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Forums / PTSD & Trauma / ANOTHER FRIEND IS NOW DYING FROM CANCER - WHAT SHOULD I SAY?

Topic: ANOTHER FRIEND IS NOW DYING FROM CANCER - WHAT SHOULD I SAY?

14 posts, 0 answered
  1. The Bro
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    4 November 2021

    Hi everyone

    As we get older and certainly wiser, it becomes easier I think, to deal with what life throws at you as life's priorities become much clearer.

    You learn to walk away from what's just not important, stop worrying so much about trivialities and think more about what it really means to life a good life - 'A life well lived' in other words.

    Well last year the best friend of my wife and myself got cancer, and now has about three months to live. She in in New Zealand and we speak every couple of weeks on Face Time.

    Yesterday I got shocking news that the wife of one of my best friends also has cancer. Not sure what the prognosis is but she is on her second round of chemo and losing her amazing hair already.

    So - what are the best words to use when speaking or writing to a cancer sufferer?

    The friend due to die shortly has confided that she is really tired of people telling her how strong she is, you have got this, be strong, you are a fighter etc etc. Last week I said to her that she must feel really awful and sometimes angry about what has happened to her, and she burst into tears saying all she wants is friends to understand make an effort to listen. In other words, show a little true empathy and not just empty words of encouragement that can sound so false.

    Now a second friend has cancer - we learn about in on Facebook only yesterday. Her husband is a really good mate and told me they just weren't up to ringing people so please forgive them for posting on Facebook a couple of weeks after the diagnosis.

    Nearly all the posts on Facebook are all about how strong she is, what a fighter, give it a big kick in the bum etc etc. I sent a post and a personal message as well, reminding them about the holiday we had early last year (before Covid) and how much we should all look forward the the opportunity to do that again!

    Not that I look for this at all, but did notice my post got heaps of likes.

    So the big question is - what does the cancer sufferer really want to hear? I know everyone is different and so are friendships.

    It's just that this double lot of rotten news has been really hard to take and made an impact on me that I wasn't expecting. And it's going to get worse as the end nears for both of them.

    Any comments from forum users who have battled through close friends deaths would be appreciated.

    Especially concerning what is was that the dying friend found most comforting to hear.

    Thanks very much, I hope to hear from you.

    All the best, The Bro

    1 person found this helpful
  2. mmMekitty
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    4 November 2021 in reply to The Bro

    Hello the Bro.

    I can't offer much in response to what you have asked.

    I'll just say a bit about my friend.

    She was my only friend when we were teenagers. It wasn't the friendship I thought it was, but I didn't know that until much later. We'd become estranged, following mistakes I had made, which she could not forgive.

    Years later, while trying to reconcile with my father, He told me in a letter, about the deaths of some people, my friend included, of cancer. He didn't tell me any more than that because he didn't have my contact details, it was too late for me to go to her funeral. She didn't die overnight. - I wanted to protest, but I was too upset about that content & other things he had written. So, I could not be there, before,or after, because I had no info from him. My impression was my father simply hadn't thought about my feelings or that my friendship had meant anything, so it was just a bit of news.

    I have thought, wondering what on earth I would have said to her. I really don't know. I think being there would have been the only way I would have discovered what I would say, how she would respond & I understand her response would have been her individual response.

    She had been sort of 'fighting' during the time I'd known her, trying to keep her sibs safe from her father, & to give her mum as much help as she could. She took on way too much for a kid to handle; still, she was the strongest person I have ever known. Even while it cost her, changing her, & she seemed to have some invisible impervious armour always around her, she continued to fight.

    So, maybe she would have like the idea of fighting the cancer, bare fists, or martial arts weapons, something like that. At some point, she must have realised this was a fight she could not win. I'd like to have told her, '"it's okay, 'Orion', you can relax now" & I would like to think she would let me hold her.

    *

    I suppose you'll need to look at each individual, knowing them as well as you do, & I think, be honest. If you want to tell them it sucks, then I would say that. Or maybe better, ask each, what can I do to help? & listen to their own words about how you can help.Invite them to talk, & then listen Much easier said than done, I'm sure.

    I wonder if various organisations supporting people with cancer have guidance to help friends & families, like BB has for people here?

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  3. The Bro
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    5 November 2021 in reply to mmMekitty

    Hi there mmMekitty

    That's a really good post, loaded with thought provoking content.

    Thanks for that, it has actually helped quite a bit. I must go and read it again!

    All the best, The Bro

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  4. mmMekitty
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    5 November 2021 in reply to The Bro

    Thank you The Bro,

    I've tried to think, what if I was the one with some terminal illness? What would I want from those around me?(Assuming people other than health care workers are around). It's a very hard question, because so much depends upon the relationship with each individual,& how much they know me.

    I know I would not mind some of that 'dark' humour. I really wouldn't like someone coming round to see to my immortal soul. & I don't like, for myself, to be told I must be positive & fighting, as if this is what will be of the greatest benefit over every thing else, so if I don't, I'm giving up, failing, or as if I'm not being a good [terminal illness] patient, all hope & no reality.

