Dealing with cancer, and relatives

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by jefhatfield, Aug 10, 2005.

  1. jefhatfield Retired


    Jul 9, 2000
    my wife is dealing with what can be described as an aggressive and elusive breast cancer and while dealing with the cancer itself is difficult, some of the stupid suggestions of relatives are amazing

    i have realized that cancer is still a taboo word and people are generally committed to hiding its existence and are more concerned about how it makes them and their family look in the community than with actually dealing with the all too common disease

    btw, i was wondering, what are your experiences with relatives and cancer?
  2. gwuMACaddict macrumors 68040


    Apr 21, 2003
    washington dc
    my father was diagnosed with advanced lymphoma while i was finishing my senior year of high school. it was incredibly traumatic...

    the word 'cancer' is so scary, because there are so many unknowns associated with it. when we first heard 'cancer', it was terrifying. once we met with doctors, did our own research, learned about the disease- it was easier to deal with. still scary- but it helps to know what you're fighting.

    our relatives were incredibly helpful, his mother suffered from the same disease, we were able to contact NIH and retreive her old files- she was one of their first cases. it helped my father's doctors to mimic some of the old treatments, but also utilize some of the new and advanced drugs as well.

    the community was amazingly supportive- my father was a teacher at the local school- community support was a constant boost.

    positive attitude and knowledge, combined with excellent medical care is key.

    both my father and his mother are still living, thank God for miracles and amazing doctors.

    i'll be sure to keep your familly in my prayers
  3. iGary Guest


    May 26, 2004
    Randy's House
    My mother battled with Hodgkins (cancer) for 12 years and died when I was 16. Horrible disease. Slow agonizing killer.

    My thoughts are with you, firiend.
  4. iGav macrumors G3

    Mar 9, 2002
    Man, am I sorry to hear that fella. :(

    As far as I'm aware, we don't have a significant history of cancer in my family, although my dad's mum passed away in '02 after what was written down on the death certificate as 'Metastasis'.

    Heart disease is the killier in my family, especially the male side of my dad's family. My dad died at 46 and his dad died in his early 60's... 63 or 65 I can't remember which.

    All the best to yourself and your wife... keep positive, and fight it head on that is all you can do.

  5. jdechko macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    I've only recently been *really* affected by cancer. A long time ago (about 15 years), my great aunt died of a brain tumor (like cancer), but I didnt know her that well. Yesterday, I got news that my mom has some small patches of skin cancer. :( . I've heard that skin cancer can be pretty bad, because it has a high recurrence rate. The doctors should be able to remove all of it, but its just a scary realization that we are all human and have only a little bit of time here on earth, and at any moment, it could end.

    jefhatfield, I hope the best for you and your wife. You both will need a lot of support.
  6. Applespider macrumors G4


    Jan 20, 2004
    looking through rose-tinted spectacles...
    Fortunately, my recent experiences with cancer have been positive. The last 3 friends who have been diagnosed with it (2 Hodgkins, 1 breast) have all come through their surgeries and chemotherapy and are now in remission.

    My thoughts are with you and your wife. My friend who had breast cancer had to have a mastectomy and although they did a lot of reconstruction work, she did suffer from the feeling that she had lost part of her femininity. Lots of reassurance by her husband helped but I think time has helped more.

    Deborah Hutton, a mother with terminal cancer, has recently written a book "What Can I Do to Help?" to help friends and family understand more of what they should and shouldn't do or offer to do. Here's the synopsis

    I haven't read the book but saw some interviews by her in the Sunday papers where she was discussing it. I'm not sure if it's available in the US though obviously it could be ordered through Amazon. Any proceeds go to the Macmillan Fund which is a UK cancer charity.
  7. .Andy macrumors 68030


    Jul 18, 2004
    The Mergui Archipelago
    My thoughts are with you jefhatfield.

    My mother and aunt have both been through breast cancer - both survived. I hope the best for your wife too. These days the treatments are absolutely fantastic and I hope that you have found yourselves an oncologist you and your wife trust. Never be afraid to ask around for a second opinion.

