Patient Perspectives

An Engaged Patient Helps Others as He Confronts Bad News

It’s time for an update on Bill Gardner, an engaged patient, psychologist, researcher, educator and writer in Canada who has been chronicling his experience with cancer for about a year. The news is not good.

Earlier this month, in a post titled “SHATTERED,” Gardner explained that his cancer has continued to grow despite extensive radiation therapy and that his medical team has run out of viable treatment options for him. Gardner had hoped surgery — though extreme in his case — would be an option, but his surgeon said it is not and offered palliative care and medical assistance in dying (Gardner is a Canadian resident). To say, “This is hard,” doesn’t scratch the surface.

Through nearly a year of posts, Gardner has been both unflinching and humble as he’s faced delays, mistakes, side effects of treatment and now shattering news. He also seems to be blessed with life force and loving friends and family.

In his latest post, Gardner has very useful advice for people engaged in “conversations where one partner has received an end-stage diagnosis.” Acknowledging that these conversations are difficult on both sides, he offers helpful, practical suggestions for what to say and not say and thoughtful comments about what it means to listen, which is the best advice of all. He also recommends books I now have on my list.

Reading Gardner’s posts and tweets is always enlightening and rewarding. I hope he continues to feel relatively strong and well as long as possible and that we all will be reading new posts well past his current prognosis.



Susan Carr Susan Carr is a medical editor and writer specializing in patient safety and engagement. In addition to curating the EngagingPatients blog, she produces publications for the Betsy Lehman Center in Boston and the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine. Susan lives and works in Lunenburg, Massachusetts.

Susan Carr has 185 post(s) at

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