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Old 09-14-2012, 06:44 PM
 
Location: Southern California
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If you learned that you had a terminal illness, would you tell your family? Or keep it from them as long as possible?

If somebody you loved had bad news, would you want them to tell you?

I am asking this because after my mother passed away and I learned the cancer was much more then just a speck, she only told us at the very end. To think of how scared she must have been just hurts me. I was angry at her for many years, not letting me share her fear or her pain. She didn't want us to worry, I suppose. She was trying to protect us. I feel as her daughter, it was my turn to take care of her, love her and support her. To know you are going to die and keep it all to yourself...

What would you do? Would you tell your family? Would you want to know?
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Old 09-14-2012, 08:01 PM
 
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I would keep it a secret for as long as possible. WHY??? because I would not want to be looked at with pity. I would want people to act as normally as possible for a long as possible. If people think you are dying, they act differently.

I definately would not want my children to feel that they had to take care of me. I would not tell them until I had to. Then, I would tell them to leave me alone as much as possible so as to remember me as I was, not as I became as I was dying.

I think most people feel as I do. It's not a matter of not wanting to bother you....it's a matter of trying to have a normal life. No one can say for sure how long a person may have. It's a person's right to do it in a manner that suits them best. If this means not telling the children.....so be it.
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Old 09-14-2012, 10:42 PM
 
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My stepmother had cancer, she passed last week. We had less than a year from the time of her diagnosis to the time of her death.

I'm glad she shared it with us. I honestly didn't really act much differently, I don't think any of us did. We acted differently in that we supported her during treatments and helped her get around when she needed it, but I feel it brought us closer as a family. Yes, we were afraid. I'm still sad about it and will probably be forever. However, I think her being honest with us about her illness took away the taboo of death. Her 14 and 17 year old lost their mother, however they realized that death isn't always something to fear, and that their mother respected them to give them the truth.

I'm not saying everyone is in such a good position. I feel extremely content with the way my stepmothers last months were spent. She was surrounded by so much support and love. She lived a fuller life than most could ever dream of, at the ripe age of 47. If she had kept it a secret, I honestly don't think I would have ever realized how precious life was, how worth living it is, and how much joy there is in the world.

I'm no longer afraid of death because of the situation. It's an unfortunate event, but we pulled together as a family and are better for it. I think the reason so many people keep it a secret is because death is so taboo and seen as such an awful thing. It's awful when young people die, no doubt, but death needs to be seen more now as a part of life, and a life is something to be celebrated.

Yes, I would share. If my family "showed pity" they probably don't understand me anyways, and I'd honestly shut them out regardless. I never showed my stepmother pity, only admiration for her bravery, kindness, and love.
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Old 09-15-2012, 12:26 AM
 
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two very different feelings......I suspect that a lot of the difference could be accounted for by the difference in the ages of the sick. One was 47.....I am in my 80s and I have probably been involved in a lot more deaths than the other poster. This sort of thing depends soooo much on the attitude of the people involved.

What works for one, may be the worse possible thing for another. Also, if there are young children involved, how understanding of the situation would they be?? Death and the Unknown can be a frightning thing for anyone.
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Old 09-15-2012, 01:20 AM
 
Location: Southern California
748 posts, read 989,169 times
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I don't feel I would have shown my mother pity. But family is family. I want the opportunity to share love, fears, to lean on each other, confide in each other, laugh, cry. I had been in her life, well for my entire life. Then at the end, she closed me out. would have been wonderful to be able to hold her and let her know I love her. Help her emotionally or physically, how ever she needed it.

After she passed and I was packing her house, she had several books about healing and cancer. Just talking to somebody about something can make it easier. She must have felt so alone.
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Old 09-15-2012, 01:47 AM
 
Location: Texas
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If someone close to me was dying, I would DEFINITELY want to know.
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Old 09-15-2012, 05:30 AM
 
11,702 posts, read 13,141,323 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SocalPitgal View Post
If you learned that you had a terminal illness, would you tell your family? Or keep it from them as long as possible?

If somebody you loved had bad news, would you want them to tell you?

