• How accurate are the "time left" predictions by the oncologist and how do I tell my husband?

    Asked by packerbacker on Friday, October 5, 2012

    How accurate are the "time left" predictions by the oncologist and how do I tell my husband?

    This morning, I saw my oncologist and asked if there was a prognosis or estimated length of time I have left. He said I will continue chemotherapy with occasional scans, and they will adjust chemo as needed. But, he said, probably 2-3 years left, but strides are being made daily and that is not set in stone.

    My husband Pat always comes with me, but is sick, so we figured it wasn't a good idea for him to be at the Cancer Center and sit through chemo with me. He will take this hard, as he did when we found out that I had mets to the bones. I don't think I will share this with my 87 year old mother, who already lost a son 25 years ago to cancer. Any ideas on how to tell him?

    14 Answers from the Community

    14 answers
    • teddyfuzz's Avatar

      Hi packerbacker. It sounds like you've had much better days than today. Being straight and honest with your husband is the best way to tell him. It's okay for him to be upset - he loves you. If things were the other way around you would want to know, wouldn't you? Just give him some time to process things. Cancer is not something to face alone. It is a difficult journey made easier by the love and support of others. Give your husband and mother the chance to love and support you. And your oncologist is correct....no one's "expiration date" is set in stone and shouldn't get in the way of you continuing on with your life. Wishing you well, my friend.

      almost 8 years ago
    • ticklingcancer's Avatar

      Honestly is the way to go. You need him more now than ever before. Let him be that support you need and don't give up. He'll be sad, but you he'll be there for you. Your Mom as well. You keep fighting and prove those Dr's wrong!!!

      almost 8 years ago
    • Harry's Avatar

      My mother was 86 when I was diagnosed. I didn't tell anyone, except my wife, for a couple of weeks. Then, I decided that letting my brothers know was a good idea because, given my diagnosis, there is an elevated chance that one of them will be diagnosed with NHL. This is particularly true as we had lost a brother to Hodgkins Disease many years ago. I decided that I should tell my mother, too. I called her, but she was out and I left a message on the answering machine to call me. Then I started calling brothers. We are a large, dispersed, and busy clan so getting hold of all of them takes time. Before I was finished, my mother called demanding to know why I hadn't called her about my cancer. I explained about the answering machine message and she was (somewhat) mollified. My family has been very supportive.

      By all means, tell your husband. He will want to know. He will know eventually and he won't be happy that you didn't tell him.

      almost 8 years ago
    • abrub's Avatar

      Timelines are based on statistics, which are based on groups of cases, not individuals. I know many people who were told a specific timeline, and lived well beyond it. Thus, even if your onc is basing his estimate on your particular situation, there is no guarantee that he's right. No one can assign us an expiration date (except the judge!) Tell your husband, have a good cry together, and continue to take care of yourself as best you can. And report back here in 5 years, so we know how well you are doing.

      almost 8 years ago
    • Queen_Tatiana's Avatar

      As a spouse I can tell you to be honest and tell not only your husband, but your mother too. They need to know, and you need their support. Yes, they will be upset, but that goes with the territory of cancer. Be honest and let them know what is going on and what your oncologist said. Keep fighting.

      Survival rates are just a statistic based on numbers 5 years old. They are definitly not written in stone. Five times my husband has been given the quality vs quantity and been in the 5% that did not survive, but he has survived and even as he entered that 5% again this summer he is fighting the cancer.

      My thoughts are with you and I wish you nothing but the best.

      almost 8 years ago
    • Peroll's Avatar

      The time left given to you is based on survival data that is ay least 5 years old brecause they define survival as 5 years. Things have improved over the last 5 years and will continue to improve over the next 2 to 3 years so there is a good chance that a new drug or treatment will come along and prolong youy life for at least several more years, thus the 2 tio 3 years the doctor gave you is purely speculativeon his part. Also remember that even if 95% ofr people in your situation die in 2 to 3 years that 5% will survive and ther is no reason to believent athyou will not be one of the 5%. I personally have hit the 5% five times in a row so some of us do hit it. While your news may seem bad, te best thing is to keep a positive attitude and and believe that you are going to beat it.

      I would also suggest that you seek out a second opinion at a research hospital, research clinic or medical school. You may have to drive to Milwalkee, Madison or Chiago, but they will know about all of the trials and newest treatments avaliable that might help you. I have done that found a new drug that was approroved for my cancer last week so it does happen.

