Hi everyone. I am new here and I have some questions about concerning a family member that has been diagnosed with cancer.
Last year my stepmom found a lump on her breast, but she put off going to the doctor. Well, when my dad finally convinced her to go, it was found out that it was breast cancer. So, she had a mastectomy and also chemotherapy. The doctors told her to eat healthy, exercise, cut down on smoking and QUIT alcohol.
Well, she did exactly the opposite. She quit eating and lost an enormous amount of weight, she didn't exercise at all, she continued to smoke cigarette and started drinking more than ever (she has always been an alcoholic).
Recently she went into the doctor because a lump on her shoulder formed, and she waiting like 2 months to get it checked out and the outcome was more than she ever imagined. She has cancer in so many places now. In her liver (there are tons of lesions), her lungs, spleen, liver and kidneys, and also the lump on her shoulder.
Now, all she does is sleep. The doctors gave her a vague expectancy of 2 years BUT there is a good chance it might be longer with treatment. But, she is not even trying to get healthy. Besides the fact that she is sick and I worry about her, I also worry about my dad. He is knocking himself out trying to help her so that she can be healthy enough for treatment.
The question that I am getting to is that is it normal to feel angry that she went against all of the doctors recommendations? She did everything opposite of what they said. Also, she doesn't have any medical insurance so already they are so far in debt from all the doctors visits, tests and chemotherapy treatments.
Maybe I am just babbling and being a bit selfish. I know she wants sympathy and I was right there with her when she went through chemotherapy, but it is hard to be there sincerely because it is almost like she did it to herself.
I think it is normal to be angry. I am taking care of a person with stage 4 cancer. Doctors were also vague in telling her how long she had to live. She is on chemotherapy and will be doing radiation afterwards. The only goal of the therapy is to prolong life and help deal with pain issues.
The cancer began in the cervixs. She had not had a paps smear in years. By the time she got a pap, months after the diagnosis of cancer, you could easily see cancer lesions, and it was beyond the pap smear test.
She is a chain smoker who has yet to quit. She wants to live, yet does nothing to aid herself. She is not that hungry due to all the side effects of the chemo and the pain meds she is on, yet she can eat a bulk sized box of candy bars in 2 weeks. She is angry and takes it all on all who are around her, including her beloved dog.
She gives out alot of mixed signals. She wants to live, yet does not concern herself with her nutrition. She does nothing. She does not talk to loved ones. She does not crochet, anymore. She has been invited to the senior centers and never goes. Her life has a constant negative slant to it. She refuses to see any brightness in her life.
Alot of her behaviors are due to the therapies and medication she is on. I/we, my boyfriend, her son, try to give her leeway for that. Taking care of her is like taking care of a child, w/problems. She, at this point does not take any responsibility for her actions. Again, that may be contributed to the horrible/depressing place cancer put her in. This is very frustrating and angering. At times I want to ask her when is she going to get a grip and start dealing with things. The answer maybe, never. With that in mind you have to start drawing boundaries.
Death is a part of life. It is the only certainty we have. The people that surround or take care of those in need, due to terminal illnesses have to create boundries. We have to ask ourselves, "Where do I draw the line when it comes to the loved one?" How much angst are you going to put yourself through?
There are options out there for cancer patients and thier loved ones. Hospice, and some insurances will allow people to come out and help with the patient. Distributing the load, be it emotionally or physically, with the friends and family helps. You can also find a counselor/therapist/shrink or support groups, to help you deal with this.
I spend a good part of my days angry. Cancer is not an easy disease to deal with. Not all cancer patients fit into the "stereotype," of wanting to live or even of being able to fight it with a "sunny and bright disposition." We have to have compassion and love. Ok, I have been longwinded enough. Hope this helps.
Dear Rainy and Texas-
Yes, it is perfectly normal to feel anger when someone you care about is diagnosed with cancer, and it is very tempting to try to find a "reason" (i.e., they didn't take care of themselves, they smoked, they drank, etc., etc.). Cancer, however, doesn't follow any rules. One can follow a perfect diet, not smoke, not drink, have all of your basic tests when due (mammograms, pap smears, etc., etc.), and still get cancer. I know this because it happened to me. Despite the fact that I don't smoke or drink, follow a very healthy diet, and have all my tests religiously, including pap smears, mammograms, colonoscopies, endoscopies, chest x-rays, etc., I got a rare type of cancer which is never diagnosed until it's already third stage. And the whole time I was on chemo, the only thing I wanted to eat was ice cream!
