Bob Riter

Cancer Makes Everyone Stupider – and Smarter

Posted March 30th, 2017

A professor recently told me that he instantly became 50% stupider when his doctor told him that he had cancer. He said that his own research in his field of study is careful and thoughtful. When he learned that he had cancer, the “careful part” of his brain shut down. Rather than thinking logically about […]


Bob Riter

Cancer Patients, Make Your Wishes Clear

Posted March 22nd, 2017

In the cancer world, patients often differ on what they want to hear from their doctors. Here are some examples: Some patients want to know — in detail — the various pros and cons of every treatment option, while other patients just want to know what the doctor thinks is best. Some patients want to […]


Bob Riter

Nice People Abound in the Cancer World

Posted March 1st, 2017

One of the volunteers at the Cancer Resource Center recently said to me, “Every person I meet with cancer is nice.” It’s an interesting observation and one that other volunteers have made as well. I’ve been in the cancer world for more than 20 years and I think it’s generally true. Not because nice people […]


Bob Riter

Good Care is a Partnership Between Patient and Doctor

Posted February 14th, 2017

I spend much of my time helping seriously ill patients navigate the health care system. As a result, I’m constantly talking with patients about their interactions with doctors and other health professionals. Although each encounter is unique, I’m increasingly aware of some universal truths that contribute to good patient-doctor encounters. Not surprisingly, good encounters require […]


Bob Riter

When Your Partner is in Denial About Cancer

Posted January 18th, 2017

I recently spoke with a woman who was stressed because her husband has cancer and he seemed to be in denial over the seriousness of his situation. What was especially upsetting to her was that he didn’t want to address any end of life issues like drafting a will. I’ve been mulling this over ever […]


Bob Riter

A Field Guide to Family Members of Cancer Patients

Posted January 6th, 2017

There are a variety of styles that spouses and other close family members adopt to help a family member with cancer. Here are several negative styles that I’ve observed through the years as well as the style that is most likely to be helpful. Combatants are always looking to pick a fight, often with doctors […]


Bob Riter

Value Your Own Story

Posted November 29th, 2016

I recently spoke with a group in Binghamton, NY about coping with and communicating about cancer. One attendee suggested that I add the importance of valuing our individual cancer stories. What a terrific idea. Each person who’s been through cancer (either as a patient or a caretaker) has a unique story. For many of us, […]


Bob Riter

How Faith Communities Serve Those With Cancer

Posted November 14th, 2016

I recently had the good fortune of attending a couple of church services in rural communities near Ithaca in order to speak about the work of the Cancer Resource Center. It reminded me that churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith communities are often the primary sources of support for people going through cancer. And, as […]


Bob Riter

Chemo Nurses and Radiation Therapists

Posted October 31st, 2016

Chemotherapy nurses and radiation therapists provide much of the hands-on care to cancer patients. As a result, these professionals have a profound impact on the quality of care that patients receive. I attend a weekly breakfast club for guys who have had cancer. I asked them to describe the qualities in a chemo nurse or […]


Bob Riter

Stopping Treatment Is Not Giving Up

Posted October 13th, 2016

I sometimes hear from individuals with advanced cancer who continue with aggressive treatment because their loved ones exhort them to “not give up.” Some family members go so far as to say that stopping treatment is the same as committing suicide. It’s not. I wish that we could reframe this discussion because when people choose […]