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Readers Respond: What Helped You Honor Your Loved One in the Final Stages of Cancer?

Responses: 50


Updated January 25, 2015

We don't like to talk about the final stages of cancer, but sometimes hearing stories from others can give us ideas on ways to cope, and not only cope, but honor our loved one during their last days. What helped you cope as a family member or what helped you honor your loved one during the final stages of cancer?

Never knew it existed

My father passed away September 12, 2014 of Primary Liver Cancer. We didn't know he had it until it was too late. We thought he was showing early signs of Alzheimer's until we noticed he was very yellow. We took him into the ER on a Monday and he passed away at 1:15am on that following Friday! They did test and we found out after 3 days in the hospital that he had Liver Cancer and there was nothing left of his liver. My father was living with this horrible disease. I admire my dad for his strength to be strong for us! I have a lot of anger towards the VA because he was being cared for by our VA and they didn't perform any tests when he would complain of pain, they only prescribed more prescriptions! We were not prepared to let my father go. It has been a very rough road going through this. My mother was diagnosed with Stage 3B breast cancer on May 30, 2014. She just completed her chemo and we are awaiting her surgery! This horrible disease has impacted two people I love very much
—Guest Rose

It's not the end

I lost my dad to cancer of the oesophagus in 2009. He had been diagnosed in June 2008, had chemo (which he didn't tolerate very well) then an operation in Nov 2008 which was supposed to extend his life expectancy by 3-5 years. In the April after a scan carried out in March he was told it had spread to his lungs and he was terminal. He did not give up though! He refused to accept this, I don't know whether it was strength or denial but he didn't. He however ended up going into a local hospice in Sept 2009 for pain management where it was then discovered it had spread to his bones. He finally passed away 20.09.2009. The nurses at the hospice were amazing and I wouldn't of got through it had it not been for them. At the age of 32 I am now coming to the end of my first year as a student nurse. I'm adamant his death will not be in vain and am determined to make good of this horrid situation. He is my inspiration and I am hoping my loss will lead to me helping so many others in this situation.
—Guest M

Anger, nasty towards loved ones

My brother has lung cancer spread to his liver nothing has worked for him either he has been given less than 6 months to live. He has turned so angry and nasty and in complete denial I can hardly be around him. I have become his focal point for his anger when in the beginning I was his rock , the person he called for help. How do I handle this? Editor's note: Unfortunately what you are describing is not uncommon. Some people become very angry and verbally abusive when they are essentially given a death sentence. And that anger tends to be dumped on those who are helping and doing the most - because they are there and they care enough not to run away. If you have the opportunity to talk to your brother's doctor that would be helpful. Could he need better pain control? Coping with pain constantly could not only cause this behavior, but would lower the quality of life your brother has left. Studies tell us that people with late stage cancer are under-treated for pain for many reasons. Is your brother enrolled in hospice? In addition to having doctors and nurses address pain and other things that can result in anger, the hospice staff is an excellent source of mental health and spiritual support both for the person dying and their family. For yourself - be loving, but don't let your brother abuse you verbally and emotionally. People with cancer have a right to be angry and express that anger, but they don't have a right to hurt those who love them. Have you considered writing your brother a letter? It's often easier to express these emotions in writing. In order to avoid more anger it is helpful to write this not as an attack and blame letter, but in a way that expresses what his actions are doing to you. For example, instead of saying "you have been horrible in how you are acting out in anger" you could say "I know you are angry -- cancer sucks - and you have every right to let it out. But I feel sad and hurt inside when you are nasty to me, and it makes me want to avoid being around you. Do you have any ideas what we can do so I can help you at this time without feeling hurt?" Sadly some times family members need to walk away until the angry cancer patient chooses to be reasonable -- or not. We have ingrained in us to care for family. But we first need to care for our own emotional health.
—Guest kathy


My dad quit smoking in '89 and later had a lobe removed from one lung in '01 due to cancer. Years later he is diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in Dec.'13. He doesn't deserve this. My parents don't deserve this. It kills me to see him go through this, and to watch my mom try to be strong knowing she'll be losing her soul mate soon. They are the nicest people and my father has been the best provider and family man, a true giver. He's put up a brave fight going thru chemo only to have his and our hopes crushed again after finding out the cancer stopped reacting to the chemo and came back aggressively and had spread. While doing radiation treatments for his shoulder his shortness of breath got worse to the point that he's now in the ICU unable to participate in a clinical trial which was the last thing giving him hope. It's June now and I know our time with him is getting shorter and I just hope he can go peacefully.
—Guest rodg

Wow, uh-mm, pain. mom

The person who loved me, my sister & brothers,more than she loved herself, the woman who loved her grandchildren and great grandchildren more than herself, the woman who gave her all for her children, family and friends, got the evil demon cancer of the lung! Mom had smoked but quit 15 years before the DX. I noticed her voice change 6 months before DX, but it went away after a few months; then she was tired all the time; I thought it was depression,kept telling her go to the doctor for antidepressants. Mom had shoulder pain, she chalked up to throwing the ball to my dog all day. I remember her having a horrible headache a few times,something she never did was complain about pain. I remember mom wasn't the same 1 year before she died. Low sodium had followed her for years. Mom went every three months for blood tests. not once did the doctor mention low sodium. We took her to MD Anderson,they did nothing mom passed 5 months after DX. DR's need 2 not 2 read the test results of patients