The addictions to alcohol and cigarettes don't somehow magically disappear just because a person is diagnosed with cancer. In fact, the depression that can be caused by the diagnosis can actually make it less likely that an addicted person will get help for the addicitions. Then, too, the loss of appetite probably came from depression as well, not to mention the side effects of cancer treatment.
Rainy, it sounds as if your stepmom's cancer is pretty advanced. I understand your worry about your father, too. I think Texas' advice about setting boundaries is excellent. My suggestion for both of you would be to find a support group for yourself, because it's important for you to have someone to talk to about your feelings. Many hospices have support groups for families and caregivers as well as for patients, and you don't necessarily have to be using the hospice services to go to the support groups. Also, you can check with your local hospitals. And, depending on where you live, there may be a chapter of "The Wellness Community" nearby (they're usually near major cities)...they run lots of programs for families/friends of cancer patients.
[This message has been edited by SamQKitty (edited 11-01-2002).]
The ideal sick person is rare. The long term effects of taking care of an ill person be it cancer or something else can be wearing on those taking care of the person. Despite the wear and tear on the nerves of those caring for the person, care is still given. One thing that a lot of people do not understand is that the illness, especially terminal illness is not an excuse for the innapropriate behaviour. When I say behaviours, I mean negative behaviours that go past the, "side effects" of the medications and at times tend to be extremely negative."
The person I am taking care of drives all those that are taking care of her crazy, that includes the medical staff. She is literally a nervous wreck. She will sit and bug the nurses that are administering her chemo and irritate her doctor. The nurses have begun frowning when they see her enter the doctors office.
She is on chemo but her pallate is affected mildly. We will cook dinners she has requested. When presented with the meals she will sit and cry because she can't eat it. Normally this would not bug me, because we do expect her to have a lack of appetite due to the chemo; but she normally eats a candy bar or two before coming to dinner and then expect us to pity her for lack of appetite. She has shown that chemo affects her pallate mildly and wil eat other things besides candy bars. This is just one example of her behaviour. The most extreme thing she has done is to not call 911 when she fell, outside in the rain. She waited 2 hours for us to get home from grocery shopping. The fire station is less than 2 blocks away. The kicker to that incident is that she was holding the phone in her hand. She carries it in case she falls. We know for a fact that she has not degenerated that much mentally, that she did not know to call 911. Excuse that behaviour.
There are other behaviours that she exhibits that are worrisome and grate on our nerves. Most of the time we really do cut her some slack and attribute her behaviour to the illness and the depression that the illness generates. We are not heartless people. We make sure she has the best we can offer and to take our negative feelings elsewhere, like support groups and therapists.
I have a dear friend whose father has MS. He is 16 years old and angry as can be at the world because of his father. His father uses MS as an excuse not to pay child support and not to see the kids. He treats his kids abdominably and expects the world to forgive him because of MS. When my friend talks to his friends about how angry he gets at his dad, he gets censured because they think he is being too harsh with his dying father. MS does not make the financial crisis easy to deal with. It does not take the hurt and disapointment away when the father does not come through for his children. It does not excuse his lack of financial support of his children. MS has given this man the ability to live very well off and not have to worry about money. He finances are doing great. I knew this man before his MS diagnosis and after. The only thing that changed was that the world excused his negative behaviour after the diagnosis. The general comment to excuse his behaviour is "oh, the poor thing is dying, how can you be so harsh?" We are all dying. That does not excuse the criminals or those that do society wrong.
Most of the behaviours listed sound petty and I agree with that, but combine those behaviours with others and you get a snowball effect. The patient is not the only one that is going through this. We are there day by day helping and going through it together. If we are lucky we have a good support system to help us along. We have days that are wonderful and they are not always this bleak sounding. We love the our ill person and WILL see this to it's completetion be it death or recovery. We are taking care of her in the best way possible, we possibly can. She knows that she can count on us to help her deal with this, in the most loving manner that we can. Though that still does not make this the most "peachy," "touchy feely," situation.
