How does a family come to terms with ...

How does a family come to terms with …

How does a family come to terms with … My family has fought for survival my whole damn life, challenge after challenge we have faced together. You name it, it has been thrown in our direction.

For the past 13 years my sister has been battling breast cancer, it has come back 3 times and has affected both breasts. But we have always worked together to fight it.

Now it has spread, with secondaries appearing in the lungs, liver, kidney and stomach and the prognosis is not good at all. And this time the family is collapsing around me.

Its something that no-one can even comprehend, let alone deal with. Our mother has blocked everything out, and is continuing as if nothing has happened. She asks me to recall the conversation we had when my sister told us the bad news time and time again, as though she just isnt listening to the facts. I tell her what was said and she continues with her business until a few hours later she asks me again.

People are planning a big family christmas as it could be my sisters last, but without any recognition of the reason behind such arrangements.

My niece and nephew who are in their mid-late teens have just closed up. My niece struggling to motivate herself to get out of bed whilst her brother goes off to work as normal.

And I just feel like screaming at them to ask them if they realise what all this actually means?! And can we talk about it and prepare ourselves for the outcome?

But how does a mother prepare for the death of a daughter? A child prepare for the death of their mother?

One day at a time I have read your post, it brought back so many memories. If you read my profile you will see that I lost my brother at the age of 44. He had three young children, the youngest just 2.

It is a struggle no doubt about it. The only way I coped was by living one day at a time. I was never happier than when I was spending time with my brother, despite the fact that he was so poorly. He never talked about his illness, didn’t want to. We were there for him every step of the way.

I couldn’t have handled preparing a Christmas where it could have been his last- We didn’t need to. Diagnosed in May, died December 9th. I think you just have to do things normally- how can you ever prepare to say goodbye?

My heart goes out to you. I used to , and still do, get upset but I always do this when I am alone. It would break their hearts if they saw you.

In response to your final questions, you never can. My mum has lost her son, then her husband, and watched me fight Breast cancer. How cruel is that?

I wish you all the best, small steps, one at a tmie.

Helpline Hi kitten80

I am sorry that your sisters cancer has returned and it must be a very difficult time for you all, if you would like to talk to someone in confidence please contact one of our trained helpliners and nurses on freephone number 0808 800 6000. The helpline is open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm and Saturday 9am-2pm.

The team comes from a variety of backgrounds, so callers get to talk to someone who has an understanding of the issues they’re facing.

Kind Regards

Forum Host

Breast Cancer Care

So sorry Hi

I am so sorry for you and your family. I lost my mum in August. She was diagnosed the previous August with spread to lungs and then later brain. I am replying to your post to try and help you with how your neice and nephew may be feeling. I am 25 and I have sisters of 23 and 21 which cant be that much older than them.

Obviously christmas was a hard time for my family but we just carried on as normal. We did nothing to suggest that this would be my mums last christmas, we didnt think it would be as we were all trying to be positive. We knew the statistics but I decided that these didnt apply to my mum! Now that we are coming up to another christmas I am so glad that my mums last one was just the same as usual and she really enjoyed it, I am always going to remember that.

With regards to how I felt during that time - I must admit that at the beginning I was very like your neice, I couldnt get out of bed either and was always in tears, my mum was on my mind constantly and whenever the phone rang and I knew it was my parents I was always preparing myself for bad news. It was like that all the way through but I did go back to work eventually. I treated my mum the same as I always have and we never discussed the possibly of loosing her. I made sure that I spent all the time I could with her and went to all her appointments so I knew exactly what was happening. My youngest sister however blotted the whole thing out and right to the end continued to think that my mum was going to get better - she knew the facts but just couldnt comprehend them like your mum.

