• Supporting a Cancer Patient

    Asked by Mable on Tuesday, October 9, 2018

    Supporting a Cancer Patient

    My sibling was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. We have never had a close relationship, and the relationship we do have is complicated. It is easier for me to avoid conversations because we hardly see each other and when we do, all conversation is superficial. It is easier this way, because my sibling is extreme in viewpoints and choices made. I don't like my sibling, but I still love my sibling, if that makes sense. My sibling's support system is very small, me, my VERY old and frail parent, and, maybe, another sibling. No friends. I have to provide support and be giving to someone who I have always thought to be a "taker" most of their adult life. I have been appointed guardian of the teenage child, because there is no one else. I am finding myself to be extremely stressed between the cancer diagnosis and my recent job lay off. When I reread what I have written, I feel so selfish to feel the way I do, that I am not a better person. Any one with a similar situation?

    7 Answers from the Community

    7 answers
    • carm's Avatar

      I'm not a cancer patient or a family member of one, I'm an oncology nurse and I have worked end of life care so your story is a familiar one. And...for the record I have 4 siblings and only speak to one of them. That being said, I'm sure it isn't easy for either of you. If you feel like you two are not alike in any way then find something to connect her to you. Ask her how she feels about her situation. It might be the question that opens a door that brings you two together and brings the walls down. You have to let honesty guide you. If you have fears or are unsure then tell that to her. This I'm sure is a new path for the both of you. There is no right or wrong way to react to this diagnosis. It is difficult and alien to everyone. I read your post and it did not sound like you are selfish, it sounded like you are conflicted. It's at times like this that you have to evaluate what is important because there is no way around this issue, you just gave to go through it. There isn't much she can take now when time might be short except time with someone who won't judge... Someone who is there in the moment and real, even if you don't know the right words... You're still present in the moment. Best of luck to you both.

      11 months ago
    • po18guy's Avatar

      You are indeed in a tough position. Financially, are there unemployment benefits that you can apply for? Even short-term it can help. A to the stresses, the cancer treatment center most likely has classes, programs or pherhaps even counseling for caregivers - as they absorb very high levels of stress. And, given the nature of your relationship, the stress seems only to have been multiplied.

      You do not like her, but you love her. Makes perfect sense. A couple of things about love: 1) Love desires the good of the other. 2) Love does not count the cost.

      Countless relationships have been restored during times such as these. Amends are made, apologies offered - healing experienced even if the cancer becomes worse. You may be treated well, or even worse than in the past. Still, doing the right thing goes to your credit and will help you see that you are a better person than you suspect.

      11 months ago
    • gpgirl70's Avatar

      At the beginning of my cancer journey, I was put in touch with a social worker at my oncologist's office. The social worker had an arsenal of support services from rides to treatment, lodging for family, support groups, etc. I live in a small town so I would imagine that this is common at cancer centers/hospitals/oncologists. Maybe there is an advocate who can help with support for you and your sibling. It breaks my heart to think about someone not having a support system but it sounds like her isolation was orchestrated by herself. It's not like she had people in her life and was abandoned by them when she received her diagnosis. I agree that honesty is best. Ask her what she needs/expects and pair that with what you are able to do, what support services are able to do and what her child is able to do. Remember too that stage IV is not necessarily a quick death sentence. My mom was diagnosed stage IV 11 years ago and they gave her 3-6 months to live at that time. She is doing great and after her initial treatment, she has needed no extra care. This may be a long road and you will need to take care of yourself.

      11 months ago
    • leslie48240's Avatar

      All excellent advice! Better than I had thought of. I agree that probably you should just be honest with her...She most likely is aware that you 2 are not close (although sometimes people who think the world revolves around them have NO idea of reality). If possible...maybe say something like "I am not in a situation to support you or your child...but I am here and will do what I can to help. I'm surprised that no one really addressed that you have apparently suddenly become the legal guardian of a teen. Good Grief....life changing and over whelming in the best of circumstances. Doesn't sound like you even have a choice. Imagine how the kid feels. Yikes. I would not want to be in that situation. I can only hope that the two of you (you and the teen) will find comfort and be able to help each other. He/she may be glad to have a more loving caretaker than your sister is/was. Hope you find some help with all this. You certainly have my empathy...and a big hug.

      11 months ago
    • BarbarainBham's Avatar

      I understand this is a stressful time for you, especially if you've lost your job, and I agree with all the great advice above. I'm sure it means the world to your sister for you to have agreed to be her son's guardian. She likely thinks very highly of you to have trusted her with her son---with that in mind, you could start a brief conversation telling her the most important thing you want her to know about the two of you and your feelings. If it's brief and to the point, she can either elaborate or stay silent, and she will know what you want her to know either way.

      There's a lot we don't know about the two of you, but Is it possible that since your immediate need is money because of being laid off, that she can help you while you help her, such as allowing you to move in with her?

      I have a sister I don't like, but love, so I sincerely wish you the best.

      11 months ago
    • jillybean56's Avatar

      So sorry Mable, family situations make all of this so much more difficult to deal with. You want to help, but are sometimes shoved away or treated badly, it's not your fault. That is the one thing you have to keep at the front of your head, it is not ME it is THEM. You can try to deal with a totally dysfunctional family where perhaps YOU are the only normal one in the whole bunch, and may just have to step to the side and let all of them handle it. If things look out of hand, just make a call to social services and explain you want to remain anonymous, i.e., you do not want to be known as the "reporter" of the situation. Most will help you with that. This is a form of elder abuse and you do NOT want to be in the middle of it it all. If your sister is under some type of home care, perhaps get in touch with their social worker and let them know there is a situation. They probably already do. But put it in the hands of professionals to try to work it out, if possible. This is out of your capability. What a shame. Anger over a disease, cancer, whatever can affect a mind greatly, but it sounds like this has been a lifelong thing and has only greatly exacerbated with her diagnosis. Stage 4 cancer can, unfortunately, linger on or go quickly, you do not mention what type of cancer your sis has. And no, you do not HAVE TO be the support system, she has chosen her alone lifestyle, and now it will bite her, but need not bite you too. Don't let anyone take you down with them. She will surely use her diagnosis as a manipulating tool to make you jump thru her hoops. Don't fall for it. Support your niece/nephew as much as you can. Can you imagine the stress that young teen is under? Keep a close on that one, you don't want anything bad to happen, and this sounds like a powder keg. Cancer or not, it is a situation that needs professional help. Good luck to you, and no, not by any means are you being selfish. You care, they just can't see it. Leave the door open a crack, but keep the safety chain on. Wish you much luck.

      11 months ago
    • BarbarainBham's Avatar

      Resolving your income problem before decisions about your sister's situation might prevent the income stress from affecting decisions about your sister and son.

      Hopefully your shared history will give you pleasure at some point. Possibly looking at old photos with her son would help you all bond.

      11 months ago

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