
      Keith59

      That's a tough one.....some people prefer to be alone when upset...others seek comfort through others. Maybe it worked out just the way it should have.

      almost 7 years ago
    • Jeanette1960's Avatar
      Jeanette1960

      When I was awaiting my first chemo treatment, my friend who was with me stepped outside to call her husband to tell him my appointment was running late. There were 2 other people in the waiting room. The one woman was clearly agitated and then started to cry. I, too struggled with should I approach her or not. I did go over and put my hand on her shoulder and asked if I could do anything to help. She told me it was her second chemo treatment and she was scared and alone. I sat with her for only about a minute until they called her in, but she stopped crying. My three take aways were: 1. Always offer to help if you can. 2. Sometimes the first time is not the scariest, going back again and again when you know the consequences, is even scarier. 3. I was blessed and thanked God that I have a friend, who when she found out I had cancer, promised I would never be alone at chemo that she would (and did) always take me.

      almost 7 years ago
    • LiveWithCancer's Avatar
      LiveWithCancer

      Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts! If a similar situation ever presents itself again, I will probably try to overcome my own reticence to barge into another person's private life and I guess ask if I can be of any help or comfort. It felt very awkward to me to get up from where I was sitting and moving across the large waiting room to sit beside her ... but it hurt to watch her grieve alone, too! (My quandary was probably made worse by the fact that I personally would rather not be approached by a stranger if I was upset. I wouldn't rebuff the efforts, but it would be uncomfortable for me.)

      almost 7 years ago
    • ld_105's Avatar
      ld_105

      I had a situation not quite like this. As I was leaving the breast screening area, after getting the mammogram that showed the tumor, a woman sat crying. It looked like she was sitting next to her mother. The mother offered no support, just sat there. The woman who was crying had obviously been fighting this battle. I paused in my step. Wanted to approach the crying woman but felt it was inappropriate given that she had someone with her. Not the reason I left the hospital, but one of them. I feel the center should have offered something. Switched hospitals, at least where I go now they give you coffee, soda, hot chocolate. A good way to ask if someone needs support. Can I get you a drink?

      almost 7 years ago
    • AmyJo's Avatar
      AmyJo

      The day that I was told there was nothing more available for me and that the treatment I am on is just keeping me alive..... I had gone back to the chemo section. and started to cry. My husband was with me, holding my hand but this woman who I've seen there before looked to me like you must have been feeling. Finally she reached over and patted me on the shoulder. She said "I don't want to invade on your moment, I just want you to know how much I admire your strength every week and it's upsetting to see you like this. If you want to talk about it I'm here but if you want to share this moment with your husband I understand" I told her I appreciated her saying something but I had just gotten bad news and was still trying to process it. ......... Even tough I wasn't ready to talk about it just yet, I did appreciate her approaching me.

      almost 7 years ago
    • meyati's Avatar
      meyati

      @Barry-you would have gotten my attention-that's for sure. I would have given you a funny smile- told you that I was OK, and I would have gone to the desk, and told them that you hugged me and I don't know you from dirt. As the Navy says-"Red- light" That's on a good day. I might have said like Steve Martin--Excuse me? and told you to leave.

      I love you-but I don't love a stranger that hugs me. I wouldn't even like it a woman did that.

      almost 7 years ago
    • Dianem's Avatar
      Dianem

      You are a kind and sensitive person don't second guess yourself. If you had reached out to her either she would have been grateful or she would have rebuffed you. If she did prefer solitude you might have been uncomfortable for a moment but you would get over it because you are strong. One thing this journey has taught me us to reach out. But remember you already do that every day on this website so kudos to you. Keep strong and God bless

      almost 7 years ago
    • SullyJackson's Avatar
      SullyJackson

      I would have probably hesitated too because my first thought would have been for the person's privacy. After reading all of your comments, I will be more likely to approach someone but not with a hug, Meyati, lol. I will probably go with the hand on the shoulder, at least to start. Great discussion!

      almost 7 years ago
    • barryboomer's Avatar
      barryboomer

      Hey Meyati.....I'd have asked first...lol
      You know walked over and opened my hands and asked
      DO YOU NEED A GREAT BIG HUG ????
      So she rejects ME.....lol.....I've submitted over 500 songs to places and have been rejected by them all and SOME TWICE...lol
      Who cares anymore about rejection....

      almost 7 years ago
    • gonewest's Avatar
      gonewest

      Compassion is interesting. It encompasses both reaching out and staying silent. Respecting privacy is a compassionate gesture just like reaching out. Listen to what moves you as you can't know for certain which choice is best.

      almost 7 years ago
    • meyati's Avatar
      meyati

      Ok-but I still would have looked at you like a wall-eyed wild colt that's being touched for the first time. It sounds funny but this used to be a hug state. Basically, we've been over run by bad elements that are escaping stricter laws in other states-may I add the mexican drug cartels have a strong presence, so we've gone the other way to the extreme.

      almost 7 years ago
    • stage5guy's Avatar
      stage5guy

      I would have walked to her and said I see you are hurting, would it be alright if sit with you for a moment?. She would be free to say no thank you. I would ask something black and white, not an open ended question like is there anything I can do. Offering help makes me feel better and useful. Your intentions are kind, that is good.

      almost 7 years ago
    • LuvinSis' Avatar
      LuvinSis

      I like the idea of "Can I get you anything?", "Is there anything I can do?" or handing the person a tissue. Opening the door, if they rebuff you that's OK. You'll never know and you really can't go wrong. You offer and they decide what to do.

      In the case of the woman crying with her mom there. I look at like maybe the crying woman got bad news and mom is in too much shock to do anything. Or maybe the daughter just heard mom will be battling cancer too. But with 2 people it's hard to know what to do.

      almost 7 years ago
    • MaryTD777's Avatar
      MaryTD777

      The ONLY way to do the right thing in a situation like that, is to do what you are comfy doing. Since you didn't feel good about "invading her space" then you needed to stay put. Had you come into her space and felt all awkward and nervous, she would have felt it from you and only felt worse because it would have felt like pity. No one wants pity. Another time you might walk over, if it feels right. And if it feels right, that person will feel comfy letting you hold a hand or get a cup of tea or something good. ALWAYS trust your instincts.

      XoxoX

      almost 7 years ago
    • BarbarainBham's Avatar
      BarbarainBham

      MaryTD777, I respectfully disagree. If you are uncomfortable, you should push yourself to do the kind thing and moral thing, which is always to offer help. If the person shakes their head or some way rejects youir help, that's fine, but we are supposed to help people in need, and offering help is the only way to know if they are in need.

      "Can I help you?" or any simple question is easy and easy for a person to reply to. I think even an unaccepted offer of help would be comforting.

      As BarryBoomer said, "Always err on the side of being kind and compassionate." We never know what burdens someone else is carrying and how much it could mean.

      (Also there's a song about how do you know it's not an angel testing you for your God. . . .)

      over 6 years ago

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