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Did your loved one want to go, or fight until the end?

Posts: 12
Joined: Sep 2010

I have been caring for my beloved mom for about two and a half years now as she has suffered through ovarian cancer -and I mean suffered in the strongest sense of the word. We had no idea what we were in for in March 2008 when she had her initial hysterectomy/debulking..we have been through chemo, radiation, MRSA, staph, c-diff, disintegrating discs, hemmorhaging retinas, fluid aspirations, blood transfusions, kidney shut down, tumors choking her bile duct, pushing on her esophagus, a fall that resulted in a broken arm and leg, and the list goes on. We have just learned that the cancer has spread to her bone and that frail, broken, bruised little body will start radiation again on Monday. She is miserable, exhausted, hurting, and yet......she has never once considered giving up. Sadly, this seems to be due less to a passion for living than a terrible fear of dying. Of course my sisters and I support her 100% with her choice, but it has occurred to me more and more how much more difficult the prospect of losing her is because she has so much angst about going. If she ever said she had had enough, those would be hard words to hear, but I would understand and I think, feel a huge relief that she had made peace with the end of her life. It tears my heart out to think she might exit this world scared and fighting. Her oncologist has no doubt nor do we that she is still here because of her mental tenacity, but someday, someday her body will give out (and that could be very soon) and of course for myself I want her to be reconciled with that, but also I want that very much for her. And that is why I am posting here - to those of you who have been where I am heading.....did anyone lose someone who went without being at peace with it? Please don't mull this over if it causes you great sadness, but if someone is able, I would very much appreciate some help in finding some perspective with this very upsetting situation.


Posts: 53
Joined: Jul 2010

Hi Ronda , My heart goes out to you hun, We have spoke before my mum wonderful courageous young mum passed away 44 days ago. My mums illness was very quick, she went into hospital 25th June, she was diagnoised with Ovarian/pereteneal cancer two and half weeks later and then she was taken from me two and half weeks after that, so we had no time to deal with anything. My mum was only 61, I remember on the wednesday morning my dad had to do the hardest thing in his life,up till then, and that was to sit by my mums bed and tell her that she had ovarian cancer and her outlook was not good, mum cried and then called for me and my sister and we sat by her bed and we were all crying. We said to mum she could either come home or she could fight. Mum told us she wanted to fight she was not giving up because she was not ready to die. My mum mentally thought so hard she did not want to leave us, she told us that all the time, My mum passed away on friday 30th June but you are going to think Im crazy but I know mum should have passed away on Monday 26th June because my sister saw my mums sister sitting on her bed saying to my mum "come on sue, its time to go" and she was holding her hand out to my mum. My mums sister passed away six years ago. We knew then that mum was going to be taken from us. My mum was so strong mentally she was not going and over the next few days she would sit their and just say " No " we asked mum and she said its them, they want me to go with them and we said are you going and she would say No Im not. We knew mum wanted to stay with us because of the amazing love she had for us but her body was failing fast, Her tumour was very aggressive and her kidneys failed, her tumour must have weighed about 7 stone, its killing me that she is not here anymore, on the day she passed she told my sister and me that she waited for us to come back to the hospital and that she loved us so much, and she peacefully went. My mum did not want to leave us but I believe she was anoyed at the spirits around her for taking her but I know she understood her time had come, she fought so hard to live she was not ready to go but she accepted it when she had to. Im so sorry for what you are going to. I know mum is around me now , she is painfree, I miss her sooooo much and Im struggling to keep it together but I miss mums body form and voice. I hope this helps Ronda. What I found helped me in the hospital was just talking to mum , when mum could not answer I would just ask her questions so she could nod her head, and with this I now know that mum is going to wait for me and when its my time she has promised to come and get me and we will be a family again. You take care hun
Christine xxxx

Posts: 358
Joined: Aug 2009

Dear Rhonda
My husband died of brain cancer and no I do not believe that he reached any level of peace with his impending death. At one point, after watching him struggle and suffer, I told him to let go and rest. He told me he did not want to go. He never talked about dying but just fought to the very end. I do wish I knew if he ever reached that point of acceptance or some level of peace. It is very hard to watching them fight so and little by little deteriorate despite their valiant efforts.

