How do you help a cancer patient who is losing their will to live?

KFWinDFW Member Posts: 3

My father was diagnosed with stage 4 rectal cancer in July 2020, with mets on his lungs. He was told he had 3-6months to live without treatment or 3-5 years with. 


He began having trouble relieving his bowels in December of 2019. In June he passed out outside our home, when taken to the er they discovered a large brain tumor. Upon removal of that tumor, the lab results, coupled with a colonoscopy, showed that the tumor was a result of rectal cancer.


The brain surgery came with a rough recovery, causing my father to lose coordination and strength. After one month he began being able to walk on his own and speak more clearly. Maybe 50% back to where he was prior to surgery. His symptoms from the rectal tumor were becoming overwhelming, with a lot of pain and pressure in his rectum. So he ended up having to get a colostomy bag to relieve the pressure. It took a couple of months for my mother and I to perfect changing his bags, which was a very stressful couple of months. 


He completed radiation therapy on his brain and has begun chemotherapy treatments every two weeks, he has completed 4 sessions.  Which of course comes with a variety of side effects.


Before all of this started my dad was a very strong independent man. He was the provider of the household working full time for 30yrs as an HVAC tech to support his family. He was also very active, running at least a mile or 2 every day. Now he is unable to work, is drawing disability, and has to depend on my mother and me to change his colostomy bags. He has become a complete recluse and will not leave the house unless it is to go to a drs appointment.


He feels completely defeated. This past month his attitude has completely changed he has started acting very hateful towards me, my mom, and himself. He says things like, "I hope I die soon" or asking us "why didn't y'all just let me die?" This past week he did not go to his chemo appointment. He is refusing to get out of bed, he has not eaten one morsel of food for 2 days. The onc was already saying his weight is getting too low and that he needs to put on weight in order to continue treatment. He is 6'1, 130 lbs now. (1 yr ago he weighed 180lbs)


What can my mother and I do to help improve his attitude and get him to eat something?? Please help, we are at a loss, but we do not want to lose him. Thank you in advance for any advice. 


  • a_oaklee
    a_oaklee Member Posts: 566 Member
    edited January 2021 #2
    Best wishes for improvement

    I am really sorry to hear about your father's health and the impact that it is having on all of you.  I think your father is probably in mourning for the life he wanted to have, compared to how he is currently living.  He only found out about his cancer about 6 months ago.  It takes quite a long time to come to terms with everything that has been happening with him.  My best suggestion is to have open and frank discussions with his oncologist.  There should be help available at the medical center for him and your family.  We got referred to a Palliative Care Oncologist in addition to the regular oncologist.  The palliative care doctor helped with all issues regarding quality of life.  Whether it be mobility, pain management, appetite, depression, family communication...etc..  It was wonderful. 

    Please call his doctor and get an appointment.    Also, you may want to consider finding help for yourself in coping with your fathers health and the decisions that he is making.  Most medical centers have group support for family and friends.

    I will be thinking of you and hope that things improve.

  • VG
    VG Member Posts: 5 Member
    Me too


             So sorry to hear about what you are going through. My mom is battling through stage 4 lung cancer and is starting to become weak, and less resistant to chemotherapy. My mom is a very good humored, vibrant and outgoing woman. She has maintained this composure through immense pain and advesity in these recent months but I can tell it is starting to weigh on her. She is managing best she can not to snap and get angry with family or doctors but I can hear the anger and depression in her voice. I know that anger/depression is apart of the dying process but I never imagined how much more hard and hurtful this is on the patient and the family. Like a_oaklee said you should reach out to the doctors for support in regards to pallitave care my mom says one of the reason she is so angry right now is because she has asked her doctors for contact with pallitave care providers to help her with pain but also psychologically for her and the family to process this and the doctors office has been dragging their feet on the matter. I have a hard time hearing my mom being so cutting and mean-spirited now when she was a person who was the opposite, it feels like they are beginning to become out of reach before the end has even happened. So sorry your going through this and I hope you find the care you need for your dad and the family.

                                           Take care,