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« Musical Microvacation | Main | Hope or Letting Go - Part II »

July 21, 2011


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Jan Hasak

I believe it's preferable to give the wife the opportunity to say goodbye. That's what the hospital did for me when my Dad was dying, and I'll be forever grateful. I've always been in favor of instilling honesty over false hope.


Our family is still dealing with the consequences of my sister's doctors fostering false hope that she would recover after her second breast cancer recurrence had spread to her lungs.

But what's a doctor to do when the patient makes it clear that she refuses to face the fact that she is dying? My sister's denial kept her from receiving hospice care, which would have made her last weeks or months more comfortable and far less painful for her.She did not prepare her children (who were then 22 and 17)for her death.

Kay was full of hope that she would get strong enough to enter a trial that would miraculously cure her lung cancer.

Amazingly, her doctor did a second mastectomy! So she spent the last few weeks in the hospital.

Can I blame the doctor for fostering false hope? No. I think if the patient refuses to accept the prognosis, the doctor is stuck in a bad place.

Only because I talked to Kay every day on the phone was I able to hear her becoming weaker and weaker. I called the family to come quickly.

Sadly, we all arrived an hour after she died. The children were shocked, having never been told she was dying. They never had an opportunity to say goodbye.

The pain of never having been able to deal with some of their grief prior to Kay's passing is still there. It will likely always cause them pain.

Perhaps you will write more about how and why cancer survivors in the same position as Kay might consider the importance of preparing their children. Jeanne


And the flip side of this, of course, is when the family can't/won't deal with this and so avoids the cancer patient, refuses to allow the cancer patient to talk about what is going on, says things like "talking to mom about this just upsets her, don't talk to her about it" (umm mom is capable of making her own statements on the subject of one of her kids having cancer), doesn't even acknowledge things like having chemo... this society does not deal well with serious issues, death, dying, grief...

And I would second what Jeanne says about preparing kids. As a single parent this is a real dilemma for me because there isn't a second parent for my child to lean on. My kid is 20 (internationally adopted at an older age, has some issues and my family is unlikely to step into the gap because they don't view her as a real family member) and in no way ready to be an orphan again. On the subject of orphans, I remember my uncle saying, when his last remaining parent died (he was in his 70's) he was surprised at the impact of now being an orphan.

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