Lost my dad first now my husband

When I was 27 my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer, we lost him two months later. Now twenty years later my husband is diagnosed with stage 3B NSC cancer. He has lost over 50 pounds in weight, radiation and chemo has given no results. It's been five months since the diagnosis, vomiting has started, he's tired. The oncologist will only tell us it's a month to month prognosis. It's like the clock is ticking and we're afraid to open our eyes. We don't know what to expect. He thinks they're afraid to tell him. There is no sleep because you are listening in the darkness to make sure all is well and then trying to function during the day. He also has a pacemaker so the chemo choices are reduced, and there are no trials available. Just the clock ticking.....
—Guest Drumgirl64


My mom had a dream in Jan. Her deceased loved ones telling her "she'd like it here". It scared me. 2 wks later she lost her voice, was treated. Then was sent to a lung doctor who diagnosed cancer in liver, lungs, and lymph. After a week in hospital, she went home.I nursed her for 7 days and then went home to FL with plans to return in April for the whole month. She passed 2 wks later after they found cancer had eaten her esophagus also. My sisters were with her these two weeks, and her faith in God never failed. The day before she went back into hospital, she felt really good and even wanted to help cook dinner. Thought she was getting better. Docs told her there was nothing else to do, she told them it was up to God, He was in charge. I made it back 5 hours before she passed by the grace of God. Mom was going home from hospital when she laid back in the car in the parking lot and went. We prayed with her and told her to go. Was very peaceful. She was so brave. God's love is amazing.
—Guest pded

my mum,

my mum was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in january of this year 2012,i feel so shattered by this,when i think of what is to come,i break into tears,she is having chemo,and her last is tomorrow,it has hit her harder than the cancer,she has no interest in any of the things she used to,she shakes and i find it so hard to go round and see her,i wear my heart on my sleeve,i dont want to loose my mum,i dont want to see the heartbreak that will be left,im running the race for life this year,i want to do something,i cant take the cancer away,she is so brave for us,but i catch her looking out into nowhere sometimes,i wonder what she is thinking.
—Guest rachael

Mother In-Law

My mother in-law was diagnosed with Lung Cancer Stage 4 in December, 2010. After being suspicious of pneumonia for about a year. It has spread to her bones. She has managed to live over a year after her diagnose. She underwent chemo and radiation. Radiation helped with healing some of the bones that had been affected by the cancer however the chemo didn't do much. A month ago(March/2012) the doctors took her out the cancer drugs, since they weren't doing what they were supposed to and were actually giving her a hard time due to the side-effects. There has been a drastic change in her states just within 3 weeks. We can all see that she is slowly leaving us. Last week we all talked to her about her last wishes. She made it clear what her last days should be like, what should be done to her while still alive and after she passes away. She is still at home(her last days there), with frequent visits from palliative care people over. May God be with you all !
—Guest SadDays

Stage 4 Lung cancer

My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer stage four in November 2011. She's a lot weaker now. She can barely walk. As I see her slowly dying, my heart is wrenched. I lived with her all my life until I recently got married. I have a one year old baby, and it's so hard to be so joyful in front of her and my husband when my mOm is in this condition. The only thing that keeps me happy is that, my mom accepted Jesus as her Lord and savior, and I know she will be in heaven soon. It's just so hard to let go of her.
—Guest Jess

Melanoma of the Eye 4 years ago

my Mum had her eye removed 4 years ago, they found she had Melanoma through a diabetes eye check up, as of Thursday 5th April, she was told it's spread to her Liver an both lungs, she's lost alot of weight, finding it hard to talk to much, 1 day she feels good the next very tired..she was told it could be a matter of months. family are starting to come together, she's having a Hangi (Tangi) on the 28th we are crossing our fingers for her bucket list..63 yrs old...

My beloved daddy

My dad was diagnosed with stage 1B lung cancer in December 2010. He had surgery at the time and we were told his margins were clear, there was no lymph node involvement so he was free to go home, no chemo or radiation. In October of 2011, the lung cancer came back with another tumor in his lung. He did radiation and we were told he was in remission. At the time, I think we all knew it would be back. It came back in his bones in January, 2012. He is now in the end stages and in a nursing home. He is in so much pain and even with hospice involved we are having trouble getting ahead of his pain. Tragic. Daddy smoked from the age of 13 to 53. Quit smoking at age 53 and got lung cancer at 80. Cigarettes are deadly and as another person said they don't spare many.
—Guest Susie


my dad has terminal multiple myeloma,, we got the worse bad news yesterday " he will be on hospice"...this agony is killing me slowly,, I dont want to lose him,,,he has no idea how sick he is,,,but if l have something to ask GOD..IS PLEASE WHEN YOU TAKE HIM,, LET IT PAINLESS,,,
—Guest lonely

What to do?

My grandfather, the man who raised me has stage 4. It was detected june of 2011 and spread to the brain. did the cyber knife on the brain and chemo for the lungs. cleared the brain stable the lungs. was able to stop chemo after thanksgiving. mid february he is rushed to the hospital. pain nausea weakness and masive weight loss. cancer is back with avengence. in lungs, liver, and possible lymphnodes. on two pain patches and diluadid and still in pain. moved him to hospice out of state to be with more family. no on a pain pump and fluids. very incoherent and tired all the time. I've accepted the inevidable, but now wait for "the call". worst time of my life and im so far away.
—Guest Ft Lauderdale, Fl

Dad is at Peace Now.

Dad has slipped away now. He never did find out how poorly he was. We managed to do as he asked and tell him nothing. We had a call yesterday saying he went in his sleep. R.i.p dad gone but never will be forgotten xxxxx
—Guest daughter

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