From guest blogger Jane Bissell
It's a simple question.
Often we'll ask something similar when we see our friends, or talk to them on the phone: "How are you?" And then we might enhance that by adding, "Hope you've been well during this awful winter we've been having. So many colds about."
"How are you feeling today?" is also a good question to ask a friend who is experiencing breast cancer.
She can answer, "Yeah I'm OK" and that's all, or she can tell you how she's really feeling - and that may take a while, so be prepared to listen.
It's what we call an open-ended question, one that requires more than just a 'yes' or 'no'. If I asked, "Are you feeling OK?" she could answer 'yes' or 'no' and I'm not really giving her an opportunity to say more.
But if I invite her with "How are you feeling today?" she has the choice of giving me the short answer, or a longer one - and sometimes a simple question like this provides a warm, and sometimes much-needed, invitation to tell me more.
And if I've had breast cancer too, that gives me further insight. She may not need to say too much more, because I get it, I understand, we have a shared experience.
A question like that also acknowledges that she is going through something. Often people are so unsure about what to ask a person with cancer, they'll avoid it altogether and will talk about the ghastly winter and the colds and flu they've had and the cancer doesn't get a look in. It's ignored, it doesn't exist, the subject is avoided. Is it because we're too scared to mention it, or we don't want to upset her, or we just don't know what to say so prattle on about mundane matters?
Probably a combination of all of those things.
"How are you feeling today?" acknowledges her situation and the cancer, opens the door to her to talk about it - as much, or as little as she wants.
Listen to whatever she wants to share.
Jane Bissell is a writer and life writing workshop facilitator living in Auckland.
Visit her website to find out more.