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Advice needed - meeting a terminal friend for a "vacation" next week

technotami
Posts: 3
Joined: Feb 2009

Hello - I am meeting my oldest friend of 27 years next week in Cancun. She is in England and I am in the US. This is most likely the last time I will see her due to our geographical distance. She has been diagnosed with lung and bone cancer - given 1 year to live. I am anxious about the trip and losing some sleep over it. I don't know how we both are going to react when we see each other. I am just hoping I can cope and be supportive. Additionally, my friend is a single mom and has a teenage daughter who does not know the diagnosis is terminal. It is a very sad story all around. Any advice might be helpful. You don't run into people everyday (at least I hope not) with this situation.

Thanks for your help ...

green50
Posts: 318
Joined: Feb 2008

I am a ovarian cancer patient who has survived 7 years off and on chemo. No one really knows when the Good Lord will take us but I know your friend would want a big hug and let her know your there for her. And I am sure you will laugh and cry with her about different things. To try to stay away from the subject doesn't help. But support her and enjoy the vacation and have good memories of what you both like to do. I don't know the situation if she has tried treatments and there is nothing else but miracles do happen. I know lung and bone cancer is not good. My husband passed from stage 4 lung cancer 3 and half years ago. But I have seen some live and have success but with bone cancer too its a rough road. But as you said be supportive have a good vacation and good memories. Say how you feel. I hope and pray for her and her daughter as well as you hoping everything works out for a good vacation and some relaxation for all. The daughter would know of the cancer I would think but telling her how much time when only God knows that answer is not important to say. Drs. have been wrong believe me. I have them surprised with my small tumors and only get tired with chemo after 7 years. I will pray for all.
Have A wonderful vacation,
Prayers and Hugs
Sandy Green

lindaprocopio's picture
lindaprocopio
Posts: 2022
Joined: Oct 2008

Each of us, when we get our diagnosis initially, goes through adjustment stages much like those of grief: heartbroken dispair; followed briefly by denial; then quickly by anger and bitterness; and then eventually most of us find acceptance, and determination to live what life we have left with as much dignity and joy as we can. Many of us find peace and even hope. You'll be able to tell where your friend is with this process just by listening. You can't say "I know how you feel", but you can say "I am sharing your pain." Your friend has had to look her own mortality in the face; that's really not a bad thing. Let's face it, we all are going to die someday, but most of us never think about it. Living each day THOUGHTFULLY, mindful of your own mortality, can be a very spiritual and freeing thing. Your friend may surprise you with her grace and humor and joy at your reunion. Just let her know you love her and are there for her, and follow her lead. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

My one piece of advise is to remember that this is all about HER now, and your own worries for yourself and how you handle this must take a back seat for this reunion. If you are still concerned that you may say or do something wrong (you won't!), you may want to get a book on hospice care or talk to someone at your local hospice provider who can help you see this stage of life in a new light. Good luck. I can tell by your concerned and caring post that you are already prepared for this more than you know. You are a true friend. That's all you need to be.

technotami
Posts: 3
Joined: Feb 2009

Thank you for your wonderful advice and support ... I really appreciate all that you have said - no I cannot share her exact experience but I will be there for her and that is the important fact. Your advice on a hospice book is great too. All the best to you and thank you for sharing your experience with me. You are obviously a special person ... take care

bluerose's picture
bluerose
Posts: 1089
Joined: Jul 2009

The advice given by the other members here on your situation is fantastic and I don't have much more to add to the great insights they have given you.

However, two things. First of all I want to restate the fact that only God knows how long anyone has regardless of what doctors say. I was diagnosed 23 years ago and had one recurrance after the initial diagnosis - they were only a year apart, and many wrote me off. Here I am 23 years later cancer free and considered cured so never lose hope.

Seconly you mentioned that this woman's daughter doesn't know about the prognosis and I agree that since no one really knows for sure what her prognosis is, excpet the Big Guy of course, there is really no reason to tell her. BUT, perhaps you could encourage your friend (if she hasn't already done so) to get her daughter connected to a good grief counsellor. She probably needs to air her concerns over her Mother's health a long time ago so it would not hurt to get her started in therapy now. Then if the worst should occur she is already in with a therapist she has come to trust and all around it will be a better situation for her.

