Dealing with terminal cancer

Yesterday my partner of 10 years was diagnosed with terminal cancer. For months he was treated for constipation but it turns out he had bowel cancer which spread to his liver. We’ve been given months to a year prognosis. He will soon be starting chemo. How do we cope with the months ahead. I think we’re in shock at the moment and tears are constant. We’ve always managed to talk about everything and now is no different. Over 24 hours we’ve covered lots of subjects… he’s been given tramadol for pain relief… I can’t sleep or eat. My doctor has signed me off for two weeks. Will I get my head around it by then… he’s my soulmate and I cannot imagine life after he’s gone. Is there life afterwards? We are attending Maggie’s cancer centre in Cheltenham soon and have been told this is a great place to go. I’m so scared.

Over four years ago my wife was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma stage4. She was told median survival was 14 months. That was probably the most traumatic thing I’d ever experienced and it filled my thoughts day and night for a week. I imagine you will be the same. But gradually you will stick your head above the parapet and start to function again. Somehow you have to get from a position of thinking about death to a position of thinking about life. Everyone is a statistic of one and just like my wife maybe he can defy the prognosis and you will get longer together. Time is obviously really precious and I think you need to work out what matters and what doesn’t. Chemo can be tough and tiring but if possible we built in a treat each day, although some days she was just too fatigued. Hopefully he has a specialist nurse. Make lists of questions to ask them and the oncologist. You’ll get through this because you have too as you will need to catch him when he falls. From our experience it is possible to get some periods of quality time and I’m so grateful we had that.

Hi, Thank you for your reply. I’m really hoping that we can get past the feeling of utter despair and live what time we have left together more positively. It’s early days and we are yet to see the oncologist and everything that involves. I’m not functioning at all at the moment… he is more level headed and somehow manages to shut down any morbid thoughts. We have talked about making our time together as happy as we possibly can… at the moment apart from some manageable pain he looks fit and healthy… I’m glad you’ve given me some hope that even with such a final and awful prognosis we may be. ABle to function as a normal couple.

I suggest you have a look at Macmillan online community. There are separate groups for different cancers. I found it to be excellent for support and information.

Hi Chillibabe,
I am so very sorry that your partner has been given a terminal diagnosis. It’s something that shocks you to your core and it is very frightening. Many of us here have been in your position and can relate to the depth of the pain you must be feeling today. My husband was given a terminal diagnosis this time last year and I remember only too well stumbling about for days, not being able to take it in.
Firstly, remember you are in shock and will be for some while, and probably not thinking clearly. Please lean on those you can for support and advice, family, close friends, professionals involved in your partner’s care and support groups like this one and the Macmillan site. When you are able, find out what resources are available locally to support you both in the days ahead - I’m sure Maggie’s will be great at helping with this - and make contact with the palliative care team who will be looking after you both. I am sure they will all be advising you to make sure all your finances and affairs are in order and that you have made Wills - you absolutely won’t want to have to think about this today but it’s crucial in the time ahead. Above all, have every conversation you want and need to with your partner, however difficult. It will give you a lot of comfort in the future.
You will find the strength from somewhere to get through this Chillibabe.

Ann Xx

I know how you feel. We were told on 16th March that my husband had cancer. Last week I learned how bad it was. He has weeks- months left to live. I don’t know how you cope, but you just do. Going about daily things seem so irrelevant and not worthy of my time, but they need to be done- and my husband told me last night that he finds it comforting I can do these things still because he is confident I will be able to cope without him. I am tearful every hour of every day, but I am surviving because I have to. Make the most of the time you have left. We are spending this week by the seaside with our children, and next week we are renewing our wedding vows. My husband is making videos for us, and writing cards when he has the strength. My heart goes out to you xxx

Please be positive through this terrible time. When my husband was diagnosed I was in shock. I simply couldn’t take it in. There was very little to be done for my husband but I have always been a stubborn person and decided to go down the road of Natural Therapy which incorporated diet, exercise, vitamins, spices you name it I tried everything. It extended his life by ten years in the end, I was told it was a miracle. So please don’t sit back, take your life in your own hands My husband didn’t want anyone told, he didn’t see the point in upsetting others and didn’t want anyone invading his private life, so for all those years I couldn’t share my fears with anyone. You will get your head around it all and hopefully you will be able to care for your man, should he need it.

I’m so sorry, without doubt your life changes forever when you hear those words and you will both continue to go through an emotional rollercoaster.
Although my husband died 6 weeks ago, 12 months after his diagnosis, I take solace now in the fact that we made every day count and each day we made sure there was something that made it special… some days it was very difficult to find but we always managed it.
On a practical level, start putting paperwork in order now eg wills, joint bank accounts, pensions etc, my husband did this and it has made it so much easier for me now, and once done it gives you both peace of mind and doesn’t need to be talked about again.
Take any offers of help and don’t shut friends and family out, ours were and continue to be an amazing support. Also make sure that you take time for you, you’ll no doubt put yourself at the bottom of the pile but you need to keep strong physically emotionally and above all keep positive.
Remember you are going through this together and despite the dark cloud overhead there will be fun and good times, just make sure you enjoy and appreciate them together.

Im so sorry. I know that feeling well and you will surface and feel that life has to go on, so make the most of whatever time you have together. Take pictures, do stuff together whenever you can, make memories now more than ever. I was given a piece of advice by a doctor when my gorgeous hubby came home for a while “be his wife not just his carer” andthats so true. Get all the help you can there is lots out there. Our district nurses were fantastic cos they know what can be done and they do all the paperwork and fighting for you. Please talk and make sure you get everything in order, find out his wishes of how and where he wants to be cared for its so important, now because its so much harder further down the line. Im sorry to sound like this but it made it easier on just focusing on us after we had done all of that through the floods of tears. You probably say " i love you" but say it at every opportunity it means so much to both of you. My hubby was fine once they got his pain under control and we were able to laugh together despite the future. You know life is precious, but now its everything. The fog will lift and you will have happy times, try to focus on that and make it feel as normal as possible. You will be amazed at how strong you both are and share your tears, laughs make it count. xx