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How can I help my sister?

Posts: 2
Joined: Aug 2002

My sister had a masectomy in June and started chemotherapy two weeks ago. We have a very large family and everyone is trying to be very supportive and help her out as much as we can. We are having more trouble week by week as she is getting very negative. I know that we can't truly understand what she is going through and I also know that she is in pain with the chemo treatments. But it seems that no matter what any of us say, it rubs her the wrong way. It's gotten to the point where some of my sisters don't want to even call her anymore. What can I do to help her when she pushes us all away? How can I help her find a ray of light, when all she sees is darkness?

Posts: 243
Joined: Jun 2001

Your sister is going through something that is so hard physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. When I was going through my treatments, I often wanted to be left alone and my family would struggle with that. You see, they had their own problems coping with a diagnosis of cancer, and they didn't want to be helpless. They wanted to do something to make it better. Many times all I wanted was to have someone in the house...but not really for conversation...just to be there. It is so early in her treatment, that she probably is not even in touch with how she feels, and please be patient with her. Sometimes if you feel she is pushing you away, just let her know you love her and be available when she needs you. My sister was a rock for me. She fixed snack packs and put them in the fridge, she fixed dinner for my family when I just wanted to be in my bedroom alone. She drove me to appointments and sat forever in the waiting rooms while I did what was necessary. She was like my shadow, but I knew she was there when I needed her. And when I did break down and cry, she was there for me. Between her and my husband, they were such a support system that I didn't know I had until it was over. My sister said that she just decided to be there for me, whether I asked or not. WHen you feel rejected, don't take it personally, just keep going back, because eventually this hard time will be over and it will end. I just called my sister and she said that you just have to have the thought that "it doesn't matter what you do or what you say, I'm still here for you." Sometimes people push you away to see if you'll really go or they think they're a burden. From my sister, she said to do what your heart directs you. Be there for your sister in ways that are beneficial for her...making those snack packs for chemo patients, cleaning the house, cooking a meal...or even just holding a hand while she sleeps. I'm sorry this is so long but it really hits home. Since I am on the patient end, I look back now and I am so grateful that my sister was strong enough to stick with me through my moods, my rejections, my isolation, and to reach out and love me unconditionally during that time. I needed her and I didn't even know it, until it was all over. I'll be praying for you and your family, and your sister.
Love, Jayne

Posts: 162
Joined: Feb 2002

Jayne, you hit the nail on the head.you are so lucky to have a wonderful sister. Treasure her always!!!LOVE, HUGS AND PRAYERS---Flo

Posts: 119
Joined: Apr 2002

Please be patient with her.As a cancer patient myself you go through anger and depression and alot of other feelings. Just be there for her and keep the faith.She has to deal with herself first and that is the hard part. No matter what just love her and be with her. Judy

Posts: 335
Joined: Aug 2000

Hello Shollie, Give us your sister's first name and some of us can write to her and you can print our mail and take it to her. Everyone here understands what she is feeling. We all go through stages, some worse than others, until we come to realize that the only thing to do is accept and plan to go forward with life. Cancer changes you forever and it takes time to look for the things to appreciate and not center on the anger and the fear. Just stay in touch with her and try to do things for her that have always made her happy in the past. This site brought me through the hard times. Talking to others who understood and responded to what I was feeling. This is difficult for you to see your sister in stress and I know you feel helpless. Just keep trying and trying. I read a book written by Annette and Richard Bloch called, "Fighting Cancer" just before I started my chemo. I think one of the nurses gave it to me. It gives a lot of very uplifting thoughts and suggestions. I keep it here on my desk and read it again from time to time. Your sister will find her way and she will thank you for sticking with her. Love to you, Nancy

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Posts: 16
Joined: Jul 2002

One thing that helped me stay positive was to read alot of survivor stories - The book by Lance Armstrong is amazing, another great one is The Victoria Secret Catalog never stops coming. It amkes you feel so much better when you can actually see all of the things you are feeling in print - it means someone else has been there and gotten through it - also keep doing what you're doing - I too had a mast. in June & recently started chemo - I'm not sure I could've gotten through any of this without them!

