A few months ago I stopped to chat in  town with a neighbour. Our houses are only over the road from each other, but hey! The shopping street seems to be the place to meet and chat. We chewed the cud over many things, including how much fun it was to look after her very young grandson a couple of days a week. Though a young grandmother, it was why she had decided to retire.

We got to talking about a news item about a woman  being treated for cancer so as to live, not be treated to die. My neighbour’s very firm and candid view was that there was no difference between the two, they both meant the same in the end. Something in the tone of her voice and the expression on her face decided a change of subject.

We heard this morning that our neighbour had died. We were told it was cancer. We did not know.





  1. How very sad. It sounds as if she had done some serious thinking about the future. It raises the question of whether ‘sharing’ one’s state of health is always a wise move.

  2. I am not sure if it does raise the question you posit Gilly. There were people in the community, even some in our street who knew of our neighbour’s health issue, because they were in community health work for a time. They respected the family’s right to privacy. The family did not share with others outside their circle.

    I think it stands to reason that people won’t pussy foot around talking about all types of subjects and dare I say it, gossiping about all sorts of things, if they remain ignorant of a personal medical issue. It could have been what the neighbour wanted, not having people feel they had to be constrained when around her. Likewise, the immediate family did not discuss her cancer either. As such, the neighbour would have known that it might be necessary to field conversation which was sensitive to her, (unbeknownst to the other party). I see it as plucky, thoughtful.

    On the other hand, there are many people I know who have been treated for cancer and do talk about it, both when they are uneasy about their condition and when they have come to terms with it. They aren’t people I see too often and are not in a similar proximity to my neighbour. Had I seen one of them on the day that the ‘treatment to live’ was high in the public consciousness, I can only think, depending upon the person, I still might have raised the topic, more likely, with a more careful inquiring motive. Or, maybe I might not have avoided the topic. I shall never know, as the situation did not arise.

    Another neighbour made his recent cancer diagnosis a cause for proselytising the benefits of responding to offers to be tested, to everyone who visited. It was at a time he was still very tender from a major operation. His treatment has not yet completed.

    Whether you share the knowledge of your medical state, or not, is always going to be an individual decision to be worked with accordingly. There are pros and cons for both sides.

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