Nov 16, 2012 - 1:38 pm
My mom has uterine cancer, stage IVB. Diagnosed 18 months ago, and she went through surgery and chemo. When she was first diagnosed, the doctor's office was all sunshine and rainbows "Oh, you're going to be just fine, we'll do surgery, you'll have chemo, we'll get it all." I listened very closely to what they said, however, and there was a brief mention made that the treatments, given her stage, were not going to be curative, that instead they were meant to prolong life (my mom did not hear this). Obviously, there is a big difference between the two. My mom has consciously avoided asking the doctor questions about her care because, in her words, "I don't want to know how bad this is." I have always gone along with whatever she wanted, for fear of upsetting her.
Here is the problem. Now the cancer has come back (10 months after she completed chemo) as a distant metastasis to the omentum. She is devastated. I think the denial played a part in this, because she was so hopeful the first time she went through chemo. She asks the doctor nothing, he tells her nothing. She will have to undergo more surgery and more chemo as a result of the recurrence.
I am very concerned, because chemo was very devastating on her physically the first time around (she is 68). We have friends and loved ones all over the world she might want to visit and spend time with, however I am concerned that if she stays in denial about the seriousness of her condition, the subsequent surgery and chemo treatments will leave her too weakened to travel and enjoy herself. In other words, I am concerned the amount of denial she is in, the refusal to ask questions, etc, will ultimately impact her quality of life. I'm also concerned that the denial will prevent her from feeling a sense of control over her medical treatment and impact her ability to make informed decisions about her health and her treatment. I also wonder if it wouldn't help her anxiety to know more of what to expect, because I think much of what is driving the anxiety is a great fear of the unknown.
My question is this, do I continue to just go with the flow and play along with her denial, or do I sit down with her and gently suggest it is time she starts asking more questions about her overall prognosis, as a means of increasing quality of life, exercising more control over medical decisions, and improving overall quality of life? My greatest fear for her is that she will one day regret that she didn't ask more when she had the opportunity.