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Heavy news, What to tell? When?
Dreamer Lost
Posted: Wednesday, September 4, 2019 10:59 AM
Joined: 3/7/2019
Posts: 370

It's been a long downhill summer.  But let me start with a little good news.  Our 5 yr old grandson, "rang the bell" for being cancer free from Leukemia after a long 3 year battle of chemo and hospitalizations along the way.  We went to Illinois (we live in Texas) for the celebration.   Thought we were through with cancer for awhile. 

Now for the downhill, the next month, we learned DH's sister (age 54) was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She is almost through with chemo and meeting with a surgeon for a mastectomy next month.  DH has handled it well since she lives so far away (Indiana) and forgets about it until we talk with her or other relative that mentions her.  
Then two weeks ago, my cousin (age 57) who lives near us died of a massive heart attack, no warning to speak of.  We attended the viewing last weekend and visited with a lot of relatives we haven't seen in a long time.  DH also did well as it was my cousin that I grew up with and not his.  I on the other hand was very sad and kept thinking it could be DH next and wasn't ready for that just yet. 

Now for the biggest sad news, my MIL was diagnosed with cancer yesterday.  She has always been a tough, healthy woman.  At the age of 81 she is still driving a school bus and substitute teaching along with keeping an immaculate house.  She and FIL live about 2 hrs from us and we see them every 2-3 months, last visit was 2 weeks ago (the weekend before my cousin died).  We found out when we saw them she has been having stomach problems for a couple of months now and not eating well and losing a little weight.  She didn't go to lunch with us as she couldn't eat much except yogurt and soft foods.  She has been to her doctor and they thought it was GERD and had started her on medication but it wasn't helping.  She went in for an endoscopy yesterday and found out it was cancer.  I don't know any details yet about if it is inoperable or if she will start chemo as FIL didn't say.  Just said she would be in the hospital for 3-4 days to build up her strength.  Offered to drive to the hospital with DH but FIL said no, let this sink in for now.  

So now, I am waiting and haven't told DH anything, but it is weighing heavy on me. I go to sleep thinking about everything and wake up thinking about it.  What do I tell DH, when do I tell him?  If it's the worse case scenario and she passes, then I'm thinking about what DH will wear?  He has gained 20 lbs so his suits no longer fit.  Then I think about how trivial that sounds and feel even worse. How will DH handle the news?  Bad, I know, at least till he forgets and how will I handle DH? DH cries enough already, imagines our dog isn't feeling well, or aware of his own decline, or not feeling well.  Medication has helped this but not completely. He can still understand things in the moment and will remember important things for awhile, so know this will stick with him for awhile at least. I haven't even mentioned DH's steady decline this summer also.  He can no longer fold clothes, nor even towels.  He can sweep but leaves little piles as doesn't know what to do with them.  He can wash dishes if I hand him the soap sponge and remind him to use it. He is still continent, just barely. Needing directions more and more.  Getting more difficult about showering and changing clothes. I am grieving each loss. 

I am so thankful for this site as I can't talk on the phone to anyone as DH always listens in.  Usually he looks over my shoulder to see what's on my computer screen so have to change it if on this site.  Any advice on handling this bad news would be helpful.  I hate having to make all the decisions myself now, not having my DH there to talk to about our problems and having his shoulder to lean on. He was my rock.  He is still a great snuggler in bed, so can get him to turn on his side and snuggle up behind him and just hold on tight.  It makes me feel a little better for the moment.  Then we have to get up, and the illusion is gone.  

Dreamer Lost 

Posted: Wednesday, September 4, 2019 11:55 AM
Joined: 5/7/2018
Posts: 349

You certainly have had a painful time. It seems like it all happens at once. I had a similar time over a few years. I watched my best friend waste away form cancer. My mother died on NYEve. She was 99, but I was very close to her.Right after my best friend died, my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimers. But your grandchild's recovery is a wonderful thing. My advice is this: don't tell your DH until you know more. Why stress him out? See how things go with her cancer and her treatment. Take him to see her, but don't mention the cancer. What good would it do him? If things get really bad, then you can make the decision to let him know, but their moods are so tenuous as it is, why add to it? But that is just my opinion.


