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How Not to Talk to Someone Dying of Cancer

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 6.49.00 PMA friend of mine has been living well with lung cancer for five years — working, running several miles a day, traveling, doing good stuff with his family, and generally enjoying the pleasures of everyday life. He knows the cancer will eventually kill him, but has been making the most of every remaining minute.

Then, a month ago, things suddenly turned dramatically south. Severe shortness of breath, constant coughing, sleeplessness, fatigue, loss of interest, anxiety. My friend figured the jig was finally up — that he was going terminal. We all felt sad in the face of this inevitability. In our different ways, we began the painful process of saying goodbye.

Then things seemed to get even worse. I accompanied my friend to visit his lung doctor — an amiable and thorough man who spent lots of time with us, took a good history, and did many tests.

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