Posts: 114
Joined: Jul 2010

I agree Becky Marie...my husband was like an alien to me at the end. I don't think he was in pain, but his face told me he was horrified....he could not relay anything sensible to me, and I really don't know what he was going through. I told him several times that it was OK to let go, they I would be fine, and he finally did. Cancer is the most horrible thing for anyone to endure...just like satan growing inside of you. I hope I never have to see another loved one go through this.....Hugs, Gayle

Caregiver1963's picture
Posts: 46
Joined: Jan 2010

Hello Rhonda:
My husband died of brain cancer and at least before he lost his ability to speak I don't think he experienced any sense of peace or acceptance.After he lost his ability to speak
he seemed less anxious - which was a blessing. Since he couldn't speak it was hard to know what he was feeling.My huband too did not want to go- I would have been the same way if it was me I think.It was a helpless feeling not being able to make things better for him, but I hoped that with my constant presence he knew I was looking out for him

Pennymac02's picture
Posts: 336
Joined: Aug 2010

My mother went to her PCP in Aug of 09 with "a stomach ache" that he thought was an intestinal blockage so he sent her to the hospital. She was a completely independant,mentally coherant 80 year old, driving, going to Wal Mart,church, quilting group, walking her dog, working in her garden. She never got out of the hospital.This was the next 6 months: Surgery #1 they said she had cancer, we talked about debulking and chemo, but the lab tests came back negative. Surgery #2 discovered a ruptured gallbladder. Then there was MRSA, septic infection, G tube in, G tube out, chest tube, feeding tube, transfer to rehab facility, fighting with her during physical therapy, c diff, surgery #3 and #4 the surgeon came to us in the waiting room and said he thought the intestinal blockage was taken care of and that she'd had a "better quality of life". After four days on the vent in ICU he stopped in while I was visiting and said "Did the oncologist come and see you yet? It turns out that you do have cancer" She was referred to hospice and died 5 days later. She fought the whole time, and other than some emotional moments of "why me?" stayed mostly positive. She had made her peace, but didn't want to go. My sister and brother and I supported her in whatever decision she wanted to make, but because we never really had a valid diagnosis till the very end, she went through much more than any of us would have liked. At the last, all three of us were at her bedside and she was more afraid of leaving us than of dying, I think; we promised mom as siblings that we'd keep in touch with each other and support each other after she was gone. She struggled till the last.

Had I known the amount of suffering that she was going to go through I think we all would have pushed for hospice sooner and not encouraged the doctors to fight the whole way. Surgeries #2 and #3 were mostly unneccesary and the hospital experiance was dreadful and full of secondary infections that weakened her more and more. The doctors were unsure of everything, and never wanted to tell us just how terminal she actually was. I wish they had just been more willing to be honest with their opinions of her prognosis; nobody wanted to make the final pronouncement that Mom was dying and should have been made as comfortable as possible. The Hospice doctor, though, was very straight forward and helped all of us come to realization that death was near. Hospice was peaceful and full of dignity.

I realize that we can't go back and change the past, but I have learned this about myself. Death and dying can be a natural, peaceful experience, but most physicians are not comfortable with that. We put a lot of faith in the medical process, but she was terminal all along. If we had focused more on her quality of life instead of trying to grasp every medical option that came down the road, her last 6 months would have been something other than tests, needles, infections, surgeries and interventions. I am currently the caregiver for my husband who was diagnosed with HCC (inoperable liver cancer) last month. He and I are having many end of life discussions now, while he is still able. And I have also made my wishes known to my children if I am ever in the position of being the cancer patient. We are going to try some pallitive and curative treatments, but if recovery isn't possible, lets enjoy the time we have as best we can. I think my mother would have been less scared if we had talked all along about her passing as a natural event, that it meant the end of the suffering and pain, and that we'll see her again when we all get to the other side.

Posts: 120
Joined: Mar 2010

Speaking only for myself...acceptance or not of this demon disease is a purely personal thing...and I think it has to do with the way the person lived/thought before getting the DX.
For me....My husband showed signs of illness two months before diagnosis...and he made the choice to not go seeking medical intervention..he knew...we knew...he had always said that were he to get any form of cancer...there would be no intervention...he never had a real good opinion of the medical commuinity...which was odd due to the fact that I am a nurse.
So he got the offical diagnosis...his PCP told us that we were in control...and together based on the severity of his cancer..we chose no treatment and immediately went on hospice...got the pain managed and moved on.
He was at peace with dying...except for leaving me...and we talked about that....he wasn't afraid of the process...he just didn't want to go though the hell of treatments/surgeries and end up with the same result...he didn't even allow some of the non-invasive work-ups in the hospital...he had cancer and he was moving on.
He lived out the last six weeks of his life at home...comfortable...peacefull and pain free...and his death was quick and painless ( for him).
But you would have had to know Bill....he was a gentle guy..quiet but a deep thinker...he lived the way he died..quietly and without drama...he loved life but was not afraid of death.
There is no easy route with this...and like I said I think it has everything to do with the way the person thought/lived before getting the diagnosis.
My heart goes out to you.

grandmafay's picture
Posts: 1639
Joined: Aug 2009

I would agree with Pat that we die as we live. My husband had a deep faith. For him death was not something to be feared. Unlike Pat's husband, mine chose to buy as much time as possible. He placed his faith in what he called PPMM, the power of prayer and modern medicine. He chose not to chase a cure, but tried everything the doctors suggested. He bought six years. In the end, he passed quickly and peacefully. The only fear he ever expressed was leaving us. We told him that we would be ok and that he was free to leave when he felt it was time. We supported whatever he chose to do. Hospice allowed him to die at home as he wanted. I think way too often some view accepting death as giving up. It isn't My husband never gave up. He moved on. Fay

Posts: 9
Joined: Sep 2010

My husband passed away 3 months ago after a 5 month battle. He fought until the very end. He always said he "knew where he was going, but not ready to go yet." I read your post and it sounded so familiar to me. If it makes you feel any better, my husband left the world peacefully, not scared, but fighting until the end.