Posted: Wednesday, September 4, 2019 3:57 PM
Joined: 3/15/2018
Posts: 285

I tend to agree. He will forget and grieve with each telling. I think you might have to give it to him in little bites. “Not feeling good today”, “seeing the doctor “, that sort of thing. Something that he can understand in the moment without the long term hanging there. Do speak with his parents about it and help them understand his inability to grasp this and how you need to approach it. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
Posted: Wednesday, September 4, 2019 6:44 PM
Joined: 12/4/2011
Posts: 17818

I agree too. No need to rush into giving out info

I do love the good news. How wonderful!

Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2019 9:24 AM
Joined: 1/21/2017
Posts: 178

Dreamer, so sorry about all the pain going on around you. I identify with what you say: my husband hovers when I'm on the phone so I really can't give updates on him that way. He also comes up to me to peek at the computer screen, but I can see him coming and click over to a solitaire game.Tomorrow I get a very rare outing without him, I just told him I would be going to visit a friend and would try not to be gone too long.

He sounds vulnerable to suffering, so I would agree to hold off on giving him the news just yet. If you think he can handle it, you might be able to make a general comment here or there that parents are getting older. My husband's mother passed away in March and he leaned on friends and close relatives to get through it. We knew it was coming and visited her weekly in the months preceding. He was pre-Alz during her cancer treatments years ago and fell apart emotionally, so I knew it would hit him hard. However you handle this, I wish you the best.

Dreamer Lost
Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2019 7:42 AM
Joined: 3/7/2019
Posts: 370

Unfortunately, it isn't good news for my MIL.  She has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. She has been in the hospital for over 2 weeks, had surgery which removed a tumor and a second surgery to help her stomach issues of N/V, on pain meds.  She is going to a swing bed in a hospital closer to my FIL to continue building up her strength with the tube feedings she has been receiving.  They may even try some chemo to try and give her a little more time (maybe a year or less) but it is not looking good.  
I haven't told DH a thing and it is eating me up inside. There will come a time when I have to (he still knows his parents) as I intend to go to the funeral and take DH if at all possible.  My kids will probably fly to Texas also for the funeral so it will be stressful all around. My question is do I continue waiting till she passes to tell DH? or do I drop small hints that she isn't feeling well? do we go visit her before she passes when she goes back home?
Talk about the stress we caregivers are under.  If we didn't care so much, it would hurt a lot less.

Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2019 9:50 AM
Joined: 2/1/2018
Posts: 410

Dreamer, I am so sorry to learn of this latest development.  You have had your share of heartache this summer, for sure.  

I think we have determined, informally, that your DH and mine are almost neck and neck in this ALZ progression (we are slightly more compromised than you).  That being said, I think if I were in your shoes (even 6 months to a year ago), I would follow my heart and follow DH's lead.  For a long time now (probably at least 2 years), my DH  has not truly comprehended illness, serious illness, death or the time afterward.  I have taken him to visit his friend who was dying with cancer and to the funeral afterward (about 3 years ago).  He was pretty much oblivious then to all the details.  Most recently, we have lost good friends and I have told him but attended services without him.  He did not react  adversely; he barely reacted at all.  I would tread more cautiously, however, if it involved a close relative (like your MIL).  I think, for my own peace of mind, I would definitely take him to visit her at least once and then play it by ear.  There is no right or wrong way to approach this with your DH.  You know him best and you should do whatever you think is best for everyone involved.  Good luck.  I will say a prayer for all of you.  

Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2019 2:07 PM
Joined: 6/21/2019
Posts: 518

It's an impossibly cruel position to be in.

Our responsibility as caregivers is to keep the PWD "comfortable."

The PWD suffers a progressive form of brain damage. It NEVER gets better at any time.

Keep in mind that this news will not help his condition in any way, shape, or form.

He may, or may NOT, forget what you tell him. He may not interpret this news the way you think he should. He may not react the way you expect.

If you tell him, you throwing gasoline into a fire.

He may forget. Are you going to keep reminding him everyday?

He may not forget and your news may make his condition worse.

Stress does worsen Dementia.

Is telling him worth it?