I hope you both have a vacation to remember. Try not to let her prognsis get in the way of things that remind you both of the past times together but like someone said here, follow her lead too if she wants to talk. Just let her know from the getgo that you are there for her to talk and to help whenever she wants you to and leave it at that. Abandonment is hard for cancer patients so as long as she knows you will always be there for her that is enough.

Let us know how it all goes. Post anytime, it helps.

Blessings,

Bluerose

Dreamdove's picture
Dreamdove
Posts: 175
Joined: Sep 2008

Don't try to protect yourself when you are with her. Don't close her off. You will feel good later that you spent this time with her. I never had this situation but I am a single mom with a teenage daughter at home. She was 12 when I was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer. But I have been in remission for 21 months! I would want my friends, relations, and family to be there for me, be real for me. I wouldn't want someone just telling me I will be fine when I know I will not be. I would want to face reality and make preparations. And I would want my daughter to know. I'd like to have some fun and enjoy things while I feel well enough. I would not want to lose hope that I might beat the odds but I want to prepare for what might happen, especially concerning my daughter. You can be upbeat but also realize that she might not be able to be positive all the time. Good luck and enjoy your trip!

blueroses's picture
blueroses
Posts: 527
Joined: Jul 2008

Hello, I am sorry for your difficult situation with your friend but as a 20 year survivor of cancer I know that one of the hardest parts of it all for me was having to deal with old friends treating me so differently. I think the best thing you could do for her is to try, as best you can, to treat her no differently than you would have before she became ill, pick up as if you had just left her yesterday and try to do the things you used to do together. Maybe pick up an old movie you went to together and bring popcorn and other things she will remember in better, happier, healthy times for her. Distract her with the fun of memories of days gone by and surprise her with little things that will remind her of all the good things that the two of you shared. Oh I would haved loved if someone had done that for me. I lost many friends when I told them about my illness and I know that many people, for that very reason, don't tell people they are ill - they treat them so differently so please try and not do that to her. I know it will be hard for you but who knows, getting ready by buying little reminders of the past and picking out old movies and music of the times you spent together might distract you as well. Just being in Cancun will be a lovely distraction but it will probably catch her totally by surprise if you packed some memorabillia from the time you too boogeyed together way back in the day. Just an idea to add to the vacation. Don't worry about supporting her too much, just the fact you are meeting her for the vacation speaks volumes of your friendship. Like Linda said here, follow her lead though, if she appears tired then throw it out to her what she might like to do but if you have packed old movies and popcorn packs and old albums and stuff then you can hunker down with her for a quiet night of rest but fun too if that is all she is up for. Would be a lovely surprise. Getting the things together to take with you will be fun for you too and take your mind off her situation. Let us know how it all works out. Wish I had a friend like you when I was going through cancer. You are doing more than you know by just being there for her. Blessings, Blueroses.

technotami
Posts: 3
Joined: Feb 2009

Dear Blueroses, Your feedback is wonderful and I will take it to heart. It is great advice. I didn't think about treating her any different but things are different so I will go with the flow as you suggest but I will keep in mind not to treat her "special." Hope that makes sense. I also like your idea about bringing some sort of old memorabillia for us to share. I don't know what at the moment. She won't lose my friendship and I know I'm doing the right thing - it's emotional right now that's all ... Thanks again and I am so glad you are a 20 year survivor - I hope you survive another 20 years at least.

blueroses's picture
blueroses
Posts: 527
Joined: Jul 2008

I think some people took some of my posting the wrong way because although I don't think it's a good idea to dwell on her illness (terminal or otherwise) I do know that for me and many I have known with all kinds of cancers and at all stages they don't want to be seen as cancer first - them second. What I meant was that by no means should you 'sweep it under the carpet' in your discussions with her and like Linda said 'take her lead' but to me it was important that when I met my friends they treated me as 'Blueroses' first and 'with cancer' later. Of course she will doubtlessly bring it up in time when she is with you, then if she does just follow her lead and join in with what she has to say, I'm sure you know that. Anywho I didn't want to be taken wrongly here but I do maintain that one of the worst parts of cancer for me at the time when no one knew my outcome was for friends and family to greet me as if I was gone already, if you know what I mean. You seem to be a good friend of hers so don't worry about it, you will say the right things when she wants to talk, they just seem to come naturally when we care about someone. Good luck with the trip and please let us know how it went when you return. My prayers are with you. Blessings, Blueroses.

