Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43 Page 44 Page 45 Page 46 Page 47 Page 48 Page 49 Page 50 Page 51 Page 52 Page 53 Page 54 Page 55 Page 56 Page 57 Page 58 Page 59 Page 60 Page 61 Page 62 Page 63 Page 64 Page 65 Page 6623 MSFocus Summer 2016 Trust your intuition. While I have suggested flexibility when it comes to supporting someone with illness, there are times when this does not apply. “Being there” for your family member not only requires sensitivity and understanding, but also, at times, boldness. Trust your gut. As a patient, I know that guilt can interfere with my ability to ask for help, or even to identify what I really want or need. Often, I refuse offers of help because I don’t want to be a burden. For example, when my mother asked if she could come to the hospital to sit with me during my two-hour medication infusion, I adamantly refused. I told her it would be boring, and that I would be fine. Aren’t I always fine? She asserted herself. “I am coming whether you like it or not, and you cannot talk me out of it,” she said. Her pushiness was just what I needed. She sat with me, this time without bringing her own worries into the room. We read People magazine and she got me a milk- shake from the hospital cafeteria. We didn’t talk about illness once, the time passed quickly and I was grateful for her presence. Don’t be afraid. You don’t have to be perfect. We are all figuring this out as we go, patients and caregivers alike. We will bumble sometimes, and that’s okay. We are human beings. If we love each other and have good intentions, the rest will work itself out. Strive for open and honest communication. Ask for what you need. Ask how you can help. Listen. Trust one another. I don’t expect my family members to always say the right thing, or to read my mind, and I will forgive them if they occasionally and unintentionally say the “wrong” thing. (I married my husband, after all.) Annie Brewster is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and a practicing internist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. She is also a patient, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001. She has been collecting patient stories since 2010 and is a frequent contributor to her local NPR station, WBUR. In 2013, she founded Health Story Collaborative, a nonprofit organization committed to empowering patients and their loved ones to find meaning, through storytelling, when confronted with illness.