Wisdom from the 6th Floor

A friend of mine is suffering from a very severe form of cancer. It has manifested in his brain and he is undergoing an extreme regime of chemotherapy which has forced him to reside in the hospital for months at a time. His strength of courage and tremendously uplifting attitude has inspired many of us over the past few weeks. It is a lesson in resourceful humor and genuine interest in making the battle he is facing familiar to each of us. He wants to dispel the mystery and share openly the daily challenges he faces. It is simply remarkable.

One lesson I want to share is from the first comment my friend said to me as I entered his room this past weekend. He has these fabulous photographs on the wall as you enter his hospital room. He has done all he can to make his room homey and welcoming to everyone. I commented on this and he said:

“You  know, Kristin, you have to teach people how to treat you. I wanted these doctors to see who I was/am before I lost all my hair, weight and became a cancer patient. I was and still am a young human being with a full life ahead of me. I wanted to truly humanize the situation. I will not tolerate those nurses or attendants who treat me with indifference, as if I was just a number on the 6th floor to whom they need to empty my urinal or deliver the food tray. If I don’t teach them how I wish to be treated – who will?”


Whether we are the employee, the customer, the wife/husband, the neighbor, or the cancer patient – we teach others how to treat us. We do this in many ways: we treat them the way we wish to be treated (the Golden Rule), we set expectations and boundaries relative to our situation, and we humanize and make the interaction truly personal. Our lives are so busy and hectic it often causes us to forget that we are all human beings and that our interactions are indeed personal and deserve to be honored as such.

We do not have to be in a cancer ward to embrace this approach. What wisdom we can learn from those facing such tremendous challenges!