Help for my Mom dealing with Dad's terminal cancer

kclvJanuary 19, 2007

My father was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer last week. He was feeling fine until early December, when doctors discovered a blockage in his bile ducts. He got a stent, and his liver function is back to normal, but while the doctors were doing the procedure, they found lesions on his liver, and did a biopsy. It came back positive, and with this type of cancer, there is no treatment.

They won't give him a time frame, but right now he is feeling fine, and his blood work is good. He will be 72 in April. He has dealt with the diagnosis very well. He is a fatalistic person, and doesn't worry about things he has no control over. He has had health problems all his life, and never expected to live as long as he has.

My mom, however, is really having a hard time. They will be married 49 years this October, and he has been retired since 1988. They have been enjoying themselves ever since, taking lots of trips. In fact, they go to Spain every winter, and my dad wants to go again for a short trip since he is feeling good now.

Is there anything I can do to help my mom? Unfortunately, I live 2000 miles away from them. I offered to go visit, but she told me to wait until they decide about their trip. She had surgery last year, and was just getting back to normal, but now she is having trouble eating and sleeping. My dad was taking her to their family doctor to see about getting her a mild sleep aid, or maybe a low dose of sedative just until she comes to terms with the situation.

I am heartbroken about my dad, but I have my own life and family to distract me. My Mom has no distractions, and this has just devastated her. My dad is worried about her. I want them to enjoy the time they have left together, but that seems impossible with the knowledge that he is going to die hanging over their heads.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I wish I could tell you how to help your Mom but having gone through the same thing I can tell you that nothing you can do will help except just be there for her (on the phone) and listen to her. This is the number one hardest things she will ever do, the second one is when she is alone. I will pray for her and your Dad and your family. I hope she has a Faith and that it is strong, that helps me. God Bless.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 1:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you, mav63.

She does go to church every week, and I think that does help.

My biggest fear is that history will repeat itself. My grandfathre died in 1983, and my grandmother only lived for a year after. She just didn't want to live without him.

She had lots of support- her sister was widowed and understood her situation, plus she had my mom and her grandchildren nearby. Unfortunately my mom is an only child, and all of her children have moved away. On top of losing her husband, she will probably have to move. It's just such a huge upheaval.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 1:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I should have told you how very sorry I am about your Dad's diagnosis.
You can't predict how your Mom will take being alone, maybe she will find strength she never knew she had, I hope she will. My husband has been gone for almost two months after 37 years of a wonderful marriage and I am finding strength I would never have guessed I had because he asked me to be brave. The number one piece of advice that everyone has given me is don't make hasty decisions on ANTHING, give yourself time to pierce the fog and it is standing true for me so far. I pray that your Dad has plenty of time to help your Mom and set some things in place to help her come the day. It is an awful thing to have to go through for both of them and I feel for them and you. God Bless.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 2:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

mav63: I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for taking the time to help me.

I just spoke to my Mom, she is now taking Zoloft. Her family doctor has been a great help. I am hoping to visit soon. One of my brothers will be there next week, so they are not alone.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 4:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm very sorry to read about you're dad. Mine has been gone a year 2/6/07. While he had leukemia, in the end, it appeared it got into the main organs also. That was in December, so he lasted 2 months, with the last week in bed. Hopefully this will give you an idea of a time frame; hopefully he will at least have that.

I think it is a good idea for you to go out and visit if you can. This will allow you to see how you're mom is doing and also visit with your father before he's gone. Think of things you want to talk to him about; if he was a great dad, let him know that. My husband's father died a few weeks after my dad, after not having any signs of cancer / being sick. My husband was thankful he went out to visit every few weeks and talked to his dad as much as possible. Even though I saw my dad every day & was his care-giver, there's things I wish I would have said; things I figured he knew; but now I kick myself for not saying them

The last thing your dad needs right now is your mom losing it. Is it possible to speak to her? Ask that she try to put on a front in front of him; he will need to be as upbeat as possible. Having a positive outlook does affect everything. Something happened during Nov / early Dec in the family; my dad got depressed, it was downhill from there. No matter what I did, I couldn't get him out of it.

