I find that often some of the best conversations with patients is about things in the past and I have learned that the skills the have now in dealing with their illness, are actually skills they learned from their past experiences. Those people that are positive are the same ones that have faced diversity previously and were positive in dealing with those situations and those people that were nervous nellie's before have carried that on as well or those people that have felt life has been unjust and are angry, continue to be angry. I listen attentively to try to give support and understanding as they face this new battle. I also try to give them new tools and new ways of dealing with what is happening now and understanding that bargaining or denial is not uncommon and even being angry is a part of this journey and that these emotions vacillate and wax and wane and also try to help them get unstuck if they can't move on. You have to look beyond the negativity of some to see that previous scars are there and accept them for who they are now and try to help them balance and understand what they are feeling now.
I do talk to some about journaling and have found some very receptive and some completely against the idea. I will say a pen and paper will allow you to say the things you are thinking in a more private way. So when someone asks you, "have you had cancer?" You are the person that carries the burden and decides how to deal with it in your own way but know that past or present there are tools to help you as you are dealing with difficult issues.
For me, I look to laughter to deal with pain and try not to sweat the small stuff. It is all in how you perceive fun....no, I am not making cancer trivial but making fun of cancer is my way of coping. Make it a great day. S