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How do you cope? parent with cancer.


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#1 of 49 OFFLINE   brentl

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Posted August 30 2004 - 10:13 AM

Ok, here's the story.

My Mom and Dad have been married for more than 42 years. They have 3 kids, 2 sisters and myself,I'm the baby. About 12 years ago my Mom was told she had breast cancer. I was always the optimistic son, and felt that they caught the cancer early enough and she would be fine, and hey, for a bunch of years I was right.

Fast forward some years(spring 2004) my Mom was noticing that she had a cough that wouldn't go away, she thought maybe it was a sign that she should take a year away from tennis and spend it with the middle sister who was having a kid in August and recover from the cough. With the cough not going away they decided to go in for testing in the middle of April, they could see a mass on her liver but couldn't get at it for a biopsy. I was still optimistic about it being malignant, little did I know that breast cancer has a 40% rate of reacurance.

She was dianosed with terminal cancer of both a lung and her liver in very early May and she was told she had less than 2 years left. She came downstairs when they got back from the hospital and we held each other and balled and asked why? They decided to put her on a pill to try to help her because she had a problem with Chemotherapy years ago. It did nothing, and they felt that chemo could at least ensure her a better 2 years. What a mistake that was!

They attempted to perform the first chemo, but my Moms body wouldn't take it(don't know exactly what happened). The then decided to put her on Steroids the day before to help her system, and that was her ultimate downfall. After that first chemo treatment my Mom coudln't fall asleep for 2 days, must have been the steroids. When she finally came down, she slept for 2 days straight and woke with really yellow eyes. I guess that the treatment had screwed up her liver enough that it couldn't deal with bile.

The worst thing, now she has only months left and sleeps most of the time. I would do anything to come home one day and see her working in her garden and humming a tune.

As it sits now I've got a strong family and great memories, but I find myself crying at the weirdest things. Sounds, smells, the way people say things, all may couse me to tear up. I'm also doing a Powerpoint presentation as a tribute, it will be from me to my Mom, but even that's tough to do.

OK now that I'm close to tears, I want to ask people either going through this type of situation or may have gone through this, how do you deal with the pain?

Thanks for listening, every little bit help keep me sane!

Brent

#2 of 49 OFFLINE   Ted Lee

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Posted August 30 2004 - 11:10 AM

hey brent -

first and foremost, my best wishes to you and your family. death is a strange thing...that's for sure.

i lost both my parents within a year of eachother ... my dad when i was nineteen (suicide), my mom a year later (literally a broken heart...she had a triple-bypass months earlier...but my dad's death was just too much for her and her heart failed).

i always think about how i should have been, the things i should have done, etc. i never really got to know my parents. i don't really know what they liked to eat, what their favorite colors were ... or any of that stuff.

so, for you i would say try to take in as much as you can. remember what your mom means to you and what she's done for you. spend as much time as you can with her. when it's all said and done you'll wish you spent more.

i'm not kidding. stay by her side as much as possible. i suspect it'll almost be therapeutic for you.

yeah, you're going to have moments of sorrow, but that's TOTALLY NORMAL! don't forget that. i never cried once during either of my parents deaths. everyone thought that was really weird, but that's just the way i dealt with it...i guess.

your emotions are going to be all over the map. again, that's totally normal. do not be hard on yourself. i mean, c'mon ... you're going to lose your mother. nobody in their right mind would think anything bad of you.

also, you may be thinking about how others will view you during this time. if you start doing that...stop! anybody who loves you will understand if you're a little irrational, upset, moody, short-tempered...whatever. if they give you any grief, they're just not getting what you're going through.

some people may try to treat you in a way you're not comfortable with. try to identify that they're trying to help you out, but if they're making you edgy, let them know.

try not to keep anything bottled up. talk to others. you may even want to consider counseling. (it's one of the things i think i maybe should have done myself...)

in a way, you're lucky. you've been ramping up to this point for a while....and you sound pretty solid and prepared. that's a good thing.

take care and know that we're here for you bud. Posted Image
 

#3 of 49 OFFLINE   brentl

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Posted August 30 2004 - 11:22 AM

Thanks for the thoughts Sugartastic.

Although it feels like I'm going through this alone it's good to know I've got a place that feels like a second home to get my mind off this.

