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How to motivate someone with poor survival odds

Posts: 2
Joined: Oct 2012

I have a friend who is a "survivor" from a few years ago. The odds given her were 5-7% at the time.

this year tests showed a return; radiotherapy didn't help, and she's started Chemo this week. She's a massively tough cookie (far more than I would be), but I think having to go through this all again is destroying her. The very low survival odds doctors are giving her is unsurprisingly not helping her, and obviously chemo is just horrible, even on day 2.

Obviously I want do the absolute maximum to support her. What I'm struggling with is how to balance the "go girl, you can do this!" messages with being realistic about her odds. She's too bright to believe any bullsh1t, so it has to be sensible advice. And I'm very new to this - I didn't know her the first time around.

Can anyone help? Has anyone received 'good' advice from loved ones in this situation?

Thanks for listening. Sorry if it's in the wrong place.

Posts: 4
Joined: Jul 2012

My best advice is to simply be there for her. You dont have to say anything. Just make it clear to her that, no matter what, you are there to support her. I had leukemia when i was younger. Although my situation was different from hers, my friends and family were unsure of what to do for me. Some never talked to me again in fear of saying the wrong thing. In reality, all i needed was for them to be there. The best support came from those who were there to listen, a shoulder to cry on, and a light-hearted distraction. If she wants to talk, youll know. Just let her guide the conversation and youll shortly realize what she needs of you at that time.
I hope this helps, even if only a little. God bless!

Posts: 2
Joined: Oct 2012

Thanks. It's nice to know I'm doing broadly the right things.

This week she is very much "guiding the conversation" towards "get me going, I shouldn't be finding this so hard". The trouble is i just WANT to say stuff like
"Of course it's hard! I couldn't do what you're doing!"
... which I don't think is helpful at the moment. If she was doing her beloved sports, I'd know the right 'MTFU' things to say.

Anyway, _someone_ said the right thing last night, she's better today. But I think this will be a very long couple of months, I'm gonna have to find a lot of ways to say the same thing (inbetween the distracting banter - i can do that!).

grandmafay's picture
Posts: 1639
Joined: Aug 2009

I would agree. You don't need to motivate her. You just need to be with her today. My husband knew from the beginning that his odds were not good, . He chose to buy as much time as possible, but we both got tired of hearing people suggest that we just needed to have a positive attitude. We had a positive attitude. We wanted to get the most enjoyment we could out of every day we had whether that was a few months or many years. (He managed to buy 6 years.) Your friend knows the odds. You might want to remind her that some people do beat those odds, and none of us has an expiration date stamped on us. My husband and I did find it easier to look on treatment as buying time. That way it was easier for us to deal with the set backs. We didn't have false hope, but we did have hope. Follow your friend's lead. Listen to her. That's probably your most important role. Let her express her fears if she wants to do so. My husband needed to know that his affairs were in order. He needed to know that I would be alright. As much as it hurt to hear him talk about these things, I knew it gave him some peace. I don't know if any of this helps. I do know that I don't really have any words of wisdom. Each of us has to find our own way to "be there" for those we care about as they deal with cancer. I have no doubt you will find yours. Take care, Fay

Posts: 102
Joined: Jan 2012

I am so sorry you lost your husband and so sorry for what you had to go through.

My husband is now going through cancer and his odds are not good. I too am at a loss as to how to best support him. I'm scared of losing him, I want to encourage him, yet know that we both understand the risks are realities.
Gran your comment about getting finances in order struck me because that is exactly what he is doing now, setting things up for me. I hate this, I find myself always wanting to scream (which sometimes I do in the car alone)...I don't want to face it, but I realize he needs to do these things to make sure I'm ok and needs me to be strong.
I don't know how to do this. You've gone through it and you sound so brave and so strong, please share with me anything you can.

