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Rantings of a Sandmonkey

Be forewarned: The writer of this blog is an extremely cynical, snarky, pro-US, secular, libertarian, disgruntled sandmonkey. If this is your cup of tea, please enjoy your stay here. If not, please sod off

Monday, November 28, 2005

So a family member gets cancer...

I just discoverd today that my aunt has cancer. She has it in her bones. My father told me. The only people who know about it are my dad, me, my other aunt and my cancer-ridden aunt's son, my cousin. He is a doctor and he is the one who found out from the tests they conducted when she reported having back pains. My Aunt- his mother- doesn't know she has anything beyoned back-pain. Her cancer is probably incureable and she will die. He has to pretend every day to be completly normal around her, while he cries himself to sleep every night. The same applies to my other aunt who knows that her sister's days are numberd and who goes with her to the hospital for the tests she is conducting for her "back-pain". My aunt is dying and she doesn't know. She is not the only one in the dark mind you: another aunt exists who can not be told, because she will probably get a heart-attack or tell my grandmother, who will most deifntely get a heart attack and die from hearing this news. My other cousins don't know as well, because we figure there is no reason to spread the misery around. Not to mention, the more who know the more likely they will tell her. And they don't want to tell her because they are afraid the shock may kill her on the spot or at least kill her spirit, and you want her in high spirits if there is a way to beat this thing as we all hope. But it's a fanatsy, we know this too. We know she is dying by the minute and she doesn't know. But we do. Now, here is the question: Should we tell her at all? If you had such a terminal disease, that will kill you in a matter of months and to which has no cure, would you want to know? Would you really? I mean, we are all in the nihilistic sense dying by the minute, but we always assume we have time, because no one really knows when they will die. Except people with terminal illness. They get a time-table. An approximate deadline. You have about 6 months and then you will be gone. You will never see a loved one again. You will never get to see the wedding of that grandchild of yours. Hell, you won't even get to watch him/her reach 18. Would you want to know that your time is almost up while there is still so much to do and experience? Would that help in any way, to know that every passing day brings you closer to an end that you did not expect for at least another decade? Is that how you want to spend your last months on earth? Just knowing you will die soon and you are just waiting for it, with everyone around you giving you those looks of pity and loss through their tear-filled eyes?? Is that how you want to live your last months on the planet? I don't know. I wouldn't want that. I know she has the right to know, but I am not sure it would be beneficial in any way for her to exercise that right. If anything, I don't want to be the person who tells her, nor would I want to see how she would look like after she finds out, because I know I won't be able to help crying while holding her and wishing she didn't have to die so soon. Just the thought of it brings tears to my eyes. I wouldn't want to do that to her. I wouldn't want to depress her like that. I wouldn't want that to be the way I spend her last days with her. But the alternative is torture. To know that someone you love is dying by the minute, while they don't know. To watch them go through their daily lives, making plans and having hopes, while you know- YOU KNOW- that they probably won't live to see any of those plans come to fruition. To pretend to be normal around them, to joke with them about their back pain, to pretend not to know that within a few months her whole body will be ravaged by a merciless killer of a disease and there is aboslutely nothing you can do to stop it. Aghhhhhhhhh.... I can't decide which is worse. It doesn't matter anyway. She is dying and there is nothing no one can do about it. That's all there is to it. Sigh... Sorry for the depressing post. But I just needed to let it out somewhere. I will probably remove that post tommorow. Whatever...

28 Comments:

At 11/28/2005 02:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I most definitely would want to know if I only had a certain amount of time left. In fact I would be offended if I wasn't the 1st to know! There would be things I would want to do before my final day and things I would want to tell my family. sis from the usa (sorry if this comes up twice...I hit a button and everything disappeared)

 
At 11/28/2005 02:56:00 PM, Blogger cbi said...

I am sorry that your family has to go through this.

As difficult as it is...she has a right to know. Her body, her life, her decisions. What if there are things she wants to say or do before her time ends? What right does anyone have to impede that? To be dying and not be told is to prevent her a chance to make peace with their Maker or anyone else for that matter. Withholding this from her is not right no matter how good the intentions.