"you may even want to consider counseling." I'm thinking about talking to a few other people that have lost family the same way. It's kind of like buying a new car, you swear you'll be the only person on the road with that exact colour and style but find out that every second car is the exact same.

B

#4 of 49 OFFLINE   Wayne Ernst

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Posted August 30 2004 - 11:47 AM

Quote:
OK now that I'm close to tears, I want to ask people either going through this type of situation or may have gone through this, how do you deal with the pain?

I only wish I could have cried - it would have eased the pain. My father died when I was 17. I was always encourage to be a "tough" person and try not to show too much emotion. This was the hard part. I was tough ... at the time, but I feel that because I couldn't let the pain out through tears at the time, I have suffered because of it.

If you feel that triggers are causing the crying, don't hold the tears back. Your body, mind, etc. will handle this with the course you're on.

However, also be kind to yourself. If you think that you are falling into a depression because of the situation with your mother, please be sure to seek help as needed.
"My reality check ... just bounced"

#5 of 49 OFFLINE   Ted Lee

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Posted August 30 2004 - 12:19 PM

wayne...i was in the opposite camp. everyone kept asking me why i wasn't in tears. the only answer i could give them was, "i don't feel like it.".
 

#6 of 49 OFFLINE   Pamela

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Posted August 30 2004 - 02:52 PM

My heart goes out to you, Brent. My father had lymphoma, although he died from a massive heart attack, while in remission from the cancer. His heart, already ravaged from years of heart disease, was further weakened by the powerful chemo. I remember when he was going through chemo, he was down to 117 pounds and he was 6'1". It was absolutely heartbreaking.

A couple of years ago, I lost my aunt to breast cancer. I was extremely close to her and her death just crushed me. Her situation sounds very similar to your mother's. The cancer metastasized to her spine and liver.

Everyone reacts differently to these situations. There is no right or wrong. Just let your mother know that you are there for her and that you love her. That is the one of the most powerful things you can do, right now. And if you want to cry, then cry. Let it out.

One thing I have learned from going through this, and seeing close friends go through this, is that we can be incredibly resilient when we have to be. Getting through this isn't easy, by any means. But we can get through it—maybe bruised and battered—but we can get through it.

Also, make sure that your father is getting the support he needs. After 42 years of marriage, I can't imagine what kind of toll it is taking on him.

You said she only has months to live. If you haven't already, you and your family need to consider home hospice care. You can not believe how helpful this will be to both your mother and your family. They are skilled at keeping terminal patients comfortable, and assist in emotional counseling, both for the patient and the family. They were a blessing to my Aunt, and also my mother, who was her caregiver in the final months. My mom said she doesn't know what she would have done without them. I cannot recommend home hospice enough. You can get information through the oncologist's office or hospital.

Another way to find support is through the social worker at the cancer center or hospital where your mother has been receiving treatment. They have a variety of resources available to assist you. Call them up.

And as trite as it may sound, take things one day at a time.

#7 of 49 OFFLINE   Christ Reynolds

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Posted August 30 2004 - 02:56 PM

i can't add much to the discussion in this area, but i'd like to extend my best wishes to your family.

CJ
And then when I feel so stuffed I can't eat anymore, I just use the restroom! And then I CAN eat more!

#8 of 49 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted August 30 2004 - 04:06 PM

Brent,

My deepest sntiments, I lost my dad to pancreatic cancer in 2000. Pancreatic is essentially incurable and usually by the time it is detected the prognosis is 3-6 months. I tell you this because it leads to something that helped me through the bad times. After my dad was diagnosed, we had hope, but incurable is incurable, so hope was all we had. Well, miracle of miracles, my dad had a rare kind of pancreatic cancer that responded to chemo. Instead of 3-6 months, my dad got 2 years, 12 months of which were symptom free and some of the best times of his life. I see those extra 18 or so months as a blessing and now accept that his death was the natual progression from that blessing. Luckily, my dad went fairly quick after the cancer came back and he was not in much pain (not that he would admit pain anyway). This also gives me a great amount of comfort. I tell you this because it sounds like your mom got 12 years extra that she was able to be around and that is a blessing. It is not much of a comfort now, but I assure you it will be in the future. I don't want to tell anyone how to grieve, but I have clung to this idea of the extra time my dad had, even though it was only 2 years, and the good times we had during those years. The other thing that got me through was acceptance of death as a part of life. This was a suggestion from my mom, who refused to approach the services after his passing as a time of mourning and looked at it as a celebration of life. The girls in my family were ordered to wear brightly colored dresses to the services and every guy wore a bright, floral pattern tie. My dad was a commercial artist and as my sister said "he was a splash of color on an otherwise dull world" and my mom refused to let anyone wear black, cause black was "not his color". This celebration of a life and concentration on the gift that was him instead of the loss that I felt has helped me to a quick recovery from grief and a lasting sense of acceptance.

