View Full Version : Diagnosis terminal. help me find some words of comfort

February 12th, 2015, 09:32 PM
My BIL has been battling cancer for 6 months and just found out the chemo and radiation treatments failed and cancer has spread to lungs, lymph nodes and liver. Doctor has given him 6-12 months. My SIL said they were so blindsided by the news she had to inform us via email. Just too emotional to call. I will wait till next week to call them, but what oh what do I say? This year has already been chock full of multiple surgeries, set backs and incredible anxiety for them.

February 12th, 2015, 09:42 PM
I am terribly sorry your BIL received this prognosis. Having gone through this with my late husband Michael, I can tell you that the worst thing you can do is stay away because you are afraid you won't know what to say or do. Let them know that you are there for them for whatever they need. Sometimes what they may need most is to have someone do a few chores or babysit and other times they might need some privacy. Don't be hurt if they tell you this. It's a changing and unfamiliar path they are walking. Other times they may need you to listen to them tell their story and pray for them. Having the support of the family is HUGE. You will know the right thing to say at the right time. Sometimes just sitting and saying nothing speaks louder than words.

My thoughts and prayers will be with you.

Sandy Navas
February 12th, 2015, 09:53 PM
Heartfelt empathy, sympathy, and understanding headed your way. Never having walked in your shoes all I can do is to let you know we're here for you.

Life does tend to throw up obstacles that we don't understand.

February 12th, 2015, 10:02 PM
We went thru the same thing w/MM's mom. She battled ovarian cancer for seven years before it went into her bones and she stopped all treatment because they said there was nothing else to be done. I can't imagine doing chemo for that long, but she fought like a trooper for her grandchildren and great grandchildren. When they told us, she was in the hospital and when she was sent home, we had already met with hospice. I firmly believe that hospice workers are angels that walk on earth. They are some of the greatest people I ever met and would sit and answer and and all questions we had, and there were a lot!!

If you live close, I would urge you to do the same. They can answer any questions you may have. Just because they say he is now terminal shouldn't stop you from spending all the time with him that he and his wife will allow. Granny live eight months once she was put onto hospice, all at home except for the last two months when we had to put her into a nursing home.

My thoughts will be with you.

February 12th, 2015, 10:03 PM
When my in laws fell ill & we knew it was terminal I didn't know what to say either. I found that it helped them just to know we were there & praying. I ended up just saying what was in my heart, that I loved them, that I was sorry they were suffering, that I was praying for them. But mostly that I loved them..
I'll be praying for you & your family

Carlie Wolf
February 12th, 2015, 10:15 PM
It's difficult what to say in situations like this. So much depends on what their own belief systems are. I know what my belief system are but that is not going give comfort if those beliefs are not shared by them. I'd say think of what their belief systems are and then frame it in what your beliefs translate to that.

Kim T
February 12th, 2015, 10:46 PM
I am so sorry that you and your family have received such devastating news. Take this time to express your love and support while everyone on this forum prays for you and your family.

K. McEuen
February 12th, 2015, 10:56 PM
So sorry that you all are having to face this.

Like Bubby said, don't avoid them. My dad lived with my oldest sister and brother in law when he was diagnosed with leukemia. In the weeks before he died, I was out there and dad said to me "Jack (BIL) doesn't come in here and talk to me anymore." They would go out to lunch, watch ballgames together, etc. before Dad was diagnosed. I walked out in the other room and said something to Jack, he told me he didn't know what to say. I told him well, Dad thinks you are mad at him or something. Just treat him like always - talk to him, listen to him, be the same friend you were before, that's all he wants. He doesn't want you to run away because he's sick now.

When my mom was living her last months with terminal cancer, she just wanted to talk. Mostly about "old times" and stuff that happened when we were kids. I think they realize they don't have that much of a future left, but reliving past, happier times with the people they love means the world to them.

Don't be scarce. Just being there for them often means more to them than any particular words.

February 12th, 2015, 11:42 PM
This is hard.
I'm with the others. Go, be there. Call them, or whatever you can do. You will find the right words, or just give them a hug. It all makes a difference!

February 12th, 2015, 11:49 PM
My heart aches for your family. Will keep all of you in my prayers. Just be there for them in whatever way they need.

February 13th, 2015, 12:06 AM
I am so sorry. prayers for your bil and family. Lots of good advice in here.

February 13th, 2015, 12:40 AM
Prayers added from here, too. It is okay to admit you don't know what to say. Sometimes that is the perfect thing to say.

