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What We’re Talking About Now: SUPPORT

At Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, conversation about the concept of “support” continues on, mostly focusing on perspectives on the challenges that giving and receiving support can sometimes create. Patient Betsy wrote:

“I’m not good at asking for help, and not always particularly graceful in accepting it. So much of my sense of self is my sense of independence—that I am smart and self-reliant and that I can do whatever I set my mind to.”

From this point of view, Betsy pointed out, accepting even well-meaning support sometimes felt like a “challenge [to] my hard earned sense of self.” Partly this can problem can be avoided by “redirecting” misguided offer of support, and Betsy suggests that those trying to help should remember that “the key is to be authentic and to listen to what a person actually wants rather than assuming you already know.”

In her perspective, Meg also offered another way to think about the problem of feeling like accepting support is losing that sense of self. She writes that “support is all about the cycle of sharing and receiving.” When feeling uncomfortable about accepting an offer of support then, it might be helpful to remember that we all share a circling balance of give and take, which means across our community of care it’s never really a one way street.

Daisuke pointed out that “we often feel ‘supported’ rather than ‘supporting’, when we are doing something for somebody.” In that sense, it’s also good to remain circumspect when feeling guilty about accepting support—those who offer it might feel you are helping them by accepting it.

Don’s perspective raised another interesting aspect of the concept of support: that support is “individually defined and situationally dependent.” This leads to the question, how can we talk about what support really means, when it’s always personal to each of us?

Mara agreed with Don, that “support comes in many flavors and colors and what is supportive to one person may be incredibly unhelpful to another, so I think it is an art to figure out the right balance of support.” This important challenge can help to drive our thinking as a cancer center:

“We are definitely starting to look to the hotel industry, at the “concierge” model […] where can better tailor education and support to a patient and families individual needs.”