• Helping the Helpless

    Asked by kalindria on Friday, February 21, 2020

    Helping the Helpless

    Any hints, tips, suggestions for helping someone who has asked for help with their cancer journey but is honestly a terrible patient, doesn't listen to/hear what the medical professionals say, lies/exaggerates, accuses the docs of screwing up, and is posting "Poor Me" stuff all over the Internet?

    I love this person and I know they're scared to death but I have trouble maintaining my patience. I've given all the standard advice (stay hydrated, watch out for constipation, write stuff in a notebook, ask lots of questions, take someone with you to the doctor, etc., etc.) but I don't think it made an impression. The partner has mild dementia and really isn't much help either, plus they're a pushover in the best of circumstances.

    I'm far enough away that I can just drop out of their lives but I'd rather help if I'm able. Sadly, I'm not close enough to go to appointments/chemo with this person.

    So, wise people of WhatNext.com... any advice or words of wisdom for me?

    10 Answers from the Community

    10 answers
    • JaneA's Avatar

      You've given good advice. Perhaps just offer encouraging texts unless she asks for more specific help. We, as patients, aren't qualified to lots of questions.

      about 1 month ago
    • Kp2018's Avatar

      Maybe this person really doesn't want advice as much as s/he just wants to be listened to. Just "being there" with a supportive attitude and words of encouragement may be enough.

      about 1 month ago
    • Lynne-I-Am's Avatar

      kalindria, I am sorry your loved one is going through the pain of having been diagnosed with cancer and the treatments this entails. That saying “ you can lead a horse to water but you can not make it drink”, seems appropriate here. She is who she is and from your posting seems like someone who has been use to being in charge or control and a diagnosis of cancer , knocks you off your feet , at least for a little while. This might be her way of coping at present. Keep the lines of communication open and when the dust has settled, hopefully she will come to welcome both your advice and your support .

      about 1 month ago
    • Sasukesuma's Avatar

      That sounds a lot like my experiences with my mentally ill drug addict son. You can’t help someone who doesn’t really want help.

      about 1 month ago
    • cllinda's Avatar

      Kp2018 sounds right to me. I have a friend who just was there for me. No advice, no pity, just a shoulder to cry on. She would take me out for coffee and just let me talk.

      about 1 month ago
    • kalindria's Avatar

      Kp2018 - my sense is that she wants the pity and attention of everyone and is too scared to hear anything or take positive steps in her own care. Everything that happens is cast in a negative light - the world is out to get her.

      I’m keeping the lines of communication open but backing off a bit for my own self-preservation. All that angst and self-pity is not healthy.

      Love you all for your input. Especially the comment from Sasukesuma. I can see definite parallels. Thank you.

      about 1 month ago
    • macfightsback's Avatar
      macfightsback (Best Answer!)

      If someone could go with her to doctor appointments so they could translate what the doctor communicates.( It does not need to be you.) I have had an intelligent very nice friend misunderstood her dermatologist. During her routine annual skin exam he found a skin lesion. She was sure he said her skin lesion was melanoma when it was basal cell cancer. She worried herself to death as well as her family and friends until the day of the procedure to remove the lesion when my friend and her family discovered the truth. I believe it was fear based miscommunication. She has had Ovarian Cancer over 10 years ago and is cancer free. A few months before she had to have pancreatic surgury to remove a precancerous lesion. So it is easy to see how it could happen. Then, my sister developed a complex Ovarian cyst last year. She went into panic mode. I did go with her to her appointment with my Gynecological Oncology Surgeon consult. My sister is usually a rational calm person but she did not hear half of what the surgeon said. I had to tell her later. There was a 1-2% chance of cancer. ( She said Google said 10%). I was livid. My surgeon has been recognized as one of the top in the nation. Why did she not believe him? Then she totally blocked the part where he said a third of complex Ovarian cysts shrink or disappear within a few months. (Which is exactly what happened to her cyst within. 2 weeks of their chat.). So fear will change what you hear. Unfortunately, it sounds like her behavior and attitude is chasing off potentially helpful support people. It probably is up to the care provider to ask "what did you understand me to say to you ?". to facilitate better communication. Would this person consider seeing a counselor to improve her coping? Unfortunately, my sister has a knee jerk response to all bad news on my journey by blaming the doctors. I have to explain to her that everyone is doing the best they can. I guess we could all post "poor me" regarding certain aspects of our cancer journey. For me it is negative energy and besides you don't have to look far to recognize others in worse situations. A support group may help.her too! It will give her perspective. Lastly, she needs to get to a place where she is willing to change what she is doing. You might ask her "How is this working for you?". Maybe she needs to change doctors and get a new start. It might be the doctors communication style does not fit hers. Good luck.

      about 1 month ago
    • kalindria's Avatar

      Thanks, MacFightsBack - sounds just like what I’m facing. Good advice. Thank you.

      about 1 month ago
    • po18guy's Avatar

      I believe in the transcendent. I believe in prayer. If you are a prayerful type, prayer accomplishes what words or other direct actions cannot. If you do not pray, ask someone who does to offer prayer for this person. Prayer and patience (patience comes from: to suffer without complaint).

      about 1 month ago
    • Marian333's Avatar

      Have you talked to the hospital social worker? One really helped us. I finally felt like someone really cared.

      about 1 month ago

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