    From my experience I'd suggest you encourage your wife to go to as many counselling sessions and support groups as possible. It is really hard to deal with it on your own. You may try (and want) to support her alone but it's near impossible because you cannot understand how she feels. When surrounded by others it normalises feelings and you realise that you aren't alone in your experience. You also aren't alone in having to face an uncertain future - there are others who have been through what your wife is going through that she can ask questions about what they found helpful. Even little suggestions: i.e you'll need to take a book for that treatment - can be really beneficial.

    Also never be afraid to see a counsellor yourself. There are counsellors who deal with oncology patients and their partners and they are absolutely wonderful. It's really hard to be there for someone you love going through such a battle. Make sure you support yourself mentally so you can be there when called upon.

    Anyway best of luck. Be positive and always tackle each new hurdle as if you are going to overcome it easily.
  8. stubeeef macrumors 68030


    Aug 10, 2004
    Your wife and you are in my thoughts and prayers.

    I have not had a close family member have that battle, Uncles and Aunts yes, Mother/Dad/Sibling/Wife/Kids/Self-NO.

    You are both intelligent and faithful, you will find and recieve answers, mostly because you will be looking.


    edit: as per other threads on medical treatment, you are the most concerned about you. Not that most medical professionals aren't, but you know what I mean, PROACTIVE is both an Action and a State-of-being from here on. READ, READ, READ! And ask enough questions to get lots of looks.
  9. ejb190 macrumors 65816


    Thanks for suggesting this book.

    We lost my cousin to leukemia (she was in her early 30's) and my Dad lost most of this thumb to saracoma. Humor has gotten my family through. Granted, the missing thumb jokes are getting a bit old, but I find it amazing that my Dad can use it to draw attention, not to himself, but to a disease that people need to be aware of.

    There are support groups for patients and families dealing with cancer.
  10. Don't panic macrumors 603

    Don't panic

    Jan 30, 2004
    having a drink at Milliways
    sorry jef,
    hope everything will turn out good.

    unfortunately, the probability that anyone will 'encounter' cancer in one of her/his close relatives in her/his lifespan is approaching one, due to increased lifes expectancy and environmental causes (pollution, diet, lifestyle, plastics, etc.).

    Luckily theraphy is also improving significantly, and today most cancers have a pretty good chance to be treated.
    If congress would invest a little bit more in research and a little bit less in senseless wars we would be in even better shape (by a lot. I do cancer research and there is a lot of promising stuff around. the bottleneck is funding: our reps should be forced to tour a oncological pediatric unit once a year)

    my five ys old was diagnosed with a late stage IV lymphoma a year ago.
    The doctors and a very aggressive treatment literally pulled him back from the dead.
    It has been rough (and far from over), but he will regularly go to school next month.

    Trust your doctors, keep yourself informed but stay clear of all miracle cures and related charlatans. If the normal treatment don't seem to be effective enough, ask your doctor about clinical trial options.
  11. njmac macrumors 68000


    Jan 6, 2004
    My heart and prayers go out to you. I am glad to hear he is going to school and I hope he has a full recovery. You sound like you are very strong for your family and that is such a blessing.

    Jef, and others who have told stories of cancer, my thoughts are with you also. I wish I could do more.
  12. Lyle macrumors 68000


    Jun 11, 2003
    Madison, Alabama
    First of all, my prayers are with you, your wife and her medical team.

    Lots of good advice in this thread already; I think I would just add that you need to learn how to accept the help that other people are going to offer. When my wife was going through her treatments, and even after, we both felt like it was our responsibility to take care of everything ourselves. We're both kind of independent in that way. But the truth is that sometimes things are just going to be too overwhelming, and you need to swallow your pride and accept the help that (hopefully) family and friends will want to offer.
  13. mpw Guest

    Jun 18, 2004
    Best wishes to you and yours.

    I was diagnosed with cancer at 20.

