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A dilemma...worse than cancer?

Akroger's picture
Posts: 88
Joined: Mar 2013

I'm not sure if this is the right place for me to ask this kind of question, and it might be better directed to a different kind of forum, but everyone here has been so supportive through my mom's illness, so I figured it can't hurt to try.

For those of you who have been following my posts about my mom's situation, you'll know that her cancer has recently receded an astonishing amount, and that she had a colostomy so as not to continue to suffer from the excruciating pain she was under before. I may have also mentioned that my dad is her primary caretaker, and I myself have recently moved back to their neighborhood so I can be closer to help her. She tells me every day how much she needs me, and not to leave her. But she's not just saying that because of the cancer now.

My parents have been married for 30 years, and for the past 10 (I say 15) it's been a pretty unhappy marriage. In 2010, my mom finally told my dad she wanted a divorce. I'm not going to go into the details, but it was a really ugly two years that followed, and I was way deeper into it than any child should be in this kind of marital question of her parents. But so it was. The divorce proceedings were ended with my mom's diagnosis, and my dad has been taking care of her hand and foot. But now as she's getting better, the ugly side of their relationship is starting to peak out again. 

I think it's appalling that someone would "beat cancer" (for now) only to dread the life that they see remaining for them following recovery. And I have spent hours trying to console her, to tell her it will be different, that I'm here now (after 10 years) and that I won't let things get to the way they were before. But she can't get past her anger and sadness at what's past. And there seems to be nothing at all that I can do.

So...what do I do???

John23's picture
Posts: 2140
Joined: Jan 2007



“But she can't get past her anger and sadness at what's past. And there seems to be nothing at all that I can do. So...what do I do???”


(just my opinion..)


Mom’s facing the reality of death, plus seeing that impending doom doesn’t seem to make’s a rat’s butt of a difference…..


If it were me, I might spend more time with my father, and listen to what his half of the problem is. It takes two to make a marriage, and working with just one half just ain’t gonna’ hack it.


Sometimes a “deep rooted bitterness” isn’t really bitterness of the bad deed itself, it’s just having to wait forever for a sincere apology regarding that bad deed.


If dad is taking care of mom during her time of need, he still cares…. A lot.


It might be safe to assume that there’s a problem you don’t know the other half of… And maybe you shouldn’t know! But… you can still address the issue, since your father knows half of the problem, and all he may need is to face the need to address it; to resolve it, so the few years left might bring some happiness to them both.


Try spending some time with dad, maybe you can help him get to where he wants to be…… And maybe that’s where they both want to be…..   together.



My best wishes for ya’ll,




Aicirtap's picture
Posts: 55
Joined: Apr 2013

That's a very difficult Situation - I am sorry you have to go through this! It is difficult to say anything because there are probably different ways to look at this. 

However, the first thing I thought when I read your post is that you seem to be taking responsibility for issues that - and I also find it difficult to accept this - you cannot solve for her and should not solve for her. I understand and it is wonderful that you want to make your mums life around her illness as easy as possible and it is painful to watch   somebody who seems to be confronted with cancer AND additional issues. But I do think that you need to go ahead and try to separate these issues. It is great that you are there for your mum, that you moved closer and that you are doing everything to be there for her when fighting to become well. You probably agree that in the end that is the most important for her and your family. Save your energy for that fight - it is more than your mother can ask for and helping her in this and maybe her fear of being alone is what you have to offer as her child. I don't know how well she is, but maybe you can try to give her strength by going for walks, even work out with her, cook, help her with good nutrition - whatever she decided on in that regard -, take her to the movies or a manicure and just do mother/daughter things. 

As sad as it may be, you cannot take on a role that is hers and dealing with ones marriage, getting through a marriage's problems, deciding if there is a chance or dealing with the spouse's decision is something nobody else can take on. You could easily waste energy in this, that your mother could benefit from if you used it to fill out a role that is hard enough. Showing her that she will never be alone, no matter what happens with her marriage because she will always have her family, a loving and supporting child and a husband who takes care of her even if the marriage has serious issues - something that has already been proven to her. while it is unclear what causes for cancer may be in specific cases, many people would probably agree that they would wish for the patient to resolve any issues in their life to clear out there mind, to allow them to concentrate on their fight. your mother realized already that there are issues in her marriage and dealing with them and going the necessary steps, whatever they may be, will in the long run  improve her situation and give her strength (Not saying there isn't a bumpy road ahead of her). would you feel that you needed to get this out of her way for her if she didn't have cancer, would you want to make this your problem if she wasn't sick? If that is not the case, try to look at it this way - let her deal out her problems because she is still capable of doing so even if sick (and thinking she couldn't is maybe even forcing her in a weaker position than she is actually in) and also because it may actually help her in dealing with her illness. as much as you would like it to be that way, life does not give people a break who have to deal with one issue and relationship problems are something everybody has to deal with (and time generally resolves the pain and will in your mom's case, too). Don't underestimate what your mother is capable of dealing with unless you really have reason to believe that she can't take it. In that case, you should help her find a therapist who support her. 

what you can do, is let her know that you understand any fear she may have because cancer is scary. Maybe you can talk to your father and appreciate that he has been there for her despite their issues. It can only help if he understands that you appreciate he stood there with her as family and friend and might make it easier for him to do the same in the future - because what ever they decide to do with their marriage, he can always continue to be her friend and family. if they can't continue as a happy couple, that may actually turn out to be of greater benefit for your mum. 