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

I wrote a long one here, but got the boot before I could post it...that might have been a good thing, but I am rather persistent, so I am going to try again, albeit in a shorter piece:

I am loathe to disagree with the intelligent ladies whose advice precedes this, but I must disagree with them, even though I find some of their advice to be great. Linda, in particular, always seems to be on top of her game.

In any event, if I read you original post correctly, your friend is terminally ill and knows it. If you allow that to be a silent shadow over your entire time together, then the time will be spent in vain.

I strongly encourage you to bring it up at the soonest convenient moment. Ask about the diagnois, ask about the treatment, ask about the ultimate conclusion, and ask about plans between now and the end. You are not children. This is the real world, and your friend is seeking you out for a reason. I would hope that honesty and toughness are among your fine attributes.

If you do not bring it up, it will certainly be the third companion at every breakfast, lunch, dinner, and other event that you share together. In my mind there is no doubt of that. Get it out of the way, do not let it be an unwelcome guest. Discuss it, show compassion (but not pity...you don't need to be told that anyway or she would not choose you as a friend).

Let her tell you what she wants to tell you and then leave it alone. You will be happier, both of you, to have removed it from your guest list.

Best wishes to you and your friend! I should think you would be honored simply to be on her list of people to see at this point in her life.

Take care,

Joe

CanadaSue's picture
CanadaSue
Posts: 339
Joined: Apr 2006

Joe,

I love reading your posts, you tell it like it is!

You are oh so correct....

Cancer is not something that can be swept under the carpet, especially when it is terminal. Talking about it, letting the girlfriend vent , and then the vacation continues is a great idea!

Hugs,

Sue

CanadaSue's picture
CanadaSue
Posts: 339
Joined: Apr 2006

Joe,

I love reading your posts, you tell it like it is!

You are oh so correct....

Cancer is not something that can be swept under the carpet, especially when it is terminal. Talking about it, letting the girlfriend vent , and then the vacation continues is a great idea!

Hugs,

Sue

nsquirrely
Posts: 50
Joined: May 2007

I've been trying to think of advice to give you since you posted about your upcoming vacation. I truly don't have any words of wisdom but can say that all who posted have wonderful advice to offer.You have been given a great honor in that she picked you to share this vacation. That tells me that you are the friend she needs now. As Joe said I'm sure that she will need to share her thoughts with you. That fact that she choose you means you are a special person that she knows she can depend on to share this time with her and support her.It can be a time to for you both to deal with her diagnosis and then share a wonderful vacation. I'm positive you will know what to do and when to do it by following her lead. Being there is the most important thing you can do. I hope that this time togather is wonderful experience for both of you. Remember to take your camera and take lots of pictures.
Hugs and prayers
Shirley

lindaprocopio's picture
lindaprocopio
Posts: 2022
Joined: Oct 2008

These are not my ideas. I received this in an email from The Cancer Crusade, and since it directly addresses your post, I am copying and pasting it in here:

"We know you mean well, but please avoid the following platitudes:

"God won't give you more than you can handle." This implies that God gave me cancer. I don't buy it. The God I know is about goodness and light and love and healing. He doesn't throw down lightning bolts of cancer (or other catastrophes for that matter); that kind of thinking went out with ancient mythology. My cancer was caused by some cellular misfire, some rotten biological/chemical event, a chink in my body's immune system armor. Instead of telling me that God doesn't give us more than we can handle, remind me that God helps us handle what we are given.

"I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. You'll probably outlive me." Keep that up, and I can guarantee it. Look, if you're walking blindfolded down the middle of a major interstate highway during rush hour when you say this (because that's how I feel right now), it might make sense and I might agree with you. Otherwise, it's a meaningless remark that does nothing to make me feel better. In fact, now I'm worried about you. Thanks a lot.

"You have to have a positive attitude to beat this, so come on! Be positive!" You've just added to the terror I'm already experiencing. You have implied (whether you meant to or not) that I'm hurting my chances of getting well because I'm very sad and very scared right now. If you really want to help me, acknowledge and validate my feelings. Feelings are not facts, so you can't argue with them; please don't try. Instead, help me express what's in my heart and on my mind. You don't need to respond to everything I say. Just listen without trying to "fix" things. I will find my way to a more "positive attitude" as I gain understanding of my disease and treatment plan and as I begin to regain control of my life. Be patient with me. I'll get there in my own time.