If your parents haven't signed up for hospice, now would be a good time. Most have a "transitions" program, so that when your dad does start feeling weak, someone will come and sit with him, allowing your mom to run errands. Since there isn't family close, this may be really good for them. Getting them a foot in the door will make it easier when you're dad needs "real" hospice. For us, I'd just enrolled; we had the 1st "sitting" but unfortunatly weren't able to keep because dad needed to go to full blown hospice and passed a few days before the scheduled appointment. Don't know how it would have been had I not had the foot in the door, Hospice was a godsend!

Your mom is probably going to take it hard; I did, but deal with it in my own way. My mother in law from what I hear is a different story. You may want to start looking into support groups for her.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2007 at 9:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If your mom will have to move, is it possible she can move closer to one or more of her children? This could help a great deal.

It's hard to argue with feeling better, but the use of anti-depressants to treat grief is controversial. Grief is a real and necessary process, not a chemical imbalance, and there's a question of what will happen when the person stops taking the pills...if she stops taking the pills.

I hope your mother will take advantage of your dad's ability to advise her at this time. She should find out everything she can about their financial situation, insurance, etc., and in addition ask his advice about anything that concerns her. Make sure everything is written down; she should not be expected to remember very much at this point.

It's certainly hard to be handed a diagnosis like this, and your father isn't really very old. But at least your mom will have time to prepare, from both practical and emotional standpoints. Her grieving process starts now, and sad as it is, it's easier than the total shock of a sudden death.

Please note that it's not too soon to start grief counseling.

You both have my sympathy.


    Bookmark   January 21, 2007 at 6:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The last two posts - what wonderful advise.

They are absolutely right about saying the things to your Dad that you want him to know, my husband and I had 18 months, 12 days that I lived with him in the Hospice and I still have things I wish I had said, even things I wish I had asked. They are also right about Hospice, I can't say enough great things about it, the compassion and caring is straight from God. They are there for your Dad and your Mom and for the whole family.

Let us know how you are doing, you and your family are in my prayers.


    Bookmark   January 21, 2007 at 10:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you to everyone for your kind words and advice.

We do have a bit of a unique situation. My parents live in Montreal. I have two brothers in the Toronto area, one in Vancouver, one in Chicago, and I live in Las Vegas. I would have my mom come to me in a minute, but due to health care issues, relocating to the US is out of the question. My husband's job, and the fact that my kids are in high school would not allow us to return to Canada. The same goes for my brother in Chicago. I'm sure that Toronto is going to be the most likely scenario.

The one good thing is that being in Canada, she will not be left with any debt or medical bills, and hospice care is included in the health care system.

Their family doctor has been an angel. She has instructed her staff to get my parents in to see her the same day whenever they call the office. She will be closely monitoring my mother's medication, and she will not be taking it for any longer than necessary.

I am planning a trip soon, and all my brothers are doing the same. We are spacing the trips so my parents have something to look forward to, instead of having everyone there at the same time. Hopefully, we will all get together in the summer for a family reunion.

Right now, my dad is feeling fine. He has always been a fighter, and if anyone can last a little longer, it is him. I do know that he can take a turn for the worse at any time, but we have to hope for the best.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 11:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

How are things going?

    Bookmark   February 12, 2007 at 6:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Mapletex ~ Love, hugs and prayers for you and your family at this time.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2007 at 2:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


My dad is still with us. He had a second biopsy, and has been diagnosed with mucinous adenocarcinoma in addition to the liver cancer. This is a rare cancer where the abdominal cavity fills up with malignant mucus. The mucus spreads the cancer to the organs. Unfortunately, the mucus in the abdomen causes pressure on the organs, which causes pain for the patient.

My dad was experiencing a lot of pain, and was not able to keep any food down. He went into the hospital, and was given anti-nausea drugs. He is home now, and eating again. He is going to start chemo next week. The chemo won't cure him, but it will keep the mucus under control, hopefully giving him some extra quality time.

My mom is doing fine. She was on Xanax, and had every side effect possible. She had to go to the ER, and while she was there, she spoke to a psychiatrist. He told her that her symptoms were not dpression, but grief. This helped her immensely. She is currently not on medication, and has come to terms with my dad's condition. Right now she is focused on him, and making his remaining time as pleasant as possible. She is talking about selling the house and moving closer to my brothers after he is gone.

I went to visit for a week at the end of February. My dad was not feeling great, but we had a pleasant visit anyways. I think my being there helped to cheer them up a bit. My youngest brother is going to visit at Easter, and another brother is planning to visit at the end of April.

