Terminal breast cancer

Mybrother’s wife has terminal breast cancer. He has gone into total melt down and not able to cope with life. Last week he was addmitted to a psychiatric hospital for his own safety. He appears to be getting worse by the day. I live 100 miles away and can’t support the way I would like to. I feel a calming hospital would have been more appropriate. He is so scared and fearful. I try to phone every day. Does anyone have any similar experiences?

What a tragic situation, and what a worry for you. I don’t have a similar experience to draw on, but my brother in law was diagnosed as manic depressive many years ago, and my daughter had mental health problems, so I know how worrying they can be, and how worrying it is for you too. You’re probably feeling so helpless right now, but by keeping in touch with your brother he will appreciate your support I’m sure, and if you’re on good terms with his wife he would probably appreciate you keeping in touch with her as well and supporting her in that way at this difficult time.

I do remember that it can take some time for the medication to kick in properly and the psychiatric hospital will be doing all they can to get your brother stabilised as soon as possible but it’s hard for you living so far away and wanting to do more.

Wishing you strength, take care, Kathy

Thank you Kathy for your reply but my sister in law is unconscious and we await a phone call at any time. I really feel that my brother is in denial. I try to phone him most days but he literally cannot cope with life at the moment.

Thank you for your comments. My sister in law is not conscious and any day we await the phone call. My brother was ill 3years ago when his wife was first diagnosed with breast cancer. However she had her treatment and recovered but the diagnosis this time is terminal and he cannot cope with the future without her. He says he is so frightened and cannot talk to anyone but his family. It is so so sad.

Thank you for your sensible advice. My brother has 2 step sons who are trying to persuade him to visit his wife. Unfortunately with no success. I have tried to explain most of the points you have made, but he is just so frightened, I think it is fear of the future. I have told him we are all fearful of the future as no one has a cast iron guarantee of our futures. I think his problems come from many deaths in childhood. My father died when my brother was 10 and an older brother of 26 years died from a brain tumour (which is what my sister in law has) when my younger brother was only 14. Our mother died when he was only 24, so as a family we have experienced lots of deaths. I hope that he can find an inner strength from somewhere, he has 2 very loyal sons.

Thank you for your comments. My lovely sister in law died this morning. I shall miss her.

Kathy you were kind in your comments. I am sad as my sister in law died this morning. We shall all miss her.

So very sad about your sister in law what a terrible loss.
When I read about your brother and all the losses in his life so far I can understand why he couldn’t cope with his wife’s illness and now her death.
We shouldn’t judge him at all and certainly not harshly.
I hope he finds the strength.and support he needs to carry on.
I’m sure he loved his wife deeply and his previous losses must have made it impossible to deal with this one. J

I’m so sorry to hear your sad news. Even when it’s expected it comes as a shock. How is your brother coping? Sometimes when what we dread actually happens we somehow find the strength to cope with it. I know I did when my daughter died and it sounds as though your brother has some caring people who are there for him to support him through this, though of course he must be absolutely devastated. You will be feeling emotionally drained too so make sure you take good care of yourself as well. Sending you love and prayers, Kathy

Thank you J. You sound as if you understand. It is so so difficult.x

Thank you Kathy. My brother is now in total shock and not coming to terms with his wife’s death. The emotions must come out at some point.x

Your poor brother, my heart goes out to him. It sounds like he was already grieving but now the loss has happened he’s been knocked sideways, and he was already so fragile. Yes, his emotions need to surface so that he can work through them and come out on the other side, but it’s a lonely journey that can’t be hurried. Your support, and that of his sons, will carry him through but it’s hard for you, too, just watching and feeling you want to do more. Just knowing you’re there for him, and that you care, will be a big comfort. And as I said yesterday you need to take good care of yourself too. Kathy x

Thank you Kathy, I have really appreciated your posts. My brother is not accepting his wife’s death. We don’t even know if he will go to the funeral. The hospital he is in is a secure unit and until he can prove that he can look after himself and he is not going to harm himself he cannot go home. He will not communicate with the staff as he says he can’t, he can only talk to family. I am not a professional mental health person and am so so sad to see him reduced to this. I really do not know what will happen in the coming weeks but the effort has to come from him. Thank you for your sensible and positive posts.

