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What to say to a Terminal Cancer Patient?

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  • What to say to a Terminal Cancer Patient?

    This is a foreign topic for me, I'm stumped.
    A neighbour down the road is at home with terminal lung cancer which has spread throughout his body.
    (we bought our farm from him)
    My husband and I would like to send a card and we just don't know what to say. Best wishes would sound silly at this time. (?)
    He does have his loving and supportive family around him.
    BAV-Aortic Stenosis...AVR Oct 11, 2005 / St.Jude Regent mechanical 21mm
    INR Home testing since 2007 with Coaguchek XS...Self-Dosing

  • #2
    why not make a little sunshine basket with things you think he would enjoy. I'd stay away from foods because he may or may not have the appetite for some foods. And just say it is a special gift for him to enjoy.


    • #3
      I think just a "thinking of you" card would be fine and if you want you could add if we can do anything let us know ect
      Mom to Justin 25 TGA,VSDs, pulmonary atresia/stenosis ect, post/Rastelli, 5 OHS, pacer in and out ... and surgery w/muscle flap for post op infection (sternal osteomyelitis with mediastinitis) [url][/url]


      • #4
        Keep it simple. "You are in our thoughts and prayers."

        It's a tough thing to deal with. I know you'll find the words.


        • #5
          Yes, I agree with keep it simple. Actions probably speak louder than words in a situation like this, and the action of sending a simple "thinking of you" card seems appropriate.
          Surgery 5/28/09 - Dr. William Ryan, Baylor Heart Hospital, Plano, TX

          AVR with On-X valve, ascending aorta aneurysm repair with Dacron graft, septal myomectomy, pulmonary vein ablation


          • #6
            Bina, as my best friend was living through the last months of her battle with cancer many of her acquaintances abandoned her. They would say to me "Oh, I just want to remember her as she was" effectively burying her before her death. Even a short visit to tell your neighbor that he is in your thoughts is likely to be very welcome. When someone dropped by for a chat, my friend, Ginger, would perk up for hours. While your neighbor is alive, a visit will lift his spirits and those of his family. You don't have to talk about anything of consequence. Your presence will speak for itself.
            AVR 22 SEP 09
            Carpentier-Edwards Bovine Pericardial "Magna" with Sternal Talons
            Oklahoma Heart Institute, Tulsa, OK


            • #7
              Bina, I have had friends and family with the same cancer. My hubbys brother and Father died of lung cancer. Its not a lovely site. They told us just visiting and being there and helping with ever was needed and was very greatful for that. I also sent cards just for encouragment and thinking of you. Do whatever is laid on your heart you'll be fine your very caring person.
              OHS 6/20/2006


              • #8
                The tough part with this is not acting normal. People tend to tip toe around a dying person rather than address the issue. This makes everyone uncomfortable.

                A few years back, the son of a good friend of mine developed terminal cancer. After many trips to the hospital, he finally came home to die. He had always been a large guy who liked good food and fun. When I went to visit, everyone was somber and things were so tense you could cut the air with a knife. I walked in, looked at David, sat next to him on the couch and said: "Boy, you sure picked a hell of a way to lose weight." After a few seconds of silence, David started laughing and, from then on, it became a party celebrating his life and not concentrating on his death.

                Not that I am advocating you do this. However, a card that reads something like: "We are so sorry to hear about your illness. You have been important in our life and we wanted you to know this. Thank you for being our neighbor."


                • #9
                  Another thing you may think to do, if going to the store, see if they need anything. My former SIL just passed away with lung cancer. I used to send cards that were "thinking of you" and let her know "thoughts and prayers".
                  Coincidence is Gods way of remaining anonymous.
                  AVR 7-6-07 Bovine Pericardial Valve. Akron City Hospital Ablation 6/08, Akron City Hospital


                  • #10
                    many avoid a cancer patient who is terminal. it is hard to do before you go to see the patient but once you get there, you may find it is much easier than you thought. You just tell them you are so sorry to know they are ill and are in your thoughts and prayers. If it's a card, there are plenty of them that do not mention any illness, just thoughts of you during this time. Please do it because it is really important to the patient to have contact with friends and loved ones. When my dear Joe was dying of cancer, Hospice told us it would be nice if we could write him a note to let him know how much we loved him. He got letters from both of his children, some friends. It certainly uplifted his spirits. Have courage and just be the person you always have been.
                    My philosophy:
                    No matter where you are, who you are with, what you are doing, enjoy every moment, every day. Blessins.........