    I had been in hospital a couple of years earlier for an unrelated complaint and during that time read every pamphlet and notice in the TV room through boredom.

    Then at 20 I realized I had all the symptoms of a specific cancer described in one of those leaflets and immediately knew what I had so went to see my Doctor.

    Having read the leaflet a couple of years prior I wasn't at all surprised to have my diagnosis confirm by my Doctor who booked me in at the hospital to see the oncologist.

    The worst thing was the death rate quoted by my Doctor and in the leaflet was 95%.

    It was hard for me to discuss it with anyone as my girlfriend was away at college and I wanted to tell her first in person when she returned a couple of weeks later, and when I had more facts.

    My mother was a nurse and my father a surgeon but when I told them she refused to accept it and ignored it while he just said 'let us know if you need anything' (he's got problems with emotion).

    My girlfriend was in pieces poor girl.

    When I told my boss I needed treatment that was booked in for the 25th July (just realized this is all around 10years ago) he just said fair enough I'd need a medical cert. to get paid until the end of July but they would renew my contract after that. :mad:

    Anyway, by the time I’d seen the specialist he was able to tell me that they’d discovered a new treatment in the last 12months that switched the death/survival rates from 95%/5% to 5%/95% and that was 10years ago.

    I’m quite happy to talk about it but the only times my friends have ever asked is when they’ve found lumps or something and it becomes an issue for them. My family NEVER talk about it.

    Going through it gives you a different take on life, and death.
  14. Lacero macrumors 604


    Jan 20, 2005
    I don't think it's a taboo word at least not where I live. I personally know of 3 people who died from cancer.

    Cancer is really the affluent society's disease. Cancer is very rare in many other countries where obesity rates are non-existent and where there is no dependency on processed foods.
  15. njmac macrumors 68000


    Jan 6, 2004
    wow mpw. Its always great to hear survivor stories. I think attitude has at least a little something to do with recovery.

    People here at macrumors seem very strong.
  16. eva01 macrumors 601


    Feb 22, 2005
    Gah! Plymouth
    my mother has had skin cancer twice (yes i know not the worst kind of cancer [basal cell])

    and my drs. at one point thought i may have brain cancer (because of my illness whatever is causing it) but after MRI i don't apparently.

    cancer isn't all that taboo to me because of hospital
  17. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I'm so sorry to hear about your wife's cancer, jefhatfield.

    I know people who have faced cancer. Part of the battle is with the disease and part is with keeping spirits up, navigating the health care system, and in dealing with others -- family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances.

    Some people still think that you can catch cancer by going near somebody with cancer, or that they shouldn't discuss it or use the word. I knew somebody who wouldn't visit anybody else in the hospital, even family members who asked for the visit. I know somebody who doesn't want visitors while in the hosptial, as if it is shameful. And I know people who have gotten everyone on their bandwagon as a support team, which can help immensely. In times of stress, people react in different ways.

    Some friends may disappear when you get sick because they can't face their own mortality or have superstitious beliefs about it. Others may simply not know what to say, or think they will be interfering/interrupting/bothering you to ask about your wife or offer help.

    There is something you can do about this: If you friends/relatives don't call you, call them. Tell them what's going on medically and talk about other topics too. They will learn that it is ok to discuss both health problems and the rest of your lives. Some people can't stomach a lot of medical detail, or understand it, so don't expect them to. But let them know that you don't want to lose their contact.

    I sure hope things go well for you.
  18. Lyle macrumors 68000


    Jun 11, 2003
    Madison, Alabama
    Hmm, yes, I'd forgotten about this (or maybe just blocked it out). We had a few friends -- and let me stress that they were in the minority -- who dropped completely out of contact when they found out my wife had cancer. We still don't know the reasons; they just stopped calling. The overwhelming support we got from others more than made up for it, but it still hurt a lot at the time.
  19. joepunk macrumors 68030


    Aug 5, 2004
    a profane existence
    Sorry to hear about your wife having cancer, jefhatfield. I sure do hope that everything will turn out good at the end of the treatments. Treatments today are so much better than a decade ago.

