What have you found useful?

New Contributor

What have you found useful?

Hello, firstly, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your stories. It can be hard to understand what it might be like to be in your shoes, and although we might not get it from our person who is fighting, your comments help to provide insight. 

My brother in law has terminal cancer. He and my husband are identical and incredibly close. We've been given limited time (months?) and told to make the most of it. His wife has encouraged us to take time off to spend with him and be around him as much as we can- keep him "here", but since this news just a few days ago, he's been very unwell.

I was wondering if, for those of you who have been in his shoes, you could point me in the right direction as to how we can keep him in high spirits. Ideally, we'd hoped to get him out of the house, away, even just spend time with him, but when he's so sick, he just wants to sleep and we cannot blame him for not wanting to be around others.

 

We're at a loss as to know what to do next. Any advice is appreciated. Time is so precious and we feel cheated the quality has been taken from him (and selfishly, us).   

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Regular Contributor

Re: What have you found useful?

Sorry for your situation.

 

I personally think that it's all about time.  Time is our currency, how we spend it, what we do with it, is a direct reflection on who we are as human beings.

 

If you wrap it up in expectation, try and think of ways to enrich his last days, have a plan, have a schedule, obsess about doing the right thing, the best thing ---- it might even add stress to an already profoundly stressful situation.

 

But if you make the time, and are as present as possible, I'd be happy with that.  If he's unwell, sit by his bed.  Choose a book (Lord of the Rings) and read to him.  Play card games.  

 

I'd also suggest that for a person facing end of life, it's really important to be respectful of what they want, and to not accidentally have any well-meaning social pressure.  If they give you a hint that they want to be left alone - as hard as it might be for you personally, give them the space they need ?

 

Sorry, cancer is a shit show, and working out what to do is tricky for all concerned.

 

My advice (being good, bad or indifferent), is to ask him, gently and with love: "Hey, we were looking at taking some time off work, we'd like to be around you, even if it's just to give support to <Wife/Kids/Whatever>.  Selfishly, we want as much time as possible with you, but we also want to be respectful of your needs - this is so hard for everybody - can you just tell us what you need most, and we'll try and make it happen ?"

New Contributor

Re: What have you found useful?

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I can't tell you how much it is appreciated, and I think your feedback is very wise.

 

It is a shit show- you're right. The helplessness of it all. Thank you again, and wishing you and your family all the


@CaptainAustrali wrote:

Sorry for your situation.

 

I personally think that it's all about time.  Time is our currency, how we spend it, what we do with it, is a direct reflection on who we are as human beings.

 

If you wrap it up in expectation, try and think of ways to enrich his last days, have a plan, have a schedule, obsess about doing the right thing, the best thing ---- it might even add stress to an already profoundly stressful situation.

 

But if you make the time, and are as present as possible, I'd be happy with that.  If he's unwell, sit by his bed.  Choose a book (Lord of the Rings) and read to him.  Play card games.  

 

I'd also suggest that for a person facing end of life, it's really important to be respectful of what they want, and to not accidentally have any well-meaning social pressure.  If they give you a hint that they want to be left alone - as hard as it might be for you personally, give them the space they need ?

 

Sorry, cancer is a shit show, and working out what to do is tricky for all concerned.

 

My advice (being good, bad or indifferent), is to ask him, gently and with love: "Hey, we were looking at taking some time off work, we'd like to be around you, even if it's just to give support to <Wife/Kids/Whatever>.  Selfishly, we want as much time as possible with you, but we also want to be respectful of your needs - this is so hard for everybody - can you just tell us what you need most, and we'll try and make it happen ?"



strength in your fight. 

Occasional Contributor

Re: What have you found useful?

My own thoughts -- bearing in mind that I am normally not particularly sociable !

 

  • Don't change your normal family relationship with the cancer patient. 

Family are family. My wife is supportive -- as she always has been. Yes, she is now even more willing to listen to my "requests" but she still lets me know (as much as ever) what are her own thoughts.

