The words we use
On an evening session hosted by The Urology Foundation, Stephen Fry spoke about how the words that we consider taboo are often a poor reflection of what should be considered taboo.
He asked us to imagine an alien visitor, “one of those so beloved by the ethicists of our world” and what that alien might consider to be taboo words in our language. Probably they would assume that the most taboo words would be those words that reflect the very worst of humanity, things like ‘murder’ and ‘torture’.
Yet, how often do we say things like “the traffic was torture today” or, “I could murder him for saying that”. We very blithely use words that reflect the very worst of what humanity has to offer, and yet we shy away from words that reflect some of the most beautiful and some of the mundane parts of our lives. Often those words are urological, referring to sex or to going to the toilet.
Where is the sense in that?
The shame we feel
Stephen also took some time to question why we should feel any shame about our bodies. We all have them and bodies come with things like a penis, a clitoris, a rectum, a prostate, so why should we be ashamed to talk about these parts of us?
While prostate cancer surgery can sometimes lead to some unpleasant consequences, it isn’t something we should be ashamed to talk about.
Stephen’s point was that we should break down the taboos that surround urology disease. He said that he himself didn’t feel particularly awkward over talking to those close to him about his prostate cancer diagnosis and that his only concern was to reassure them that he would be fine, so as not to cause them undue worry.
While prostate cancer surgery (Stephen underwent a robotic prostatectomy that was performed by TUF-trained surgeon, Mr Ben Challacombe) can sometimes lead to some unpleasant consequences, such as having to use a catheter, it isn’t something we should be ashamed to talk about.
The way we communicate
On an evening that was all about life’s awkward conversations, Stephen was at pains to say that discussion is a worthy thing and should be encouraged, provided that it is 50/50. Our discussions should always be 50% talking and 50% listening.
Stephen took time to point out that one of the things he valued so highly from his TUF-trained urologists was that they were good communicators and took time to explain to him very carefully what his diagnosis and treatment would mean.
Whether you are talking about prostate cancer or any other topic, the message here is to be patient, to be willing to explain carefully what you mean, and, just as importantly, be willing to listen and to try to understand what is being said.