I am asking this because after my mother passed away and I learned the cancer was much more then just a speck, she only told us at the very end. To think of how scared she must have been just hurts me. I was angry at her for many years, not letting me share her fear or her pain. She didn't want us to worry, I suppose. She was trying to protect us. I feel as her daughter, it was my turn to take care of her, love her and support her. To know you are going to die and keep it all to yourself...

What would you do? Would you tell your family? Would you want to know?
First of all, pull back and remember we are not all the same. We do not have the same feelings about situations in life. Some people are very private, others very open; some people have great personal, inner strength and other derive their strength from the support and attention of others. To give "help" before it is needed, or before it is wanted can be very invasive and very antagonizing to some people.

I spent ten years as a helper/companion to various terminally ill people, and their reactions to friends offering help, advice, sympathy, etc. varied enormously....my advice: Hasten slowly. NEVER assume that what you would want in a similar situation is what the person who is in that situation wants. Balance your urges to help with respect for the personal integrity of the other person.

I had been diagnosed with what I was told was a terminal illness (after a number of years I recovered completely!) I told my mother, my favorite aunt and, of course, friends. My mother became such a self-engrossed drama queen about it, I came to wish that she would drop off the face of the earth...however, in all honesty, she was acting totally in character. Thus, the mistake was mine. I never again discussed my health with her. My Aunt worried terribly, there was nothing that could be done, and it was a horrible burden on her. My best friend was a pillar of strength, always there but never interfering. Other friends were helpful and sympathetic, offered help but did not intrude.

I am now without a family. I am old, and have several serious health problems. I was totally disabled and very painfully so for a period of several months about a year and a half ago. I live alone. A married couple came every morning for several weeks, and again in the evening. They brought food, fed me at first and removed the urine and feces that I had passed since their visit earlier in the day. Another close friend came almost daily at mid-day. (A nurse friend of the couple came twice.) Despite their grave concerns, and in one case some serious misgivings about my being home and not in a hospital; they were respectful of my wishes and did not belabor me with their concerns and their worries...and, of course, were supremely helpful.

In the ten years that I did support work with some terminally ill people there were so many situations that it would be too long to comment. Speaking of my own situation that I referred in the past - from which I unexpectedly recovered, in retrospect I should never have even mentioned it to my mother, nor to my Aunt. In my mother's case she simply inflicted her I-am-the-center-of-the-world neurosis onto to me unrelentingly, and I quite frankly came to hate her for it. She had behaved abominably much of the time as my father was dying, and I should never have let that behavior out of my mind. My Aunt became consumed with worry, and this harmed her and it made me feel guilty and unhappy too at a time I needed all my strength to get through a day. In retrospect neither my mother nor my aunt should have been told, and if I had died they would have been better off knowing for a shorter time....and so would I! My friends acted appropriately and supportively, and I realized that was so because I had friends who in many respects were like myself and, therefore, understood me better than my family. This is not at all unusual in my observation.

Dying and death is first and foremost about the person who is dying and who going to be dead. This fact, in my observation over seventy-four years, quite escapes many family members (but a lesser number of friends.) Relatives too frequently are crowding a failing person with their agendas and needs, and are not able (and sometimes, not willing) to stand back, look at what is really needed and give a failing person enough space to think and feel, and express their needs and wishes without being smothered in the dramas and agendas of their children, spouses, and siblings. I do not blame dying people who take measures to protect what is left of their precious life from being burdened with smother love.

My stepfather's first wife, Mary, whose brother was a local doctor, was a steel-spined, very proper woman who had been the personal secretary to a very rich woman in town for many years, and assisted her with her charities and personal engagements. When she suspected she had cancer she went to a doctor in another town. Her diagnosis was that her cancer was terminal. Mary did not tell her husband and adult daughter, nor her siblings for several months. She was a heavy woman and she lied and said she was determined to diet and be slim; and this ruse allowed her to conceal her illness.

When she became too weak to work, she left her position and at that time she then had to tell her family. They were all not only upset at her imminent demise, but at the fact that she concealed her condition. Her response was typical of her: If I told you, you all would have made my illness the center of my life and your lives. What I wanted was to continue the work and the family life I enjoyed, and not become the center of a melodrama. With all of what you would have said were the best intentions, you would have ruined what little was left of my life. And would you have treated me differently if you had known? Well, if you would have, then it does not speak well of our relationships prior to this! That final rhetorical thrust ended all further recriminations!