The chemo is once a week for 3 weeks, and then a week off. Hopefully it will make him feel a bit better. It is not a nausea-causing chemo.

I just hope that he will still be here in the summer, when we are planning a family reunion. It would be great to have everyone together for one last time.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 10:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm glad you updated us. It's good to hear that your mom is doing so well. Kudos to that psychiatrist! (And I don't say that very often.)

Sounds like everyone is handling this difficult situation very well.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 11:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


The news is not great. My dad has been in the hospital for a week. His liver is failing, and his stent is blocked. He does not want another stent, as the procedure is very difficult, and he doesn't think he will survive it.

I am going back to see him on Friday, and my brothers are all coming in as well. My mother is still hopeful that he will come home at least one more time, but I doubt it. We are not discouraging her from being hopeful, because she needs that to carry on. She knows that time is running out, but maybe it is a bit quicker than she hoped.

My husband and son were at a hockey tournament in upstate New York this weekend, and they drove up to see him. He was very surprised and happy to see them. My husband said it was a difficult visit, because they were essentially saying goodbye. My son, who is sixteen, didn't say much, but he said it was "emotional".

I just hope that he can hold on until I arrive. He knows I'm coming, so I think it is something for him to look forward to.

Saturday was his birthday. One of my brothers called him at the hospital, and my dad told him that he was tired and he has had enough. When we are all there we will let him know that it is ok to let go. I don't want him to suffer anymore.

This has been a very difficult weekend. Please keep my dad (and mum) in your prayers.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 12:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You are all in my prayers and heart. I went through the loss of my father a little over year ago and I know how difficult it is to watch someone you love decline and start to let go. The hardest part probably won't be right after your father dies, but in the months that follow, especially for your mother. It sounds like you are all supportive and close -- that will see all of you through the worst of this. I really have no wonderful words of wisdom or advice, just a full heart that knows the pain. My very best to all of you during this difficult time. Take care...

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 9:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My heart goes out to you at this dfficult time, I also went through the loss of my father recently due to lung cancer. He passed away on December 12 2006, just 8 weeks after he was diagnosed. He and my mother had just celebrated their 60th anniversary. The hardest part was not having time to say goodbye to him, we knew lung cancer is very serious but the doctors never told us how long he had, they told us it was treatable, they never gave us a time frame, I thought we had months more, not weeks. My mother is inconsolable, she had relied on him for EVERYTHING! We are lucky that she lives only 15 minutes away from my sister and I, and about 30 minutes fom my brother so we are with her frequently. She is very depressed, she feels like she can't live without him, she is confused, and becoming forgetful and it is frightening her so much that she gets excruciating stomachaches due to the stress. She is seeing a psychologist weekly and a psychiatrist about every 6 weeks to help her cope with her grief. She is also on anti-depressant anti-anxiety medication. Its been very hard. The only thing I can tell you is what the professionals have been saying to her, It takes time, you must grieve in order to heal. It's so hard watching her sobbing but I have to remember its part of the grieving process.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 6:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

i feel you are so so blesses to have your father with you for so long. let me tell you why
on dec 13 my father died of heart felure jan 11 my mom went in to the hospital not feeling well at the end of the month on the 31st she passed away... stage 4 lung liver and bone cancer
we did not even know she was ill. she had been taking care of my father with diabetes leg amputation and all kinds of stuff. i was at the hospital every day there with my mom sometimes bugging her sometimes just sitting there with her just watching tv with her. she asked me one time if i knew where my dad was cuz she could not get ahold of him i told her i'd tell him what she wants. you know morfine can do that to u.
well im glad my dad died b4 mom did .... there is no way that he would have been able to deal with her death
we did not even know she was ill she had no coffing or anything .. a little pain in her back then with in 3 weeks she is gone
please be greatfull you can have a chanc to be with your dad longer then 3 weeks or so
my mom knew i loved her and would do anything for her
by the way my dad was 56 and mom 52 way to young but both smoked and had done other things in life
they did become christians and im so happy
they also stopped smoking pot with in the last 6months and i bet thats why my mom did lived with out pain so long (idk)
well thats enuff from me now
God less

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 4:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My dad passed away on April 21. All 5 children were able to see him before he died. We had the funeral on April 28, and it was a really lovely celebration of his life. I think he would have been proud. Unfortunately, my husband had an emergency appendectomy on the Monday after my dad passed, so he and my kids were not able to attend the funeral. I did find that very difficult, but my husband's health was more important. He is feeling better.

