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Brother with cancer who is angry and abusive, what do I do?

Neenon's picture
Neenon
Posts: 5
Joined: Mar 2013

My younger brother was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer on January 1, 2013. He is 38, unmarried and has no girlfriend. We were told there is no cure and he would have 6 months without chemo and maybe 2 yrs with. I am his older sister, I have a husband and 3 kids. Our Dad, his brothers and my Grandfathers have also passed away from cancer so this was nothing new to us. I stepped in to help with the care of my brother the moment he was diagnosed with cancer. We also have a younger sister and my Mom who is 63 remarried and has a husband. He decided he would go through the chemo and that we would share the responsibilities. It was decided that my brother would go live with my sister who has a very large house and my Mom and her husband already lived there and paid her rent of $1000 month. My sister agreed declaring that she loved our brother dearly and would do anything for him.

I know my Dad had a lot of anger when he was sick with cancer but he chose not to do chemo and and I wasn't seeing his abuse of my Mom on a daily basis. I had no idea that cancer could make people that angry. I understand that they are going through more than any of us can ever understand but are all cancer patients mean and abusive? I didn't see all of my own Dad's anger and only knew of it because my Mom had told me about it. I had my own home and saw him once or twice a week as both my husband and I worked. I have cried almost every night since my brother was diagnosed. It's harder to go through this cancer because my brother has never married and doesn't have a girlfriend so he hasn't had a chance to really have a family of his own yet. We were still in the hospital and he had just been diagnosed so he hadn't started chemo yet when his anger started. He would get the biopsies and tests needed but they required that you didn't eat or drink for several hours, when he would getback he would be soo angry because he was starving and thirsty and scream at me. He refused to eat the hospital food so we had to pick up food for him or bring it from home. He would scream if we accidently got the order wrong or if we got the wrong drink. He would scream at me if I even asked him what he wanted to eat, saying he didn't know, but to just effin get him something to eat. All of this in front of visitors, family and nurses and I would always end up walking out in tears, afraid of saying anything because how can you say anything to someone who is dying? Can you tell someone that is dying that it's wrong for them to mistreat the people who love them and are taking care of them? How much abuse are you supposed to take? Do you never say anything and just ignore it and walk away? I just don't know.

Last month my younger sister who is an alcoholic had a breakdown and kicked out my brother and Mom. I took in my brother and Mom and was able to find them a place next to mine a few weeks later. My younger sister is no longer around and involved and my Mom has checked out of the care for my brother stating that mentally she just can't do it so it is all now on my shoulders. We are asians and in our culture it's always up to the eldest to take care of everyone. I told my Mom I would do everything I could to help my brother and her. Since I had just been layed off I had time to take care of my brother. I wanted to do it for my brother and for my Mom. I wanted to do it because I loved them. It has now become a 24/7 job for me with no days off. My kids and husband never see me since we are in the hospital more than we are at home so I have sacrificed alot. I never get a day off and I really don't mind if it weren't for the abuse. It started off being two, three times a week. He would be in a pain, he didn't  like what he was given to eat, even though it was what he asked for, his meds were not given to him fast enough, the water was too cold, it could be anything and he would scream at me. Every night I came home at 11pm after I gave him his last meds, crying to my husband and my husband would get angry. I would always tell my husband that it was ok, that this happened alot with cancer patients and I just needed to vent and I would be ok. I was always ok the next morning. It has been three months now and his anger has gotten to be more abusive and daily, sometimes all day long. When we are at the hospital he would get angry if I talked to the patients and their families, saying "Why are you talking to them?" or if their cancer was not as bad as his he would say "Well they aren't dying!". I just hold my tongue and never say anything. When I told him that there was a site where you could keep a status of how your family member who cancer was doing and that it might be a good idea if I did that since we had extended family that wanted to know how he was doing. I said it would be easier for me since I answered all calls for him anyways. Well that made him angry too. It didn't matter what I did or said or how nice I was he yelled at me. I have asked if he would like to talk to a therapist, a chaplain and other cancer patients maybe to let out his feelings or anger and he gets angry if I even ask. I cry every night now and my husband is almost fed up. He has never apoligised and I guess if he apoligised and acknowledged that he didn't have control over his emotions because of the cancer it might not hurt so much. I have talked with people at our local Cancer Society Center and they say that there isn't much I can do if he refuses help, or refuses to talk to anyone. He even refuses to eat even though he knows he needs to eat. I told them that he definitely has depression and I go to every oncologist appt with him but he always tells the doctor he's fine. Should I tell the doctor privately that I think he has severe depression? I don't know. I myself am a type 1 diabetic with neuropathy but I never think about it because I know that what my brother is going through is not even comparable to how I am feeling. I can't be sick because I need to be healthy to take care of him but somedays I am soo drained, tired and hurt I wish I didn't have to take care of him. I miss my children and husband and they miss me. I only see them early morning and hardly ever see them at night. Does anyone have any advice? Any tips? I would appreciate any. I think my own mental health may be suffering and my husband is at the point where he is fed up wiith the abuse and wants me to stop all care but I just can't. I can't just stop. My Mom and brother only have me. Well they have my step dad, my Mom's new husband who is in his early 30's but he works all the time and has no clue of what to do. Sorry this is soo long. Thank you for taking the time to read this though if you did. I guess writing this has helped a little. I should probably get a therapist for myself but I have no time.