"Don't cry. It will all be okay." These words are almost always said because the person who is witnessing the crying is uncomfortable. If you're uncomfortable seeing me cry, then please don't come around for a while. I need to cry sometimes, and I don't need anyone telling me not to. Crying is healthy. It helps me get the bad stuff out, and that helps make room for the really good stuff like wholeness and healing.

And you don't know if it will "all be okay" anymore than I do, so don't say that. In fact, don't say anything just to be saying something. If you can just sit with me and be with me and acknowledge through your silent companionship that we are mere mortals but we are in this together, that will be more comforting to me than anything you could say.

green50
Posts: 318
Joined: Feb 2008

This was great Lindapro. I am glad copied this.
Prayers and Hugs
Sandy

Dreamdove's picture
Dreamdove
Posts: 175
Joined: Sep 2008

Perfect article. I realize it's hard to think of things to say to someone who is suffering with cancer. I've had to grit my teeth a few times, hearing stuff people have said to me. I guess maybe cancer can teach us to try to be more patient with others. They have no idea what it is like, just as we might not have any idea how it is to have a heart problem or be diabetic. A friend of mine has severe rhematoid arthitis so I can't relate to that, all I can do is imagine what she must be going thru and sympathize. And hope I don't say the wrong thing that will annoy her.

pjba11's picture
pjba11
Posts: 192
Joined: Nov 2008

For what ever it is worth the thing that got me going was when I would hear ... "Your a fighter, you will beat it." My comment to that would sometimes be.... "I am sure the ones we continue to loose every day were fighters too and wanted to live just as bad as I do." It was not because I didn't think I would live.... or had a bad attitude, I just could not understand why could they not say something positive like "I am so sorry that you are going through this. "I am sure I can't begin to understand how hard it is to battle. but if you know of anything I can do to help you I would be glad to do it." In the long haul I know they always meant well, but when you are so sick a lot of things bother that would not normally be an issue. I had the opportunity to have a terminal cancer friend call me and asked me if we could take a last trip together also. We went to the State Fair and had a great week end. We talked about her kids, her life, the past, the future and stayed as zanny as we always were for 2 old married grannys. But the great part of that 'ending' was, she took part in a clinical trial the next week and is still going strong. We went to the fair in 1988. ONE NEVER KNOWS. Keep the faith and God bless.

blueroses's picture
blueroses
Posts: 527
Joined: Jul 2008

I feel the same way you do about the fact that everyone means well when they comment to someone going through cancer, it's just hard to know what is the right thing to say at whatever stage they are at. People who don't have it, or have never experienced it can't possibly know exactly what the right thing to say is.

I like what you did with your friend who was told she was terminal. Sounds like she had a great time reminising with you and doing some fun things at this difficult time in her life. Not much is super fun during cancer but with friends like you guiding her into fun activities with you it certainly can help to take the sting out of the painful days for a cancer patient. I'm sure that if if she wanted to talk about her situation with cancer you let her.

ONE NEVER DOES KNOW FOR SURE, EVEN THE DOCS, and I am so happy to hear that your friend is fighting on - since 1988 yet. SOOOOOOOOO GREAT. That is fabulous news. To me, fun is medicine in a bottle, sounds strange but it can rejuvenate the spirit and body as far as I'm concerned. I am a 20 year survivor of NHL and they didn't think I would still be around either. Na na na boo boo. lol. All the best Pjba. Blessings to you and your friend. Blueroses.

green50
Posts: 318
Joined: Feb 2008

Good to hear stories like that where you stun the medical field. My dad's cousin had cancer in the 60's thats when they didn't have the meds they have now. Anyway they gave him a year to live. HMM, guess what hes still living and has had no cancer since the 60's. So goes to show ya. NO one but God knows.
Prayers and hugs
Sandy

tasha_111's picture
tasha_111
Posts: 2042
Joined: Oct 2008

Lindas' article was just brilliant, hit the nail right on the head for me. My Doctor is always telling me that I must "Stay Positive"..... I could kick him! It really hoses me off when people say that stuff, like the article read, it implies that you are your own worst enemy if you get down from time to time, well I ask you ...WHO DOESN'T? Jxxxxxxxx

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