Monday, November 28, 2005

So a family member gets cancer...

I just discoverd today that my aunt has cancer. She has it in her bones. My father told me. The only people who know about it are my dad, me, my other aunt and my cancer-ridden aunt's son, my cousin. He is a doctor and he is the one who found out from the tests they conducted when she reported having back pains. My Aunt- his mother- doesn't know she has anything beyoned back-pain. Her cancer is probably incureable and she will die. He has to pretend every day to be completly normal around her, while he cries himself to sleep every night. The same applies to my other aunt who knows that her sister's days are numberd and who goes with her to the hospital for the tests she is conducting for her "back-pain". My aunt is dying and she doesn't know.

She is not the only one in the dark mind you: another aunt exists who can not be told, because she will probably get a heart-attack or tell my grandmother, who will most deifntely get a heart attack and die from hearing this news. My other cousins don't know as well, because we figure there is no reason to spread the misery around. Not to mention, the more who know the more likely they will tell her. And they don't want to tell her because they are afraid the shock may kill her on the spot or at least kill her spirit, and you want her in high spirits if there is a way to beat this thing as we all hope. But it's a fanatsy, we know this too. We know she is dying by the minute and she doesn't know. But we do.

Now, here is the question: Should we tell her at all? If you had such a terminal disease, that will kill you in a matter of months and to which has no cure, would you want to know? Would you really? I mean, we are all in the nihilistic sense dying by the minute, but we always assume we have time, because no one really knows when they will die. Except people with terminal illness. They get a time-table. An approximate deadline. You have about 6 months and then you will be gone. You will never see a loved one again. You will never get to see the wedding of that grandchild of yours. Hell, you won't even get to watch him/her reach 18. Would you want to know that your time is almost up while there is still so much to do and experience? Would that help in any way, to know that every passing day brings you closer to an end that you did not expect for at least another decade? Is that how you want to spend your last months on earth? Just knowing you will die soon and you are just waiting for it, with everyone around you giving you those looks of pity and loss through their tear-filled eyes?? Is that how you want to live your last months on the planet?

I don't know. I wouldn't want that. I know she has the right to know, but I am not sure it would be beneficial in any way for her to exercise that right. If anything, I don't want to be the person who tells her, nor would I want to see how she would look like after she finds out, because I know I won't be able to help crying while holding her and wishing she didn't have to die so soon. Just the thought of it brings tears to my eyes. I wouldn't want to do that to her. I wouldn't want to depress her like that. I wouldn't want that to be the way I spend her last days with her.

But the alternative is torture. To know that someone you love is dying by the minute, while they don't know. To watch them go through their daily lives, making plans and having hopes, while you know- YOU KNOW- that they probably won't live to see any of those plans come to fruition. To pretend to be normal around them, to joke with them about their back pain, to pretend not to know that within a few months her whole body will be ravaged by a merciless killer of a disease and there is aboslutely nothing you can do to stop it. Aghhhhhhhhh.... I can't decide which is worse.

It doesn't matter anyway. She is dying and there is nothing no one can do about it. That's all there is to it.

Sigh...

8 Comments:

Anonymous Kelli said...

Im so sorry to hear about your aunt. I dont think I would tell her everything. Maybe just part. Just to point her in the direction to take care of stuff and to live it up cause there might (will) be a battle coming up. So at least she can really enjoy herself and do all that she wanted to while she could.

My aunty told me when her mom was sick her brother would do crazy things with her. It was hard and very sad to watch her so helpless with simple things but then to see joy she had when her brother was taking her out and doing fun things really helped everyone.

You need one person who can just lift her up and make her happy and enjoy every moment with everyone. We only get one life. (unless your Hindu and you maybe get to come back as a cow and everyone worships you. Then no worries.)

2:13 AM  
Blogger Sam The Blogger said...

I am very sorry to hear about your Aunt. I wish I had a definitive answer for you, but after thinking it over I can't say what's better, knowing or not.

On the one hand, knowing would allow her to make peace with this life and allow her to do last things and tie up loose ends. It would give her a window of time to make the end that she wants.

