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Handbook for Mortals : Talking With Your Doctor


It isn't easy to talk about disease and dying. And talking specifically about your own dying is both harder and more important to do. Sometimes talking about it is hard because you don't know which words to use. That isn't your failure: Our society doesn't have the words and shared stories that would make it natural to talk of death and dying. Sometimes it is hard to talk about your own dying because you are afraid to learn what might happen next. You might fear that if you talk about something bad, you will cause it to happen. Even if you know this "magical thinking" is illogical, it can still keep you from talking and asking important questions.

When you put something into words, sometimes it is more "real" than if you hadn't mentioned it. Often, however, the future becomes less threatening when you name and describe it. Until then, your thoughts and feelings are often too vague to confront and manage. And, of course, you might be afraid of what kind of response you will get when you speak of dying, pain, and fear of what is likely to happen to you. Although doctors are supposed to take care of sick and dying patients, you might be afraid your doctor will think you are "giving up" and give up on you, too.

It is not "giving up" or being overly anxious to ask questions. "What is likely to happen to me?" "What treatment options are available, and what are they likely to do for me?" "What do I do if my pain gets worse?" "What will happen to me as I die?" You can talk with your doctor and get information that will help you live more comfortably day-to-day. You can also improve the care you get by talking to your doctor about the issues that affect you.

There is no "right" way to talk with your doctor, only ways that work for you. And they don't always work perfectly either. When the lines of communication get crossed, despite your best efforts, it's okay to try something different. You can also shrug and say "oh, well," and see if the next conversation is better, especially if you and your doctor have usually had a good rapport. However, there are things that you should know and do to increase the likelihood that your conversations will be successful.

To learn more about the book "Handbook for Mortals" click here.