Every patient is different

This statement by my surgeon during our first meeting made her “Doctor Right” for me. Hearing these words personally meant that I would be given care and attention best suited for my condition and needs.

My surgeon thoroughly explained how a total thyroidectomy is done, including the possible risks and complications. She further explained that each case is different and mentioned some cases she has handled in the past. This gave me an assurance that I won’t be handled with a copy-paste or textbook formula for handling patients with thyroid cancer.

This statement lingered in my mind throughout my treatment and recovery. It made me think and reflect about it, and as I did, it gave me a fresh and deeper perspective on how to show real compassion for another person.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Put yourself in my/his/her/their shoes”. I realized that no matter how much I try to do this well meaningly, I cannot totally put myself in someone else’s shoes unless I’ve been in the same situation, surrounded by the same set of circumstances and/or have the same background as the person I’m trying to empathize with. I will never truly understand what that person’s going through unless I have experienced the same situation and faced the same struggles and challenges. So, to say “I understand” seems hypocritical to me.

I cannot empathize with someone who has advanced stage cancer but I may be able to empathize with their loved one because my mom died of breast cancer and I know what it’s like to see someone you love so much go through something so painful. To a degree, I can empathize with someone who has the same diagnosis as I do but I will not be able to fully relate with someone who has the same condition and is also a single mom with two young kids to take care of since I’m married with no kids yet.

Where does that leave me? Does it mean I will stop “trying” to relate with people so I won’t be deemed a hypocrite? Of course not!

I believe that each one of us has been given a gift—a gift of genuine compassion—the kind of compassion that does not end with merely sympathizing or empathizing, trying to feel or actually feeling someone else’s pain; rather, one that translates into action, to really showing tangible care.

Caring refers to both an emotional reaction to another and the expression of that reaction in action, independent of the sharing of the other’s emotion or experience.

– S. Weiter & S. Auster, From Empathy to Caring: Defining the Ideal Approach to a Healing Relationship

Based on what I’ve experienced over the past months when people started finding out that I had thyroid cancer, those from whom I really felt care were those who didn’t “try” to empathize or understand me. Friends who made me feel that I wasn’t alone were those who gave an ear to listen, who sent loving messages, who showed support in various ways, who made time to visit in the hospital, who really prayed my healing through. These were the people moved by compassion and most of all—love—and acted on it.

I’m also thankful that I found people who can genuinely empathize with me—fellow bloggers who have been newly diagnosed, as well as those who’ve survived it for years, and also an online Facebook support group for thyroid cancer survivors. I found others from different parts of the world who can actually relate with what I’m going through and had very helpful information to provide.

Both groups of people—longtime friends and fellow survivors—have a significant part in my journey, and I recognize that I do need both. They all are a huge help towards my recovery.

Because of these reflections, I’m learning to show empathy to those whom I can really relate with and show care at the same time whenever I can. I’m also learning to show care in whatever way to those whose situation I cannot necessarily relate with but still have compassion for.

I’m also learning to be less judgmental of people. I’m also more mindful not to categorize or stereotype people. Cancer patients, for example, do not experience the same things (speaking from personal experience). Each type of cancer manifests and is treated in different ways, and patients respond differently too. Just as every patient is different, every single person’s situation is also unique. Each person has his or her own story, own circumstances that we don’t know of. Even if we are all different, all originally created, like I said, we’ve all been gifted with compassion and acting on that compassion whether through empathy and/or caring for someone makes all the difference. This is what I believe the real essence of humanity is—showing genuine acts of kindness toward one another.

 

Featured image: Designed by Freepik

 

Copyright 2016 Trademarked By Love

 

 

 

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