I can only speak for myself but, without a doubt, I would want to know.

 
At 11/28/2005 02:56:00 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

I think she should know, although my mother and uncles didn't tell my grandmother when she had a cancer.

 
At 11/28/2005 03:13:00 PM, Anonymous carey94tt said...

As a casual reader from the States...

I think it is morally wrong NOT to tell her. Anything else is an extreme assumption that you know what is better for her than she does. It is her life and body.

So when you do tell her...what would you say? "Oh, well, we didn't want to worry you".

 
At 11/28/2005 03:20:00 PM, Anonymous Melissa in NorCal said...

I agree with everyone above. I would want to know so I could make peace with others, myself, and God. Besides, my grandfather died suddenly when I was 12 and it devastated me. I didn't get to say goodbye. When my other grandfather was diagnosed with brain cancer, I went to him and told him how much I loved him and we hugged each other and I said goodbye. He died within 3 weeks. Saying goodbye to him meant the world to me and I'm sure it means the world to him in heaven. No regrets.

P.S. My condolences to your family. I wish you peace during this difficult time.

 
At 11/28/2005 03:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for commenting anonymous, but this is too personal for me to shout it through the web with my name attached.

1.) If I was dying I'd want to know. There are sure some things I'd like to get settled and to tell people....

2.) I agree that not telling a person is cruel. You think you're being treated for some curable sickness, you probably suffer, but think that it's worth it, as you will come through this healed.

3.) My mother was never left in the dark about either her first outbreak of cancer, nor the return that finally killed her.
Of all our family she bore it best. She was so amazingly strong....

 
At 11/28/2005 03:28:00 PM, Blogger Twosret said...

Sorry to hear the news SM but she needs to know. It is unfair not to tell her.

 
At 11/28/2005 03:39:00 PM, Anonymous Suz said...

Sorry for your aunt and your family's pain but it is morally wrong to not tell her. Of course she will not be happy but who said life is all happiness? Pain and death are natural parts of life too. I work with hospice (end of life) patients in the US. It is amazing how inspiring and strong some people can be in death. There are good examples of life in death as well as in "the salad days". You must not take this power over her own life away from her. It is her opportunity to show you the way, perhaps. We all die, yes?
Suz

 
At 11/28/2005 04:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always felt God could have done better in this area. Each species should have a fixed life span. Dogs live 14 years, cats 10 years, humans 80 years, and so on. That way, there would be less overall angst about this end-of-life timing. Each person would live 79 years and 364 days, and then, poof, you're gone on precisely your 80th birthday.

p.s. I fell it would be immoral to withhold this information from your aunt much longer. The only exception might be if she were not mentally normal (i.e. a mental developmental disorder nearly requiring institutionalizing, etc.)

 
At 11/28/2005 04:43:00 PM, Blogger Crazy Girl said...

No one can tell you what to do..This is a family issue.. When my dad got cancer we didn't want to tell him.. I was only 13 at the time.. But my mom gathered what little courage she had and we told him.. now at the time my dad was just beat up for doing his damn arab friends a favor by going to jersey for them. He got blinded and all kinds of crap anyway back on track..
Its gonna be hard at first to tell her and yes they are gonna get depressed..hell anyone of us would be depressed if we heard we were dying.. But sometimes something gives us a will to fight when we look around and see all the people that love us and need us.. My dad lived healthy and happily for 7 years.. He made a huge business for us got us three homes in Maadi.. He fought for his kids.. I think hiding it will only anger people in the long run and it could tear a family apart. Espically hers..I sympathize with her son.. Thats pure hell and I feel that...He is gonna get himself sick hiding it from her...And no mother would want her son to go through that alone....

She will eventually figure it out.. and I dont think that will make her feel happy knowing her son was going through that and you and whoever else knows.
I know that this chose is a horrible one.. And you will all know what to do at some point. This is a time for a family to pull together and not pull apart..
I wish all the best to all of you.. But sometimes keeping things from others only hurts them more.
Goodluck.. Although Im a cynic somewhare inside of my I think everything happens for a reason.. Not a good one.. but a reason.. My heart goes out to you and everyone in that kind of situation..

