Skip to Navigation Skip to Search Skip to Content
Search All Centers

Do Patients Who Make Cancer a Family Affair Do Better?

Read Transcript Download/Print Transcript

Published on October 7, 2015

You might also like

Transcript | Do Patients Who Make Cancer a Family Affair Do Better?

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That's how you’ll get care that's most appropriate for you.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.          

Andrew Schorr:       

Okay. Now, I want to ask another question of you physicians related to family members. So, Dr. Gimbel, are you okay with the patient bringing family members to the visit? Does it get in the way? Because they want to support, sometimes the patient doesn’t hear everything. What’s your view of kind of patient team?

Dr. Gimbel:          

I encourage patients to bring someone with them for an emotional support to hear what’s been said because, a lot of times, I’ll speak, but the patient is so wrapped up in terms of the minutia that they’re missing the global in terms of what I’m saying.  Sometimes, we’ll have phone call-ins, and I think that’s reasonable. They’ll record me. I think all of that is useful for something to refer back to later on.  So I encourage that kind of helpful and unity kind of relationship, because it helps the patient understand what’s going forward. The family members, they contact me with the agreement that the patient allows it that I can discuss some things with family members as well. 

And in the long run, it’s a beneficial situation to be in when more people are included, because there’s more understanding of what’s happening. 

Andrew Schorr:                  

Dr. Wong, you’re nodding your head. Is it a family affair?

Dr. Wong:             

Yes, it is. I get really worried, and at the breakout session we were having this conversation, when people come by themselves.

In fact, I’ll ask them is there someone in the waiting room I should go get? If there’s nobody, I actually, sometimes, do a phone call to someone like Rena. We have to watch out for this.  I think it’s a very difficult diagnosis. I think when they come with family members, I sometimes say to them this is fantastic because you can be the patient, and these are the guys looking out for all the other stuff. The appointments, checking the dose is right, and you got your pills and so on and so forth. And the patient can be the patient.  At one juncture early in my career, I wanted to write an article called the Pit Bull Spouse, where the patients do better because boy, that spouse is right on you like a pit bull.

You just can’t get out of there without—yeah. I see some audience members pointing. But he’s probably healthy, and I’m just a patient. I’m fine. And the reason why I notice that is because those patients who have pit bull spouses, be they husbands or wives or significant others, they’re the most relaxed people I know because they’re just being a patient.

They’re just going to deal with the side effects.  I’ll go to my appointment. And I’ll just relax and be the patient. Meanwhile, their spouse is oh my God, you just can’t feel like—on your neck.  But I don’t take it personally. I know that patient is going to do well.  And I tell my team, here they come.  But be aware, that guy is the nicest guy in the world, because he’s relaxed. And if we’re focused on looking after that person and that patient with the cancer, that’s a mechanism for doing so. It’s not the only mechanism. And it wears on the whole team a bit. But I have to tell you, I notice those folks doing extremely well. 

So for me, it’s absolutely important to have people there with you.

Andrew Schorr:                  

You’d agree, Dr. Patel?

Dr. Patel:               

I do particularly because, when you have to make treatment changes and so forth, it’s important to have the family members there to hear why do we have to change now? Why is this one maybe not working? What are the options?  It’s very hard for somebody to go home and then the nurse catches three phone calls from different family members saying why this, why that, why that.

And that’s why it’s helpful to have everybody in the room. It’s also—this happens more often than I wish that we don’t see family members. And then when it’s becoming difficult to treat or have other options, family comes out of nowhere.  And you don’t, as the oncologist; you haven’t had time to forge a relationship with that patient’s family.  And towards the end of life, there’s such a grace in our patients. They know it’s coming. But you need to help those caretakers.  If it’s the first time you’re meeting them, it’s so hard because you haven’t seen them.

And so I think it’s really important to engage health psychologists and family members early because, when they come out of the woodwork at the end, it’s really you feel disappointed that you couldn’t have forged the relationship sooner. 

Andrew Schorr:                  

So, Martha, does your husband come with you?

Martha Bishop:

He does. 

Andrew Schorr:                  

Okay. And what’s his role?

Martha Bishop:

He is usually a listener.  He always makes me sit closer to the oncologist in the room. We always do a dance in the treatment room. And but he’ll also ask questions or advocate for things I’ve been concerned about. Even this last appointment, there were some side effects I was having. And I had seen a specialist, actually, and not been happy. And he really, after I voiced my concerns as I started to get teary, because I wasn’t feeling heard, he spoke up and kind of advocated for me.  The other thing he does is that listening, I usually pick out one sentence that the oncologist has said in an appointment and latch onto it.  

And our drives home are sometimes hilarious, because he’ll be saying, “It’s good that he said this.” And I will tell him he didn’t say that to me.  “No, Martha, really, he did.” It’s not that I’m not listening. I just can’t process it as well.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.