mum had brain mets

mum had brain mets

mum had brain mets My mum died last October with lung and brain mets. I recently discovered that she changed her will in the last weeks of her life, practically cutting me out of it (the money was going to my daughter anyway, but my father was made the trustee instead of me). Now both my father and sister claim that my mother was disappointed with me towards the end and thought badly of me. We were always very close before that, although I had lived far away from her since my marriage and we kept in touch mostly by phone, meeting only once or twice a year. During her illness I was the only one who thought her personality had changed, that she wasn’t like she was before. My father and sister didn’t (and still don’t) think so - perhaps they just accepted everything. It’s possible of course, that my mother was disappointed with what I did during her illness. I was trying to be practical, I was persuading her to try one treatment and not another, I wasn’t supportive of her decisions because I thought they weren’t the right ones (my father and sister, in contrast, preferred to support her and not upset her, whatever she chose to do). However, it’s probably equally possible that the brain mets did affect her mentally, and that her apparent rejection of me had its roots in that. Has anyone had any similar experience? I feel hurt, upset, confused, angry … and I don’t know what to think. I know I have to move on and forget this unpleasant episode in my life, but I would like to know if anyone else has ever experienced something like this, and how they coped with it. Thank you for reading.

Hi Maria

Can I say first of all that I am very sorry for your loss.

I am writing this from the point of view of someone who has had breast cancer, rather than as a loved one.

I don’t have mets but I can say that even having a diagnosis of primary breast cancer changes your perspective on life and probably your personality too.

Being told you have a potentially life-threatening illness is the most frightening, lonely place imaginable. You try to get on with life yet your thoughts are dominated by death. At the same time everyone around you is getting on with their lives which suddenly appear petty and insubstantial. It is hard to grasp why someone that is supposed to love you isn’t prepared to drop everything and do whatever it takes
to help you through it.

Reading between the lines it sounds like your mum may have thought you didn’t support her in the way she expected you to. You say you kept in touch by telephone when maybe she wanted you to be there in person. You say you challenged her treatment options when maybe she
wanted you to accept her decisions. You say her personality changed as if that is a bad thing. Did it occur to you that re-attuning mentally is a necessary - and healthy - symptom of fighting a terminal illness?

I was lucky because my parents were fantastically supportive. My mum came to every chemo with me. A month out from treatment she is still taking my daughter overnight once a week to let me rest and resbuild my strength. My parents are almost 70. There is nothing they could have done better. My best friend, by contrast, began calling less than usual after my diagnosis but did strange things like invite me out for a drink (when I was bald with no eyebrows or eyelashes!) and gave me ‘friendship’ candles. What I wanted her do to was offer to accompany me to chemo, help with my shopping and housework and look after my baby when I needed to rest. She thinks she did ok; I think she fell way short of the mark.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that maybe you made some mistakes that your dad and sister may have got it right, certainly from your mum’s perspective. That’s my humble view for what it’s worth.


Thanks Thanks for your post. Just to set the record straight - I live in England with my husband and 6-yr-old daughter; my mother lived in Asia, as do the rest of the family. It was not possible for me to either visit her often, or be with her long term. I could not leave my daughter behind, nor did my mother want me to. I could not bring her with me to stay for long as she had to be in school. As for challenging her treatment decisions - I advised her against brain radiotherapy as I thought it was not the best option for a 78-yr-old, and I wanted her to try an oral chemotherapy that had been shown to have some effect on brain mets. Perhaps that was a crime, as my father and sister were happy to agree with anything she wanted to do and not upset her.

Is change of personality a bad thing? In my mother’s case, it’s just a sad thing. Mastectomy and radiotherapy didn’t alter who she was, and neither did a diagnosis of lung mets. But I certainly feel that brain mets robbed me of the mother that I knew.


Sorry if I offended you. Hi Maria

I think that’s the problem with ‘chatting’ through a message board - that you have to try to sum up your life and experiences in a few short sentences.