 

Our children (adults) are sympathetic -- but carry on living their own lives. They still turn up for Sunday dinners but there is no special, Must visit dad before he carks it. When I'm sick they make allowances, when I'm well it's life as usual. I don't need them dancing attendance, I'm pleased and proud just to know how well they are doing -- in their own lives.

 

When you're there -- it's great. But I still need time to myself, time to just do whatever it is that I want or need to do by myself. Even if it's just wallowing in my own misery. Most of the time it's enough to just know that, if I need you, I can call and you will be there. Soon enough.

 

  • I've never had a bucket list -- and it's too late now. Nor do I have a need for good memories.

If there's something that the cancer patient desperately wants to do -- okay, give it a go. But we're dying, some things are less important than they were. Company and comfort may be enough.

 

I will have no need for good memories -- not when I'm dead. What I need is... a pleasant time, within my capabilities... right now. While I am still alive.

 

But *you* need good memories. My wife and I went on a walking holiday, I didn't enjoy it all that much. But I did -- really -- enjoy that my wife enjoyed it ! Try to do things that you both (or all) enjoy. I may be a miserable old sod but it cheers me up to know that you are doing something -- with me -- that you particularly enjoy.

 

  • There's no need for friends to "make a special effort" just because I'm dying.

I have some friends that I would see every two or three months. With terminal cancer, I still see them every two or three months. Or less because I do -- now -- have trouble wanting to be sociable 😞 The only changes to these friendships has been that they have done the driving. When I was "banned" from driving, these friends would pick me up and drive me home again.

 

Other friends, I would see... hardly ever. We had drifted apart. Different interests, different views of what "catching up" means. Suddenly -- there they are. Every month. Sure, it's great to chat with them. But I can't help thinking, Where were they when I was "healthy"? Are they still "friends"?

 

Be honest with your friendships. Don't be scared away from "regular" friends who now are dying. Don't feel that you "have to" visit someone now that they are at death's door. Maintain friendships.

 

  • But what should I say to the dying person ?!

Asking, How are you? may lead to more information than you really want ! Ask anyway... A person does not need to be dying of cancer to over-share on their latest problems. Deal with it as you normally would. With the extra thought that, yes, this person really is dying, no exaggeration.

 

Give the cancer patient an opportunity to tell you how they feel. When they stop telling you -- talk about something else.

 

Years ago I asked a friend if he would write a series of articles for a newsletter. He replied, rather snappily, I'm dying of cancer, I don't have time or interest for writing. I knew he was dying but I had wondered if writing articles would take his mind off dying. I accepted his response, we went on to talk of other things.

 

  • When the cancer patient is dead -- friends and family will continue to live. Remember that.

"His wife has encouraged us to take time off to spend with him". This will help the wife to cope with her husband's dying. It will help your husband to deal with his brother's dying. The dying man will recognise this, he will appreciate this. He may also want time alone, to learn to accept his own situation. I doubt if he will want you to "sacrifice" yourselves to the point where you are annoyed by what you are doing.

 

Balance the needs of the dying man with the needs of those who will live on. My wife continues to work, she needs the "escape" of continuing her normal life. When I need her help, she takes time off work. And I have the time to do things by myself. With the knowledge that my wife is available -- if I need her.

 

When I finally die, I know that my wife -- and friends, and family -- will be a little closer to "picking up the pieces" of a future life. For myself, I'll be dead, it won't worry me.

 

 

So in summary: be friends, be family, be normal. Be there if needed -- if that is normal. Offer support, outings, holidays, whatever but don't insist. Offer what you will *both* enjoy. Don't be surprised if illness and pain turn a nice bloke into a moody bugger... but let me know... in the nicest possible way 🙂

 

All of the above is my own point of view. Everyone is different ! It's your family, it's your relationships. One person is dying, everyone else is (hopefully) living on. Do what seems right -- and comfortable -- for you.

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