When my mums cancer came back i sometimes made myself hysterical thinking about what would happen if I lost her. I didnt think I would be able to cope - if I was upset when she was ill what was I going to be like after she had gone? But in a way I am better now - the constant feeling sick waiting for something else to go wrong has been taken away. I miss my mum so much, and my heart aches for her, but I am stronger than I thought and am coping with it. If this happenens to your neice and nephew they will cope with it too, they just have to, and they get the strength to do so from somewhere. I was so concerned that my sisters would never be able to cope but they are - my family have amazed me at how well they are doing. We have drawn a lot of support from my mums sisters and spend a lot of time with them, and they have been a big help to me, as I am sure you will be to your neice and nephew. I really enjoy spending time with them because they are so like my mum, same mannerisims and if I close my eyes even their voices are similar it makes me feel close to my mum.

Anyway, I hope this has been of some help to you - I saw that you had posted on the secondary forum too, you will get a lot of advice and support from there.

Love Joanne x

Thankuou Thankyou for sharing your experiences. Things have not progressed any further this end, and we are still waiting to see if herceptin might be a possibility to keep the inevitable at bay.

It was particularly useful to listen to how keeping things as normal as possible helps with future memories. I really dont want the christmas thing to be “the last supper” as such, because then every Christmas in the future will bring back those same feelings and memories.

My mum asked me yesterday what to get my sister for Christmas - a vase or a pendant … I didnt know what to say. Personally I was going to buy her a drive a ferrari experience.

As for my mum. She had to ask me yesterday exactly what was wrong with my sister as it seems she has blocked out all the conversations that we have had. So I had to tell her the news and it was like seeing her go through the initial shock all over again. She then asked me if my sister really could be dead within the next few years … and I had to say yes and that it could be sooner. It really really hurt to say those things and see that all over again. And this morning, she asked again. And we went through the same process and hurt again.

My niece has still not been to school since the news - she is in year 11 and her mock GCSEs are soon. But I just dont know what to suggest to her and my sister for the best. The exams are important but then so is her mum. Dont know how I would have reacted if it was me… trying to weigh up spending every possible moment with my mum versus carrying on with life and preparing to live the rest of my own.

I am now worrying about the future of my niece and nephew - my sister was a single mum and their fathers do not have a great deal to do with their kids. They are in rented accomodation and my sister is talking about them staying there but at 16 & 18, I really feel they need a family home for the near future, somewhere to always call home and go to when you need that support or you cant pay your rent or you split from your boyfriend etc… I want to take them in, and would do, but my sister and I have not seen eye to eye over recent years. I have put that to one side to support and I guess protect, but I fear she hasnt.

Anyhow, many thanks again for your messages.

some thoughts Hi kitten

I’ve read your post here and on the secondaries forum and I’m so sorry you are in this nightmare.

People cope with cancer in so many different ways. I think some people (and I’m very strongly one of these) want to talk about what’s happening, face reality, not pretend. Its my way of coping.

Others go into denial…its their way of protecting themselves.

I suspect your mum is into denial and you’re not. You want to talk about what’s happening and she doesn’t and can’t. I feel for you. it must make everythign so much worse to feel you have to join in the conspiracy of silence.

The arrangements for Xmas sound just ghastly…if the worse happens your sister might not even see Christmas and I wonder how you will all feel then. But you can’t force people to face reality if they don’t want to. But you can find support for yourself…have you considered counselling…it could help you. Macmillan may be a source of advice and support too.

Feel really sad for your niece and nephew. What ever your relationship with your sister you can still talk to them, help them, support them.

Families can be a source of great comfort when someone is dying…or they can be a nightmare…you owe it to yourself to acknowledge your own needs at such a hard time. Maybe getting angry with your mum wouldn’t be such a bad thing?

I noticed dippykate’s repsosne to you on the secondaries forum and I think she offered such words of wisdom and I hope they helped.

best wishes


coping Well I guess my way of dealing with things is always to try to be publically strong, practical and solve as many of the problems that I can. Its strange as I am actually the youngest child by a significant gap, but seem to be the central pillar of support more often than not.

