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What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness?

 

   


mv2005

May 28, 10 18:28

Post #1 of 16 (9322 views)
What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? Quote | Reply

My godfather is 73. He used to smoke up until the age of about 45-50 from memory. He'd had a bit of a cough for a few years now but the GP had never really taken much notice of it. CT scans have now revealed a carcinoma in his lungs. My father was telling me they've ruled out surgery as an option and are looking to do chemo and radiotherapy. Apparently the prognosis is not good and the treatment may be more of a prolonging measure rather than a cure.

My godfather is a great person. Always been quite a frail looking type but a funny guy and someone we've loved having around. He helped make our XMAS's such wonderful occasions over the years. Never married, never had kids. Lost his mum to old age not that long ago and both his sisters recently passed away from cancer. THough he has nieces and perhaps nephews we've pretty much been his family over the years.

I'm sort of lost for words as to what do you say to a person in this situation. "How are you doing?" seems like a stupid thing to say (assuming it is a futile situation). I'd like him to know how much positive influence he's had on our family over the years but then I'm wondering how it makes them feel to hear someone basically saying "You're dying, I love you". I'd like to know if there's things he hasn't done in his life that he would have liked to, to see if we can help. But it's almost like you need to wait until they've first come to terms with it before you openly acknowledge it.

I'm keen to learn how others have dealt with such circumstances.

Thanks
Mike


rick_pcfl

May 28, 10 19:02

Post #2 of 16 (9305 views)
Re: What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? [mv2005] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

That's a tough one. Others here will probably give better advice. But on a holiday weekend, many might not see it. Maybe someone will come along on Tuesday and bump it.

As for what I would do. Maybe think about saying something along these lines. "I'm going to help you overcome this. You mean too much to me, and I want to keep enjoying your company for as long as I can." Even if he's resigned himself to dying - you've told him that you love him without saying an early goodbye.

Sorry to hear about that. My wife's father passed away 4 years ago today from complications from lung cancer.


aka roadhouse

May 28, 10 19:12

Post #3 of 16 (9300 views)
Re: What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? [mv2005] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

In Reply To:
My godfather is a great person. Always been quite a frail looking type but a funny guy and someone we've loved having around. He helped make our XMAS's such wonderful occasions over the years. Never married, never had kids. Lost his mum to old age not that long ago and both his sisters recently passed away from cancer. Though he has nieces and perhaps nephews we've pretty much been his family (as he has been ours) over the years.

I'm sort of lost for words. I'd like him to know how much positive influence he's had on our family over the years but then I'm wondering how it makes them feel to hear someone basically saying " I love you".


I'm keen to learn how others have dealt with such circumstances.

Thanks
Mike


Definitely no harm in letting him know you were at a loss and looked to others for help in this situation. I'd print the above out and take it to him to read, it more than speaks "I love you" in volumes. Hell, you got me all teary eyed.

All the best to you and yours, bub.

_________________
Anything is Possible.

(This post was edited by aka roadhouse on May 28, 10 21:10)


Teags

May 28, 10 19:17

Post #4 of 16 (9293 views)
Re: What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? [mv2005] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

I think it's okay to be open about the situation and the possibility that he might die. Obviously you want to be positive, but that doesn't mean you can't acknowledge the prognosis and address it.

When my parents told us my dad had been diagnosed with cancer I was 11. That was a Friday night, the next morning he and I were both up early and we went for a walk and I asked what would happen to us if he died. He wasn't offended, we had a good conversation about it.

A bit of a different situation, but I think in some ways it's almost worse to act like everything will be okay. When my dad was sick and people would talk like that I personally found it offensive, though since I wasn't the one with the disease take that with a grain of salt. You know your godfather best though. Start a conversation with him and see how it goes.


last tri in 83

May 28, 10 20:26

Post #5 of 16 (9262 views)
Re: What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? [mv2005] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

Just be a helper/friend and listen. If it is truly terminal, no need for the positive pep talk stuff. Just affirm him as a great person and the things he has done for you. God bless you for caring so much.


_____________________________________________
I'm something, from nothing


cerveloguy

May 28, 10 20:39

Post #6 of 16 (9258 views)
Re: What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? [last tri in 83] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

Tim, good answer. Ive been there and done that a few times and it isn't ever easy. The bottom line is that you're saying the final good bye. It really depends on your personal relationship with that individual as to how this is best done. There's certainly no standard text book answer.


wiffcheese

May 29, 10 6:04

Post #7 of 16 (9198 views)
Re: What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? [mv2005] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

If I could offer one piece of advice....don't leave anything left unsaid. Trust me when I say the fear you may have of bringing up anything pales in comparison to walking around with things unsaid in your gut. Gut wrenching. He is an adult and the reality is upon him. My regrets are large for not taking the opportunity to do so.


FJB

May 29, 10 6:05

Post #8 of 16 (9197 views)
Re: What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? [mv2005] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

I worked for a few years in hospice care and always had difficulty with this issue. My job was to spend time with the patients and just let them talk or do what they enjoyed. Inevitably, the conversations would come around to their illness and I would just let them talk about it. I never made a big deal about it but also didn't ignore the topic if they brought it up.

