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Dysfunctional family and SIL may have cancer

(9 Posts)
MerryMarigold Thu 13-Oct-16 09:55:13

I am not sure how to entitle this thread, but I feel so unused to dealing with relationships the way Dh's family do. Not even sure where to start, but feel really sad for SIL and want to be there for her at this time. However, she has not told me she has cancer, and isn't likely to, so not sure if I ignore it. I think she had it before (this time last year) but she didn't say anything, and no one told Dh and I, except Dh's brother told him she was having chemo as treatment for a different issue (not cancer). She was in hospital for a bit (we found out when she came out from Dhs mum, who lives abroad) and after that BIL and some other family members were very, very off with me. I wasn't at all sure why - all I could think of was because we didn't send flowers/ cards or phone her, but we didn't know she was in hospital, or indeed why, and also didn't find out till after the fact - and that wasn't even from them. She has ongoing health problems, unrelated to each other but has been unwell in some form or another for a couple of years.

The family is so dysfunctional. Everyone talks behind everyone's backs and it does my head in a bit as my family is not like this. I don't know how to handle it, but with this latest 'news' I feel I have to do something more.

Dh's mum told him on Tuesday night that the cancer was 'back' (this is how we assume she had it in the first place and that the chemo last year was for cancer) but told us not to tell anyone that we know this. But she seemed very worried, and said it is on lungs and bowel. It has been haunting me ever since and I don't know what to do. SIL has 2 young kids; dd is very close to her dd although we live about 1.5hours away. We see each other at family events about 8x per year. I want to help, I want to mend our rather broken relationship a bit, I want to be there for her dd who I am very, very fond of. But at the same time, I don't even know how true this is or how serious it is.

Should I just wait? Should I talk to her? Should I talk to someone else? (As seems to be the case with this family?).

chattygranny Thu 13-Oct-16 10:16:15

Secrets like this are devisive. My ILs were similar. When MIL was dying FIL wouldn't allow it to be discussed. She said to me "do they think I'm stupid?" It made a sad situation tense and meant they had no real communication in her last weeks.
In your position I think I'd ask her direct "What's up? Are you ill? Can we help?" That gives her the chance to open up if she wants to. If she prevaricates you have to respect her wish not to talk but show her the door is open and that you're there to support if needed.
By the way there are other conditions which use chemotherapy in lower doses such as methotrexate for Rheumatoid Arthritis and other auto-immune diseases. Is it definitely cancer? It sounds as if it is with the lung involvement etc... you sound like a lovely SIL.

MerryMarigold Thu 13-Oct-16 10:57:28

Thanks granny. That is good advice. I will ask directly. I'm sure she must know people are talking even if it is a supposed 'secret' and she maybe only told one person but now it's gone around the whole family. Maybe she prefers it rather than telling people or talking openly, but I can give her a chance to be more direct. I would rather be direct, but it's difficult since we don't have a great relationship. Dhs brother told Dh the chemo was for something to do with liver/ kidneys (this time last year, or so dh recalls, but said BIL was very clear it was NOT cancer), but then he said she was in hospital for a hysterectomy in the summer, so it's all a bit odd and doesn't really add up. I am not sure when I am next seeing her as we can't attend the next family event so it may be mid December now. Do you think I should phone even though I never do?

GiveMeRitz Thu 13-Oct-16 16:01:04

It might be just me but I couldn't understand who was saying don't discuss etc.

What I'm trying to say is someone controlling the information and keeping you out of the loop to make you look bad??

My friend Mum seems to think that all information/planning in the family needs to go through her.
She decided who 'needs' to know what and when. And will swear blind that she did tell/invite people.

I'm not saying it's your MIL, could it be your BIL? The fact that other members of the family were off with you makes me wonder. As in they've been told the full story and assume you have too and wondering why you're 'ignoring' the situation?

chattygranny Thu 13-Oct-16 16:06:03

As your DD and hers are friends as well as cousins could you engineer a get together or send an invitation in the post maybe around Halloween or Bonfire night? If they are struggling they might be glad of the help. Are you allowed to say you picked up some concern about her health in the family without getting anyone into trouble? Personally I think she is more likely to open up in person but maybe that's just me. If she really wants to keep this secret you just have to respect it and be there for the family if/when they do need you.

ohtheholidays Thu 13-Oct-16 16:16:22

If she's that ill OP I wouldn't leave it till Decemeber,I'd give her a ring and say you wanted to check she was okay?Say your Mil had told you that she was ill and you were worried and wanted to know if there's anything they need anything you can do to help,you could offer to have they're DC over for a few hours.

That way she knows it's coming from a good place and if she mentions the last time she was ill and in hospital tell her that you and your DH had no idea that she'd been ill or was in hospital until she'd come out,that way she knows you weren't ignoring the fact and that you cared and still do care about her and her family.

Make sure you speak to her though,don't leave a message with your BIL or anyone else in case it doesn't get passed on.

I hope the treatment starts working for your poor SIL cancer's a bloody evil illness.

springydaffs Fri 14-Oct-16 00:24:59

You're not going to get it right with his family so don't even try. By that I mean try not to be influenced by what the family are thinking/saying.

iiwy I'd make direct contact with her. Say you heard she was ill and can you help in any way.

Be prepared she may knock you back - not because it's you but because she can't cope. It'll mean something to her that you showed you care.

springydaffs Fri 14-Oct-16 00:27:15

By 'can't cope' I mean she may be struggling with her illness/prognosis.

I haven't been as ill as her but I've been through the vile cancer journey. It hurt a lot how many people disappeared. Conversely it meant a great deal to me when people showed they cared.

MerryMarigold Fri 14-Oct-16 10:12:39

Thanks for advice everyone. It's a great idea to get her dd over in half term and hopefully I'd get a chance to talk to her in person at some point when picking the dd up.

Givemeritz, it was the MIL saying 'don't discuss', but she lives abroad and to be honest, she is the only person keeping us in the loop so I don't think she is controlling the info. I think she is genuinely worried. I think, the family being the way it is, everyone expects us to find out through gossip, but because we don't see people that often and I'm not particularly gossipy, we didn't find out last time. I think BIL probably didn't tell Dh directly as he couldn't cope (with hindsight). This time I am more on the case though...thanks for all the advice, I really appreciate it.

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