But inside its dragging me down big style. I have found that talking about it on here and with some close friends helps me to come to terms more with the reality. The more I talk about it the more real it is. Which to me helps me deal with things, but obviously for my mother it doesn’t help at all. The only thing is that when I talk about it with anyone, I take on the practical objective approach and the emotions stay inside until at night and alone.

I did actually get quite agitated with my mum this morning about things, but calmed myself and went through it from the start again. The main source of agitation for me is around the two children, with my mother saying we dont need to think about what happens after my sister dies yet, as in theres no rush. I can only see one advantage of prior knowledge of death as opposed to it coming on suddenly, and that is that you can put plans in place for the future. Not much of a blessing at such a difficult time, but its something. My current partner lost her dad to a heart attack at the age of 8 and has so much trouble even now with not having been able to say goodbye.

But none of the rest of my family believes how fast this could all happen, that Christmas might be too far in the future to think. In fact the more I read about the illness and the progressive hold it takes on your body, the more I see it in my sister - she doesnt look as “well” as you think she does.

I have always managed to help and fix problems in the past and dont you just hate not being able to do it this time?!

I will consider the councelling side of things, but feel so selfish for feeling so low and bad about this myself, especially as we haven’t always seen eye to eye if that makes sense.

Many thanks again to you all for your support,


To Kitten Hi Kitten

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on the 14th of August this year. I have joined an American support website and a lot of the girls there who I have grown to love have mets, or secondary breast cancer. The one thing that seems to help them is that their loved ones do not give up hope. Although secondary breast cancer is, at the moment, ‘incurable’ a lot of women live for a very long time with it and, as there are new treatment s coming along all the time, there is no reason your sister cannot survive to take advantage of them and eventually be cured.

I understand that a part of you has to prepare yourself for the worst but being positive is such an important part of tackling this awful disease. I don’t know what else to say. Please don’t give up hope. The ‘cure’ is just around the corner.


Lola x

My heart goes out to you. You don’t say how long it is since the secondaries have been diagnosed, but it sounds like it was very recent. Your family may be ‘falling apart’ right now, but that doesn’t mean it will stay like this. You all need time and will and are coping in different ways, and all sound ‘normal’ reactions to this shocking news.

You seem to be coming from the direction that her time is so limited that you need to ‘get on’ with things as you say , the practical side of you, that’s your way of dealing with it, and its at odds with others like your mum who is in denial. I know where you are coming from as I am a ‘doer’ and my partner who has secondary cancer is a ‘deny-er’. When she was diagnosed i just wanted to find out information, be getting on with doing something, but she just wanted to blank it all out. I had to learn to be patient and wait for her to be ready to hear things and talk about things. Meanwhile I was finding out what I could and posting on here so i could satisfy some of my ‘do-er’s’ needs. Despite this, we have ‘survived’ somehow, and it has been to her advantage having me different to her. I am a buffer if you like. Things that she is not ready to hear ‘officially’ she will ask me about, and i have to find out and then she can cope with me telling her and ‘filing’ it away and carrying on. Then when she hears it from the Drs she goes over and over it again, just like your mum. At times I have wanted to yell’but we have been over all this so many times’, but I see the disbelief in her eyes and we go through it again.

The situation with your relationship with your sister and the children sounds extremely difficult.You probably need to speak to your sister and acknowledge the past difficulties and tell her you want to offer the children a home.She may be wanting to ask you, but because of your difficulties, feels she cannot? Does your sister have access to a macmillan nurse? They offer support to those with secondary cancer, and may be of some help to you and the rest of the family. Don’t feel that you are not ‘entitled’ to need the support of a counsellor, when everyone around you who wouold normally be supportive is hurting, you feel the need to support them and you need someone for yourself. I think I would have exploded if i had not been seeing a counsellor, there was so much going on in my head, wanting to be supportive and not a burden on my partner, and not being able to really show what I was thinking and feeling. Give yourself a break, when all around you are struggling, do what you can for them, but remember that you are struggling too.

You are in my thoughts,