My sympathies to you, your family and anyone else who has been touched by cancer. Hope this has helped.

#9 of 49 OFFLINE   Mike Voigt

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Posted August 30 2004 - 11:11 PM

Brent,

I feel for you. It is a rough time. And it takes time to deal with the issues - a year or more in many cases.

I lost my Dad this year about 2 years after losing my Mom. Neither was easy to take, Mom's was a total surprise, and it was what finally took Dad also. In his case, we found out early in the year that he had cancer, that it was terminal. He died within a few weeks, even though we had discussed, not a week before, plans for him to show up at our son's christening later in the year.

All I can say is the reactions you are having are perfectly normal. And, Jeff is correct, death is a part of life. Celebrate the joys of what you have together, go from there.

I've mentioned this before, but my Mom had a little frame next to her bed, with the words (translated) in speaking about those awesome, wonderful memories we have of days with loved ones:

"Don't cry, that they passed, but smile, that they existed"

I forget the name of the poet, it is an excerpt from one of his. Dad had it memorized.

And, if you do see yourself slipping (or even more so if someone else close to you is saying so) get some help. It's available in lots of places: through work, through the medical system, and through church.

Hang in there.

Mike

#10 of 49 OFFLINE   CalvinCarr

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Posted August 31 2004 - 01:42 AM

I went through the same thing. My mom had a cough that wouldn't go away. They found cancer in the lungs. 2 years of treatments and it just spread. I didn't cry the whole time really. The day we buried her I cried hysterically and uncontrollably. It's been 5 years are there are still time that I tear up.

My prayers are with you.

#11 of 49 OFFLINE   Bill Williams

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Posted August 31 2004 - 02:14 AM

Brent,

While my dad didn't have cancer (he suffered and eventually passed away two and a half years ago from strokes and Parkinson's), the agony of watching him suffer for six years just goes beyond words. I can definitely relate to what you're feeling and experiencing inside. There were times I felt like screaming, crying, wanting to run from it and get away from it all. Sometimes I did, and it's healthy to do so, because to be completely and totally immersed in grief you need to have some kind of healthy release. Whether it's through prayer and crying out to God, crying yourself to sleep, or even getting together with a friend and having a shoulder to cry on, that release is essential for coping.

It also is important to look at how healthy your relationship is with your mom. The healthier, the better. That will determine how well you will cope with it when she eventually passes. What is also important is being able to tell your mom that you'll be all right, that you'll be able to go forward, integrate what she and your dad have given to you, and make it a part of your life.

Do I still miss my dad? Only on days that end in the letter "y". Will the grief hurt? Like a sledgehammer in the stomach. Will it pass? Yes. Will it be easy? No. It will take time to heal, and how much is up to you. For me, that first week after laying my dad to rest was the most difficult, so I returned to work and slowly worked my way back up, refocusing the grief toward something positive and essential. Going forward is an essential part of coping, because when you go forward with your life, you learn how to cope with the illness, and it gives you strength.

I know that this is just only a random collection of thoughts and perspectives from one who's been where you are, but hang in there. You're going to make it. My prayers are with you and your family.
"I have in my heart what it takes to run with the big dogs in this life, and nobody can say otherwise."

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#12 of 49 OFFLINE   Bob Graz

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Posted August 31 2004 - 02:19 AM

How do you cope? That's a very good question Brent. I lost my mother nearly 10 years ago to lymphoma. She was diagnosed in her mid 40's went through 1 remission and died at 55 when the lymphoma came back. She died 2 days after their 35th wedding anniversary. My mother and father were fortunate to have about 8 years together after the first diagnosis. There were up's and downs, happy times and sad times.

