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My Best Friend's Son

Posts: 6
Joined: May 2010

I sincerely hope you don't consider me an intruder, since it's not me I'm writing to you about. My best friend's son (age 42) has colorectal cancer, which was diagnosed toward the end of March 2010. By that time it had metastecised to his liver and the doctor said it was incurable. Because he has clinical depression, his mom asked the doctor not to tell him. He lives by himself and has a gun in the house and, given his diagnosis, they were afraid he might decide to use it.

I cannot begin to imagine what he must be feeling and I know he's mad at the world, but he is just brutal to his mom--not physically, but mentally. He is so verbally abusive to her and simply shuts his dad out. He won't call them and won't answer the phone when they call. Sometimes when he's had a bad day, I know his parents are just sitting there wondering whether he's dead or alive and they don't feel they can just go over to his house to check. As I said, I can't begin to know how it is for him (I know all of you can), but he needs to let them into his life and stop brow-beating his only caregiver (his mom). Maybe this isn't possible for him. I don't know. It breaks my heart to see him suffer, but it also breaks my heart to see them suffer even more than they would be anyway, given the circumstances, by him being so brutal to his mom. I've tried to get her to be firm and tell him he mustn't treat her like that, but she says she's just trying to be patient because she knows he's mad at the world and has to take it out somewhere.

I'm pleading with you to tell me what you think I can do to help her through this. I'm doing everything I think I can, and I know a shoulder to cry on is important, but is his behavior normal? Should she demand a little respect from him? She's his only caregiver and it's taking most of every day to meet his needs. So far, their insurance company hasn't been very responsive as for as proving a social worker, a phychologist, home health, etc. Their insurance tells her that they provide all that, but nothing is happening in that area so far.

I started out tonight to find a support group for them, but when I spotted your site and read some of your stories, I asked myself who better to ask these things than the people who are going through it. Please, please help me to help my friend of 50 years and her family. I thank you so very much for reading this, and wish you all good health and good news along your paths to wellness.

Sonia32's picture
Posts: 1078
Joined: Mar 2009

Welcome to the site and to our online family. You will get as much support as you need on here and whenever you need it I promise.
You are a wonderful friend, and she is lucky to have you looking out for her.
Now I don't know how it works in America, but here in the UK if a family member feels that there loved one is getting mentally incapable of looking after themselves then can get them sectioned and get them the medical help they need.
Is there anyway you friend can get that done? because he sounds to have more then clinical depression, I might be wrong, but his anger etc it sounds bad.
Failing that your friend needs to have a meeting with his social worker and possibly psychologist and then as a team talk to the son.
Whatever happens they need outside help to tell there son he is seriously ill, and if he has a gun and he might use it on himself then he is a threat to his own safety. I will pray for you and your friends family sending you hugs.

Posts: 6
Joined: May 2010

Hi Sonia.

Thanks so very much for your reply. I appreciate it more than you know!


msccolon's picture
Posts: 1956
Joined: Oct 2004

I am so sorry for what you and your friend and her son/family are dealing with. It is very hard when you are sitting on the outside and can't seem to do anything to fix the problems. I have to say that there really isn't anything YOU can do, outside of be there for your friend to support her and listen when she needs to vent. As far as her son, I agree with what Sonia said, does he have a regular doctor? His mother should be able to speak to him about the mental changes she is seeing and possibly get the help he so desperately needs. Of course, it sounds like his mental issues have been around a lot longer than the cancer diagnosis has been, so it makes things a little bit more difficult. If he doesn't want help, it's very hard to get it for him. However, the fact that he has a gun in his house and may be mentally unstable should be brought to the attention of the local police. I'm not sure if anything even then can be done, but at least they'll have been warned! Perhaps somebody on this board has experience along these lines and can offer you some real solid advice. Good luck and I hope you come back often!

Posts: 6
Joined: May 2010

Thanks you so much, Mary. I really appreciate that you took the time to sond me your comments and suggestions. I'm passing them on to my friend.

tootsie1's picture
Posts: 5056
Joined: Feb 2008

Hi, Doris.

You are NOT an intruder. Anyone who has questions about colorectal cancer is welcome here. I wish I had some answers for your friends. Whew! That's tough. I hope someone wiser than I am will come up with great answers.


Posts: 6
Joined: May 2010

Hi Gail,

Thanks for making me feel welcome,and thank you for taking the time to answer. Hugs backatcha. Be well.


karguy's picture
Posts: 1024
Joined: Apr 2009

I'm sorry about your friend,and her son.I agree that it sounds like he has more problems than just depression,and he should be taking medication.Here in colorado if a person is a threat to himself or to other people the police can put a mental health hold on them,and have them put in a hospital.I think it's like that in most states.I also think it's a good idea to get the gun away from him.I hope this helps,I will be praying for them.