                    • #11
                      I was thinking of a simple "thinking of you" card with a note on it that says something like let us know if there is anything we can do.
                      AVR September 6th, 2007 at age 52; Carbomedics/Sorin mechanical, model #R500, size 23
                      Hamilton General Hospital - Dr. Semelhago - "Da Best"
                      bicuspid; murmur diagnosed 1985 - warfarin, beta-blocker, BP pill


                      • #12
                        My elderly neighbor in my prior town developed pancreatic cancer. He asked me to come over through one of his sons, who approached me with some misgivings. His son coached me as we walked over that he was very near-term critical, and they were only saying positive things to him.

                        He called me into his room, and he looked gaunt. We talked about the weather, the plants, the things we always talked about when we ran into each other. Then he looked at me in a different way. He said, "you kow I'm dying." I said yes, I understood that was the case. "They won't even let me talk about it and it drives me crazy."

                        I said that they were afraid of losing him, and it was tough on him, but easier for them that way. He agreed, and said that he wasn't unhappy, he'd had a good life. I asked if he was afraid, and he said no. By then, his son was listening at the door. We talked a bit more and then he said, "you've been a good neighbor," and shook my hand. I said that he had been as well. He had a big smile on his face and looked greatly relieved. It was time to go.

                        His son bum's-rushed me out, obviously unhappy about our choice of conversation. He said that he had told me that they were trying to say only positive things around him. I replied that he knew he was dying, and that he needed to say goodbye, so I had to do that for him. That's why he had asked for me: he needed to be able to say goodbye to someone on open terms, even if it was just with a neighbor.

                        The son was still annoyed, so I went home. Charlie died later that evening. A week later, his son came over and said, "I finally understand what you were doing." We were able to talk about it and I went through some stories I had of his dad. He thanked me for being there for his father.

                        I'm not saying to open up the subject, and I'm not saying the person you're visiting would need what Charlie needed. I'm not saying that anyone will ever thank you for it. But I am saying to be willing to get tossed out on your ear to do the right thing if it becomes apparent, for your neighbor, your friend, your relative.

                        Often, the family will not discuss the reality of the situation with the patient. They know they are dying. They need closure. They need to express their fears. They need to say goodbye.

                        So, if nothing else, please let them look you in the eye and say goodbye.

                        Best wishes,
                        Bob H

                        "No Eternal Reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn..." Jim Morrison

                        [B] [URL=""] Click here to View the Glossary of VR Terms and Acronyms[/URL] [/B]

                        [B]I am not a Medical Professional.[/B] Aortic Valve Replacement (Medtronic Mosaic) on 4/6/04, at Robert Wood Johnson UH in New Brunswick, NJ. AVR again (St. Jude Biocor) on 08/25/09 at St. Michael's MC in Newark, NJ. Both performed by Dr. Tyrone Krause, a true Zen Master Mechanic in the world of valve replacement surgery.


                        • #13
                          My husband works with the sister of this man, so we have brief updates on his condition.
                          I think we will send a "Thinking of you" card with a couple of farm photos inside and then we'll see where things go from there.
                          A gift basket would also be nice to share with his wife.
                          Thanks alot, your ideas are great and much appreciated.
                          BAV-Aortic Stenosis...AVR Oct 11, 2005 / St.Jude Regent mechanical 21mm
                          INR Home testing since 2007 with Coaguchek XS...Self-Dosing


                          • #14
                            Bob H, thank you for sharing your experience. My husband is very freaked out about all of this, but I'm hoping that by sending a card/gift first, maybe we will get a call from them and go from there.
                            BAV-Aortic Stenosis...AVR Oct 11, 2005 / St.Jude Regent mechanical 21mm
                            INR Home testing since 2007 with Coaguchek XS...Self-Dosing


                            • #15
                              I think the farm photos are perfect, I can imagine he would enjoy looking at them and thinking
                              Mom to Justin 25 TGA,VSDs, pulmonary atresia/stenosis ect, post/Rastelli, 5 OHS, pacer in and out ... and surgery w/muscle flap for post op infection (sternal osteomyelitis with mediastinitis) [url][/url]