Monday, October 26, 2015

Triangles and the Way Out of Victim

This morning in church we prayed these words: “But only say the word and I shall be healed”, and I almost laughed out loud.

This week it was three words that words that jump-started some crucial healing for me: The Karpman Drama Triangle. That is a psycho-social theory developed by Stephen Karpman. In it he describes the cycle-- or triangle --of how we move from rescuer or persecutor to victim—always cycling through to victim, victim, victim. I stumbled on this in some unrelated
research but there it was: triangles, rescuing, blaming and victims. The very words that I needed to hear and heal.

It was perfect timing. I realized that I have the bad habit of trying to out-victim the victim in my relationship with John, and in other parts of my life as well. Karpman would simply say, “Uh huh.”

Here’s where it gets’s tricky: cancer care. People with cancer—those in the throes of chemo and surgery are kind of victim-y and cancer caregivers—those in the midst of physical and emotional exhaustion are wonderfully victim-ish, and those surrounding both of them make perfect persecutors: “You should”,  “You never should”, “You must”, “Do it this way, and “Well…”.

Cancer care is loaded with victims, rescuers and persecutors all vying for top billing: Who can be the biggest victim. We even say “cancer victim”. (Stop saying that.) It’s so easy to say, “take care of yourself first”--but in real life, and real caregiving, theory is honored in the breach. 

Maybe the Karpman Triangle can be taught to caregivers. Maybe we can give out little triangle pins as a reminder. 

Maybe I need a little triangle tattooed right on my hand. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Free Flights for Cancer Patients

Here is information to share with your family and friends in CancerLand. Tell them about the Corporate Angel Network which arranges free flights to treatment for cancer patients using empty seats on corporate jets.

Note: the flights are to get patients (and guardians if the patient is young) to treatment--not for visiting or "wish" kinds of trips. But you know, if you have elected to go to a new city for diagnosis or treatment--that's another great big cost--and a big hit to a family budget.

Corporate Angel Network is a nonprofit--its supporters are corporations that make empty seats available. There is a database of available seats and patient families can request dates, cities etc as needed. Wonderful volunteers run the match-making part of the program.

I'm placing a link below so you can read more, and please forward this post to folks you love in CancerLand.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Money in CancerLand

Yes—Money and Cancer: two great taboos that we encounter in CancerLand. 

Many of us know the feeling when we experience people turning away from us or being insensitive because they don’t know how to talk about or ask about our cancer or our loved one’s cancer.

But money is the place where most of us turn away. It’s a different kind of uncomfortable. We are reluctant to ask about prices, costs, expenses and who is willing to ask, “Can we afford this?” when the conversation is about the cancer care of a loved one? 

Our culture sets certain taboos on talking about money in general, and then mix in a crisis, a hint of death, some judgments about family issues, illiteracy around savings, spending…and you have a great big silence.

One frequent blind spot is assuming that if you have health insurance you are all set. But, and you know this if you have cancer: seeing a doctor several times a month can mean a great big bill of co-pays. You can be in debt even before chemo begins. And, what people with cancer know that those who haven’t been there is that chemo is expensive stuff. Even with so-called, “good” health insurance that’s a lot more and bigger copays every week. It adds up fast.

That silence around money and the cost of cancer care can hurt everyone: the patient, the caregivers, the kids and extended family and friends as well. Money talk is just plain fraught. But it’s crucial. And there is help –both financial help and help in how to talk about it.

CURE Magazine has published a special report called “Paying for Cancer Care.” It’s a tremendous resource and it’s free as are most of the resources they provide in the print and online publication. 
Here are some of the articles in the publication:

Financial Fix: A cancer diagnosis could break the bank, but it doesn’t have to.

Risky Business: Concerns about insurance should be addressed early.

Debt Crisis: Coping with cancer’s financial aftermath calls for creative solutions.

Money Madness: Worry about the cost of care takes an emotional toll.

That’s just a start to what is available in the special report, “Paying for Cancer Care.” 

You can see the publication and all the links online at

You should also not be shy or reluctant to talk to the financial folks at your cancer center. They have some euphemistic titles like “Financial Resource Staff” or “Financial Planner” but just come right out and ask, “Who do I talk to about how much all of this costs and how I make a plan to handle the financial side of things?” 

Don’t let money worries or thinking that that help is for other people stop you. The financial hit is one more bad side effect of cancer. But not getting the guidance will just make it a scarier family issue and it might even make you feel distant from friends.