Maybe you can help your mother to see a therapist - with or without her husband (and that is something you could ask him to do, too. A professional third person can sometimes take out a lot of unnecessary fight when people are at their limits, making them concentrate and solving rather than fighting. 

This is obviously only my impression of what i read and I am relating to it from my own perspective which is limited. Take a deep breath, watch yourself - you can only help your mother if you watch out for your own life and have the time to be good to yourself. your mother is actually blessed to have a daughter who cares this much for her and a husband who put back their marriage issues to be there for her when she needed it. All the best for you! 

Lovekitties's picture
Posts: 3372
Joined: Jan 2010

This is definately a different issue than many have regarding marriage and cancer diagnosis.  Most often we hear of a spouse or significant other leaving because of the diagnosis.  It is rare that it will cancel a divorce in progress.

Whatever was the cause of the marital discord originally, it has obviously not changed or been mitigated in your mother's eyes.  If they let it fester for over half of their marriage, there may be little hope of making peace now.

You ask "what do I do"... The ultimate decision is not yours to make, however I think it would be unwise to let your mother think that just because you are now close enough to take care of her, she needs no one else.  If she was planning to be an "independent" woman before, she needs to have that same attitude now and not expect you to carry all the burden.

It sounds as if, regardless of past hard feelings, your Dad took on his responsibilities to your Mom.  Regardless of their decision, he at least needs to be commended and recognized for this.  He could have easily walked away in her hour of need.  Many do.

As John said, these things are very rarely one-sided when it comes to blame or fault. 

I am sure you will want to be as much of a support to your Mom as possible, but don't let "poor me" become the reason you must.

Love both of your parents...don't take sides or at least try to see both sides...and don't forget that you too have a life to live.

Marie who loves kitties

Akroger's picture
Posts: 88
Joined: Mar 2013

...but I'm glad I did. As always, the support and comments I received in response to my questions were very insightful and are helping me to put things in perspective.

I want to apologize to anyone who might be offended by my posting on this subject to begin with, or by my title, "A dilemma...worse than cancer?" I did not do either lightly. Like many of you, the thought that there could be anything worse than a terminal cancer diagnosis is unthinkable, and it horrifies me that my mom seems to think there is. And it kills me that she would consider a few extra years with the man she married, the man who is my father, to fit that description. But that is her reality right now, and I try not to judge her for it. I just try to support her as best I can.

I chose not to divulge more than the necessary details to provide the context for my question, but in response to some of the advice given, I actually have been talking to my dad, a lot. We haven't had the greatest relationship ourselves for many years, and I'm really working on correcting that now. We talk a fair bit, so I've become more familiar with his side of things, and I always knew that my mom had her own share of the blame for why things went as badly as they did between them in the first place, but at this point history is more or less irrelevant if they want to move forward. For that to happen, they both would need to change, at least in their attitudes and treatment of one another. I don't think my dad's taking care of her in her time of need would entitle him to go back to the same destructive behaviors that he exhibited earlier, but my opinion doesn't matter much in convincing him to act otherwise.

It's a struggle for me, because when I see someone I love suffering (and this applies both for my mom and my dad now), I want to be able to solve the whole problem for them myself. But as many of you here have pointed out, that's not realistic, nor is it really my place on this matter. All I can do is be there to listen, and try to provide comfort and support in the ways that I can.

I'm not going to post on a topic like this again, you have all gone above and beyond in allowing me to reach out and in providing advice and support. Thank you again, it really helps more than I can say.

Posts: 93
Joined: Nov 2011

I have four sons 18-31.  They help when asked and do little things to say 'thank you' to me for taking care of their father all the time.

However...it isn't their job.  Their job is to live their lives and be happy...that's what makes us as parents happy.  My husband wouldn't

in a million years ask them to do any different or disrupt their lives in any way to care for him.  Granted he's got me and we get along

great but nonetheless, it wouldn't happen regardless of what is going on.  He has said that if I weren't here he would have had to 

hire a live in to help but never suggested that would be one of the kids.  


I don't know how old you are but it isn't your job to be a marriage counselor or full time caregiver to a parent.  You love them, help them, 

respect them and so on but you shouldn't as a "child" be forced to take care of their marriage or change your life for them.  I know this 

sounds cold, I don't mean it to be but you have to live your life and doing that should make your mother very happy.  If it doesn't then 

neither you or your dad are the problem.



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