    I have done the 'Shave for a Cure' twice. I know without a doubt, losing my hair would be the last thing on my list of concerns, it I had to have chemotherapy.

    But you could ask what is important to them? If it is losing hair, offer to help with something for the head, A skull does feel cold without hair, when you've been used to having it. I liked my hats so much I still wear them now. My (ex)step-mother would have thought that losing hair to be the worst thing. For her, someone who took pride in her appearance, & how it meant a lot for her self-esteem, she'd want quality wigs. She had some wigs over the years, as if her own head of hair was not good enough even after going to good hairdressers.

    My father would not have wanted to talk about it, a just get on with the practical & not acknowledge the psychological or emotional aspects. He would want no fuss at all. If all the losing hair included facial hair, he might have a problem with that. He was bald early, but did like to keep a beard. He'd have been happy if a friend had snuck a beer into the hospital, or if someone would give him a good game of chess.

    Now, I think, I'd like someone who could 'read' me & see when to talk, when to let me be, help me when needed, even make off jokes & sort out practical things of daily life, because I simply might not be able to concentrate on doing those tasks. I like knowing someone is there, even if I don't actually take up their offer to call on them, just knowing they are there helps so much.

    If unsure, ask. Don't be afraid to ask. what do you want/need/feel/think///

    Yes, it was difficult, seeing your question & what it brought up again. I appreciate such questions, because they prompt me to think some more, & I inch forward a little as a result.

    mmMekitty

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  5. mmMekitty
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    5 November 2021 in reply to The Bro

    Oh, & as the old scouts' motto says, "Be prepared", with info, & to deal with a whole range of emotions, from them & you, & others too, have some support for yourself, too, someone where you live, I mean. We, as you know, writing on these forums can help a little, but we can't sit & have face to face discussions over coffee, or as in a counsellor's room. But we'll try, eh?

    mmmMekitty

    1 person found this helpful
  6. Petal22
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    6 November 2021 in reply to The Bro

    Hi The Bro,

    Im sorry to hear of the person you know that is dying of cancer.

    It is so sad….. what would I say or write to this person?

    Id be open and honest I’d tell them how sorry I am and I’d also tell them I LOVE them and that I’m here to listen to them anytime…… I’d just hold space for them when ever they needed it.

    ❤️

    For the ones who are going through treatment I’d say never give up have faith and never loose hope

    Id keep checking in on these people so they know that are not alone 🙏

  7. The Bro
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    7 November 2021 in reply to Petal22

    Hi there Petal22 and thanks so much for your post.

    Yes I agree completely with you and appreciate the way you have condensed it into a few powerful words.

    I intend contacting her pretty frequently and will do my best to stay aware of what she really wants.

    Cheers for now, The Bro

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  8. Learn to Fly
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    7 November 2021 in reply to The Bro

    Hi The Bro,

    I am truly sorry to hear about what you are going through. The news can be devastating for the sufferer, the family and friends alike. You might feel helpless and frustrated at the injustice of it.

    From what I gathered from your post, I truly believe you are instinctively doing/saying the right thing.

    First and foremost: genuinely listening to them.

    Do we ever really listen to another person? Most of the time we are busy with our own lives and problems. We listen but quite often respond as “I know what you mean as this and that happened to me yesterday….” and there we start the “me” story. Instead of listening.

    Asking how they’re feeling, without pressuring to share, though. Reassuring them they can count on you when it comes to asking about anything, from the smallest to most serious favour.

    I loved when you said to the second friend how you were looking forward to spending some holiday together. This might be so important to them as they realise only too well that their time might be limited and they might not have that much to look forward to. They don’t need to be reminded about that. Quite the opposite, enjoy here and now. If they can and if people who witness their illness can as there might be so much emotional pain and struggle involved.

    You are a wonderful person The Bro and if anyone can come up with some warm words of support, it’s gonna be you. For sure. Trust your beautiful instincts.

    I am here in case you need a chat, as this must be so difficult for you.

  9. Learn to Fly
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    7 November 2021 in reply to The Bro

    One more thing that came to me: sometimes sitting in silence is enough and speaks volumes of one’s love and other feelings.

    Sometimes there are simply no words to describe what another person is going through but your presence might be soothing and reassuring.

    At times, silence can be more powerful than any words.

  10. Croix
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    7 November 2021 in reply to The Bro

    Dear The Bro~

    First off I think mmMekitty has covered an awful lot of sensible and practical ground and I hope that has helped. As mmMekitty says don't be afraid to ask what they would like -but don't just be limited to that as in their new situation they may not exactly know.

    I've now reached the age where friends and acquaintance are passing away and I guess that gives one a little perspective on the situation. In amongst it all one can have one's own grief at the impending loss, and that can be hard to handle.

    I think I need to remember the person has not realy changed fundamentally, even if they are facing a the new circumstances , and they will handle it in different ways, they will handle your grief in different ways too.

    I'm minded of the last three friends that have passed away from cancer, all reasonably recently.