grandmafay's picture
Posts: 1639
Joined: Aug 2009

I'm not brave or strong, but somehow we do find the strength when we have to. I was very fortunate that Doug was brave and strong. I have often said if I can live as well as he died, I will be a better person. He had a great deal of faith and a good sense of humor. Both of which helped all of us. I also had a great support system of family, friends, and church. None of that made it easy, but perhaps easier. That doesn't mean I didn't scream or cry. Doug and I even cried together. Facing the possible or even probable death of the most important person in our lives Is scary. I had a hard time with those end of life issues, but they seemed to give him some peace. I know that his greatest sadness was leaving me. He wanted to be sure that he had made it as easy for me as possible. He took care of remodeling our bathroom, landscaping, and even had central heat and air installed. The tile in the bathroom was finished the day before he passed away. The installer would stop by his bedside at the end of each day to tell him about the progress. From the day Doug and I were married, we,always made a point of saying I love you often to which the other would reply, "I love you, too." I knew the end was near when I told him I loved him and he just squeezed my hand but couldn't say the words. I thought I was ready, but I don't think we ever are. No one really understands what we are going through if they haven't been there. Each of us must find our own way, too. We draw on whatever strength we do have, but I also think there is such a thing as being too strong. It may sound strange as well when I say that some of my most precious memories come from those final days when Doug was on hospice. Even listening to him joke with the firemen who answered my call when he fell and couldn't get up brings a smile. He had been a volunteer with the fire dept. for several years. It was during those times when we shared our deepest thoughts and prayers. I don't know if any of this helps. I do know that there are no words of wisdom here and they wouldn't really help if there were. I hope that your husband is able to beat the odds. Mine actually did when he passed the five year mark. Just cherish every moment you have. Take care of yourself, too. Fay

Posts: 296
Joined: Jan 2010

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VivianLee5689's picture
Posts: 546
Joined: Aug 2012

I have really been beating myself up. My husband (of six months) was diagnosed with Stage IV BOT cancer in July. He had the swollen lymph node in October 2009 but because he was single and had no health insurance he didn't have it removed. Well it was squamous cell carcinoma. Now I know he had that lurking around in his body and he has had several setbacks since his diagnosis. His health has really declined and they haven't even been able to start chemo. Originally scheduled for October 31 but he was too ill. He has been hospitalized for hypercalcemia and I got a copy of today's labs and they were very bad. He has hypercalcemia again along with a lot of other areas that are out of sync. His kidneys are not happy and he is severely dehydrated and malnourished. I am at my wits end and whenever the subject is brought up among my church friends they keep telling me have faith, be optimistic he will be ok. Well they don't see him everyday like I do. The man I am looking at today doesn't seem like the man I married in any sence of the word. He is quiet, sleeps 18-20 hours a day, he has lost 50 pounds. He used to be the most spiritual person I knew, but now it is a chore to pray with me for five minutes at night. He still has a lot of faith in God, he just is too weak to do much of anything. I even have to help dry him off when he gets out of the shower. I am so sad and frustrated. I am losing my husband and as much as I want him to be the one divinely healed, I don't get to decide.

Posts: 158
Joined: Mar 2012

My husband was diagnosed with Stage IV RCC that had metastasized to his lungs. He had a radical nephroectomy in March and started Votrient in May. That worked for 3 months, then the 5.5 month scans showed otherwise, he then started on another drug and stayed on it for 12 days before the side effects were to much for him. They lowered the dose of that and he has been on it for 2 weeks with little side effects.

With all of this being said my hubs is a quiet person and doesn't talk alot. I stay positive for him but it hurts me everyday with the thoughts of him not being here forever. The doctor told us a prognosis on Friday and it hurts me to see him go through all of this. I told him I wish I could take the cancer out and give it to myself. I know that isn't reasonable and he doesn't want that but it hurts me so much to see him go through this. I have some great friends and a few family member's I talk to openly about any of this. I just wish there were something I could do. Noone in our family has ever had cancer so to see him going through this is very hard.

I pray for a miracle in my heart daily for the man I love. All I can say is to just be there, whenever for whatever reason. I only work part-time now because I want to spend everyday I can with him. Good luck and Godspeed!!!!

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