Friend's Father Diagnosed with a Brain Tumour: what advice to offer?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by andym172, Oct 18, 2009.

  1. andym172 macrumors 6502

    Oct 24, 2003
    A very good friend of mine - Best Man at mine and my wife's wedding - has recently received the awful news that his father has been diagnosed with having a brain tumour. The news was not entirely unexpected as his father had, just a couple of weeks ago, been found lying unconscious by my friend's brother. The father has only just turned 50 and is a healthy person, and this has only added to this news being such a huge shock.

    The father is due to go for an operation within the next 10 days, and will then receive a course of chemotherapy and radiation. He's been told that there's only a 25% chance of him surviving past 2 years.

    As a family they're very close, and are a very big hearted bunch of people too (they have adopted 3 children who still live with my friends parents), that this should happen to them is so sad it's beyond words.

    My friend is the eldest son and appears to have been hit very hard by the news. They were told of the above just under a week ago, but he doesn't appear to have been able to keep his head up, and this at a time when his father probably needs him the most.

    I'm feeling very concerned for him and plan to travel to see him later this week (he lives around 4 hours drive away), but to be honest I'm at a loss of what to say to him. Speaking on the phone I've tried to tell him that he should not lose hope; though it's probably wise to plan for the worst, he should hope for the best. I've also told him that he should not plan to try to conquer the weeks and months ahead, but should just try to take every day as it comes, making best of what's presented to him.

    Has anybody dealt with a situation alike the above before? If so, can you offer any advice of how's best to deal with such a situation?

    Any advice would be hugely appreciated! :)
  2. Rt&Dzine macrumors 6502a


    Oct 8, 2008
    Don't feel that you need to offer advice to him. Instead, you can offer your help and friendship.
  3. Andy348 macrumors 6502

    May 18, 2009
    I don't know if he'll want any advice, but just you being there will help him out greatly. Just support him.
  4. Unprocessed1 macrumors 65816


    Jun 23, 2008
    You should only offer advice if you know what he's going through, so just be supportive and help him out, he'll definitely need good friends.
  5. fireshot91 macrumors 601


    Jul 31, 2008
    Northern VA
    I agree with the above. Just be next to him when he needs you.

    Also a few things like "Don't be so down, your dad will be fine" wouldn't hurt.
  6. gan6660 macrumors 65816


    Aug 18, 2008
    Theres not many things you can say. My aunt died of lung cancer about 10 years ago. I was only 7 at the time but her and my mom with very close and she lived around the corner from us. I remember when people would tell my mom I know what your going through and everything will be alright it just made it worse. No one offered help just those meaningless sayings. My advice just be there for your friend and try not to convince him you know what hes going unless you did go through it because it really just makes things worse.
  7. Gregg2 macrumors 603

    May 22, 2008
    Milwaukee, WI
    My Mom died of cancer a few years ago. I have friends going through the same type of situation now. You want to do something to help them out, but you don't know what they need. They just need a friend. Don't fall into the "if there's anything I can do, let me know" mode. They won't tell you, 'cause they don't think that way. Instead, say "I'm making some time this weekend to come over and help you with your yard work. Let's tackle a big project and get it knocked out. When's a good time?" ... or something else specific like that. It's not the task that matters, it's the time.
  8. AngryApple macrumors 6502

    Dec 25, 2008
    If he's a big Christian you should say "James, the Holy Spirit will not let you down. Blahbkah blah" mimic stress on the words like Joel Osteen.
  9. mscriv macrumors 601


    Aug 14, 2008
    Dallas, Texas
    Not funny and really in poor taste. The OP is asking for genuine help and the circumstances are nothing to joke about. Don't do something stupid that could get this moved to PRSI.

    OP, as others have said above, there are no magic words or specific pieces of advice that you can give someone in this situation. The best thing you can do is be there for them. Just your presence and your desire to support them during this difficult time will help a lot. Focus on listening way more then talking and just take whatever he is willing to give you at this point as he is struggling to cope with the devastating news.
  10. geekgirl macrumors regular

    Sep 26, 2007
    Just be there to listen, and to offer a shoulder to cry on, because that will happen, even if things turn out okay. Don't try to negate what he is feeling, but keep an eye on him, and help him be strong for his family. Let him know it's okay to cry, but don't let it be the ruling emotion. It's still okay to laugh when things are funny. Be as positive as you can without giving any false hope.

    Cancer, unfortunately, has been all too common in my family for the last 5 years. My grandma just found out her cancer has returned. My dad cleared his last checkup, thank God. Both found out about their cancers within the same week. It's been a hard year, but at the same time, we've never been closer as a family.
  11. puma1552 macrumors 603

    Nov 20, 2008
    I've been through this.

    In June of 2006 my mom went to the doctor for a headache that she couldn't get rid of for three weeks. She put on her work clothes, took a half day, and thought she's be at work by noon.

    She had major brain surgery the next morning.

    They did all sorts of scans, and she had a malignant brain tumor. They said if she didn't have surgery right away she's be dead in a week.

