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Just found out MIL has terminal cancer - how long??

(33 Posts)
mum2twins Fri 06-May-05 21:16:18

My MIL has had a tickly cough since January and no other symptoms. After telling her endlessly to go to GP this March she did and was told was probably a virus. She then confessed (she is a widow and lives up north) she had not been feeling hungry and was losing weight. Turns out she had lost about 4 stone. Eventually was sent for tests a fortnight ago and was waiting for results on 12 May. But since then she has been deteriorating rapidly goes to bed and very weak etc so we called the Dr who phoned up for the results. She has terminal cancer that has spread 'everywhere' including her spleen. They said that there would be nothing they could do otherthan provide comfortable care. As we live down south my husband is anxious to be there as and when she dies. Especially as he lost his dad at 13 years old and was not present as being deemed too young. Does anyone have any experience of this and know what to expect timewise.

MarsLady Fri 06-May-05 21:17:58

I have no experience but wanted to say I'm sorry.

Hulababy Fri 06-May-05 21:19:22

I have no experience of this, but coun't not reply: so sorry to hear your news.

happymerryberries Fri 06-May-05 21:19:25

My sympathy, this is an awful thing to happen.

I'm sorry to say but there is no hard and fast facts that you can have. I went through a very similar thing with my late father. No-once can say with 100% accuracy x weeks or whatever. the best people to talk to would be your MILs doctors and the macmillan nurses can be very helpful. Explain the situation and ask them to give your dh as much notice as they can.

Janh Fri 06-May-05 21:21:02

No personal experience here either but it sounds as if it could be very soon - a matter of weeks maybe - can your DH speak to the doctor? Might he get compassionate leave from work? Does he have siblings?

I'm very sorry too - this will be very hard for all of you.

Thomcat Fri 06-May-05 21:22:32

Oh babes, I'm so, so sorry for you and your DH and of course your MIL. Jesus. There's just no knowing how long she has babes, I hate to say it but it can be quite fast, sorry, sorry, sorry. God, I'm sorry, it's so unfair and so sad

WideWebWitch Fri 06-May-05 21:38:52

Sorry, no-one can tell you, probably not even her doctors. But you ought to ask them what they think anyway and make sure your dh says everything he needs to say to her and says it soon. These things can be very fast or can go on a bit - there's no set timing IME or from what I gather. He should go and see her asap and spend some time with her though would be my advice. Sorry, this must be hard for all of you.

wordsmith Fri 06-May-05 21:45:22

Oh Mum2twins I'm so sorry for you and your DH. We lost my MIL in Oct 03 to cancer (lung) She was a widow too. Each case is different. She had a tickly cough, first noticed it on bonfire night 2002. Cancer diagnosed in March 03. They actually managed to remove a lung, successfully, in late April, but 2 weeks later found it had spread. She started Chemo in July/Aug but it made her very ill (she was 79)We saw the doc in early sept who basically told us there was nothing they could do and he said the prognosis was about 3 months. She lasted another 4 weeks .

BUT... everyone is different. How old is your MIL? Is the cancer in her bones (where it can spread quickly?) IS she keen to know the prognosis? Can you talk to her about it?

We went to see my MIL's consultant without her knowing. It wasn't until then that we knew that the end was so close, and as we realised she was not going to have any more active treatment, and as she was so ill, we luckily managed to get her into a good hospice for a couple of weeks. The effect was dramatic. We quite honestly wouldn't have been surprised if the nurses had called us the day after her admission to tell us she'd passed away - she was so weak. But within 2 days she was lively, wearing make up, arguing with everyone - almost her old self. The hospice could only accept people for 2 weeks at a time and we were dreading her leaving as the place was like a tonic for her. She passed away peacefully in her sleep with a smile on her face the day before she was due to leave. We got the call just as DH and his brother were about to go reound to her house to bring her bed downstairs. We were so glad that she had those final 2 weeks of relative peace and calm, instead of being in pain at home or in the general ward of the local hosp.

We were still umming and ahing about whether to tell her the prognosis - but she didn't seem to want to know.

