I’m a horrible person. A guest post by Anonymous

Horrible

I’m honoured to host this post by someone who wishes to remain anonymous. Please have a read and offer any advice or support you can.

This is a hard story to tell, but one which getting down on paper will help. Assuage the guilt, get some perspective. I’ve asked to remain anonymous because my family read my blog and I don’t want to hurt their feelings.

My sister has cervical cancer. My wonderful, intelligent and amazing sister, my friend and inspiration had been in remission for over 10 years but it came back earlier this year. If life wasn’t cruel enough, she also discovered an, up until then, hidden heart condition, the one you read about previously fit and healthy people unexpectedly die from. So on the one front, she’s lucky it was found. But on the other, it’s meant treatment options are more complicated.

She’s too sick for chemotherapy. She may not survive surgery. The heart condition needs to be stabilised before any stressful treatment can be administered. And cancer treatment is stressful.

The plan has been to conservatively manage the cancer while the heart condition is treated. As her cardiologist said at the moment your heart will kill you before the cancer.

So for six months my wonderfully brave sister has undergone numerous tests, several laser treatments to keep the cervical cancer at bay and heart medication regimes which make her feel ill and seem to be changed every few weeks as they aren’t working. She’s also endured a five week course of radiotherapy. It didn’t work. It did however made her heart worse. Fatigue is crippling, the nausea debilitating and the pain sometimes unbearable and never ending.

Through it all, she has been amazingly strong.

But last week, she broke the news to me. She’s reached a point where she can’t go on. She needs a break. Time to recoup. To gain strength, physically but more importantly mentally. She’s agreed with her oncologist and cardiologist to stop treatments, to stay on one heart medication regime and not to change it for 3 months. To recoup and recharge.

I said all the right things and agreed with her on the phone. Fighting cancer is as much about the mental battle as the physical. I can see she needs a break.

But inside I’m breaking.

I’m a horrible person.

I know where she is coming from, I was there myself earlier in the year fighting through my own cancer treatments, but was lucky enough for symptoms to ease.

But my head is in a jumble, its all upside down, things are going round and round. What if the cancer gets worse and becomes untreatable in that three months? Why would she do this to me? I did it, so can she. Does she not realise how stressful this is?

To feel powerless
To not be able to help or take away the pain
How can she stop fighting?
She’s being selfish
How can she risk not being here anymore?
To give up

To die

There, I’ve said it. If she stops, takes a break, will it’ll mean there’s a greater chance the cancer will take over.

I’m a horrible person
And I’m scared, I feel out of control. I hate to think how she feels.

But I have to be strong
Be calm
Be supporting
Swallow down the guilt
Her decision, is hers alone
I can’t change it, I can’t change her. That would make her something she’s not.

She’s my rock, my inspiration, my friend

And I’m lucky to have her in my life

Do we, as friends and family have any rights to feel like this? To insist a patient tries every treatment, endures all the rounds of chemotherapy the medics allow. To be consulted in making the painful decision to stop or in my sisters case postpone treatment.

Or are these choices only the person, the one in the moment, living through it, can make?

What do you?

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9 responses to “I’m a horrible person. A guest post by Anonymous

  1. Oh that made me cry. I am so close to my sisters. I think you are wonderful for both feeling angry but also being her rock and not telling her. I hate the fact that life can be so cruel to have meant you’ve both been so ill.

    What an amazing, brave thing to write.

  2. That must have been really hard for you to write, yet even harder for your sister to decide she needs a break.
    You are not a horrible person and from experience I have seen that families can often take the treatment harder than the patient.
    This could be your sisters way of saying she really had had enough of all the treatment Stay strong Xxxx

  3. Beautifully written post. As a stranger, detached from the situation, my first thought was to allow your sister to make her own choices – and to let her know how you feel too. Heart-wrenching story, stay strong x

  4. 11 years and 4 months and 11 days ago. My eldest was 5 days off of turning 2 and my baby was 10 days old, my husband was told his cancer treatment was not working, he decided that he would take a break before considering other possibilities. I was so cross with him, I didn’t show him of course, I nodded and said what I had to say. The dr explained that taking a break meant it was unlikely other treatments would work. I wanted to shout and scream at him that he couldn’t do this to us. I didn’t, instead I looked after him the best I could. I wanted to shake him and tell him to try other treatment so to tell him that he was selfish to make this decision to die……for me this was what was happening.
    You are not a horrible person, I was not a horrible person, you are reacting to some very difficult decisions that your sister has made. We are human, we feel, we hurt and we fight what we don’t like/want to face. You are strong enough to understand that your sister needs your support now. Vent online and seek solace and support that way. If, as you fear, this break allows the cancer to take hold, then maybe it’s your sister’s time, just as it was my husband’s. Sending much love and strength your way x