      As for your husband, you need to tell him. Just be honset and show him the responses you have gotten to this question. Tell him that you are going to fight it with efverything you have. Tell him about the plan to get a second opinion and seek alternative treatments. And be sure to tell him what I have said about the statisticscs. As an engineer I know statistics and they are alway subjec to interpertation. He may get may but that is a sign he loves you and wants you to get better.

      almost 8 years ago
    • SueRae1's Avatar

      Honesty is the best policy. I told my father who was 88 years old that I had cancer when I was diagnosed with advanced renal cell carcinoma 3 years ago. I spoke with my sisters first and we (I, DH & sisters) told him together. For us it was the right decision. time left predictions - they are based on statistics, etc but can not accurately predict anything for an individual. Three years ago my oncologist told me most people would say I had a year to live, he would not give me a prognosis - based on my case and advances being made in the field. When I was diagnosed in with metastasized breast cancer in May of this year (I had a lumpectomy & radiation in[phone number redacted], yes it's been an interesting 3 years), the Breast oncologist would not even discuss a prognosis, he felt it would be "meaningless' at this point. I am responding to treatment and that's what matters.

      almost 8 years ago
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      I think it's wrong for a doctor to give someone a specific time. Without a crystal ball, no one can predict the future with that kind of certainty, that far out. They keep calling a patient back in, to reassess where they are at any point in time. They told my dad six months, maybe a couple months more, without a more thorough explanation. So, of course what happens is he sits here and counts down the days to six months. I think that's the wrong mindset with which to leave a patient. There really are so many variables that it's difficult to predict. They could give examples of how long other similar patients have lived. Yet there are always those handful of people who go on longer than expected. Who says you're not one of those people? Set your expectations and hopes on doing well long-term, and postpone disappointment. Countdowns are depressing and useless. If you're going to count down, pick a day long into the future when you're going to have a birthday party, so you have something positive to which to look forward.

      I would tell your husband that it's impossible to predict the future, but the doctor thinks based on what has happened with other people it's probably a matter of years unless better treatments come along. Take one day at a time.

      almost 8 years ago
    • packerbacker's Avatar

      Thank you all so much for your responses. I know that 2-3 years is only an estimate based on others before me. My cancer is aggressive, as I have a tumor around my spine also besides in the bone. But, seeing what you all wrote helps me remember that it's not "set in stone." I also know that I'm going to live life the best I can. When I told my husband, he was angry he wasn't with me to help me, and then we had a good cry and talked about how this isn't my "deadline." We're talking about a cruise next year some time! So, some good did come out of this (Ha, Ha!) ! Medicine today is doing amazing things! As for Mom, I'm going to hold off for now. As it is, she cries a lot and says that God hates us. She doesn't need fuel for the fire right now. She has enough going on at home. Many hugs to all of you!

      almost 8 years ago
    • Peroll's Avatar

      I 'm glad to hear you talked to your husband and he is with you in your journey. I am also glad to hear you are looking into a cruise. My wife and I have taken a couple of cruises since I was diagnosed. They are perfect for people fighting cancer as you can do what ever you want including nothing. You can also eat what ever or when ever you want. I actually gained weight on one cruise and my oncologist loved it. I asked him if he could prescribe another cruise so the insurance company would pay for it. Didn't work but it was worth a try. Good luck and know that all the people here are rooting for you.

      almost 8 years ago
    • mccanbl's Avatar

      Hi packerbacker, Glad to hear you spoke with your husband the truth is the only way to go. What we have is way to big to keep to ourselves. I also agree with everyone else that your Onc can only guess at the time you have left. Mine has never given me nor have I asked how much "time" I have. I am blessed to finally reached the point where I live and enjoy the present and not worry about the future. As someone with way more insight than me said "Today is a gift that is why they call it the PRESENT. Good luck and may God bless

      almost 8 years ago
    • nancyjac's Avatar

      The are very accurate for those that are already dead. They are pretty much irrelevant to those that are living. Survival rates are based on sampling studies of those who have died or not died with a similar diagnosis to yours. For example, if of 1000 people with your diagnosis, 500 of them died within 5 years, then your survival rate become 50% that you will live for 5 years. Understand that those 500 people may include those who refused treatment or died from other causes, including old age.

      I think before you tell your husband you have 2-3 years to live, you need to first decide how relevant you think that prognosis is to you and what you want to do about it and how you want your husband to participate in your decisions. Do you want to continue your life as it is now or chuck everything and spend the next 2-3 years on a beach in Bora Bora or whatever, or something in between? Once you have decided to what extent you are going to let your oncologist's prediction run the rest of your life, the way to tell your husband will come naturally to you.

      almost 8 years ago
    • dvdbriansr's Avatar

      So sorry to hear of your bad news, also sorry no ideas of "how" to tell anyone that kind of news. However, I just wanted to say, many times my Drs have given up on me, called my entire family in to tell them what they "expected" only to still be here and living today. How can any doctor possibly know when/if a person is going to die. Personally, I do not believe they should have the right to tell anyone information such as that.

      almost 8 years ago
    • Sashalanda's Avatar

      While answers arnt set in stone..I think sometimes depending on your life situation it can help to know if you should settle your affairs. I don't think anyone gets "use" to the idea of course. I don't know as am new to all tis but wondered about when or if ppl got their affairs in order

      almost 8 years ago

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