Is my dad going to die?

Dad has had cancer for 7 years (advanced prostate). He has had operations, RT, Hormones a clinical trial and recently one chemo session. The last 4 months have been awful. Dad is vomiting most days and hasn’t eaten anything for about a month. The chemo has been stopped because he isn’t strong enough. Dad won’t talk to me and I don’t know if this is terminal. His wife is very fragile and off work with stress so I don’t want to put more strain on her. I just feel so useless (I live overseas) and I don’t know whether I should be taking time off work to be with dad if this is it. I just returned from a visit and he was pale, weak, sleepy, upset and only managed a little juice.I’m struggling to hold it together and feel like I’m starting to grieve yet keep pushing it away thinking he could get out of this yet. He was in hospital for week recently (to find out what was causing the sickness) but they didn’t find anything to treat. He is on anti-sickness tablets. He picked up a bit whilst in hospital but I think this was because he was being hydrated. Has anyone else been through this stage? Please be honest, I’d rather know what I’m dealing with. Thanks Sissy xx

Hi Sissy,

Welcome to the Sue Ryder Online Community. I am so sorry to hear about your dad’s cancer, and how bad his condition has been lately. It sounds as though you are really worried and it is so hard for you that he won’t talk about his prognosis.

We have many other users on this site who have been through similar things, and I hope some of them can share some of their experiences with you soon.

Would you have the chance to talk to your dad’s healthcare team about his prognosis, or would he not allow that?

His healthcare team know better than anyone about his individual case, but you could get some general information and guidance from the nurses on the Macmillan Cancer Support helpline. It is possible to call them from outside the UK - they have some information about that here: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/coping/getting-support/talking-to-us/macmillan-support-line.html#193036

Thanks Priscilla
I managed to speak with a nurse via the McMillan website. She was very kind but wasn’t able to say whether or not she thought dad was at EOL. I’m going home in 10 days so hope to find out more then. Sissy x

Hello Sissy

So sorry to hear about your Dad. Priscilla is of course absolutely right, you need more information and professional advice. Talk to the healthcare team if you can, the MacMillan support, and, this is the tricky bit, your dad’s wife. O.K you don’t want to stress her out more but the situation is urgent - she may know more, she may not, she may be in denial, she may even appreciate that you care not only about your dad but how she is coping too. If you don’t you may regret it, if you get a rebuff I’m sure you can take it.

I am saying all this because I was in denial about Helen’s, my wife’s, lung cancer and I was so wrapped up in my own cares that I did not notice the clear signs of her imminent death despite the words of the paramedic, the district nurse, and our local curate. In my experience and from what I’ve read, there is no predictable path through cancer, especially in the last stages.

If you can’t get the info and advice you need go with your gut feeling, it usually works. If you take time off work and visit your dad and he is not immediately dying (sorry I can’t find the right words) then you have lost nothing, apart perhaps for some salary and perhaps your bosses patience. In fact you have gained, you and your dad too, by having more time together. I am thinking of you and here to talk f you need, if it helps.

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Hi Alan
Thanks for your reply and I’m sorry that you have been through all this heartache with your wife and how thoughtful to still be here to offer support to others.
I have booked flights back to the UK for next week because as you say there is nothing to regret.
I’ve been a bit more robust and asked for the email for the nurse again. Hopefully it will be shared this time.
Thanks again for your support.
Sissy

Hi Sissy

Glad to hear you’ve got the ball rolling and not only do I want others to avoid the mistakes I made but it helps me to share my grief too.
Don’t forget to come back on site whenever you need, all the best Sissy.

Hi Sissy

Agree with Alan you are doing the best thing by coming back to see your dear Dad. Every extra minute you can spend with him will be good for both you and him. I know it seems horrible to see someone not eating but sadly this seems to be something that happens. I used to feed my Mum as she couldn’t manage unaided and found it very hard when she could no longer cope nor wanted food. When you come over if you can bear to, ask for someone to talk you through EOL and what to expect. It does help even if it sounds a bit grim.

Thinking of you
Mel xx

Thanks for your reply Mel and sorry to hear that you have been through this with your mum.
Yesterday was the first dad in weeks that dad wasn’t sick so the anti-sickness tabs seem to be working hopefully we will start to eat again. 10 days until I go back to spend time with him - hope it goes quickly!
Love Sissy xx

Hi Sissy,

I just wanted to check in and see if you have been back to visit your dad? How is it going?

Hi Priscilla

That’s so kind of you.

I spent the weekend with my Dad which was lovely.He has been put on steroids so had a little more energy. He is drinking energy drinks but not eating too much because he has thrush in his mouth (caused by the antibiotics).
I met with his palliative nurse who couldn’t really say how likely it would be for Dad to re-start chemo. He clearly isn’t well enough yet but I do worry as this is now 8 weeks without active treatment.
If I start to think that Dad is not going to make it, I start to grieve and then I stop myself because it feels like I am accepting something that might not happen. Its confusing and really difficult to cope with.
I’m back in the UK for 2 weeks over Christmas and will spend some time with Dad so I’m just hoping the days pass quickly so that I can get home. I’m now feeling guilty because I have arranged to spend Christmas day with my eldest son (in another part of the country) and 12 other family members. Dad is having a quiet xmas day with his wife. I guess I didn’t think that this would be Dad’s last xmas. Although I am going to be there on 3 different days I actually won’t be there over the 23-26. I know Dad has visitors on the 24th and 26th and he does get tired but I can’t stop thinking that I should be with him and not celebrating xmas with my family, children (there are 5) and their partners.

Sorry to off load!

Best wishes

Sissy x

It’s good to hear an update and that you had a lovely weekend with your dad. The Christmas period can be difficult to co-ordinate at the best of times when there are lots of different family members to see. The important thing is that you will get to spend time with him, even if not on the exact day.

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