My mum is holding up amazingly well. She told me it isn't as hard as she thought it would be, but she still hasn't been alone yet. She is going to my brother's for Mother's Day, but she is only staying a week. She knows she has to be alone eventually, and she doesn't want to put it off too long. I was there for 2 weeks, and just got home today.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2007 at 1:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

GOD bless you, my friend. My husband died four weeks ago - April 17. My husband had pancreatic and liver cancer, and I live with the consolation that he is no longer in pain. Give your Mom a hug for me, and tell her to email me ANY TIME - I'd love to be friends with her!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 4:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you , Kay. I'm so sorry for your loss. I keep telling myself that my dad is not suffering anymore, but I am missing him so much.

Unfortunately, my mom does not have a computer. She is very technology-challenged, no cell phone, cable, or answering machine. We did buy her a microwave for Mother's Day.

She arrived home safely from her trip, she will only be alone for 3 weeks, and then she is coming to visit me and go to my daughter's graduation. My daughter is valedictorian, and she mentions my dad in her speech. I'm sure my mom will be pleased.

I'll keep you in my prayers, Kay.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 12:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi, Kim. It sounds as if your Mom is doing fairly well, and for that we thank GOD. We are coping here, day by day, because we have to. I am now dealing with the paperwork, and it is just overwhelming. Gary could do paperwork like a pro - me, I don't understand most of it, and have to use the attorney. It is just as scary as can be. I hope your Mom has someone to walk her through all the necessary documents - I can't imagine the terror for an older person having to figure it out!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 8:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi, Kay. Yes, she is going through all of the paperwork, and she is getting a bit overwhelmed. My dad left everything to her, and my sister-in-law, who is an accountant, is the executor of the will. She is doing most of the work, but they are waiting on the official death certificate before the house can be put in my mom's name. She can't sell until that is done. She also has to get rid of the car, since she doesn't drive, but one of my brothers needs a trade-in, and he is going to buy the car from her ( at a fair market price, of course). My dad did have his affairs in order, and all of the investments were in my mom's name anyhow, so she doesn't have too much to do.

Right now she is slowly going through the house getting rid of things she won't need in an apartment. They lived in the same place for 44 years, so it's quite a big job, although in recent years they did begin to clear out a lot of junk.

The biggest job is already done. My dad was into model trains, and had a huge set-up in two rooms in the basement. He had literally hundreds of cars, plus little villages, etc. He kept all of the boxes, but it still took us the better part of a week to dismantle the whole thing. The trains are going to be divided up between my brothers, and my mom didn't have to do a thing.

We have been very fortunate that there have been absolutely NO arguements over money or disposing of posessions. I have heard so many stories about how a death in the family can bring out the absolute worst in people, but this is not the case for us. All of my brothers and I just want our mom to have as smooth a move as possible, and to end up with as much money as she can get. She is anxious to sell, she finds there are just too many memories in the house, and she wants a fresh start. Hopefully, she can be settled in her new place before the winter weather begins.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 11:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Maple, how is everyone doing? Email me, if you will - I don't get back to this forum too often anymore. Mavis is another one who is good to talk to. Carol from Florida, also.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 9:00PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Horrible images of my bellowed brother
Three weeks ago I lost my beloved kid brother to a...
Disposing of Loved Ones' Belongings
Going through our deceased loved ones' belongings and...
Dad just passed away
My dad had a heart attack on Thursday January 22, 2015....
Over 10 years and I still miss my dad
My dad died Dec. 27, 1998. He was 59. He was diagnosed...
Is it normal/healthy to cry over my dad dying still?
My dad died when I was 13 and now I'm 17 but I have...
Sponsored Products
Contemporary Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug: Natco Rugs Kurdamir Washington Black 7
Home Depot
Custom Greyson Upholstered Bed
Home Decorators Collection
Dumpling Press - Set of Three
$5.99 | zulily
Bold Peacock Rug 5' x 8' - GREEN
$999.00 | Horchow
Justice Design Group CLD-8924 - Modular 4 Light Bath Bar - Round Flared Shade -
$398.00 | Hayneedle
Lazy Susan Natural Shell Bud Frame
$78.00 | LuxeDecor
Contemporary Office Chair
LightDisc Ceiling/Wall Light by Luceplan
$356.24 | Lumens
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™