Hi. I'm new to this board. I'm here tonight because this afternoon, my sister called to tell me that she has lung cancer. She said her lungs are functioning at 40% capacity. She can't have surgery. Her doctor said she'd die on the table. Her cancer is too far gone. He suspects the longest she has is a year. She's only 54 years old.
My sister told me that we need to talk more often to say what we need to say to one another. She's right. But all I could do while we were on the phone is cry. I'm 800 miles from her and I feel so helpless, angry and frustrated. I had some bad news about my MIL today (went in the hospital with several serious medical problems) and some bad news about my other sister too (may have to have surgery on her cervical spine). So I'm trying to deal with all of this stuff the best I can.
I'm really very angry at cancer right now. It took my brother from me 5 years ago. And now my sister.
I really didn't come here to whine. It's just so overwheming.
What I really came here for is to ask you all what I can say or do for my sister to comfort her? I really want to be there for her as much as I can. I've asked her to come back here so that she can go to Northwestern University Medical Center and get a second opinion. She said she might.
I know my sister has to go through this grieving process and I do too. But I could hear in her voice how difficult it is for her. I'm afraid I'm going to fall to pieces and not be of any help or comfort to her. She's 10 years older than me and was always the one comforting me. She's in so much pain and can't take pain medication. She's allergic to all of it now.
I know you are all going through horrible stuff. But I think I need some insight from you. I don't know what to expect and I've got all sorts of thoughts racing through my mind. I don't think I'm making much sense now but somehow I think you all understand anyway.
To those of you who have cancer, can you please share with me things that help you to come to terms with your diagnosis? Is there anything that helps? I guess I'm looking for a do's and don't do's list. I know I can't stop the cancer from taking my sister's life. But if I can make it just a little more bearable for her.....
I'm not going to sugar coat things for her and pretend that nothing's wrong. She'd just get pi$$ed off at me for doing that anyway. She's always been one to face things head on. She's a real fighter. She's been through more than most people physically. She could have died many times throughout her life and almost did a few times. She was once told she'd never have children and proved the doctors wrong by having three. Yep. She's a fighter. But I'm afraid she's losing this time.
I am so sorry to hear about your sister along with all the other family issues, I know how hard it must be for you if you are 800 miles apart. Just being there even if it is via e-mail or phone to listen to her will help. This is a frightening time for her so just having you for support will help. The journey is quite a roller coaster ride so get ready to hang on. Don't listen to what the doctor says about how much time she has left as my mom was told 6 months without treatment 1 year with well it has been 27 months. No one knows how she will respond and she does sound like a survivor so it is between her and god.
I don't know if you can really help her come to terms with it or not. My mom is NSCLC stage IV currenlty a 27 month survivor and when she was first told while in the hospital. I was upset and she remained calm and told me she had had a good life and if she had to die now she was ok with it . I thought wow she has accepted this so well. Well since that day she has lived in total denial and pretty much convinced herself she will survive and win the battle.At first this was upsetting for me as she would talk about things that where years away planning to be there for them, and I new she probably would not be, then my co worker got Hodgkins Lymphoma.
My coworker went throught her whole treatment in total denial and when it was over and they were pretty certain that she had won the battle, she and I had a talk . She told me to let my mom live in denial as that may be where she is most comfortable. She said that had she been forced to accept her illness she would not have been able to handle it so denial was a good place. It was about 6 months after her intense treatment ended that one day at work we were talking and she said "wow I had cancer, I could have died" She has always called it hodgkins disease instead of Lymphoma as calling it Lymphoma was accepting it was cancer.
My mom and I did an online survey for lung cancer patients about 6 weeks ago. I read the questions and filled in the answers and she answered them. There were several questions about if you felt you would survive and to my surprize my mom answered she was pretty confident that she would. Well she is on what she has been told is her last chemo and has been on it since Feb. so I was taken back abit by her reply but it is probably her attitube that has gotten her this far. She has refused to let the cancer consume her life and just goes on each day like it was before the cancer. She is having a difficult time right now do not know if it is the cancer or the chemo but she has been totally exhausted and not bouncing back after her chemo and has been making statements like This is not fun and I don't know if I can take much more of this not being able to do anything. She had next weeks chemo put on hold she feels so weak so I think she may be nearing the spot where she decides that she wants no more chemo and places this all in Gods hands alone. She has been lucky as she responded to the drug Tarveva and it did away with the actual lung tumor so for over a year her battle has just been with the multiple liver mets so she has not suffered as much as so many here have.
Give your sister time and let her process it the best way she can, try to view her as not just a cancer victim but a survivor. In other words don't just talk to her about cancer and treatment but the rest of her life as she is still alive and I think we tend to forget that and only focus on the illness. Let her know how much she means to you and validate her life and the important role she has had in it. If you can spend time with her do so. I live 120 miles from my mom but have worked it out so I only work Fri-Sunday ( 12 hr shifts) so I can be with my mom as much as possible, it is difficult on me as it envolves a drive through Los Angeles and the Traffic sucks, and my life here at home is pretty much just about work but I know I will never be sorry I chose to do this as being there just spending time with my mom helps her alot.
Come here to vent or ask questions as we do not see it as whining as we have all been there or are currenlty there. Others in your life may say they understand but unless they have gone on this roller coaster ride they really do not so having this group can be great support. Your sister will join the others in my prayers. JanMarie
Thank you so much! You don't know (or maybe you do) just how much I appreciate your response. Your suggestions are great. I did manage in my conversation with my sister to ask her how her kids were and what they were up to and things like that. I told her a little about my son which she hasn't seen in about 5 years. The last time I went to her house, my son stayed home because he had some project due at school he had to work on. I think he wants to go with me to see my sister but I think my sister might prefer some alone time with me. She's told two of her kids and me. She doesn't want the rest of the family to know and I'll respect that. She doesn't want anyone pitying her or treating her like she's needy. She's in depression over this but I reminded her that our aunt was given 1 1/2 years about 4 years ago and she's still going strong. Our aunt has never uttered the word cancer or even admitted that she was sick. Our aunt is living life much like you say your mom is. She's planning for the future.
So I do think you're right. I'll listen to my sister and let her take the conversation where she wants to take it. I did suggest to her that she come back here and go to Northwestern University Medical Center. She's a nurse and she used to work for a doctor there when she lived up here. It certainly wouldn't hurt to have another opinion on diagnosis or treatment. She said she had thought about that and she might do it.
My sister and I even managed to have a couple of laughs and I felt guilty about that until I read your post.
My sister is in a lot of pain now and can't take pain meds because of a severe allergy to them (her airways close up on her).
Thank you for your prayers. You and your mom will also be in mine.