One of the worst things that a person can find out is that they have cancer. The National Cancer Institute has cataloged the ten most common emotions that people feel when they get this news. Among them are: anger, fear, guilt and loneliness. Some people report feelings of hope. If they survive they usually feel gratitude. Generally speaking, in the wake of a cancer diagnosis, many people are afraid they are going to die. The hard truth is that between 35 and 40% of the population will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. (Source). The good news is that survival rates are high, with up to 70% of those diagnosed going on to live healthy lives. There were close to 100,000 cases of skin cancer diagnosed in 2018 in the US, and close to 13,500 deaths from the same. (Source).
Chances are in the next year or two you will have at least one patient who is diagnosed with skin cancer. If you are a dermatologist this number is likely to be much higher. For everyone else, we have put together some tips on how you can help.
Encourage Real Positivity
While there is no lab-researched, peer-reviewed evidence that proves positive thinking and a positive attitude are correlative to beating cancer, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there that suggests it is. Just google “scientific evidence for the power of positive thinking” and a million+ hits come up. Many of these are compilations put together by media such as the Huffington Post (The Extraordinary Scientific Proof that Positive Thinking Works). So what gives?
Well, the fact is that while positive thinking alone is not going to prevent or cure cancer, there is proof that positive thinking is going to get cancer patients further in most cases. This is because negativity induces stress and stress is harmful to the body, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
- Increased life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress
- Greater resistance to the common cold
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
It’s unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body.
It’s also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and don’t smoke or drink alcohol in excess.
What this means is that if you have a client or patient who discloses to you that they have been diagnosed with skin cancer, the best thing you can do is direct that conversation away from negativity and fatalism and toward positivity and hope.
Help Them Be Beautiful
You are ultimately in the business of helping people look good. This never matters more than when you have someone asking for help that is feeling scared and isolated, like those who have received cancer diagnoses. Skin cancer is even worse, as it impacts how people see themselves as physical beings. The good news is that you are there for them, and there is such a huge range of options that you can offer to help them feel better about the way they look.
For some this is a specialization: Oncology Esthetics, in which spas are creating a niche just to help cancer patients. For others it is an add-on. The fact is that cancer and its treatment, regardless of the type, make the skin dryer and more delicate. The American Cancer Society has a Look Good… Feel Better program for which you can volunteer, or just glean more information from to help your clients. It is an amazing resource with videos, a beauty guide and a list of service providers to assist.
Give Sound Advice, or Recommend Someone Who Can
Most of us have experienced this. We are in the medical services field. To everyone else this means that we are doctors specializing in their problem. While this can be enormously flattering, it can also be really frustrating when we are genuinely asked to step outside of our knowledge area and comfort zones. There is a right way to respond to these requests when they come from current and prospective clients and patients (regardless of if they are your friend or relative) that will help you to build your reputation and earn respect. Then there is a wrong way.
The wrong way is to make it up. Or worse, say you cannot help. Making it up gives false hope to people who need help; making it up has them focus on something that may actually do more damage. If this is honestly not in your wheelhouse, the best thing you can do is to be honest about that. Be patient, be kind, and be tolerant. Listen, encourage, and promise to find answers or find those who can. This will go a long way towards helping those who are distraught over a cancer diagnosis.