Your DH needs to know what to do. If I were you I would:
a) make an appointment to see her consultant and find out the prognosis. Until then you won't know what to expect.
b) take your cue from your MIL as to how much she wants to know and
c) most importantly, yes, your DH should spend as much time with her as is possible (assuming they both like each other of course!) He will only kick himself when it's too late if he doesn't.
d) if she needs constant palliative care, see if you can get her into a hospice for a while, or check out the macmillan nurses, they are wonderful.

Almost finally
e) NAG LIKE CRAZY for the results of scans, tests etc. make yourselves real pests. Don't accept a 2 week delay.

and finally, I don't need to tell you this but
f) just be there for your DH. Mine cracked up about a month later (I was 6 month pg!) It was horrible.

Good luck (not sure that's the right thing to say but you know what I mean...)

006 Fri 06-May-05 21:49:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

KathH Sat 07-May-05 08:21:40

so sorry about your news. We went thru a similar thing with my dad, he wasnt feeling right for ages and then one morning he had a really bad back and was taken into hospital. They did various scans etc and was diagnosed with bowel and stomach cancer which they said was terminal and said he probably had about a year. Within the next 4 weeks they did more tests and things and in that 4 weeks it had spread everywhere, bones (he couldnt move at all towards the end), lungs, brain, liver. He died 4 weeks after being admitted to hospital which i have to say i felt was a blessing as he was in so much pain. He was 51. My grandad on the otherhand was 70 when he was told he had terminal cancer but he managed another 18 months or so! I think really the hopsital can give you an idea but it really varies from person to person. In my dads case he developed complications which developed from the cancer and thats what he actualy died from. They did actually tell us on the Saturday that he probably had a year but he died on the Wednesday.

mum2twins Sat 07-May-05 09:55:06

thanks all of you for your replies. It is just so hard for DH as we have just got back from Florida so has been off work for 2 weeks and he just doesn't know if he should set off up North and wait (but could be there ages) or wait for a call and risk missing her. He went up in a day on Thursday and despite having not seeing her since Christmas she could only manage 15 minutes of limited converstation. She is 70 and has always been so sprightly. Apparently the deterioration has been great in the two weeks we have been away so I imagine it will not be long. So difficult not knowing what to say to work etc. Or our 4 year old twins.

roisin Sat 07-May-05 10:06:27

The "not knowing" is hideous, isn't it mum2twins? Having said that, everyone I know who has dashed across the country to see loved ones has agreed in retrospect it was the right thing, even though it was difficult at the time.

Two years ago my dad was having cancer treatment, and it went badly wrong, and he was taken to ITU. At the time it seemed a huge and difficult decision to make to leave dh with ds1 (who was at school), and take ds2 across the country to be with my family. But once we were there it was obvious it was the right thing to do, and in retrospect I can't believe I hesitated for a moment.

Juniperdewdrop Sat 07-May-05 10:14:18

I'm so sorry to hear this mum2twins.

My sister died almost 2 years ago of stomach cancer and we (including her) had been told they could shrink her tumour so it came as a great shock to lose her. My mum talked to the consultant afterwards and he said they couldn't have saved her as it'd gone too far? We all wish we'd known so that we could have spent more time with her. She went very quickly but like has been said everyone is different?

Take good care hun and love to all your family xxxx

marthamoo Sat 07-May-05 10:27:21

So sorry, mum2twins.

KathH Sat 07-May-05 10:44:48

mum2twins i'm sure work will be understanding. Mine were - i just explained the situation and they said to do whatever i felt i needed to do and to take off whatever time i wanted. My childminder was great as well, dd1 was 5 and dd2 1 1/2 at the time and she would keep them till late, take them home and put them to bed so that me and dh could stay late at the hospital. It wasnt until this happened to me that i found how great and supportive other people could be, especially my boss who'd i'd always thought of as useless and uncaring!

jampots Sat 07-May-05 10:51:55

my grandmother lived in Ireland and every time she was taken into hospital my dad used to set off on his motorbike and head for Holyhead to catch the ferry etc (couldnt afford plane fares) and each time she got better - apart from the last time when he made it just a little too late