Posts: 6
Joined: May 2010

Hello Karguy,

Thank you for taking the time to send your suggestions. Everything that anyone has to say is so welcome, and I know I came to the right site to find caring, loving people. Thank you for your prayers for my friends. That's SO important.


jillpls's picture
Posts: 241
Joined: Mar 2008

I'm sorry to hear such a sad story. It's hard to accept a dx but to do it with depression...I can't imagine. I'm glad you are there for your friend. She won't change how she deals with her son and he won't as long as he's able. Your friend will need to be extra careful that her son doesn't take out his anger on her with his gun. As much as she loves him and wants to help, she will have to love herself more and take care of herself so she will be able to take care of him. Just being there for her as you do will be a great help. God bless you

Posts: 6
Joined: May 2010

Hi Jill,

Thanks very much for your answer. I'm passing all the answers along to my friend, so she can read what people who are going through the same thing have to offer. Who better? It's good to know that you think she won't change how she deals with her son. That in itself makes it easier for me to accept that, and not "nag" her to try to change. May God bless you too.


vhtqm1's picture
Posts: 107
Joined: Feb 2010

honestly, there is no excuse to mentally abuse a parent much less your own Mother.that being said your friends son maybe doesn't realize what he's doing? sometimes all that can be done by a caregiver is give the best advice one has to offer then back off and let the patient consume that information and act. i'm not clear on how and or what road was traveled to get to this diagnosis but if this path was similar to mine there were questionnaires that needed answering by the patient before being seen by a specialist. on these questionnaires are inquiries about the mental health condition of the patient. do you know if these were filled out? if so maybe his parents can go to his Doctors and explain the situation which could help propel some help in this area? he doesn't even need to know and both Parents can feel they are accomplishing something for the well being of their son. fighting cancer isn't easy on anyone and me as a patient understands how caregivers, loved ones, friends etc...can feel helpless at times. i would go as far to say/write this bothers me more then anything. so, maybe this can help and lead to other avenues where there becomes more tranquility in all there lives.


Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

Hi Doris

Wow, this is a bonafide situation, alright. I'm not sure I've got the answers, but we can talk about this for a minute.

First, Mental Illness can be very hard to overcome without the proper help and medication. I've experienced this first hand with my mom, so I know how difficult it is to overcome and to stand in there and take a verbal beating every time you call or show up on the doorstep.

To be able to help, a person has to be willing to accept help and have decisions made for them or guided to. The old saying, "you can lead a horse to water, but can't make him drink" sounds a bit like this story.

His behavior sounds like it could be "Manic Depression." His constant verbal attacks towards his mom sounds like the flags are there for that. Whether that could turn violent are not is open to speculation, but loaded weapons at the house would sure put some concern for my safety, if I were his caregiver.

I know where I live you have to prove that you are a harm to yourself or to others, before one could be committed.

And to answer your earlier question, this behavior is not considered normal. When you have mental illness such as this, one cannot recognize and appreciate the loved ones who are around who can help you. You just don’t have the cognizance to understand that this is the person, who cares for you and is helping you. The person just lashes out at those closest to him – in this case his mom. Of course, the other side of this equation, is that nobody else would put up with it – folks would just walk away and distance themselves.

Cancer is such a tough fight all by itself. It’s probably one of the toughest fights there is as you are fighting for your life. In doing so, you have to be aware of what is going on and be in a mental state where you are willingly able to accept help.

Doctors, oncologist, nurses and medical technicians are not going to be able to work with a belligerent individual, who verbally lashes out, or who will not do the treatments and all this is required with a cancer diagnosis.

The son has got to be willing to accept instructions from his doctors and be able to go with the prescribed plan, or there are going to be some issues. There are numerous side effects with cancer treatments and surgeries, so the road is not an easy one to traverse.

It really sounds like he has got to get the mental side of things working better, before he can begin to address a cancer diagnosis and all that it entails. If your best friend could get him some counseling, and some medication to see if this would help, would be very encouraging and a great start.

The road will be full of obstacles and challenges but there are many here who have survived and are surviving cancer metastasized to the liver and other organs. But the son will have to be strong enough mentally to tackle this challenge and all that needs to be done.

And his mom, as his caregiver, will certainly have her hands full providing care. She’ll have to take time for herself, or this type of thing could just swallow her whole, especially since the son is acting out with her and being verbally abusive. A person can only take so much and just because he is her son, will not lessen this.

I wish them all the luck in the world and hopefully they will be able to work together to get him all of the help that they both need so much.


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