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Confused and shocked


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This is my first post and I feel very confused and helpless. Last week my mum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that has spread to her liver. Although it's inoperable, she will start chemo on Wednesday to 'give her more time'. This has come out of the blue and so we are still very shocked.(The only symptoms are pain on her right side and losing weight - she's naturally petite but now 43 kilos). My parents are dealing with this very differently! My dad is in denial and is very positive about everything and my mum is the opposite - preparing for 'the end'. Yesterday she was clearing her wardrobe to save me doing it when she's gone(!). They are both very vague with the facts and say they'd rather not know anything - but I want to know!! I've read how aggressive this cancer can be.

I want to be with her all the time and everyday counts but my dad says not to worry about coming all the time (they live 1 hr away) - they'll need me later, but what if there is no later!!!??!!

I feel helpless and sad. We need support. My mum has a nurse but when I mentioned about us all speaking to her my dad dismissed the idea....Maybe he's protecting myself and my sister? Or maybe I'm being too negative...??

Please help


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Hi Maisie and I'm sorry to hear about your Mum.

The confusion and feeling helpless are 'normal' (if there is such a thing!). It is a terrible shock when there aren't any obvious symptoms and everyone deals with it in a different way, as you've so eloquently described in the different approaches of your Mum and Dad.

The hospital won't tell you too much without your Mum's consent. However, your Mum and Dad don't need to be there when you speak to the nurse. Why don't you ask your Mum to give consent for the hospital to speak to you and then you can phone or see her nurse separately - Your Dad might be worried that you'll ask the nurse things they don't want to know just yet.

Have you thought that your Dad might be in denial because he can't face the future without Mum? I've seen that before too - people act as though everything is 'normal' (there's that word again), in the vain hope that they can make it so.

Pancreatic cancer can be very aggressive but timescales vary wildly - my husband was given 6-9 months over 2 years ago and is still very much with us (thank goodness). You can read a potted history of his journey on another thread http://www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/discussion/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=497&p=3036#p3036 if you wish. I've heard of other people who have passed away literally days or just a few weeks after diagnosis.

Either way, it's natural that you want to spend as much time with your Mum as you can. You obviously don't want to upset Dad in the process and you can't allow the disease to completely rule everything. My advice is to do whatever you can to spend some quality time with your Mum without turning your life upside down or stressing yourself to a point where Mum starts to worry about you, if you can get Dad's agreement - of course he will want to spend some alone time with her too.

Do keep us up to date with your Mum's progress and how you and the rest of the family are coping.

Kind regards

Nicki x

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Hi Nicki,

I'm so grateful for your email, thank you so much. Your Ted - what an amazing man! What an amazing couple you are! I wish him all the best and continue the fight of this awful disease.

Yourself and Jeni have really helped me get through the last few days. Mum started her chemo today and I've felt really sad as it makes this all so real. She is still fairly well and moving around, doing everyday things. Her symptoms are pain on her side, very tired, hardly eating (is now 41 kilos although petit anyway) and has to change her bed cover/clothes minimum 4 times a night due to sweating. Mentally however, she is very depressed and ready for the end. If I mentioned the papaya fruit and fish oil that you recommend she would no doubt say - what a waste of time and money, it's too late for me! Aarrrghhh!!! She is understandably very angry. She has severe eczema and asthma (nearly lost her life to it end of last year) and now this!!

Some good news! Although I had written it off, the oncologist said that we could go away on our planned family summer holiday. I feel it's so important that we go and she be with us all, including her grandchildren. My question though - She is having chemo for 3 weeks then 1 week off. Our holiday is for 2 weeks - can they work around this? My dad needs to check this out but he's not thinking straight and I don't want to ask as a holiday sounds so petty in the grand scheme of things.

Thanks for listening

Maisie x

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Dear Maisie

You could ring the oncologist secretary and ask about the 2 week break for your holiday? Then you can try and lift your mums spirits a little - with a little holiday to look forward to?

Hope that she feels better - in her state of mind soon, maybe they could prescribe mild anti depressants? My husband had citalopram, but everyone's different, keep your chin up, you have to, fight it all the way xxxxxx

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