The Psychologist

What an interesting afternoon. I attended a meeting with a psychologist for the first time in my life yesterday. Well, that’s not quite true, Ann is a psychology graduate, but that’s not quite the same.

As part of the PhD study that I mentioned previously, I attended a session at the hospital to assist in the development of an evaluation process for people diagnosed with NHL. It would appear that there are standard psychological testing systems regularly in use for cancer patients, but none specifically for those of us with NHL. With a bit of luck, and some hard work on the part of the PhD student (!) this will change.

There were two patients there, myself and a slightly older man (Man 2 – we remained anonymous for the purpose of the study) and we spent a couple of hours talking with the student and her assistant about our experiences. With just the two of us there, we both had plenty of opportunity to speak freely and at length in response to the ongoing discussion. If there had been more than just the two of us, I suspect that we, as contributors, and the student doing the research, would have got less out of the session.

By happenstance, Man 2’s experiences were slightly different from mine – everyone’s disease is different – so the session managed to cover quite a broad spectrum of what it’s like to be diagnosed. He didn’t realise that he had NHL until inexplicably he lost a lot of weight and had the night sweats (two of the classic symptoms). My experiences meant that I knew I had it before I had the symptoms and could therefore “be prepared”.

We went through several pages of “needs” identified as part of the general cancer patient questionnaire and in some detail discussed how these needs were relevant to our situation. Since everyone is at a different stage of life and disease, it was interesting to learn what Man 2’s needs were, compared to mine.

The “needs” covered sections such as the psychological support ones, financial, sexual, relationships and so on. The sort of things that one would expect in a study like this. What was most interesting was how the two of us were open and seemingly honest about sharing some pretty private thoughts and feelings with three complete strangers. I have never spoken of such things before, outside of the family. Indeed, there were probably things that I said yesterday that I have never said before. I suspect that it is inevitable that some things remain unsaid in normal circumstances. When speaking to a stranger, who is interested in understanding the experiences and thoughts, somehow it’s easier. Much less personal and less likely to cause upset.  I can’t remember what they were, but one seems freer to talk openly to a stranger somehow.

Both of us agreed that some of the “needs” were not relevant to our situation at all; body image, for example. With some cancers, melanoma or breast cancer, body image after treatment can be particularly relevant and important to the mental wellbeing of the patient. With lymphoma, for the most part, no one can tell that you are or have been ill. 

The whole session was most enlightening and extremely well chaired by the student, given that this was her first session. I will be interested to read the summary of her findings in due course.

Maybe I would benefit from finding a Dr Melfi . (Yes, I know she was a psychiatrist..) Or maybe that’s just for the likes of Tony Soprano. Either way, as I said in the meeting, I always feel better about the situation after having spoken about it.

I felt much better yesterday. Yesterday was a good day.