It is difficult to deal with the loss of a parent. I can tell you that near the end I had difficultly sleeping and a strange sense of something wrong that I find hard to describe. It was a very sad time.

10 years later I still miss my mother and think of her often. But I mostly think of the happy times and not often about the cancer. Life has moved on. My father is doing great, my sons were 6-10 back then. Now 2 are in college and 1 in high school.

So how do you cope? You acknowledge the sadness and the loss. You know that over time the pain will be replaced with the happiness that your mother brought you.

Best wishes Brent. I'm sorry for you and your family.

#13 of 49 OFFLINE   Shawn C

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Posted August 31 2004 - 02:49 AM

Both of may parent have cancer, but my dad won't do anything about his

My mom just had her second lung cancer surgery. This time they had to remove the lower half of her right lung. The previous surgery was to remove the top half of her left lung. She's running on about 60% total lung capacity now. She also had a small portion of her lymph nodes removed. NOW she figures it's time to quit smoking. Posted Image

My dad had some skin cancer removed from behind his ear about 5 years ago without a problem. Now he has this massive growth on his arm that has gotten bigger over the years and he won't go to the doctor. Everybody knows what it is but he it too hard headed to do anything about it.

#14 of 49 OFFLINE   Zen Butler

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Posted August 31 2004 - 02:53 AM

Brent, there are no words to describe to others the sick feeling you're experiencing. Deal with these emotions as they come but do not wallow in them. Plan events, nothing too strenuous and take advantage of this time. Be strong for your mother. It will surely help her to know that you're going to be okay. She's mom, if she sees her children losing their minds, this will only add to her stress and worry.

brentl, we lost our mother to cancer in 1999. Notably, they gave her only a few months but she fought for over 2 years. Most likely due to the young age of my brothers at the time. She felt there was still so much to do.

Brent, one fabulous thing that you can do, is have the whole family sit and make a giant family collage. Pull out all those old pictures and cut them to whatever size. So freeing. Not only do you get to reminisce but it also gives you opportunities to commend mom on how much she is appreciated. Make it fun! Mom deserves a bit of laughter right now.

Brent, in all honesty, there just isn't one way to prepare for the road ahead. Keep a journal. Please, PM me any time.

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#15 of 49 OFFLINE   Philip Hamm

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Posted August 31 2004 - 03:09 AM

I've been through it and I have no advice for you. It's tough, but remember death is part of life.
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#16 of 49 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted August 31 2004 - 03:30 AM

Quote:
Be strong for your mother. It will surely help her to know that you're going to be okay. She's mom, if she sees her children losing their minds, this will only add to her stress and worry.


This is very important advice you give, Zen. I have a sister who has, shall we say, "a flair for the dramatic". Besides this, like most drama queens, everything is about her. Only *she* knew what was best for my dad (besides only visiting him twice over the 2 years he was sick), *she* was the only one who was feeling hurt and alone (never mind the guy who was facing death, it was *her* feelings that were important). Being the only one who decided to live at home and care for my dad, I got to set the rules (yea me!). Because my dad's greatest fear and regret was that his illness was hurting his kids, I did not allow anyone to be over dramatic in his presence (if they wanted to cry, then cry by themselves, lord knows I did). Taking my advice, everyone tried to be positive around my dad, even till the end (except the drama queen, but like I said, she only visited twice). We tried to be strong and allow his illness and death to be on his terms, not ours. I used tell my siblings that he's the one who is dying and no matter how we feel about our future without him, it's nothing compared to the fear he has of the unknown and we had to put our own grief aside for him (at least while we were in his presence). He instinctively understood this and thanked me for it, and I hope it made the decisions he had to make easier because of it.

#17 of 49 OFFLINE   Zen Butler

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Posted August 31 2004 - 03:50 AM

Quote:
Because my dad's greatest fear and regret was that his illness was hurting his kids,


Amazing how selfless people can be.

Jeff, in your sister's defense, I have 3 of them, this is just how some deal with the inevitable. I merely pulled a few aside and had a kind discussion with them. Death is not easy for everyone. It's obvious from your words that this was very uncomfortable and painful for her also. Your father was a very lucky man.