Just a thought - when my daughter was sectioned she was obviously in a very dark place and was also unable/unwilling to speak to the staff on the ward at first, but she was encouraged by a very kind, patient nurse to communicate with them in writing. Is this maybe something your brother would be more comfortable with? x

Thank you Kathy, you are so kind. We did take a notepad on our last visit and we have told him to try and write down his feelings. But he is finding it so so difficult. I try to talk each day but you are correct it is emotionally draining. He says his life is over and I know the life he had with his soul mate is. I am trying to break through his mental block and convince him his sons want him to be part of their future lives.

It sounds like you’re doing everything possible to try and reach your brother and help him through this horrible time. I wonder if sometimes we need to reach rock bottom and rest a while before we can summon the will and the energy to surface again? Hopefully that’s what happening now. As you said before the effort has to come from him, but waiting for that to happen is so hard on the rest of you.

My brother in law (the one diagnosed as manic depressive) went to pieces soon after my sister died of cancer in her fifties, even though he was amazingly strong at first. He was lonely, said he couldn’t see a future without her as she’d always been his rock, and he needed psychiatric help again having been stable for many years. Four years later he met another lady in a similar position and to cut a long story short they moved in together and lived happily ever after. We would never have thought it possible. I hope his story might give you some encouragement. Thinking of you x

Thank you Kathy you are so positive and encouraging. The whole situation is as you can imagine tearing me to pieces. He has looked up to me his older sister as a mother figure since our mum died36 years ago. Whenever he had a crisis In his life it was always me he turned to. I cannot take his pain away he has to progress through it but, I wonder if he will. I am so sad picturing him in a hospital being cared for by strangers who do not know him, all alone and frightened. No family to support him and very few visitors at the moment because his sons are grieving for their mum and trying to arrange a funeral without the help of the once closest to their mum. It’s all so, so sad.

Hi, I was chatting to some lovely people on here earlier about mental illness and it got me wondering how you were doing. It must be hard for you being big sister and Mum all rolled into one, especially living so far away. I’m sure her sons will plan a lovely send off for your sister in law, and they’ll be able to support each other in doing so. And of course they’ll want your brother there if he’s able to be, but if not then no-one should think badly of him, quite the opposite in fact. It’s no different to him being confined to hospital with a physical illness - the recovery takes time and can’t be hurried. I hope you’re taking good care of yourself in the middle of all this grief and worry. Thinking of you, Kathy xx

Thank you Kathy. My brother is still very ill. We went to see him yesterday with a cousin who we are very close to. We did see a couple of smiles from my brother. So somewhere in this turmoil my brother is still there. But he really feels his life is over. His sons want him to go to the funeral and so do I to show him how well his wife was loved and that lots of people are grieving for her loss. Time will tell if he makes it. I myself am not looking forward to the day. My elder brother is not able to go as he is having treatment for secondary bowel cancer. It is all so so sad. But your contact has helped me and I am just plooding on with life. Which is all everyone can do. I know you have your own grief to manage and I thank you from my heart that you have reached out to me. Thank you.

A couple of smiles from your brother is good progress. I do hope he feels able to go to the funeral, but it not there will be plenty of time to tell him about it when he’s ready. You’re going through such a hard time as a family just now, and all you can do is keep supporting each other and plod on. I find it helps me to talk to others who are also struggling because it sometimes seems like no-one else has a care in the world. And Heidi made it her mission, before she became really ill, to try and make people understand that you can no more help having a mental illness than you can help having cancer or any other physical problem. She struggled at first to accept her doctor’s diagnosis because she felt she’d failed, she felt there was a stigma attached to being unable to cope with what life had thrown at her, like she should be able to snap out of it (which is what some of our friends sadly thought we should encourage her to do) so it gives me comfort to be able to speak for her now she’s gone. If ever you want a chat do post again, or private message me if you prefer, I’ll always reply. In the meantime hope all goes well with the funeral. For us the anticipation was worse than the day itself and we have so many lovely memories of people’s kindness. I hope it’s the same for you. xx