  5. This comment was sent to me by FM from @dogbombs who wanted me to post it on his behalf:

    If there was one thing I could remove from this world, it would be cancer. My dad has just come to the end of 35 days of continuous (in the surgeon’s “not weekends or bank holidays” meaning) chemo and radio to fight lung cancer. 12 years ago he fought and beat bowel cancer. He thought he knew what he was in for. It’s turned him from my father to a small, frail, wheezing shadow of the man he once was. We don’t yet know whether the regime has been successful or not, more tests to be done before this happens. The regime he’s been on is experimental. He went into this knowing it could kill him – or make him better, no one was entirely certain. My mum hates what it has done to him but supports his choice in doing it. He believes – and I back him on this – that if they learn something from treating him that will save someone else, then it’s been worthwhile. After all, he’s living on borrowed time as it is.

    Ultimately, it was his choice to go through with this. His, and his alone. And it’s your sister’s choice to stop her treatments. Yes, it might kill her. But it might just give her the strength she needs to fight this bloody disease.

    Damn right you’re scared and angry. So am I. It’s not a year since I lost my wonderful mother-in-law to cancer after a long and unpleasant battle. I’m still angry and upset about that. My mother-in-law was much like my father, trying everything that was available in case what they learned from her case helped others. We don’t know whether what she went through prolonged or shortened her life but it was her choice. And that’s what it boils down to. Choice. We can advise, we can recommend, we can suggest, we can hint heavily. But it’s not our choice. We can rail against it all we like, but if the tables were turned we’d want them supporting our choices.

    Good luck.

  6. That is such an honest and brave piece of writing. Of course you are not horrible, but you do know the answers to your own questions. Your sister has to decide for herself, and she is the only person who can make those decisions.
    I was involved with a woman in a hospice who was very frail but was forcing herself to get up in the morning because she was worried her (adult) children would think she was giving up. They told her daily they weren’t ready to let her go, and couldn’t manage without her. One of the nurses took them aside and talked to them, asking them to give their Mum permission to stop fighting. The resulting change in their attitude made the world of difference to that woman in her last days.

    Of course your sister is nowhere near that stage, and I hope it’s a long, long time before either of you are ever there. But you are absolutely right in realising that you would not be helping her by making her feel guilty for taking that break, risky though her decision might be. You have responded in the best possible way, now you have to try and find a way of keeping that up. She’s so lucky to have such a thoughtful, considerate and loving brother like you. xxxx

  7. Firstly and most importantly, you are NOT a horrible person.

    Thanks for sharing openly and honestly. Without knowing you or your sister I feel ill prepared to give advice but I can offer my own observations and experience.

    The enemy here is not cancer, it is not the heart condition or your sisters decision. The enemy is fear.
    Fear of the unknown.
    Fear of a lack of control.
    Fear, yes, of death.
    Fear that you are powerless to do anything to change the situation or influence the outcome.

    Allow love to drive out fear. Allow your love for your sister to empower you to trust her judgement so that you do not have to be afraid of whatever the future holds. Allow that love to give rise to a faith that there will be a positive outcome – an expected ending. In supporting your sister in this way you will be giving her your strength meaning the fight is not hers alone.

    I know this will not be easy and sometimes we have to do things we would rather not. This is painful. It is hard. But we grow and gain strength for tomorrow when we give ourselves, our power, our control away and trust, support and love unconditionally.

    God bless.

  8. Oh my word, you’ve got such a heavy burden. I’m so sorry to hear of your sister’s health problems but right away I have to say that you are far from being a horrible person at all. You are a loving sibling and it’s understandable that to see your sister in pain is tearing you apart. But, as in every conflict, you fight the most dangerous enemy first, before moving on to fight the next … right until the end of the war.

    You can help her fight by being there for her, by understanding that she’s making almost impossible decisions. Remember that your relationship couldn’t be the one you describe if she didn’t love you in the way you love her. I hope you find the strength to fight the enemy in front of you: your understandable urge to keep her with you at any cost. Take care. xx

  9. Such a powerful, heartfelt post brimming with love.
    You are far from a bad person, you are afraid of losing someone you love with all your heart.
    By writing this post you will work through those thoughts, blogging is so amazing for setting the most complicated of emotions out on a page.
    Sending love and strength.
    x

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