I completely see that it would have been difficult for you to see your mother more often (I guess we read ‘live far apart’ and think Birmingham - London, not UK - Asia!)

I reread my answer to you (I’d had a lot of wine!) and realise it may have come across a bit ‘preachy’. That was not my intention and I hope I have not hurt or offended you.

I was attempting to help you to see what may have been going on in your mum’s head from a perspective of someone who has had cancer. We don’t always make sense. We can be highly emotional one minute and calm and rational the next. I have had periods where I have hated the whole world and was never going to speak to anyone ever again because I thought they were all selfish and uncaring. Sometimes it was a small thing that triggered it.

I’m certainly not in a position to tell you that you should have done X, Y or Z. But I can see how someone who is sick could have strong convictions that when so-an-so did X they should have done Y.

Some of your mum’s thoughts may have been misguided and her expectations unrealistic but something got to her and I reckoned it was important for you to try to find out what that was and perhaps to shoulder even a little bit of the blame. Buy that I mean even just acknowledging with hindsight that you may have made mistakes evn though they were well-intentioned. I’m sure you agree that in most conflicts there is normally fault on both sides.

I think the tragic thing here is that you didn’t get the chance to make peace with your mum because you didn’t find out about any of this until after she died. I can see how painful and frustrating that must be. Everyone deserves the chance to resolve their issues.

It may do you good to sit down with your dad and sister when you next get the chance to see them and have a really frank discussion about exactly what your mum’s issues were so you can explain things from your side.

I’m sorry if I made things worse when I was hoping to make them better.


Lola x

The Maria problem… Hi both - Lola, I think you made a very articulate case on behalf of both parties. You should be a counsellor, as your replies are so very well thought out, and indeed, helpful for those seeking guidance and closure to a family member’s demise.

Your advice is exactly what I would have wanted, faced with Maria’s difficult, long distance situation. Let us all hope she can mend those bridges that need to be done.

Maria, I have had to deal with both my father’s terminal colon cancer and my twin brother’s inoperable brain cancer, and it is so very hard to know what line to take, and not step over. All I can say, with my own experience, is that I did the very best I could in the circumstances, but have had no adverse problems luckiiy, with my elder sister. She has her head in the proverbial sand. My own breast cancer and chronic Crohn’s is obviously of no interest to my sister, as I have always been the “can do” sibling.

Hope you can mend fences… although I think you are quite right in what you did at such a distance.

Thanks Lola Dear Lola,

Thank you for your reply, and for trying to give me an insight into what my mother might have been thinking and feeling. You are right that the saddest thing is that I didn’t know about any of this until it was too late. You give a very good suggestion, but unfortunately neither my father nor my sister are interested in seeing things from my point of view. Both of them were involved when my mother changed her will, and kept quiet about it. When I finally found out, both of them took the attitude that I deserved it, and heaped reproaches on me. Thus, the best thing for me to do is not discuss this issue with them. I have to resign myself to the fact that I will never know what actually happened. After all, my father has given me two completely different explanations of why my mother changed her will, neither of which I believe 100%!

Friends of course, and thanks again :slight_smile:


Thanks Liz Thanks for your post. I think I did the best I could for my mother, although disagreeing with her obviously meant I wasn’t providing the level of emotional support she probably wanted. I regret the latter, but can’t say that I would have acted differently. Even though I’ve ended up being “blamed” and “punished” for my differing opinion, I still don’t think I could or should have withheld advice from my mother …

The fence I would like to mend (with my mother) is not possible. My father and sister don’t even think there are fences to be mended, they think they’re right and I’m wrong.

Thank you for sharing your experience. I wish you all the best.


I’m sorry for you Dear Maria,

I’m sorry for your loss too. I am also really sorry that your mum cut you out of her will without telling you about it. It was a very important decision to make before her death and she must have known that you would want to ask her why but would not get that opportunity. Of course we can’t know what your mother was thinking or going through but I do feel very sad for you that your father and sister think you deserved it somehow. My sister is often unkind to my mother which really upsets me (I am not suggesting that you were unkind to yours) but I would certainly talk to my sister and gently explain my mother’s viewpoint, if my mother cut her out of her will. What your father and sister don’t realise is that you don’t understand what you have done wrong. We all offend people at some points in our lives, but most of us don’t mean to and unless we are told, how can we change? I feel very sad for you and I am sorry.