There is no need to tell them him he is dying (he knows) or that you love him unless you said that to him before on a regular basis. In other words, do what you always did, spend time with him, listen to him, take an interest in what he says.

When people are dying, the most important thing is to have friends/family around, that makes them feel special and that their life had meaning, they had an impact on others. If you change your behaviour or feel uncomfortable, they will too and things will be awkward. Try to be yourself and avoid fawning over him.

It's not easy and it sounds like you don't have to pretend to enjoy his company so make it easy and be yourself.


mv2005

May 29, 10 6:29

Post #9 of 16 (9189 views)
Re: What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? [FJB] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

Lots of really, really good advice above. Thanks.

Speaking to mum it seems as though it's not as imminent as it initially could have been, though further testing shall be done which of course could make it go either way. She said he seemed to already be accepting of it, saying words to the effect of "Well there's nothing I can do about it".

Such a shame that bad things can happen to such good people. Even more so that early detection was missed. As key, as people have stated, is to make the most of whatever time is left.

Mike


last tri in 83

May 29, 10 7:51

Post #10 of 16 (9181 views)
Re: What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? [mv2005] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

You are going to see people do and say crazy or totally ignore him. They are not bad people, they just have a hard time with dying/grief and are handling it in their way.


_____________________________________________
I'm something, from nothing


sufferman

May 29, 10 9:10

Post #11 of 16 (9170 views)
Re: What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? [mv2005] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

I feel your pain. My family has been going through this for the last 3 years. A family member was diagnosed with Luekemia 10 years ago, was in and out of remission for 7 years and 3 years ago told she was terminal. We lost her one month ago. She was 35. The situation is hard. The only thing that I found that was good for me and my wife and kids was to tell the person you love them. Tell em everyday. Tell em that God is in control and only He knows what the future holds. Maybe they will have 10 years, 20 years or more. Nobody knows. Medicine is such an art, that trying to predict anything seems futile. Everyday is a blessing and make the most of every opportunity - every single opportunity. Most of all, be there for them. None of us can understand the situation. The only thing we can do is to make sure they know they are not alone in their journey.

I wish you good luck in this, and let me know if I can help.


slowbern

May 29, 10 9:59

Post #12 of 16 (9159 views)
Re: What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? [mv2005] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

My advice is to just be there...physically there...as much as possible. When you get a chance visit. When you can call him...do it. Chances are it doesn't really matter what you talk about, it will probably be the same sort of stuff that you have ever talked about. But that sort of personal connection will be important for both you and him.

Bernie

______________
"Slowbern has always made astute observations."-Casey 03/10/2009
2013-2014 Detroit Lions---13-3 until proved otherwise.


ltri

May 30, 10 3:26

Post #13 of 16 (9078 views)
Re: What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? [mv2005] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

Ive not gone through this, but did like "The Last Lecture" - the book, website, and video. Maybe you can do a similar "project" with him - to write down or record some of his life memories, family experience, etc. get his help building out the family tree. Get the children involved (nephews & nieces)...what was it like being a kid during WWI? What did they do w/o video games? Who was his best childhood friend? Childhood toy? If can give him something meaningful to do, to keep going, and get family/friends involved. There's a lifetime of stories to be tapped, many yet untold. My $.02.


Damn, that's a cold ass honkey.


(This post was edited by dubyakay on May 30, 10 3:30)


mv2005

May 30, 10 6:24

Post #14 of 16 (9068 views)
Re: What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? [dubyakay] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

That's actually quite an interesting concept. I might well take it further, though asking him what it was like as a kid in WWI might raise an eyebrow! :)

Thanks to the others for the additional posts. I know where to come back to in order to re-read advice. Obviously I'm not the first to go through this so it's great that people share ideas. Perhaps the only good thing about terminal illness is that it gives people time to tell people what they mean to each other, rather than taking people for granted and having them up and leave us without notice, often resulting in regrets and guilt.


Record10Carbon

May 30, 10 7:02

Post #15 of 16 (9062 views)
Re: What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? [mv2005] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

Many years ago I was diagnosed with something bad bad bad...I opted for no surgery and it is what it is. There more often than not is no date stamped on a persons foot that indicates when a persons time will come. Sounds odd, but I would just act like nothing is going on - let him bring it up if he wishes to and let him plan if he wishes to. Other than that, live today as you would have yesterday and do not focus on what you knew before the diagnosis to begin with - the fact that we are all mortal.

Fact is that we are all terminal and we never know when our time may come. No need to focus on the inevitable.

----------------------------------------------------------

What if the Hokey Pokey is what it is all about?


Mr. Tibbs

May 30, 10 7:52

Post #16 of 16 (9061 views)
Re: What do you say to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? [R10C] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

"Fact is that we are all terminal and we never know when our time may come. No need to focus on the inevitable. "

Word.


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