The Art of the Possible

Learning to manage today.
Jason Sirmon

Learning to manage today.
The medals on our chests, Are porta-caths for meds. Helmets wont stay on cause no hair is on our heads. We fight with honor and courage, No marine could do as well. We are only little children, Living in this hell. For we are the Children of Cancer, No one has fought so hard. But every day we struggle on, Our life is our reward , written by Chery Jagannathan and mom of Robby. As many would as I read did, while reading the exert I took from the website Squire Tails, my heart swells with sorrow. But I only imagine how parents and families deal with the unwelcoming news of their child now living with cancer. Therefore I believe that the theories of communication in developing relationships outlined by the author of Communication Theories, Perspectives, Processes, and Contexts, Second Edition, written by Katherine Miller, serves as a backdrop for these families to gain a better understanding of how to not only accept but deal with this disease that has come into their lives like a thief in the night, and sometimes being robed of the joy and entering into a world, that is only known by a few. The following theories will explain how the families members and loved ones of these children will better understand and cope with this newly found knowledge and learn to deal intimate details of tomorrow. I have been thinking about the documentary of The Art of the Possible pretty much ever day since the day of the viewing. Although feeling hunted by the film, I had decided that I was not going to take advantage of the extra credit opportunity available for my communication class. Prior to the viewing, I was thinking that this would be an easy way to earn the extra points needed to insure a strong enough grade to successful pass the course. Before the viewing I was eager to take advantage of the easy points. That was until the viewing. The viewing hit me deeper and harder than expected. If I had known about the content of the film, I most likely would not have even waiting around on campus to watch it. I am thank for that the lights in the room were suitable for watching a movie and nearby s were able to gather a good look at me. Tear ran so hard that I was unable to talk during the discussion time afterwards. I left quietly and without drawing attention to myself. Why, you ask? Well let me explain. On July 17, I was visiting my family back home and while taking advantage of a warm summer weekend in Alabama, a few of my family members including my oldest brother Jerry s son Paul, went canoeing. Taking by surprise, he was killed in a car wreck 9 days later. Knowing that God has a plane for everything, I was OK with the situation now dealt to my family. Then on August 26, Jerry s other and youngest son, Shane dies as well. That right, my oldest brother buried two sons 5 ½ weeks apart. You see Shane was only 20 years old when he lost the battle of Rhabdomyosarcoma cancer. Rhabdomyosarcoma, is a fast-growing, highly malignant tumor which accounts for over half of the soft tissue sarcomas in children. Rhabdomyosarcoma often causes a noticeable lump on a child's body. If the tumor is located internally, the symptoms depend on its location. Only about 250 children are diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma each year. And for unknown reasons, males are affected slight more often than females. Shane was about 15 years old when the small grapefruit size lump on his neck was diagnosed at cancer. I had not grieved the lost of my two nephews prior to viewing of the film. But the film The Art of the Possible, has forced me to bring closer and I am hoping this paper will allow me to move on and somehow allow me to enjoy the celebration of their live, spent here on earth.

When the news of cancer is delivered to a family they are overwhelmed by anxiety. Anxiety is a behavior that is commonly seen in all children with caner when they are diagnosed with cancer and becomes aware of the seriousness of the disease (Kyngas, Mikkonen, Nousiaines, Rytilahi, Seppanen, Vaatovaara & Jamsa, 2001). Researchers have concluded that children with cancer experience significantly more anxiety related to the seriousness of their illness than children with non-fatal chronic illnesses and those children with cancer experience more anxiety during the progression of the disease and with each clinic visit . But as explained by Miller, Uncertainly Reduction Theory explains the world and allows them to render a prediction of how to adjust. As humans we are motivated by the desire to reduce uncertainties. The upside of reducing these uncertainties is the increase of certainty. By doing so we reduce the negative events because now you feel more certain or more knowledgeable about the upcoming events associated with the knowledge. Even thought St. Jude s Children s Research Hospital reports that more than 70% of children diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma have long-term survival, this information was unknown to me because of my fear to discover new information that affected my family when my nephew was diagnosed. The role of uncertainty reduction is played out very early of the film when the lady meets her angle in the elevator and spends what portrays to be good quality time and a vast amount of information transfer, from one mother to the other. All on a superficial level but and with an underlying need to share with one another the hurt and pain of grief stricken anger of knowing that they were in a small group of mothers that had children with cancer. In the paper written by Charles R. Berger and Richard J. Calabrese, 1975, Some Exploration in Initial Interaction and Beyond, The second stage of Uncertainly Reduction is when strangers (families and new information of your child having cancer) begin to explore the attitudes and beliefs of the other. Typically, this stage has several interactions. This is the stage were one will probe for indications and emotions are high as disclosures are made. Part of this is displayed in the film by the Dr. Peter Anderson, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, It not rather if they live or die, but it s about the quality of life they live . According to Thompson and Stanford (1981) reported the amount of information children receive determines the level of their level of their anxiety and other psychological effects that they will experience. If children are not told the truth about their disease, their anxiety levels will increase. As a result, they will have unrealistic fantasies leading to depression, withdrawal and fear. Social Penetration Theory is another element that is played out in the film. In the traditional understanding of how the theory goes though sequential stages as relationships develops, the level of knowledge these victims in the film knew about cancer is comprehensible. As depicted in figure 10.1 The Onion model of Social Penetration most of society only has a superficial understanding of cancer and how families deal with it. Only until we are hurled into the environment do we understand or gain a greater level of breath on how to deal with having an adolescent encompassed with unique developmental challenges. Knowing that life already offers demanding life stages, once the wounded information is started to be gathered a phenomenological approach is used to allow them to transfer their in-depth (Breadth) knowledge to other medical providers by using a flash drive and carry the information around with them and as Dr. Anderson states, they don t have to repeat chapter and verse each time they go to another cancer specialist. Allowing them to skip the pain of rehashing the information discovered for example, in the orientation and exploratory phase allows a superficial barrier from not having to dreg up that old information. The new providers can now evaluation the information without having to interrogate to patient. In closing, I remember the visit I experienced when Shane was in the Women and Children s Hospital several years ago. Trying to remove Shane, if just for a little while, my older brother Jerry and I took Shane out for an outing between treatments and our good intention turned into embarrassment. The internal affect of Shane s treatments were becoming more and more externally visible as time went

by. Uncontrollable body movements with deep smokers like couching and drool seem to become the focus of everyone around us. I only imagine the thoughts that ran thought the head of a 16 year old boy that only desired to be a normal kid. That s really the last time I spend with Shane. Our lives had grown apart and my fear of dealing with uncomfortable situations didn t allow me to see him grow into adulthood. If I had understood how the Social Penetration and Uncertainly Reduction Theories played such and important role in the discovery of information, I to may of have a different reflection of how the families members and loved ones of these children would have a better understand and cope with this newly found knowledge and learn to deal with the intimate details of tomorrow.

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