As for personality change with brain tumours - well that depends upon the site and action of the cancer. It is possible that people with brain tumours to the ventral prefrontal cortex might get personality change - but not all.

Thinking of you Maria.

changing will seems a rather petty thing to do but in reality does it make much difference? I am leaving everything to charity so nobody is going to benefit from my demise apart from cancer research UK.

a lot of people leave more debts than anything. The best things we leave behind are not possessions but memories. Keep the positive ones of your mother, not the negative ones


Reply to Mole You’re right that changing the will doesn’t make much difference - it’s the why that bothers me. Because to me, it must take something pretty serious to make somebody do such a thing.

Yes, I would like to cling to positive memories of my mother, but at the moment, the negative ones keep creeping up.


Thanks Lily Thank you for such an understanding post, you have grasped my feelings exactly. My sister’s explanation is that my mother was worried my husband and I would make unsound investments with her bequest to our daughter, instead of keeping it whole and intact for her until she reached adulthood. Which may well be true but still perplexes me, because when she made her original will six months previously, she had no such worries and nothing about us had changed since then. Which makes me think there must be something else that prompted her to change the will. My sister claims to know nothing more, but at the same time launched an attack about how disappointed my mother was with my treatment of her during her illness, how I had changed, how I would not have done such a thing in the past, etc. My father claims that because I mentioned my worry that my daughter might misuse the bequest when she eventually receives it, and how I wanted to guard against that, my mother became angry and decided to “cut me out” of the will. Which doesn’t make sense to me but perhaps I’m just not perceptive enough. Thus, I don’t know what to think, and will continue not to know what to think. The best thing is not to think about it at all, but so far I haven’t been successful at banishing this from my mind.

Thanks for reading …


Hi Maria,

Gosh I feel for you so much. What a horrible situation. It sounds to me like your sister and father are grieving terribly for your mother and may be directing their anger at her death towards you. Although as people have suggested, unbeknown to you, you may have behaved in a way that your mother and father and sister didn’t like, there is no need to make you suffer like this now. Did your daughter get her inheritance? I very much doubt that your mother really changed her mind about your ability to look after the money effectively - it is clearly much more about something you did or said that upset your family.

Would it help to write a letter to your mum explaining how you feel and how you were trying to help her? Could you put it in writing? Of course you can’t send it to her now, but it really may help you. You could also send a letter to your father and sister, explaining how you feel and your point of view, and tell them how sad you feel now. Then, would it help to get some distance from them for a few months? Try to concentrate on your husband and daughter who love you unconditionally?

Please keep in touch and tell me how you are getting on.

Thanks again Lily Dear Lily,

Thank you for another kind post. In the past week I’ve decided to just accept that what happened, happened, and stop trying to find a reason for it. I’ll just try to put it out of my mind and forget about it, pretend it never happened. Being upset about it for more than a month is wasting my time and hurting myself, so I really should stop dwelling on it.

I did write a letter or two to my mother, more to clear my mind than anything else. I asked for her forgiveness for whatever it was that I might have done, that displeased her so much she had to change her will.

I don’t intend to communicate with my father or sister regarding this matter anymore; I know they are not in the least concerned about my feelings. We are still on good terms - we are not at war or anything like that. But I know where I stand and what I can expect from them, so that is a good thing actually. I hope I’ll be wiser in future in my dealings with them.

Yes, I believe my daughter will get her inheritance in future - my father is looking after the money for now. I don’t actually care about the money (trite as that may sound!). But I find the whole episode extremely puzzling: the change of will itself, my father & sister’s secrecy about it, and then suddenly heaping accusations on me when I found out. It’s so odd to me. Oh well, best forgotten.

Thanks again for caring.