The Language of Illness and the Power of Words
What we can Learn From John McCain’s Illness
By Kendra Deja, LCSW, MSN, GNP-BC, ACHPN – Manager, Clinical Curriculum for the Institute
When John McCain was diagnosed with a serious brain cancer last week, it produced an outpouring of emotion from leaders and laypeople all over the world. Many of his colleagues shared messages of support for his strength of character and many cancer survivors shared messages of encouragement for the journey ahead. For those of us health care professionals working in palliative care, the conversation sparked a familiar understanding about the power of words to help and to heal when used with purpose and intention.
“Some people resort to saying nothing, because they don’t know what to say, or fear saying the wrong thing.”
John McCain’s cancer diagnosis prompted a conversation in the national consciousness about what to say to a person who is diagnosed with a new and serious illness. During this sensitive and often-disorienting time, the power of words becomes both daunting and important. Many people struggle to know what to say to the person who is facing the enormity of their own mortality. Some people resort to saying nothing, because they don’t know what to say, or fear saying the wrong thing.