    My mother died of lung cancer in Dec. 2000. It had spread and created a brain tumor that was nearly impossible to treat with surgery. She died during the weekend before finals week. Then, last year my stepmother was diagnosed with colon cancer. She is making great recovery from the treatments. The outlook for her is very good. My fathers mother went through chemo and radiation treatments in the early 1990s and survived. Treatments back then was treating the entire body to very high doses of radiation and chemo instead of just the particular area of the cancer.

    Best of wishes to you and your family and I hope that all of you manage to pull through and stay strong.
  20. jefhatfield thread starter Retired


    Jul 9, 2000
    thank you so much for your support

    cancer (or heart disease, stroke, diabetes, aids, car accident, anuerism, parkinson's, and others) certainly has a way of changing one's priorities and outlook on life and based from your posts of yourselves, your families, and friends with cancer and other ailments, it supports that point

    life is precious and when i hear people say that tomorrow is not promised to anyone, i can "now" really relate

    again, thank you for your support
  21. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    To everyone facing a serious disease... It may be hard to see positives in a dire situation, but if you learn to appreciate what's important in life, and realize that it's the people around you, not your possessions or whether you had a flat tire yesterday or whether your sports team lost again, then you've gained something valuable.
  22. jefhatfield thread starter Retired


    Jul 9, 2000
    dual mastectomy and initial reconstruction has been they are searching for any traces of cancer and even if all is clear, chemotherapy is on the way

    any suggestions on how to deal with these chemo treatments?

    ...and how does one deal with lymphedema and its side effects?

    thanks in advance, and again, thanks for all your prayers and thoughts
  23. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Being with other patients who have been through the same thing can be immensely helpful. No amount of advice from friends, books, doctors, etc. can match a conversation with others who have been through the same thing.

    Hospital social workers, and sometimes the doctors' offices, know where to find these groups. Even if your wife doesn't need the support of a patient group for the long-term, consider attending at least one such patient gathering, formal or informal.

    Your wife's mood is likely to reflect the mood she sees in you. If you keep a positive attitude (while being realistic about the high and low points), that will help her. And you can dump on us if and when it's hard to cope.
  24. MacLady macrumors newbie

    Sep 20, 2005
    jefhatfield, there is a good book that you and your wife might enjoy called, "Just Get Me Through This" by Deborah Cohen about chemotherapy for breast cancer. When someone close to me went through it 6 years ago it was helpful. Anti nausea drugs today are so good that while she didn't feel great the day of chemo, she certainly wasn't sick in bed or anything. Mostly it was just very draining and she felt tired til all the treatments were over. She's just fine today.

    Going through all the surgery and treatments seems to last forever, but it does end, and life does get back to normal. Best wishes to both of you.
  25. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    Sorry to everyone who knows someone dealing with cancer, or has someone close to them dealing with it now. People react to it in different ways, I'm sure, but much like Lacero says, where I live it's not taboo. Or maybe it's not taboo with the group I deal with.

    Anyway, eventually I will deal with cancer every day. I'm doing a PhD in Medical Physics with research related to prostate cancer treatment; prostate brachytherapy if you want to be specific. I've watched both an HDR and LDR brachytherapy treatment from beginning to end, and watching from the perspective I was watching from made me realize that for certain cancers, they really had things under control.

    (I'm going to go on a bit of a I always do)

    For other types of cancers, lung cancer for example, when the oncologist finds out that you have lung cancer, he knows that you're a dead man walking. And there are lots of doctors out there who believe that it's one of the cancers where they'll never get acceptable results from treatment, no matter how much money is spent on research. Chances are that you'll die, plain and simple. They say that all this research towards finding a treatment for lung cancer is a waste. The only way to decrease the number of lung cancer-related deaths is to decrease the number of smokers, not fund research since we'll never find a great treatment, hence all the anti-smoking campaigns out there.

    Anyone who smokes is pretty much a moron, no offense to the morons out there.

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