In my case, as I played well-centered referee, it was my sisters who moved in and worked in the trenches. So some of their drama was understandable.

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#18 of 49 OFFLINE   brentl

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Posted August 31 2004 - 04:07 AM

I always bugged my Mom because I got her calfs and her emotions, now I'm happy I can cry though I still don't like my calfs.

As it sits now I can "forget" for a while when I go to work and I'm generally a very happy and even keeled person, but This is one of the rare times I wish I had a girlfiend/wife to talk to.

Pamela; The weird thing about the chemo is the first treatment(12 years ago) didn't cause her to lose any hair, and this time with 1 chemo she's almost a bald eagle. Maybe the first time was noticably weaker because of their ability to catch it earlier

"One thing I have learned from going through this, and seeing close friends go through this, is that we can be incredibly resilient when we have to be. Getting through this isn't easy, by any means. But we can get through it—maybe bruised and battered—but we can get through it."

I know we'll get through it, I also know that I'll be a waste case for a couple weeks.

"Also, make sure that your father is getting the support he needs. After 42 years of marriage, I can't imagine what kind of toll it is taking on him."

My father is pretty stoic, and I'd never seen him cry until the day they came from the hospital. It made me see my Dad as less of an authoritarian, and more of a loving husband. He gone a little crazy, but I no longer shove him away when he needs to talk.

"Well, miracle of miracles, my dad had a rare kind of pancreatic cancer that responded to chemo. Instead of 3-6 months, my dad got 2 years, 12 months of which were symptom free and some of the best times of his life."

That sure was a blessing Jeff and I only wish the same thing could happen to my Mom, but you did make me realize that I did get 12 extra years with her. Thank you.

"I lost my Dad this year about 2 years after losing my Mom. Neither was easy to take, Mom's was a total surprise, and it was what finally took Dad also."

We are all afraid that my dad won't be able to get over the loss, and are afraid we'll lose him a few years later!

"I know that this is just only a random collection of thoughts and perspectives from one who's been where you are"

I wish that nobody would ever have to go through this Bill, but I can rest a little easier knowing my Mom knows how much we all love her.


I remember I made a commitment to myself years ago that whenever I went somewhere, or my parents went away I would always tell them how much I love them. So I'm sure she knows. I sure would love her to "tuck me in" one more time!

Brent

Thanks for the thoughts everybody.

At least I had 36 years with my Mom and you certainly count your blessings when you walk into a cancer treatment clinic and you see children that may never reach 20 because of this disease.

#19 of 49 OFFLINE   brentl

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Posted August 31 2004 - 04:14 AM

Shawn I hope you can get it through your dads head that he need to get help because you want him around!

I hope your Mom gets better. The thoughts for my Mom were to initially remove the bad lung, and cut out part of the liver. Problem was that by then the cancer had spread to her bones.

Liver replacement would have been nice, but at her age there are many more younger people that need it more.

Brent

#20 of 49 OFFLINE   Anthony_J

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Posted August 31 2004 - 05:23 AM

I lost my brother to cancer about 8 years ago. He was 21 and I was 20. I can honestly say that there's not a day that I haven't thought of him since. I don't think you really cope in any specific way. You just get used to the fact that it happened and adjust.

Being that I was relatively young, I tried to be tough about the whole thing. The cancer came on quick (he died only 8 months after diagnosis), and I never took the time to talk to him about it or to even tell him that I'd miss him terribly. It was always our relationship, you know? We were brothers, mushiness wasn't our style.

When he had to drop out of school and stay home, I don't think I spent any time at all just sitting with him. I just hoped he knew how I felt but was too afraid to say it.

Really, although I still cherish the time he was in my life and I think I've grown as a result of the experience, I'll have this regret for the rest of my life that I didn't say goodbye or really let him know how I feel.

That's my advice to you. Let your mom know exactly how you feel, what you're thankful for, what you hope for in the future, and definitely let her know that you absolutely love her. Being a mom, I'm betting that her concern is the well-being of her family in the future and it's your job to let her know that the next step in her journey is all about her and you and the rest of your family will get along (more or less) just fine...

My best wishes to your family.





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