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Arif Kamal: What do you say, when you don’t know what to say
Jun 17, 2024, 02:12

Arif Kamal: What do you say, when you don’t know what to say

Arif Kamal shared on LinkedIn:                .

“What do you say, when you don’t know what to say?

In the context of the cancer journey, nearly 60% of cancer survivors report high levels of loneliness. Why? I believe it’s because those of us – their family, friends, and neighbors – don’t always feel comfortable communicating our care and concern. And communicating that while balancing nosiness with genuine curiosity, and offering help while not seeming intrusive.

Here’s the challenge: a neighbor texts you today about a new cancer diagnosis – what do you text back? If you’re like me, there will be some pauses, deletes, and showing drafts to someone else, before hitting send.

And that would be my challenge of writing back at the time of diagnosis. What will I say 2 weeks, 2 years, or even 2 decades later while a person may still be undergoing a cancer journey? With rapid progress in cancer care, the 2 decade scenario is real (I have patients coming up on 15 years with metastatic breast cancer.

This week is global loneliness awareness week. And I was privileged to speak at the Global Loneliness Awareness Week Summit in DC, joining Senator Maggie Hassan (pictured) and U.S. Representatives Mike Flood and Seth Moulton. Our themes were around the pervasiveness of social isolation and its effects on health.

So if you know someone with cancer, a few thoughts of what you could say:

1. ‘Hey, I was just thinking about you’ – short, simple, caring, does not require a response

2. ‘Would love to drop off a pizza on Thursday. Can you remind me what toppings you like?’ – tangible offer of help, allows for person to decline and redirect or suggest an alternative

And there are others. So take a moment this week to reach out. It will – from the stories my patients tell me – make a world of difference.”

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Source: Arif Kamal/LinkedIn

Arif Kamal is the first-ever Chief Patient Officer for the American Cancer Society and drives efforts to advance cancer care. With experience at Duke University and the Duke Cancer Institute, he is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Population Health.

He is also a Co-Founder of Prepped Health. Dr. Kamal’s expertise lies in oncology quality assessment, palliative care, and innovative technology solutions for patient engagement.