I am seeing a therapist to help deal with my issues. I am working at becoming a little more compassionate. The only thing I can not get past and probably never will is that, the illness does not excuse the patients negative behaviours and it's effect on those surrounding them. If anything it makes it harder to deal with because the person now has an "excuse."
These days most seriously ill people, especially those spotlighted in the media, resent being defined by their illness and/or disability. This is opposite to your mother-in-law's behaviour. Basically, she's being politically incorrect, making all of her family's and caregivers' life hell.
Was she like this before her cancer diagnosis - aside from the alcoholism? Don't expect her to suddenly change her personality. Nothing - serious illness included - changes a person unless that person wishes to be changed. Addiction makes this harder and less likely.
You're in a very difficult situation. To keep your sanity and your soul intact, ask yourself what you can realistically expect your mother-in-law to do at this point. Similarly, what can you realistically do to help? Despite her illness and need for help, you also need to maintain your own health and well-being. This isn't selfish, it's good sense. I think that SamQKitty is saying the same thing - you need to draw a line. Not just for her, but for yourself as well.
If things take a turn for the worse, please do not get trapped in the "What if ..." or "If I only had ..." game which can be a real soul/life destroyer. No one knows for certain what the last straw or the last breath might be. Do what you can, but realize that no one person can do everything.
With all due respect ,an impartial observer could remark that maybe you are a kind of splenetic not only becauce your stepmother didnt give a s..ugar about doctors' recommendations but also about yours .
Besides "they are so far in debt from all the doctors visits" .
We all know people who, where the most obedient cancer patients ,with a negative final outcome . And the exact opposite .The stepmother's extensive cancer basically is not the result of lack of exercise , alcohol consumption and smoking ,it was a possible result of the initial metastasis (breast AND stomach cancer).
Nobody obliges anyboby to be anywhere .People feel sympathy to those who like .
i have renal cell carcinoma and there is very little information about it also there seem to be even less people with this cancer. the cancer that hit me strikes people in their late 70's but i got it at age 42.my whole life i have never neede anyone for anything. on the contrary i have always been the caregiver. my mom had Ms my whole life and i have taken care of my children and many friends. now i find myself having to ask for help and sometimes this makes me angry. i can see why she did not use the phone to call 911. maybe she is just tired of having to depend on people for everything. even though you love her don't expect her to be happy she needs help. this has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn and i am still not there. i too find myself getting angry with my caregivers. i know it's not their fault i am just not used to having to depend on others. if this woman has always been selfsufficent try to keep this additional struggle she faces in mind.knowing you are going to die is one thing/ knowing How you are going to die is a whole different ball of wax. Death by cancer is not pretty. Those of us that face this are painfully aware. Yes, everyone dies but we all don't have to see the face of it before we go. i hope you never have to understand what this woman is going through or, any of us. perhaps it might help you to know she is not angry at you just angry. and that anger might keep her around a bit longer. be well, T
Hi everyone. Sorry I haven't been here to respond, but I wanted to thank you all for your replies and advice.
A couple weeks ago my stepmother took a drastic turn for the worse and she passed away this last Tuesday. I was fortunate enough to spend Sunday night with her, taking care of her the best I could and also giving my dad a chance to rest.
Although she was basically incoherent (sp?) I did have a few hours alone with her and got to tell her all the things I have been wanting to.
Throughout the years we have had difficulties in our relationship and I was able to finally cry and tell her I loved her even through the tough times.
She passed away at home, in her sleep. She died very peaceful.
I realized that all those precautions that could have been taken really didn't matter anymore as death was inevitible so all the "what-if's" we basically moot.
I had a difficult time as I have never experienced someone dying a "slow death", so to speak. Maybe I was in denial.
But, after I had that up-all-night night with her I am grateful that I was given the private time to tell her so many things I had been wanting to say for so many years. I asked a doctor if she could hear what I was saying. He said yes, but wouldn't be able to really respond in a verbal way.
So, while talking to her, she would raise her hand and hold mine as I cried, and she would flutter her eyes..... responses like that.
Well, just wanted to let you know, that he has now passed on and I was able to tell her I loved her despite problems of the past.
Thank you all so much.