How best to support dad with recent diagnosis of oesophageal cancer

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How best to support dad with recent diagnosis of oesophageal cancer

Hi, I am looking for any tips or advice people might have to support my dad (72y) with his recent diagnosis. It seems he may have given up a bit. 


Dad was diagnosed in February this year with oesophageal cancer. Since the initial diagnosis there have been seemingly endless complications. He had lost a huge amount of weight in the past 6 months but more recently he lost another 6kg in two weeks and now weighs 50kg at 6ft tall. He now has a tube feed put in because eating was too painful. He was also diagnosed with a fungal infection on his lungs and last week was hospitalised with pneumonia. Now on top of everything, last week Doctors have found another type of cancer on his liver. They are still not 100% sure whether the cancer on the liver has spread from elsewhere or is a new type. He was supposed to start radiotherapy last week but the pneumonia has pushed that back. 


Dad is understandably devastated by the news about the new cancer on his liver but my mum and I are becoming concerned about his mental health. For the last few weeks he has not been able to keep up with all the different tests and procedures that he has had done. Mum is concerned that he seems to be taking no interest in what Doctors are saying about treatment plans or any of the procedures. He is also not talking much and doesn't engage well with conversation. I completely understand that he must be feeling so unwell and scared and likely very depressed. However it is quite difficult to hold a conversation of any length and he certainly isn't telling us how he is feeling.  He always says "not bad" when we ask how he is although it is clear he feels terrible based on how he looks. 


Does anyone have any tips or advice about how we can support him and try to help him open up a bit?


Re: How best to support dad with recent diagnosis of oesophageal cancer

Hello. I can't imagine how hard it is for your Dad and for you and your mom as well. He may be feeling hopeless. But try your best to let him feel that despite of what is happening, he can still enjoy life with you and the rest of the family. I wanted to say go for a weekend getaway and have some fresh air but I think that's not possible at the moment due to pandemic. Perhaps you could do a special activity at home. Otherwise, you may also want to consider getting a professional help for mental health for consultation and evaluation.

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New Contributor

Re: How best to support dad with recent diagnosis of oesophageal cancer



To set the scene i am 61 and was diagnosed as well with Oesophageal Cancer in Feb.

Have completed 5 weeks Chemoradiation and have surgery in early June. 

I did go okay so I can’t compare how he is feeling but did talk to to many that were doing it tuff in Chemo and had breaks for blood transfusions they mentally suffered and starting doubting if they could take the whole process as they were so sick. Transfusions and feeding helped a lot as they saw no way to recover before that.


Once back home he really needs to eat and have sustagen twice a day that is your job easy or not, soups etc what does he like and they say carbs are okay so does he have sweet tooth ie jelly and cream or ice cream.


You must stay positive and I would show him you are coping and that you are  managIng what he has to do next so he doesn’t have to but explain It to him. Take a step at a time. 


Does he have a close friend he will talk to as he will be concerned for your welfare and therefore will bottle up  his feelings. The staff were also really great is there someone he seems to relate to if so talk to them or the radio nurses that understand but voice your concerns as he won’t. 

I really hope he has resumed Radiation and they have managed to pick him up with treatment as he is now on the journey. 


Good luck stay strong and please let us know how he is going.











Frequent Contributor

Re: How best to support dad with recent diagnosis of oesophageal cancer

Hi @ellafrances ,


It sounds like your Dad is overwhelmed by all of the sudden bad news and is giving up before entering into battle. While he is struggling to deal with the mental challenge, he will not be able to take on the physical challenges. You must find a way to get him to open up and share his emotions so that he can make rational decisions and move forward, one way or the other...


My brother died from oesophageal cancer at 63. But he had no fight in him. He had lost his wife to emphysema a few years previous and he was always struggling financially. He had a big loving family, but no really close friends of his own. I believe that he considered that the battle with cancer was simply not worth the effort. 


At 72, all going well with treatment (and this may be overly optimistic, but not impossible) your Dad could have another 25 years left in him. Your challenge is to find the trigger/s to make him debate (with himself) whether or not the battle with cancer is worth the pain and effort. He may need to talk with others who have managed to win their battle to appreciate what could be and at what cost. And then he needs to let those around him know what he has decided. This internal debate needs to happen quickly because doing nothing will force his hand.


If he decides to take the challenge, then family need to be there to assist him with his battle. And he needs to let you know how hard you can push him - and that may change day to day. But all the time, there is a vision of that bright light at the end of the tunnel.


But if, after considering all that lies ahead,  he wants to give in, then that it is his choice. Forcing him to do things that he considers to be prolonging his suffering will just cause tension and conflict. All you can do in that situation is to help him get to the end in as little discomfort as possible, reminding him (without nagging) of much he is loved and how much he will be missed. 


Best wishes to your Dad, you and your family.


Big hugs to all,


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