Cancer patients’ four biggest regrets



An oncology social worker shares 15 years’ experience of caring for cancer patients. “In an ideal world everything would work out neatly and cleanly – like in the movies. But of course life isn’t like that!” says Clare Manicom, oncology social worker at GVI Oncology. With more than 15 years’ experience Clare has pretty much seen it all. She shares what people have told her they’d do differently, given another chance at the journey.

Go for regular screenings

“Many people wish they’d gone for regular screenings, especially those suffering from breast, prostate and colon cancer. People over 50 are generally not aware that they should have a colonoscopy every five years – even if there’s a family history they still don’t get checked out, and live to regret it.”
'Many people wish they’d gone for regular screenings'

Get a second opinion

“Not every lump or ache is cancer but many people will say they should have asked more questions. A second opinion is often contentious because patients feel under pressure to be ‘obedient’ and don’t want to be labelled as ‘difficult’ – it’s amazing how many people want to be liked by their doctor because they seem to think that the doctor will then try harder to give them better care. This sounds incredible but it happens all the time.”

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Consider all the costs

“Emotions often get the better of a patient’s next of kin and we hear things like, ‘My mother’s life is worth anything.’ Afterwards they almost always say they should have thought harder, investigated more or even just asked the doctor for a discount. Because every R500 adds up and in the end these costs can be ruinous. It doesn’t mean you don’t value the life of your loved one – it means you’re acting responsibly.”

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Set out your dying wishes

“Many people desperately want to die at home and it’s often a religious consideration. But death and sickness in the home can emotionally impact those who stay behind, especially children. Life is not a movie – things don’t work out according to our scripts. Talk to your loved ones and set out your wishes clearly so no one has to rush around trying to guess what flowers you like or which whisky you’d want at your wake.”

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