Posts: 167
Joined: Apr 2009

My wife was tenacious. She actually outlived everyone’s expectations by almost two years. Her cancer was already in her liver and lung (Started in her colon) when she was initially diagnosed. Eventually her oncologist made the decision that more chemotherapy would do more harm than good. I was grateful for his stance. She died two weeks later. Her death was expected and when it happened she died quickly but man did she fight her cancer like no one I have seen before. I know she impressed her doctors. She told me she did not fear death – but she was never a quitter either. She proved it to me.

However-it took a toll on me to be honest. It was exhausting and the whole experience of treatment not only affected her life, it will have a lasting effect on me as well.

Posts: 1862
Joined: Aug 2010

My father and his two brothers were diagnosed roughly the same time with the same cancer - two sisters had the same diagnosis a year earlier.

My dad and one sister took every treatment offered, no matter what kind of hell it put them through, because living for their families was so important to them. The others refused treatment because they didn't want to prolong the inevitable.

In the end, quality of life was about the same all the way around: Dad and sister who fought lost some quality at the beginning of their fights, the others with no treatment seemed to suffer more at the end.

Survival time was unaffected by treatment/non-treatment. They all made it about six months.

Each fought the fight in their own way; each said good-bye in their own way. My dad and his sister died (peacefully?) in hospitals. The others passed in their homes in not so quiet, more-pain-than-not ways.

Definitely a choice for the individual.

I am sorry anyone fears death - none of these brothers and sisters did. They all believed faithfully they were headed for a joyous homecoming in Heaven. Couldn't wait to see their parents, and each other, again.

grandmafay's picture
Posts: 1639
Joined: Aug 2009

I read over my original answer and felt that I had not really answered your concern. If you feel that your mother fears death, you may want to talk with her about it. I don't know what your faith is or even if you have one, but hospitals and hospice have very good chaplains who are trained to talk with those facing death with care and compassion. Also, you might want to suggest that your mom talk to a counselor about her fears. Sometimes we concentrate so much on the disease and not on the whole person. Amazingly, we were a couple of years into treatment before any of my husband's doctors thought to ask him how he was handling things emotionally. You are a loving daughter. Hang in there. Fay

Posts: 12
Joined: Sep 2010

Thank you for your replies. I questioned exactly why I asked the question and I guess what I was hoping for was someone saying "Yes, my beloved fought and didn't want to go and was fearful of death....but then they accepted it and went in peace." I want to have hope that is possible for my mom. Her case is probably extreme I admit. She was raised in a very, very fundamentalist religious church where basically the message was "You're going to hell." When she became pregnant at 14 (through RAPE), they really drove that message home. I have so much anger toward that preacher who yelled at her that she was "filled with the devil" I can't convey. At any rate, she is filled with angst and doubt and fear that just can't seem to be allayed....preachers have visited, the entire Bible has been read to her, we have had many, many frank discussions. She lost her mom to cancer when she was only 7, and her sister died from cancer just three months before my mom was diagnosed. But I think it's true what was said about death being faced as life was lived. My mom was always a fearful person, scared about so many things. But she also cleaned hotel rooms, delivered newspapers, worked as a fry cook, welded in a sweatshop and raised three daughters alone who never felt unloved a day in their lives. For those reasons and so, so many more it is heartbreaking to see her think she is not worthy of something she wants. I think I've done just everything I can do.

And David, I believe I understand what you are saying about the hell of extended treatment. I'm posting more on that, but over on the Caretakers thread where it belongs more than here.

Thanks again, everyone.

Posts: 146
Joined: May 2009

Don was always positive; in fact, he was so positive that initially I wondered if he'd understood what the doctor was telling him. He did. He simply always tried to be positive about things. Yes, we did have talks about dying; we simply never talked in those terms.

I think one of the saddest things for him happened last December. He was still trying to keep his days as normal as possible and was driving his youngest back and forth to her part-time job. One day he came in looking upset. He told me that she'd asked him to give her the car when he died. Don didn't think that way at all and to have your child tell you you're going to die and you should give me the car must have been very painful for him.

It was only on the day before he died that Don ever said he was going to die. He said it to his son who freaked out and left in a hurry without telling me. Don fought hard to live thru that night because he had promised his oldest he wouldn't die on her birthday. He died late the next afternoon very peacefully.

Don had a very strong faith and it carried him thru everything.

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