Response from New York Times Journalist Re: When Thumbs up is no Comfort

I want to share a letter I wrote to the NY Times journalist, Jan Hoffman, after reading the story When Thumbs Up is No Comfort

Hi Jan, 

Incredible article in this Sunday's paper tying public image and personal reality to the Kennedy story. I am a recent graduate of Duke and have worked with Duke Brain Tumor Center, an incredible research and medical institution. I run a non-profit for young adult survivors of childhood cancer, which made your story particularly interesting for me to read and compare to the experiences I have had with patients diagnosed with similar or worse types of brain cancer as Kennedy. I hope your article opens discussion regarding public image and personal reality. When going through a traumatic situation, people often mask their emotions as to not worry others. Children do this as well. Children diagnosed with cancer often feel bad for the impact of their illness on others. But is "thumbs up" by a public figure sending a message of hope to similar patients or guilt? Guilt for not putting on a happy face after being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and expressing their emotions. 
Thank you for pulling out these under looked topics for discussion. 

Best wishes, 
Carolyn Rubenstein
Response from Jan Hoffman to the email above on June 20, 2008.

Dear Ms. Rubenstein: 

First, let me apologize for the tardiness of the reply. We had a technical glitch with readers' mail, and so I have only just seen your generous note. Second, thank you, of course, not only for taking the time to write but to send such a thoughtful response. When I was writing for Science Times, I had more room to write about doctor-patient relationships and so forth; my ability in SundayStyles is limited. At some point, though, when the opportunity permits, I would like to explore the subject you raise.

At the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing, I'd suggest you look at the Thumbs Up article on the web. I linked several other articles to it, including studies about coping mechanisms and cancer patients, and articles I've written about the ethics of hope, and so forth.

What is not linked, however, is yet another column that may be of interest: In early January, in my last column for Science Times (In the Trenches), I profiled an occupational therapist in the traumatic brain injury unit at Kessler Rehab Center in New Jersey.

Thank you for loving and important work that you do.
Jan Hoffman

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