On the other hand, what the hell does that mean, 'end that she wants'? It's trying to put a simple cap on a tragedy. Not knowing means she can live, just live, her life as she sees it, as she wants to, without worrying about a deadline.

But also, she might be worried herself about the back pain. You really don't know whats going through her head. And when she does get really sick, what are you going to tell her?

This is a tough decision, and I don't think its fair to you or her, regardless of the outcome. Personally, I hope that she can live as long and as fully as she wants and needs to, and I offer my best wishes for her continued health.

11:03 AM  
Blogger pamela said...

Some would say to tell her is, ultimately, to be selfish. That you tell her to relieve your own burden. Yet think of how we live our lives from day to day. Think of the small things we hang up on. Think of the relationship issues we dwell on. Think, instead, of what might consume you if you knew your days were numbered. Wouldn't you live differently? Wouldn't you make different choices?

Wouldn't you want that chance?

Regardless. No choice is easy. The situation is not. My prayers go with you, your aunt, and your family.

Love.

8:14 PM  
Anonymous brenda said...

I am very sorry to hear about your aunt. I was a counselor for many years, and the current thinking I suppose, is that people have the right to know what their condition is. They ultimately know best how to handle their own lives or end of life...but I don't have an answer. It's very difficult. I don't think there is a correct answer. Everyone and every situation is different. God bless you...

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Danny said...

Tell her you twit! She may have things she wants to do before she dies.

2:27 AM  
Anonymous Beth said...

Hey,

You know, I was once told I had three months, tops, to live. Maybe it was because I was still in intensive care and on a morphine drip, but I took it pretty calmly. I think really it was because I DIDN'T BELIEVE IT. And as it turns out, I was right. I "just knew." Maybe it's force of will, or something. At any rate, it's now six years later and I am cancer-free--I have been for the last five years.

I might very well have died had I not known, though. I believe with every fiber of my being that one CAN overcome the worst things through sheer force of will--not always, but it can happen. Who knows for sure? I think that you all should tell your aunt; she may feel the same way. She might also feel so strongly motivated to just LIVE that she finds a way to be treated somehow, despite the current prognosis.

Tell her. Even if it turns out that she doesn't survive, she'll be able to tie up loose ends, feel the love and support from her family and friends. And if she doesn't know, nobody will be able to say their good-byes and will have to bear that sorrowful burden for the rest of their lives. That's not selfish--it's simply not right to make people (and yourself!) suffer such things in their hearts that cannot be healed. I think all of you--especially your aunt--will be glad you told her.

Yes, it will be hard, but as they say, adversity builds character. You'll ALL be stronger for it, and quite possibly your aunt will be too (I know I am after my experience--very much so).

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sandmonkey,

I'm sorry to hear about your aunt. About a year ago, I also got a cancer diagnosis at what was supposed to be the height of life ie finished grad school, had the beginnings of a good career and falling in love. In fact, I came across your blog during a recovery period when I was mindlessly surfing away to pass time.

The thought of dying and dying without seeing everything you want come to fruition is quite frankly frightening. But what has been more weary has been the uncertainty and the limbo -- from whether I would die to whether I need yet another operation, and how long does it take the doctors to decide etc etc. But throughout it all, I felt a need to know.

And honestly, the close call made me decide to dedicate time to my family and loved ones. And I treasured very moment and chased after every opportunity to live life to the fullest.

I'm well now, though doctors want to check in quite often as my cancer is supposed to be quite aggressive. However, my current presumption is that I will be alive and well until proven otherwise, hence I am not particularly bothered by the suspended death sentence, and I am trying to rebuild my life.

Kite in the Sky

5:36 PM  
Anonymous jess said...

I suffer from a lot of back pain due to a car accident when I was a child. When it happened I was in pain for a while but after I healed I had very little trouble until I was 15 and my muscles started to develop, I started getting a lot of lower back pain and have suffered with it ever since. That is until recently when I stumbled across memory foam mattresses. They adjust to the shape and weight of my body to support my back perfectly and let me sleep soundly. I can’t even imagine being able to sleep without my memory foam mattress anymore!

2:19 AM  

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