 
At 11/28/2005 06:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Mother didn't want to tell my Father about his lung cancer. When she told me I told her she had to tell him, he would never forgive her for not telling him the truth. She did after a few days. It allowed him to decide what he wanted. My Father's cancer was very aggressive and in the beginning they told him 6 months, after a few weeks they said they didn't know. He died about 6 weeks after the diagnosis. He told us that he was happy to have been able to tell all of us good-bye and that that wasn't taken from him. He left us all letters, mine I treasure and when ever I miss him I reread it.

 
At 11/28/2005 06:21:00 PM, Blogger Scorekeeper said...

Sandman (that was a character in an old video game called Punch Out. He was the champ! Also the name of a 50's song I believe)

About 5 years ago a Great Aunt of mine, my grandfather's sister, who was in a Nursing Home used to cry at some point whenever we visited her. She would ask why her sister (my dad's aunt) didn't come to visit her anymore, if she did something to her?

My father's first cousin's wife (his cousine was deceased by this time) and her kids decided it would be better not to tell her when her sister passed away because she would become too hysterical and upset - or so they thought!

The great Aunt still alive was a little slow her entire life but was a sweet and very funny women, ironically sharp as a tack and funny as hell. She loved my dad, and always told him he was her favorite nephew, and then my dad would always tell her that she said the same thing to her other nephew when he was alive... and she'd say no but you're really my favorite..... lol.

Anyway, our side of the family found out after the fact that the other side had not told her of her sister's death and found it really sad that periodically she would ask my dad when we visited and get very upset. It's a dicey topic, but in my opinion she should have been told and dealt with like an adult, and shared in the grieving with her family and relatives. I think she might have dealt with it just fine and been able to speak about it afterwards not wondering why her sister didn't call her anymore.

Seeing us always made her happy, and she was generally very happy.
But it was just so completely wrong when she would ask her favorite nephew why his aunt (her only living sister) hadn't visited or called in years.

Regarding your situation -

Think of it this way. If your Aunt knew she only had months to live would she want to do a number of things before she passed. Forget the legal how about talking to people she knows and loves and telling them things that is in her heart that unfortunately people don't share unless in dire circumstances.

Besides the fact she probably has a right to know. Is your family denying her this? And in doing so instead of being closer to the loved one and joined together as a family in a mourning and loving way the last few months are they instead more isolated because they are keeping a secret and acting a lie / pretending... which may be worse?

You have to decide for yourself.

Mike

 
At 11/28/2005 06:44:00 PM, Anonymous Lee McDaniel said...

SM:

I am old. That day is closer than I want to think. I would want to know in order to do those things I have put off and to say those things I have left unsaid.
Lee

 
At 11/28/2005 07:03:00 PM, Blogger Mike SC USA said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11/28/2005 08:09:00 PM, Anonymous mousey said...

Sorry, SM. My mother died of cancer a couple of years ago. She was 50. In the US, of course, it's unusual not to tell someone the full truth what they have. I know that in Japan and elsewhere it's avoided to make their last days less dark. I suppose when they're finally hospitilized there's no more hiding it. But I can't say what's better for you to do all I can say is I'm sorry.

 
At 11/28/2005 08:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fear of death does no one any good... especially the one most concerned.

Her condition cannot be kept from her for long. She will know, then what will her reaction be? Will her spirits be raised or lowered by the short-lived deception?

Your family members think that they have to protect her state of mind, right? Maybe the truth is the loving thing to offer her.

 
At 11/28/2005 10:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interview with Christopher Reeve:

RD: Do you get scared?

Reeve: No, I don't.


RD: How could you not?

Reeve: It's a proven fact that you can control panic by applying rational processes. In all my days of flying and sailing and riding, every now and again I got myself into a jam. On Christmas Day in 1985 I was flying over the Green Mountains in Vermont. Thick clouds, snowing. And the warning light went on. I looked out and saw oil all over the wing. I knew I had to shut down that engine and fly to Boston on the other. You're hoping it doesn't develop a problem too. But the chance of a multi-engine failure is very, very remote. Literally, you use your brain to stop panic. I've had a lot of training in that area from my life before the injury.


