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What to do when a loved one has terminal cancer?

Posts: 1
Joined: Jun 2009

This week I found out my 34 year old boyfriend has been given 6 months to live (please read my profile for my complete story). I don't go through the denial stage I am those that sails straight into the anger, depression, bargaining stages all mixed into one. I've never had any form of life threatening illness or been close to anyone with one so this is very very new to me. I think this is probably the most painful thing I have experienced in my life. I just have so many questions and no one to ask because nobody I know has gone through this so they can't begin to understand the pain and emotions involved. The biggest decisions right now are can I convince him to get treatment and whether I should quit my job to be with him. This is his second time with cancer and he has told me he's not going in for treatment. He wants to enjoy his days and let the illness take its course. As a person who loves him and can't bear to lose him this idea is incomprehensible to me. I want to scream and throw stuff rip my hair out when he says he's going to just give up. I can't grasp this. This leads me to whether I should quit my job. I'm under an independent contractor status and I have no leave so that isn't a possibility. I just got my job 6 months ago after finishing my grad degree and I really like it, but it seems stupid compared to spending time with him. I know that if he decides to get treatment he will need me 24/7 and if he doesn't then shouldn't I spend every moment with him until the time comes? Shouldn't we travel and make memories I can keep forever? Besides if he really doesn't get treatment and things take their course I have decided I can't bear to stay living in this city where everything reminds me of him. See we have been inseparable since the day we met, I mean we spent soooo much time together because in the begining I didn't have a job so I was with him all the time. And now looking back I wonder if I felt this coming and that's why I spent all that time with him and it think it is the BEST thing in the world, I feel happy and content about those moments. If he's going to leave me don't I want the rest of his days to be like those when we had all the time in the world to be together? Please help me with any advice or experiences. I know its ultimately my decision but I would like some guidance.

MichelleP's picture
Posts: 254
Joined: May 2009

It's okay to refuse treatment. It's an individual choice that a person has to make Mrevilla. You must respect his choice because as hard as it may be....it's till HIS choice to make. I myself would do the same thing although my husband has chosen chemo for his cancer. I am a 24/7 caretaker myself and let me tell you that it's the hardest thing I have ever done it my life. God has a special place for caregivers in heaven, please remember that.

I will keep you both in my prayers!

terato's picture
Posts: 383
Joined: Apr 2002

and, believe me, being a caretaker is worse because of the feelings that accompany the role. If the loved one's condition takes a turn for the worse, the caretaker experiences guilt for the feelings of resentment which crop up. The caretaker says and does things out of fear of potential loss and abandonment. The patient is the "fallen hero", bravely enduring the pain and suffering, while the caretaker, a "mere bystander".

Ultimately,your heart will be your compass, guiding you to the right decision. Just know that others have walked in your shoes with as many doubts and anxieties and will be praying for you.

Love and Courage!


zahalene's picture
Posts: 680
Joined: Nov 2005

Excuse me if my reply appears more clinical than personal, but I want to be clear about my thoughts of the various issues you mentioned.
#1: His decision not to accept treatment: IF he has talked at length to his doctors and gotten ALL the facts and available information as to what treatments will involve and how they will probably affect his survival, then he has made an informed decision and although you can offer your input, it is ultimately up to him. He needs your support for whatever he decides.
#2: Should you quit your job to spend more time with him? I think you must ask yourself some tough questions about this. Will the loss of your income affect your and his life style to the point it will add stress to your lives; or adversely affect what you can help provide for his well-being and comfort; or (and this is a reality, not intended to be a comment on your relationship) will being together 24/7 add even more stress to both your lives? Emotions and going to be running high. You both may find you need some time apart to re-focus and have a chance to 'miss' each other. Also, you may at some point, need a back-up care giver (should you become temporarily unable to do it), and someone should be aware of how things must and should be done in respect to his daily care, especially as things progress and he becomes more dependent on help from others.
Also, in these distressed times, having a good job should not be taken lightly. Quitting might seriously effect your future in the job market. And, though you don't like to think about it, you will have to be ready to care for yourself in the future.
Finally, consider that you are both at high levels of stress just now, and wisdom suggests that such major decisions should be postponed as much as possible until you both have had more time to allow your rational thinking to come to the forefront once again.
No doubt about it, you are between a rock and a hard place, but only you and he can find the best course of action. We can only offer advice.
God bless you both.

Posts: 318
Joined: Feb 2008

I too have been and am both survivor and care taker. If treatments only prolong a miserable life there is no life. My husband passed and if I seen him suffering like he did the last two months passing on is the best thing. I would not want to live if I layed around or was a burden to people all the time. I have had cancer 7 years. I take chemo and it shrinks my cancer and I take breaks and live. But if I get to a point where I cant enjoy any life the Good Lord take me and put my wings on. MIss him after 4 years of course. Wish he were here you bet but I wouldnt want him to suffer just because I physically want him here. I knew him almost 30 years, he was my soul mate and yes I still talk to him. I talk with others and my sons on what good times we had. I know he would want me to do my best and go on. Being caretaker is rough. Please except his decision, he has been thru it before and should know what treatments and final results are. It hurts bad I know but if all he is going to do is suffer I think passing on would be better. I pray for both of you and hope you can understand know matter what his decision. Coming here discussing and venting, believe me I do it, its the best thing.
Prayers and Hugs

hollyberry's picture
Posts: 176
Joined: Nov 2008

Sometimes there are no good choices; we choose what we feel we can live with and what is best for us and those we care about.If your boyfriend has gotten all of the information he needs to make a decision and the time to process it, your toughest choice will be to respect his wishes. He knows what he can endure and what he can't.
My cancer has been very difficult to treat and there have been times that I want nothing more than to give up; I can't do that because I have a husband and children who need to see their mother's strength and determination. I have made a conscious decision to fight this beast until I win or I am no longer able to retain the essence of who I am. There have not been any easy decisions; just choosing what is the least damaging treatment so that I can get back to loving my family and creating memories as soon as possible. Not easy; just my choice. I want my kids to learn some lessons from this, so I must be willing to endure some painful, uncomfortable treatments. It is still an honor to be their mom, though, and I wouldn't change anything I have done.
My husband, obviously, is sometimes overwhelmed by his caregiver burdens and that is when we ask family and friends for help. You need to do this, too. No one person can do everything alone; it's not healthy and it's not realistically possible. You need to find resources: family, friends, cancer support services in your community. Please don't bear this alone! You will both be better off if you get help when you need it.
Lastly, if I were in your position, quitting my job would not even be on my radar. It is the worst time to find a job and if you have one, you need to hang on to it.Your boyfriend will understand and as someone already mentioned, both of you may need time alone to process your thoughts and feelings. I have been married a long time and my husband and I love each other completely, yet we both need "alone time" to gather our thoughts and strength. This is not a negative judgment on your relationship, in fact it is the opposite; to be a good partner, you need to be able to bring your own strength and wisdom to the relationship.
I hope this helps. You will feel a million different emotions for a while; just try to get the support you need when you need it. This is not easy, but you will find support and love here and throughout the cancer community.
God bless,

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