What Is Hope Management? How Do You Want Others to Talk about Your Health?

January 31, 2024 ◊ By Elisa Everts ◊

What Is Hope Management? How Do You Want Others to Talk about Your Health?

What the Heck is "Hope Management"? 
I know Hope Management sounds like a group of real estate caretakers. Chuckle. (It's ok to chuckle and think about grief at the same time. In fact, highly recommend. You have to come up for air as often as you can. Grief feels like drowning. You need air. Find your air wherever you can.)

Hope management refers to the fact that hope is something we have to very consciously cultivate by making specific choices. There are so many threats to our hope that we have to respond to intentionally in order to preserve and promote it.

The antidote to grief is always hope. And hope is not something you pull out of . . . thin air. Hope doesn't just happen to you. You need to happen to hope. You need to find it inside of you and cultivate it. And in order to cultivate it, you have to make choices about various aspects of your situation. One of those is the treatment of information about your health.

Don't Tell Her That!
When I was a grad student I had some inexplicable symptoms following an allergic reaction to Keflex administered for a rare case of cellulitis on my ear and I was being seen by the Georgetown University Research Hospital. They were testing me for lupus and MS, among other exciting possibilities. After I had a biopsy, a female resident asked me, "Do you know why we are so concerned?" I said, "No." She explained in a sympathetic tone, "We are worried that it might be T-cell lymphoma." The male resident doing the biopsy blurted out, "Don't tell her that!" Don't tell me?? What? Am I five?? I was most indignant.

His attitude was so insulting to me because I am one of those people who wants to know everything the doctor knows (as apparently was the female resident). But on reflection, I realized, not everyone does want to know. And the doctor does not know which sort of person I am. Whether or not he is a good diagnostician, he is surely not clairvoyant. And that is not his fault.

Something Doctors Need to Know About You
I am convinced that there should be a preliminary survey on what sort of person the patient is and the results should be in your file and reviewed by every doctor before every medical encounter. Unfortunately, I do not have institutional reform in the palm of my hand. I do, however, have my words and am perfectly capable of communicating my wishes to said doctor. And now I know that's my responsibility.

How Straight Do You Want Your Truth? 
The first choice you have in regard to hope management is about how you want your doses of information. Are you a person who wants to know the good, the bad, and the ugly about your situation or are you someone who would rather not know if things are not leaning towards the specific happy ending you had in mind?

It's amazing how differently we each prefer to consume our doses of reality. Some want it straight, some want it diluted, some want a cup of sugar with each teaspoon of truth, and some want to skip the dose altogether. Of course, the other thing we want is the ability to determine what the truth is for ourselves. And that's tricky.

Reflect and Communicate 
There are two things you need to be able to do in order to manage your hope regarding the receipt of information. The first is ask yourself which kind of person you are? Have you thought about how straight you want your information? I urge you to ponder that and find a way to articulate it.

Second, once you figure this out, it's your responsibility to communicate that preference to others (doctors, family, friends, anyone who might be in the grapevine of relevant information). You do not get to be mad because others can't read your mind. You cannot assume that they have the same preferences you have. You must tell them how you want to be communicated with.

I will write more about hope management in my next missive, but for now, which kind of person are you? Do you know how you want your information served? And if so, have you taken responsibility for communicating this to all the relevant others? Knowing the answers to these questions will help set you on the road to managing hope.

I wish you hope, healing, and agency!


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About the author

Dr. Elisa Everts is the founder of Evertree Hope Management and is a dynamic public speaker, author and trainer. Dr Everts is passionate about helping cancer patients and bereaved people in their quest to survive and live a full life during and after cancer and grief. She has the personal experience of surviving Stage IV cancer and the loss of many loved ones. She understands the challenges inherent in these experiences and the importance of cultivating hope through the stories we tell others, and even more importantly, to ourselves.

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Elisa Everts, phd

Speaker | Author | Educator

Finding Hope in Cancer & Grief

Elisa Everts, phd

Speaker | Author | Educator

Finding Hope in Cancer & Grief

I speak to medical professionals and patients, helping them provide hope when there seems to be none. If you or your organization need someone to help process the difficult topics of cancer and grief, let's set up a complimentary call, 703-656-6691, ee@elisaeverts.com.

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