Claire OneStitchAtATime
February 13th, 2015, 01:07 AM
As others have said, I don't know what to say is just fine. There is nothing to say that can help in any way. Practical help is usually what is needed most. Offering to coordinate people to drop off dinner, for example, or run errands. There's a website called Lotsa Helping Hands where you can coordinate help electronically for them. Also I would advise telling them they can be frank with you about what they need when -- do they need company? Do they need people to run interference? Do they need time by themselves? Would they like you to come out for a week & help them with practicalities? Tell them you are OK with whatever, & won't take offense. Finally, I'd recommend not trying to suggest that what is happening to them is in any way OK, or for the best; when times are tough, there aren't many people who are willing to face harsh reality & grief with you, and those that can -- the people who can handle your grief & despair & look at the difficulties you facing without shying away -- are real treasures. Facing this kind of thing can be extraordinarily lonely, especially if your community keeps trying to look on the bright side.

All grace & strength to you and them.

February 13th, 2015, 02:06 AM
Iam so sorry to hear about your BIL.....
The best thing to do is to be there, if only for a listening ear. We had a neighbor( dear sweet man ) who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and while so many people stayed away, my neighbor's wife's sister was wonderful. We spent a lot of time being the neighbors we had always been, so staying away wasn't something we did. I made a lot of dinners for our neighbors, became a good listener, and often watched my neighbor so that his dear wife could get out occasionally. When this wonderful man passed, his wife let us know in a beautiful note just how much we meant to her & her family in their time of need......
So, don't stay away....do what you can, even the littlest things can make a difference !!

February 13th, 2015, 04:08 AM
I am so sorry for the bad news and prognosis,like the others said if you are close enough go and give your sister a shoulder to lean on.There are no right words for a time like this all you can do is be there. If you are not close enough to physically be there just call even if all you can do is listen that's ok.Your family will need you.

February 13th, 2015, 05:24 AM
Sad news indeed. Good advice from forum members who have been through the painful times. How about making him a quilt?
When DS#1's wife was diagnosed with cancer she wouldn't return my phone calls or talk about it when we saw her so I felt the quilt let her know DH and I were thinking and praying for her. People face adversity in different ways so we have to respect their wishes.

February 13th, 2015, 05:41 AM
A dear friend lost her husband suddenly at the age of 39. I went over to her house not knowing what to say or do. I found that just sitting close to Ana and holding her hand was all she needed from me. It isn't always the words that are so important as it is the fact that you are there. It's the action you take that's the important part. Certainly anything that you can do to help would be most appreciated, I'm sure. Ask what you can do. If the answer is nothing just let them know if anything comes up that you'll be more than willing to help. I'm so sorry your family is going through this. Shedding tears for you and I really mean it. I do a lot of laughing here but I also find myself doing a lot of crying. I guess both are good for the soul.

I like May's idea. If you are so inclined, make him a quilt. It doesn't have to be anything fancy since you want to get it to him as quickly as possible. Something super simple and then just a bit of stitch-in-the-ditch to hold it together. Maybe just large squares of fabric sewn together with a border. Super quick and simple.

February 13th, 2015, 08:19 PM
Hugs and support your way. Please do call them, Please keep it touch. Although it is a busy time for them, They will appreciate it . Having been there with 3 parents in 3 years ,I know It can get quite isolating . As far as what to say, It will come to you. And if it does not, be honest and tell them you do not know what to say, You may be surprised, they may tell you what they want to hear

February 13th, 2015, 09:35 PM
Some years ago a work colleagues son died and I just didn't know what to say to him even though I was a nurse. I bought a card but never sent it as the message I wrote saying I was so sorry just didn't seem enough.
A short while later we met and I said I was so sorry I hadn't been in touch, that my words would have seemed futile
He looked at me and said what a shame...to have known that I was thinking of them at that moment would have meant everything.
....a hard lesson learnt.....so please phone, write or visit.....just let them know you are thinking of them....it will mean so much to them.
Anything you say will be better than no words.

February 13th, 2015, 09:45 PM
This is a rough time for all. I am so sorry to hear. Prayers that a way will come for you to know what to do.

February 13th, 2015, 10:09 PM
You have gotten so much sensitive and caring advice, I am not sure I have much to add. As a nurse who has attended many dying folks, I will tell you that after the initial shock of the diagnosis, people do strive to do normal things again. At least for a while, as they can. They need to laugh, have fun, reminisce, eat delicious food while they can. They may need an advocate, and you can advocate for them to begin hospice care. It will be an enormous relief, and you will have people around you who understand. Keep calling, keep emailing, send cards and silly gifts. You know them intimately - and they need the family intimacy to continue. Wishing you strength and grace throughout this ordeal.

February 14th, 2015, 05:50 PM
I am so sorry and have no words of wisdom or advice to offer you.