 

 

 

 

Noellesmom
Posts: 1302
Joined: Aug 2010

I am sorry you are going through so much taking care of your brother and doing so without family support.  It is just the way it is, sometimes, but it is still impossibly difficult.

You are right: anger is a real part of being a person with cancer and it comes in different degrees and intensities.  Also, an individual's personality often intensifies with a cancer diagnosis - if they were difficult before, they may be more difficult, especially after the shock of the diagnosis wears off and the day to day living with it begins.

Your brother is grieving the loss of his own life and there is no right way or wrong way to grieve - each stage takes longer.  Knowing he is not angry at you only helps for awhile.  You are past that, Neenon.

It sounds as though he is stuck in the anger phase and he needs to move on if he is going to complete the process before he dies - allowing him to die, somewhat, at peace.

Please speak to your brother about his anger and abuse.  You can tell him you understand his anger but you won't be the brunt of it and you won't tolerate his abuse. He may be a person with cancer but he is still a person and has to appreciate the gift of those caregiving for him, at least enough to respect that they can leave.  Warn him, Neenon, that you CAN'T handle it any longer.  Then, when you find yourself confronted with his anger, walk out of the room.  Count to ten and then come back in.  If you are going to continue to care for your brother, you need to do this for both of you.

Talk to his doctor and the nurses.  It may be that he needs some anxiety medication to take the edge off the stress he is feeling.  Does he need more pain medication?  Does he need something to help him sleep?  These are all considerations.

You have to take care of yourself or you won't be able to continue your caregiving.

Come back and let us hear from you, Neenon.

Neenon's picture
Neenon
Posts: 5
Joined: Mar 2013

Dear Noellesmom,  Thank you for your advice. It has helped me to reach out. I called a Palliative Care Nurse to see if there was something that could be done. I also got him a medical marijuana card and was able to get him some medical marijauna. That has helped a little. Most of all reading all of these stories from other caregivers has really helped me see that there were many caregivers who are going through the same thing. I appreciate your caring words of wisdom. Sincerely, Neenon

grandmafay's picture
grandmafay
Posts: 1613
Joined: Aug 2009

Cancer patient or not, dying or not, there is no excuse for abusive behavior. Cancer can make you angry, but it doesn't have to make you mean. Yes, I would tell  your brother that his behavior is unacceptable and that it is affecting  your health. The  number one rule  of caregiving is that caregivers must take care of themselves. I cared for my husband with stage four colon cancer for six years. I was blessed that he rarely showed anger or demonstrated abusive behavior. When he did, I reminded him that his anger needed to be directed at the cancer not at me. And yes, I sometimes walked away telling him I would be back when he was ready to talk more calmly. If your brother won't get help, you need to do so. You have a family to raise and deserve both me-time and family time. Your brother needs to accept that. Your mother either needs to help out, or you need to get help from outside the family. Ask your dr and the American Cancer Society what services might be available. You deserve a break and so do your children and husband. Don't let your brother guilt you in to continuing 24/7 care. You are caring for him because you love him. You love your children and husband, too, and they deserve your time as well. I can understand why you feel that you must care for your brother, but if you wear yourself out, you won't be able to care for him or yourself. He is a grown man and must accept responsibility for himself instead of acting like a spoiled child. Tough love is called for here. Call a family meeting and share your feelings. The rest of the family has piled this on you because you haven't said, "No." Now is the time to form a plan. You and your husband need to present a united front. Spell out what you can do and what you will not do anymore. Then stick to it. Not easy, but you can do it. Fay

Neenon's picture
Neenon
Posts: 5
Joined: Mar 2013

Dear grandmafay, Thank you for your kind words of wisdom.  I have reached out to other professionals for help. I have called a special pallitive care nurse who helps. She has prescribed him some meds for his depression. I also got him a medical marijuana card so he started some medical marijuana a few days ago and it has helped. Most of all reading the posts from other caregivers and the help that you and many others have posted has helped me get through this day by day. I don't feel so guilty just taking a little time out for my family or for myself. I need to have a break before I break or else I won't be able to take care of him. Thank you once again. You have helped me greatly, sincerely Neenon

Neenon's picture
Neenon
Posts: 5
Joined: Mar 2013

 

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