    One wanted to complete projects before she passed, and made strenuous efforts to do so, involving her family in those efforts. This had the effect of drawing the family (and myslef) closer together, gave occupation and allowed all, including her, to face the fact she was no longer going to be with us.

    I had always teased her and saw no reason to stop, some of the jokes about her treatment might in different circumstances have seemd to an outsider as cruel or unfeeling, but it was what she needed and gave her a chance to go crook (which she enjoyed immensely)

    Another was in great pain and found breathing difficult and simply wanted matters to be over with, there apart from sympathy I tried to distract this friend and showed him movies on my laptop in hospital. They gave him pleasant hours and topics of conversation removed from his situation.

    Another was well aware of her circumstances and went to great lengths to sort out the imortant parts of her affairs (what is important changes with perspective). A very strong willed lady who treated the whole thing in a very matter of fact way. There, as we shared common ground in our early lives in another country, I'd reminisce about my experiences and she would pick me up on errors in my language, and that lead to her remembering things in her youth too.

    As you can see from the above there is no hard and fast rule, if someone does not wish to speak of illness, then don't, if they do then you do too. I tried to make their time with me enjoyable. Humor -both dark and light - can play a big part.

    I hope you manage ok

    Croix

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  11. The Bro
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    9 November 2021 in reply to Learn to Fly

    Thank you so much Learn to Fly

    Your amazing words have elevated me onto a pedestal where I am not sure I belong.

    I called her yesterday and we had a very good and honest chat with no BS.

    All the best to you to. The Bro

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  12. The Bro
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    9 November 2021 in reply to Croix

    Hi there Croix

    So sad to hear you have been through it as well - three times. Your words are wise and encouraging.

    I like the way you point out options without judgement.

    I called her yesterday and we had a great chat - open and free of BS.

    All the best, The Bro

  13. Shelll
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    9 November 2021 in reply to The Bro

    Hi The Bro..

    The thing is doctors logically can not predict the time of anyone passing away. Unless they are the ones ending someone's life. Only God knows that. And where there is life there is always hope.

    I had a cancer scare in 2018. Fear that doctors pushed onto me. The scare was from their words and mannerisms. I am ok now.

    Will you consider checking out "Chris Beats Cancer"? Your search may come up showing his website, his book, his ytube channel or someone claiming he is false or something similar to that. The false thing is simply not true. He is one of the most caring, and knowledgeable guys I know. And is well researched in cancer and other options that are indeed out there.

    I have his book, and his private Facebook group is full of thousands of people learning about how to heal their bodies. Some using chemo, radiation etc. Some going all out by consuming juices, special salads, certain supplements. And other forms of healing. Some choose both they do conventional treatment plus all the juicing, salads etc. There are loads that have healed there bodies from cancer. And all kinds and all stages.

    He also has loads of interviews he has had with doctors, specialists and cancer survivers. Many are on ytube and his website.

    I can also give you the names of other people you could look it to as well if you want.

    I am unsure what you could tell your friends. Maybe you could just consider checking out what I said first to see what you think.

  14. mmMekitty
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    28 November 2021 in reply to The Bro

    Hello the Bro,

    I've been thinking of you lately. I am interested in how things are going with you.

    & also, about what I wrote back on Nov 4, well, I'm not going to quote it all here.

    I've had the news myself - I dont' hardly know anything yet, except that I do have breast cancer. So now, do I swap shoes?

    My helper was with me & was great. She did make an off-hand comment though, saying I was 'wearing my fighting hat'. I had a sort of gut reaction to that. I knwo what the problem is: if you insist someone must fight the thing, & if they still 'lose' then, well, they might not have fought hard enough, when I don't think that any 'fighting' has anything to do with whether or not the given treatment works, but in failing to fight hard enough, we blame the patient. I reject that entirely! My sad old yellow hat is definitely not suitable for fighting anyway, I told her.

    Bearing in mind, very few people know of my diagnosis, (could be many more, I guess, beause I have written it here in a couple places, so far the most helpful thing anyone has said, came from my PDr.He offered to me the freedom to message him if I needed, while he is on his long annual break, & he would make time to talk to me. I feel so reassured he will be there, & willing to talk.

    My helper said, she would drop everything, to help me with anything I need. We are already scheduling more hours.

    I don't yet know how (relatively) minor or severe this is going to get, but already it is awfully frightening. When I know more, I am sure to want to know even more. I want to know what to expect, so I might be able to feel at least somewhat prepared. I hate the uncertainty.

    I am not even sure what sort of timeframe to keep in mind for making any plans, such as I might make for Xmas. I'll tell you too, I intend to be around BB over the silly season, for anyone alone or lonely, or simply wanting a chat or muck about. I know what Xmas & New Year can be like, because I have those years too. Being here is one way I want to allieviate the Xmas/New Year funk.

    It will depend upon what happens next, & how soon, & how much it wrecks me around....

    If I can still be of help to you, The Bro, I'll be happy to let you know what other people say or do, which I find most helpful. & even what is most unhelpful, too.

    mmMekitty.

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