Golden rules when visiting a cancer patient


When visiting a friend or relative with cancer, we tend to feel awkward or don’t know what to do. In the Sunday Star on Fit for Life section, Soo Ewe Jin (a cancer survivor himself) wrote a tribute for Dr Albert Lim. He also shared the 8 Golden Rules- a guideline by the late Dr Albert Lim when it comes to visiting cancer patients in the hospital:


Albert Lim’s eight golden rules for visiting a cancer patient:

1. Always, always, always ask for consent from the patient or the spouse (or his nearest and dearest) before the visit, and do take the hint when you hear the hesitant “aahs” and “oohms”.

2. Keep your visit short. Fifteen minutes is a good rule of thumb, unless of course the patient clasps your hands in his and says ‘don’t leave me’, which happens more often in movies than in the hospital.

3. You really don’t have to bring flowers, Brand’s essence of chicken or the latest article on alternative medicine (ozone therapy or is it the cytotron?). Books and magazines are suitable. CDs and DVDs for those who eschew reading.

4. Please don’t say “Have faith” (I’m afraid mine is not that strong) or “you will be all right” (you know I won’t be), or any variation on the same theme. These vapid clichés will only irritate, depress and unnerve the patient. Such comments may even insult his intelligence.

5. Do something positive. Give him some money. Put his kids through college. Write a letter to a government department for the patient. Take his kids out for a meal and a movie. Better yet, change his undies and give him a bed bath.

6. Do not proffer alternative medicine.

7. Do not proselytise.

8. Before departing, say “Please let me know if you want me to come again. More importantly, please let me know what concrete thing I can do to ease your suffering” (See no. 5 above).


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