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to be upbeat to neighbour after she told me her cancer has spread to the brain?

(24 Posts)
jugofwildflowers Sat 06-Aug-11 18:37:11

Feel dreadful now, but my neighbour who I don't know that well recently told me her cancer has spread to the brain. I knew she had cancer already and my other friends told me this before so it wasn't as if it was news.

She is a cheerful lady and we were all having fun with our dc that day when we met up after a long while. She said she was glad the rest of her body was in remission.

Because she was being so positive, cheerful and upbeat about it all I'm afraid I took the same approach. I offered to help her out as she can't drive, and invited her round etc with the dc she was happy saying that was kind etc and that she would like me to teach her dd to ride (our pony)which I've offered to do.

It wasn't until I got home that I felt so utterly awful for not offering my condolences etc and for not behaving in a graver manner.

squeakytoy Sat 06-Aug-11 18:38:24

You did the right thing by far, honestly. She doesnt want condolences, and I am 100% sure that she is so grateful that you behaved the way you did towards her.

GypsyMoth Sat 06-Aug-11 18:39:35

condolences? she's still here,and i doubt she's feeling any worse because you didnt act 'gravely'....you did ok!

hiddenhome Sat 06-Aug-11 18:40:24

People with a life limiting illness just want to be treated like anyone else. Normality is so welcome under these circumstances and offering to help her out is a lovely thing to do.

kimeleon Sat 06-Aug-11 18:42:17

Having gone through the experience of terminal cancer with my mother, I honestly don't think there is a right or wrong way to deal with it.

By being cheerful and upbeat herself, I think she was setting the tone for her interaction with you. It doesn't sound like she was looking for condolences or any kind of pity. In my mum's case, the best gift she could receive from her friends was being treated like she was alive, not mourning for her eventual death. I think you behaved with compassion and honoured her dignity.

izzywhizzyletsgetbusy Sat 06-Aug-11 18:43:01

You have done absolutely the right thng in taking your cue from her, and I sincerely hope that you will continue to do so.

If she should she want your condolences or overt sympathy, I'm sure she'll let you know and you can respond accordingly.

WhereYouLeftIt Sat 06-Aug-11 18:45:33

I expect she was grateful that at least there is one person who could look at her as a person and not a walking disease carrier. There is more to this lady than her cancer, so I think you have nothing to reproach yourself for.

festi Sat 06-Aug-11 18:46:01

I think you were very kind to this lady and acted naturaly, Im sure she wouldnt have wanted to spend a melencholy day with you. My dies of caner and she found sympathy very difficult she only spent her last few months with the very friends who did not dance around her and make her feel like she was dying. she still loved having a laugh and making her family happy. I think you have nothing to feel guilty for but should be proud you have made a genuine offer, im sure this lady will see you as the kind of person she needs to around just now.

festi Sat 06-Aug-11 18:47:28

sorry shocking typing. should say my mum died of cancer...

Northernlurker Sat 06-Aug-11 18:49:50

I think you are right to take her cue. It might be helpful though to say to her that should she need a sounding board for less positive points you can oblige with that too. Being strong and brave is bloody hard work.

LolaRennt Sat 06-Aug-11 18:51:04

If you are unsure, you can say next time you see her " look, I hope you didn't think I took what you said lightly.. I didn't. You're just an upbeat sort of person and its hard not to be when around you!" or something similar if it would make you feel better.

Although I think you neednt bother personally.

Birdsgottafly Sat 06-Aug-11 18:52:02

Take your 'cues' from her. It will require listening skills and instinct.

When my DH was at the end of his life, we still had 'normal' days, life cannot just be about the illness.

It was Easter just before he was moved off a terminal cancer ward into a private room (he was Catholic and Easter had always been celebrated by us nearly as big as Christmas). I sent my DD's in (quietly at first), with bunny ears on, carrying Easter baskets etc. I had put away stuff for my DH to give, in his wardrobe. The other patients had stuff away for my DD's (the only DC visitors that i didn't know about), it was obvious that they all wanted a 'day off' from the reality of their situation.

pranma Sat 06-Aug-11 18:54:59

You did the right thing.I have had breast cancer and I would want people to take their cue from me[however mine was not terminal].She probably welcomed the chance to feel normal for a while.Do follow up on teaching her dd to ride,be there to help if you can and let her know that you are there if she needs someone to talk to.It is important that she realises that you are not shying away from the topic of her illness but are ready to follow her lead.You are doing very well so far smile

topsyturner Sat 06-Aug-11 18:55:41

I also have cancer , and have recently been diagnosed with secondaries , so it is likely to be a life limiting illness .

I think you acted in exactly the right way .
My friends are not allowed to be maudlin around me , I am still here and I am going to be fighting .

I like to be normal , have normal conversations and do the things I would always do with my children .
I laugh , I am irreverent , and I drink gin and wine grin

Keep being the good friend and neighbour that you have been !

Andrewofgg Sat 06-Aug-11 18:59:07

Another (recovered) cancer patient.

You were spot on.

madhairday Sat 06-Aug-11 19:17:55

I think you were great.

I have chronic illness and just want to be normal. I find it hard to know how to react when people go all sympathetic and sad round me. Would prefer they made me laugh. You sound like a lovely friend smile

Grumpla Sat 06-Aug-11 19:23:23

I think it's always best to take your cues from the people concerned in situations like this.

Be sensitive though, she may not want to be 'upbeat' all day every day, it's important that you listen to her signals each time you see / talk to her and allow her to set the tone of your interactions.

jugofwildflowers Sat 06-Aug-11 20:03:32

You've reassured me I can't tell you how relieved I feel. This is definitely a situation where Mumsnet is so helpful. She told me her dc don't know that the cancer has spread.

Could you tell me, what is the prognosis now the cancer has reached her brain and bones? She once said she dreads it spreading to her lungs.

Could she have years left or are we talking months or is it impossible to tell?

Thank you so much.

Mitmoo Sat 06-Aug-11 20:06:00

You took your cue from her, I bet she was delighted not to have someone reminding her of how desperate her circumstances are and just to have a light hearted day.

Rhinestone Sat 06-Aug-11 20:10:41

I think you did great and your compassion was obvious by the offers of help you made. But I think LolaRennt has a great idea of something to say if you are still worried.

Ripeberry Sat 06-Aug-11 20:15:25

What is the point of condolences? They mean nothing to the person receiving them, especially if it is terminal. They just want people to act normal around them and involve them in everyday things.
Just be there for her when she needs you.

topsyturner Sat 06-Aug-11 20:18:46

Hiya jug

I have breast cancer with lung secondaries .
No spread to bones or any other organs .
My oncologist says statistically I could have 2 to 3 years .

I however have decided to be cured instead grin

edam Sat 06-Aug-11 20:21:25

jug - it's impossible for us to tell given we aren't her doctors and don't know her particular history but it's obviously bad news when cancer spreads to the brain and bones. So if you can be around to offer practical help when she needs it, you'll be a great help, I should imagine. You are already clearly a very sensitive person who did exactly the right thing taking your cue from her.

Poor woman. Horrible to be facing something like that at any stage, but when you have young children it's particularly poignant.

edam Sat 06-Aug-11 20:23:53

grin Topsy, I do like your style. And hope you will beat your surgeon's prognosis. Some people do - I once talked to some brain surgeons and they had glioma patients who had survived for a decade. Admittedly these were rare cases but here's hoping you will be just as impressive in your area.

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