    She had the surgery, and it was a success. No brain damage, and a very easy surgery to recover from actually, since there is little/no muscle tissue to be painful in your skull afterwards. My mom went home the next day, and no hair was shaved so nobody knew.

    While she was in for surgery they did a full scan, and found that she had lung cancer also, and that the brain cancer had spread from the lungs. They wanted her on radiation immediately. My mom did the radiation, felt like crap, and quit. They told her if she didn't finish it she'd be dead by Christmas, but if she did it she might last til May.

    My mom finished it after I pleaded with her (all this time I was the only one who knew she was sick at all), and felt pretty good.

    She was stubborn with the medication, and I don't blame her--there was a lot of narcotics that IMO were vulgar--my mom just wasn't my mom from them--they prescribed her narcotics that were hard to get at pharmacys since they are only usually for inpatients.

    She complained of headaches again, so I called the doctor and they said if the brain cancer comes back it would never come back so fast (it had been about a month) nor in the same spot.

    She went in for more scans, and lo and behold--four more brain tumors, and no chance of operation.

    The doctor asked if she wanted to do chemo and she said no. The doctor said he knew she wouldn't want to do it, and if she felt somewhat ok that he wasn't going to recommend it because it would make her feel worse and only keep her alive an extra two weeks beyond the May prognosis.

    She said "OK, I'm not doing it, ween me off these drugs, I'm done." The doctors weened her off the drugs, she was able to drive again, and I had my mom back for one week. She drove to work for the first time on a Friday in September, and emailed me saying she was proud of herself for driving and feeling good, so she stopped and bought herself some little Halloween cupcakes at the grocery store.

    The following Tuesday my sister found her dead. Five of the six little cupcakes she was so proud of were still on the kitchen counter.

    The three year anniversary just passed.

    So what's my advice?

    My only advice is expect the worst, and don't expect that there are two years left. My mom went from healthy with never even a prescription drug and a simple headache to dead in three months.

    Spend as much time together as they can, tie up any legal things ASAP (will etc. so things don't go into probate if possible), and enjoy the time left before the narcotics take him away from them. That's all I can say. Make sure they spend a lot of time together, and tell him they love him.

    Sorry man, they're in my thoughts. It will get a lot worse before it gets better. :(
  12. u49aa2 macrumors 6502a


    Nov 3, 2008
    Between Heaven and Hell
    Sorry to hear what happened to your mother. I hope you accept my condolences :(
  13. andym172 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 24, 2003
    Many many thanks for the replies - the advice and opinions offered are hugely appreciated!

    Though my family have been affected by 'The Big C' (my mother in law died as a result of cancer just 18 months ago, and my sister in law is currently undergoing treatment), I had been at a loss of what to say to my friend.

    What people have said, that I should not be looking to offer advice, is 100% correct. He's not one to talk about his feelings, but if he does want to - and I do feel he will - providing an ear to listen is probably the most I can offer.

    He visited the surgeon with his dad, and I know that his father did not want what they were told to be passed on in its entirety to the rest of the family. Rightly or wrongly, I think he wanted to protect his wife from the worst so that she would not lose hope.
    This may have lead to a weight of burden being on my friend's shoulders, and maybe if he is willing to talk it through this may help.

    Thank you again to those who have partaken in this thread (you are a credit to MacRumors), and my condolences to those who have lost people close to them, particularly member puma1552 - thank you for sharing your story.
  14. ButtUglyJeff macrumors 6502a


    Mar 9, 2008
    New York. The state, not the toilet.
    Agreed. He needs your emotional support more than anything. The only advice I could suggest, is telling him that he needs to project positive energy when interacting with his father. His father is going to go through a tough time soon, and will need emotional support.

    Oh, and remind him to tell his father how much he loves him too......
  15. nidserz macrumors 6502a


    Mar 28, 2008
    Dubai x Toronto
    I'm sorry to hear about you friend's father.

    I went through a similar situation as a few posters above me. In my first year of college at Chirstmas time in 2006 my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. She did everything the doctors told her - chemo, radiation, etc.
    In the summer of 2007 she was great. We went on vacation to dubai and spent the year together. However when we got back she was not feeling too great and had headaches. It appeared that the cancer had spread to her brain, even though they had done precautionary brain radiation. They offered to do a gamma knife surgery for the brain tumor, as it is very strong radiation almost like surgery, without actually cutting open anything. She did this twice, and a few months later more brain tumours appeared.

    The doctors were really surprised she had survived that long, because at one point she was so bad from the brain tumours she couldn't walk, etc (it effected her motor skills). All in all, there was nothing they could do anymore and she said no to more chemo as it would only give her 2 months, but she would be miserable. She was depressed and 6 days after my 20th birthday she passed away. It has been just over one year, but to be honest I hate thinking about how much she suffered at the end.

    If I were you I would just visit your friend and spend time with him. It is unfortunate that something like his brings you closer to your family, but me and my dad have never been this close. We have all come together and got through this together. Family and friends have been there throughout, even if they just sit there, and it always helped.

Share This Page