Posts: 262
Joined: Feb 2001

Dear Shollie:
Please let your sister go at her own pace. She may be feeling like a goldfish in a bowl with everyone hovering around her. It takes time for all this data to sink in, and she needs time to adjust for herself - give her room to do that, but don't abandon her. Let her know you are there for her. You should read up on chemo and how it affects a person - so you will have some ideal what she is going through. Just keep acting as normal as you can - talking about things you have always talked about. When she wants to talk about her condition - then listen and keep reassuring her that it is not an immediate death sentence; that new drugs are coming out all the time that are helping many people go into complete remissions.
Use my own testimony to prove it to her. I had a very aggressive breast cancer that had already spread to my bones and liver and was in many lymph nodes in my body. My chances of making it through the end of the year were slim if none. My body and cancer reacted very favorably to the chemo regiment my doctor put me on. That was in June of 2000. I stayed on weekly infusions all this time up till last month when my oncologist gave me a month's vacation from this treatment. I saw him again today, and have been given another month off!! Once she gets through the chemo and realizes she has a life after chemo, her spirits should rise remarkably. If she is just a total pessimist and one who can never see the light at the end of a tunnel - then she will just remain miserable. I know of a lady who was told she had six months to live - and what did she do - she went home and began to wait for death. It has been eighteen months now and she is still just sitting around her house all day. She has wasted 18 months when she could have been doing all kinds of nice things for herself or hopefully for other people. She has her husband and family waiting on her like she is an invalid. It is so pitiful. For myself I like the ideal of "while I am alive, let me live'!!!
Give her your continual support, but take your clues of how far to go by her reactions. She is scared and she can't understand what is happening and why it is happening. Go to the book store and find inspirational books and biographies of people who have found their way through this maze of worry and heartache. Reinforce that she is not alone and that you want to be there for her whenever she needs you. I pushed people away in the beginning - I just wanted to hide away and 'lick my wounds' in private. It takes a lot of strength to accept this, and it takes a lot of time to find the strength. We all went through our 'pity parties'; and that is only natural and human.
You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.
Hugs from Brenda

Posts: 2
Joined: Aug 2002

Thanks so much for all the responses. I talked to my sister last night and she was having a much better day. She said she has been getting overwhelmed by the continuous side affects of the chemo (vomiting one day, bone pain the next, thrush the next, on and on). And some members of the family are not really tactful in their conversations and have hurt her feelings. I tried to reassure her that I'm sure it was not intentional, but in our family there are always a few conflicts between siblings going on at any given time. (There are 11 of us.)
We are all taking turns going with her to her appointments and I take dinner over to her when I can - unfortunately I live 100 miles from her. I made sure she knows I'm here for her - whether she's nasty or nice, I just wish more of the other siblings would tell her the same.
Again, thanks for all the suggestions and support. It is truly appreciated.

Posts: 1416
Joined: Mar 2001

You are a dear sister to try and find ways to help when it seems quite hopeless. Unfortunately we all cope in different ways and some get angry and see the negative side. She will spit you don't understand but truly she is crying out for someone to listen to her fears and let go of some of the pain she feels. I have to say that negativity is apart of our lives no matter how much we would like to ignore it. One who is truly living is one who can cope in the good and the bad in their lives. She is having a hard time coping and truly support group or councelling is important for improving ones quality of life if nothing else. I am going to councilors now after 5 years of surviving and know talking about ones problems and fears is the key to unleashing the anger and saddness inside.
She is lucky to have such a caring family and don't be so hard on yourselves. She too is doing the best she can.

pamtriggs's picture
Posts: 407
Joined: Sep 2000

Tell her what you have just told us. Be honest with her. Tell her she can take this whole experience as a negative thing or be positive about it & being positive is a whole lot easier. You have yo work so hard to be negative. Deep down she is enjoying being a martyr while she is really scared of being so dangerously ill. Try to get her to see the statistics that early treatment & follow through enhance her chances so much now that she has a very good chance of coming through this to the sunshine on the other side. How long & dark the tunnel is depends on her. Even though I am stage 4 & about to undergo my 3rd type of chemo I know I have been blessed in many ways with the friends I have made & the changes I have made to my life in the past 2 years., Try to get hold of a book called The Breast Cancer Survival Manual by Dr. John Link MD of California. This is really a great help in understanding all she is going through. Try to get her to post on this site so we can help & encourage her.

Love & hugs


bullfrog13's picture
Posts: 216
Joined: Apr 2002

Dear Shollie, I suppose you will get conflicting views on this supject, but about all i can tell you is --well-- nothing. NO BODY can MAKE another person feel anything. This will have to come with inside her. She will find it, just give her time. BE there for her,and dont try so hard. Just let her know that you are there and love her no matter what. She will find her own rainbows, it just takes time. LIfe on planet cancer can be a lonely place at times, but she will soon relize she is not alone, and that she is still a vital person. Give her some space and have her speak to the Dr about it. Soemtims the can give anti-depression drugs, which i refused to take. Kept telling MY doc I was not depressed I was PISSED OFF!! there are no drugs for that! You just learn to adjust. Which i have, a year ago I was right where your sis is, but now Im done w/chemo/raidaiton and surgery and all is rigth with the world! I have two kids in college, (the oldest just got hitched) one in the army and one still in HS (who BTW just turned 16 Wednesday) life is good again for me and so will hers. It may just take her some time to see that.

much luck

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