Two years to live and I'm at a loss for words
My mothers childhood best friend, a woman I've considered an aunt and her children my cousins, remarried about 6 years ago. She met a wonderful man with whom she created a happy and quiet life together. Being in her late 50s and him just turning 70, they are about to retire and move down to Florida.
About a month ago, he suffered a grand mal seizure and was immediately admitted into the hospital. They discovered a malignant tumor in the frontal lobe of his brain. He underwent surgery last week where they "successfully" removed 75% of it and was given a good prognosis. Today he had a follow up appointment with his oncologist and upon further testing/biopsy, it was discovered that the cancer was in Stage 3, moving in to Stage 4. With heavy radiation and chemotherapy, he was told he has 2 years to live, at best.
My family and I are devastated. We literally have no words. How does a very healthy and active man basically go from 70 to 0 in two years? Just out of nowhere? Of course my family's instinct is to be there for my aunt and uncle during this difficult time but I literally have no idea what I'm going to say or how I'm going to act when I see him again. What do you say to someone going through this?
I'm so sorry.
There are no good words and no great outcomes.
I think the best course (and this comes from someone who lost a friend in her 30s in much the same way - it was horrible) is to let the people who are most affected take the lead. Offer to come down and visit, or not if it's too stressful for them. Offer to help. Offer to listen or prepare food or drive him to doctor's appointments or do whatever you (reasonably) can to make things easier.
Take their lead on thing. Some people - when faced with death - want to talk. Others get tired of talking about it all the time and need a break from it. I think one of the greatest gifts I gave my friend was being that break - she could hang out with me and talk about stuff that didn't involve her being sick or dying.
Im sorry to hear the bad news. I wasnt going to post this because it is a hard issue. but maybe my story will help you in some way. I was married for over 20 years and found out that my husband had a brain tumor. He was inhis 40s. Nobody ever told me how long and what we would be facing. His type of tumor averaged a lifespan of 1 year. I wish someone would of just been honest and said. Instead it was false hope from the drs, but thanks to the internet I learned to be prepared.
By knowing a diagnosis gives a person the option to make decisions that they might not of thought about. My son got married earlier so his dad could be there.
Me personally had only a few people around while i took care of him at home. I would of loved to had someone just do something. I was up every two hours tending to him so i was tired alot. I would offer her support without asking her (I dont mean in a bullying sense at all). Go see her,if you see her dishes need done do her dishes while you talk, mow her yardand tend to her flowers, take her favorite foods like takeout food so you all can sit and talk without making her feel like she has to entertain you. Offer to call her every ? to pick up groceries (only time i got to do that was when he was in the hospital)
Dont expect to expect anything.. you might get the person who is falling apart or the one who just doesnt want to say a word. Allow her to take the lead..but assure her that you care about her (which usually comes with a hug and a kiss on the forehead) and let her know you dont know what to do..but you want to do something. Everyone is different Make sure she is eating and taking care of herself too.
A sneak trick i do is take a bottle of water and ask if you can put it in the fridge. When you open it you can see if she has food n snacks. If not..quick things like fruits veggies and prepared foods are a great choice to get her. Best of luck to ya
I m sorry to hear this. Me and my family find ourselves in a similar situation. My greataunt was healthy and fit. All of a sudden we get to know she is in Stage 4 cancer. And she has 6 months to 2 years to live.
The best that we are doing right now is visiting her frequently and not talking about her illness. My grandparents visit her every two weeks.
Talking about one's illness make them worse. They don't want you to sympathise with them. They want you to treat them the way you treated them before the disease. Ofcourse, when you meet them first you should acquire about their health and treatment but after that make no memtion of it.
Just be there and let them know you are always there for them.
Devastation is an appropriate word when you describe your feelings while dealing with death and the dying. You may also consider, disbelief, fearfulness, debilitating, emptiness, meaninglessness, excruciating, agonizing, anger, etc., but you know this. I feel the pain, but not your pain. I will not make it worse but pretending I know how you feel. But I have been around death and I know it is never easy dealing with its finality and its perceived purposelessness. What you and your family will be going through is almost impossible………almost.
You asked what does someone say in a time like this. You probably say very little……………but who you are at this time may have an incredible impact on not only the dying but all those who are grieving. There is no right way or wrong way to grieve. You are allowed to make mistakes, feel angry, sad, and have bad days. Are you trying to be someone that you are not? Are you attempting to show courage when displaying your grief is appropriate? Do you feel the need to remember, tell, retell stories, but suppress them in the fear of hurting someone? They are already hurting. Are you trying to “take care of” or “be polite to” others who are uncomfortable discussing death, when it may be exactly what they need to talk about? Are you avoiding not only the dying but the grieving by being absent when they need to feel your love and compassion? By extending our love, we will feel love within. Grieving was never meant to be done alone. It is probable that by being emotionally “present” with others, you will find answers to life’s complex problems and a spiritual strength you may never have thought existed. And this may lead to acceptance (not getting over it) and the healing you and your family seeks.
You also questioned how life can go from 70 to 0 without warning and without instructions in dealing with it. Another way of asking this could be “Why do bad things happen to good people?” These are spiritual questions and have spiritual answers. I would love to explore this with you when you feel it appropriate. In the mean time, I invite you to read "Imagine Heaven" by John Burke.
Thank you for sharing your concerns and thoughts regarding a very painful time in your life. I will be interested in the life lessons that you can share.