This I heard from my stepfather, and my stepsister. Mary's comment effectively squelched any guilt trip her family would have laid on her, because she was right....they would have interefered with her life in ways that would have devalued it for her. They would have been on her back to do it their way.

The lesson seems clear to me. You have to know yourself, and you have to know your family and friends. And what you know about each determines how soon you should tell about a fatal illness.

At the present time an acquaintance of mine, age 50, is dying of a cancer that went into remission for quite awhile, and has reoccured again and spread to the brain. She is a widow with adult children, all living in foreign countries a few hours away by plane. She has a lovely, comfortable home, and a decent income, and many close friends. She has treatments once a month now, and is expected to die perhaps as late as next summer. Except for her treatment day, she is quite active and robust still, and she has a small, non-taxing business at home. Her entire extended family came here to celebrate her 50th birthday, and then her kids were all sent to their respective homes with instructions not to hound her with "how are you doing" phone calls. Each of the three (or is it four) has a day to call her - once a week and no more. No more visits as long as she is able to live an active life here. When she become housebound, they can schedule visits. In the end she will have in-home hospice care here, or move to a hospice in the city where she used to live and where one married child still lives. Her plan suits her personality and lifestyle totally, and her kids know their mom, trust her and know she trusts them. As the situation changes they will draw closer together as needed.

I have met some of her kids, and it seems so clear that they have enormous love and respect for their mother and her life.
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Old 09-15-2012, 05:35 AM
 
11,702 posts, read 13,141,323 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Padgett2 View Post
...I think most people feel as I do. It's not a matter of not wanting to bother you....it's a matter of trying to have a normal life. No one can say for sure how long a person may have. It's a person's right to do it in a manner that suits them best. If this means not telling the children.....so be it.
I agree with you totally. The joy of an average day is impossible to explain to someone who is looking forward to a more or less "endless" string of them.
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Old 09-15-2012, 07:29 AM
 
1,638 posts, read 2,481,698 times
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I hope nobody thinks I'm trying to say divulging your terminal illness to your family is the only way to cope. I'm sure many people keep it private and prefer it that way, and I can especially see this in elderly folks who simply don't want to be bothered in their last years. I feel like younger people tend to reveal because they have "more fight" left.

The situation helped me tremendously. I do agree that death and dying is about the ill person exclusively, and not all people will be concerned about what their families will do after learning of the secret.

However (depending how young you are, what you own, children etc), I believe that if you know you are going to pass, you should seriously consider preparation. If not with a selected close friend/family member, an attorney. My stepmother and father worked to have all preparations made in case my stepmother were to pass, and it really helped us cope better as a family. I'm thankful my father/myself/any family members don't have to stress about losing a younger family member AND making legal arrangements. It really helps to be emotionally prepared.

I also haven't experienced anyone dying "suddenly", so I guess I can't speak to the feeling.
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Old 09-15-2012, 07:53 AM
 
15,623 posts, read 9,186,303 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SocalPitgal View Post
If you learned that you had a terminal illness, would you tell your family?

If somebody you loved had bad news, would you want them to tell you?

I am asking this because after my mother passed away and I learned the cancer was much more then just a speck, she only told us at the very end.
I believe I'd share the news upfront if it was about me. For one thing, I think my loved ones would want to know - for personal and practical reasons (as indicated by another poster here - emotional preparedness and legal issues). Also, sometimes terminal isn't terminal - or doesn't happen in the expected timeline - the more people who know, the better your chances are of finding a successful intervention or a second opinion that is life-sparing. At the very least, there's the probability that people will have experience/knowledge that help make the time you do have left a little better.

If someone I loved had a terminal illness I'd definitely want to know for all the reasons above and more.

It's hard to know what your mom's reasons were for not divulging the news sooner: to spare the family pain; because she was in denial; because she thought it was understood; because she wanted to die on her own terms - maybe refusing treatment she thought the family would want her to try. Those are just a few possibilities. What you do know is that it was her choice so, even if it wasn't what you would have wished, it was what she wanted.
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