Aero Sat 07-May-05 12:09:22

v sorry to hear this mum2twins. It does sadly sound as though there may not be long left, but as people have said everyones case is different. Both my bf's dad and my Grandfather had around 10 weeks from diagnosis. It seemed long at the time knowing they were so ill, but in reality it all happened very quickly once they realised nothing more could be done apart from pain relief. I guess just being there for your dh is the best thing you can do. As it is immediate family, his work should be understanding.
Thinking of you all.

munz Sat 07-May-05 12:15:09

sort of, my anuty had cancer, thou not to this degree, her's was ovarian, and I can tell u don't give up the fight, the dr's told her after 6 months she had 2 weeks to live, she fought it every step of the way and lived for another 7 years. her view was it's all in the mid, incidently it wasn't the cancer that she died of in the end her bowls/ colustramy (sp) bag stopped working completely and she died 10 days later. there's always hope.

also if she can come to you guys the Royal Marsden in london is excellent can't praise them enough (or if she can get a referal to them)

jampots Sat 07-May-05 18:21:33

my friends aunt had breast cancer for years and swore by carrot juice - she drank loads of the stuff and survived for many years despite a poor prognosis

Copper Mon 09-May-05 10:11:29


If they have told you it is terminal, and she is so frail now, then I would encourage your dh to explain the situation to his boss, and then get off to his mum's. She won't be able to talk much, but he needs to be there for her. Also, he needs to get in touch with the hospice: they really are the experts at making her last days as good as possible. From what you describe it sounds more like days than weeks. Best of luck in helping your dh to help his mum to a good end.

throckenholt Mon 09-May-05 10:28:18

what a sad situation .

It sounds like things are moving very quickly. If I were DH I would go and speak to my boss and say you need to be with your mother.

Does she know what is happening to her ?

mum2twins Mon 09-May-05 11:03:42

thanks for your replies. The GP is going round today to tell her. One of the relatives is still going to go to the 'results' appointment on Thursday at the hopital which has info on the CT scan etc, hopefully they will be more definitive with the timescales. I think I will pack up bags ready to shoot off any day. We are all in such a daze it has taken me ages to clean the kitchen I realise I've been staring out of the window for goodness knows what is going on in dh head, I call him the terminator (his hero so it doesn't offend) as he just goes all efficient and insular but I suppose men deal with these things differently.

Minkyjj Mon 09-May-05 13:13:16

Dear Mum2twins,
I am so sorry to read about your sad news. We have been through a similar experience recently in our family. My MIL was diagnosed with an agressive non-curable brain tumour in April 04 and sadly passed away just after christmas. From the sign of the first symptom to the very end it was 9 months. I am 36 weeks pregnant now and due to have my baby in two weeks by c-section (I already have a 2 and a half year old little girl). We lived 2 hours away from our in-laws and are a very close family - I just wanted to say that nothing makes it any easier but life will get better again eventually and like us, I am sure that it will make you all the closer for such a sad experience. I will be thinking of you - take care and always remember that even in the darkest days, people do care,

mum2twins Mon 09-May-05 13:23:32

thanks minkyjj, dh just rang to say the gp has now told my MIL this morning to which she replied 'of course I bloody knew'. But the GP still won't put any timings on it, but due to the fact she cannot get out of bed now he has said any family that is not here should come ASAP. This in itself speaks volumes. So after much deliberation DH will go tonight/tomorrow and we have decided myself and the twins will not. Explained the facts to DS & DD (just 4) who predictably said ok and carried on playing. However, DD has just said if she waves up at the clouds willl Granny wave breaks my heart.

Janh Mon 09-May-05 13:28:36

Children are very philosophical...

Well at least you know now, m2t - and so does your MIL, so you don't have to worry about what to say. "Of course I bloody knew" sounds like a good attitude!

Yes, men do deal with things differently - they generally seem to be able to put bad news into a compartment and close the door on it until they need to open it again. I'm glad you have been able to decide quite easily what to do. Will be thinking about you all.

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