RD: It's almost as if everything in your life up to the accident was preparation for this phase.

Reeve: That's probably true. I'm glad I didn't know it at the time.

 
At 11/28/2005 10:32:00 PM, Blogger Mia said...

I am deeply saddened by this post SM my thoughts are with you, this particular post is so relevant to me. My mother just found out that a dear friend of hers more like family has bone cancer as well and it is being kept from her and other family members. Like your aunt and family my “family” has a myriad of legitimate and caring reasons for keeping her illness from her. But realistically as the illness progresses she will find out she will know something is up. She should be told so that she can make her peace and if there is something that she wants to do she can do it. Under adversity humans are capable of so much her strength may surprise you all. There is time for sorrow and tears when she is gone...now is the time for living and letting her know how much she is loved.

 
At 11/28/2005 10:48:00 PM, Anonymous J.Doe said...

I am very sorry to hear about your Aunt and the struggles you and your family are going through. Obviously the decision to tell her about the cancer is a family decision, but I agree with most of the commenters. If I were dying I'd like to know. Just so I could tell people good-bye and how much I love and appreciate them.
Best of luck to all of you no matter what you decide.

 
At 11/28/2005 10:50:00 PM, Blogger Chimera said...

If it were me, I would want to know. If I knew that time was short, each event in my remaining life would be that much more important...

Years ago, one of my best friends died from a rare cancer after about five years from diagnosis. The time the doctors originally gave him was about six weeks. He amazed them all with his capacity to live.

And as he said, you can't fight if you don't even know you're in a war!

But the decision to tell your aunt is something your family has to decide. If you think of it from her point of view (what she would want to know) rather than how much easier it will be for the family if she doesn't know, you'll probably make the right decision.

Life is a cycle. Birth is not the beginning, and death is not the ending. But you have to figure out the details for yourself...

 
At 11/28/2005 11:08:00 PM, Blogger Papa Ray said...

"Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows."
Pope Paul VI
(Italian Pope. 1897-1978)

 
At 11/28/2005 11:28:00 PM, Anonymous Jordan from Left Canada said...

First, my condolonses.

Second, whatever decision you make is clearly for your Aunts benifit, and you should NOT feel ANY guilt no matter what you choose.

There is not a right or wrong (or moral) answer for this situation, only problems either way. (sorry)

I am sure you will make the choice that best serves your Aunts personality and needs.

 
At 11/29/2005 01:46:00 AM, Anonymous eva said...

In my country (Canada) the patient is told by his/her doctor as soon as the diagnosis is made. The reaction is always the same: mental anguish - denial - anger -acceptance. You don't want your aunt to die before she reached the soothing stage of acceptance.

 
At 11/29/2005 05:51:00 AM, Blogger Melanie said...

Sorry your having to deal with this terrible situation.
Maybe you could mention while your family is around, including her, that you have a collegue in this situaion and ask everyones opinions of what they should do. She will probably put foward her opinion.

 
At 11/29/2005 06:59:00 AM, Anonymous CanadianPharaoh said...

I'm really sorry about your situation. It must be really hard. To tell you the truth, I think it's a cultural thing. In Canada people are made aware automatically of their situation by their doctors. Some exceptions are made for very old patients (let's say 80 years or more) but for the younger ones, they generally are made aware. I know that the middle-eastern culture is different regarding issues of death and illness. All I can say is that it's your family's choice and nobody should judge or try to determine the morality of it. We're all different!

 
At 11/29/2005 08:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since it is in your blog, they probably already know.

The patient has the right to know and make plans accordingly.
SK

 
At 11/30/2005 02:57:00 AM, Blogger sokari said...

Why should you be apologetic about writing this post - I had cancer some years back and I believe it is essential that everyone knows about it including the patient - why should people be "protected" - We have to deal with it death as a daily reality of our lives and get on with it whilst acknowleding the pain that goes with it.

 
At 4/06/2006 04:03:00 PM, Anonymous John said...

This post was very awesome. I'd love to see more like it.

 

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