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Mom is 87 and has survived thyroid cancer. Although they saw something in her lungs before. It seemed to be a "scar." Long story short, last CT scan shows that she has stage 4 lung cancer. It kills me to have to deliver the bad news. She seems to be in good spirits and talks about traveling in the future, etc. Never had to deliver news to a parent before that they are slowly dying. I will ask her, but I know she doesn't want treatment. Doctor said would only add a few months... not really a good option. I keep thinking of all the different scenarios of how this will turn out. My sister and I decided to wait till after Christmas. That's all I've been thinking about since we heard the news 3 weeks ago. Any suggestions on how to go about this? I think we might need to give her Xanax when we tell her the news. Has anybody ever had something prescribed to their parent for devastating news such as this? My mother is a very emotional person like myself. I have a pretty good idea on how she's going to react.. She possibly could go into full denial about this as well.

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This is the doctor's job, not yours.
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JoAnn29 Dec 24, 2021
When i read this I said the same thing. This is the doctor's job. To sit her down and explain the options.
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Why on earth hasn't the doctor told her? You march her into his office and make him tell her while you and your sister are with her. He handles the medical questions, and you handle the emotional support.

That's how it went with my dad. He had NO idea he had cancer, and I went with him to his appointment to hear the results of an MRI from his doctor. He walked in and said, "Well, I'm sorry to say you have inoperable cancer in your liver. I'm afraid anything we could do for a younger person would kill you."

He then left us alone to process that for a few minutes, then he came back and answered Dad's questions. He sent Dad off to get an unnecessary X-ray so he could tell me that he had about a month, and that was that. We never saw the doctor again.

Your mom deserves to have her doctor tell her and to be there to answer her questions. You aren't qualified to answer them, and he should be there to do it.
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I'm sorry you have to deal with this, I think it's rotten of doctors to inform family members rather than break the news personally, face to face and available to answer questions. I think I would say something like "mom, the doctor called with the CT results and they say it's cancer", and beyond that take your cues from her. I wouldn't mention dying unless she does. And you don't really know at this point what the future will look like in the short term, so if she wants to go into denial and live as though everything is fine I can't see anything wrong with that so long as you have your plan B firmly in place.
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My mom passed away 3 years ago from Lewy Body Dementia. My dad had already started showing signs of dementia. I brought him here to live with us. I decided not to tell him my mom passed away. I got some resistance from family members but ultimately, since he was living with me, I decided not to let him grieve himself to death. Fast forward almost 4 years and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. He NEVER even asks about her. They had been married 60 years. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut. It seems as if he has totally forgotten about her. It’s such a sad disease to watch. Not sure which is worse…cancer, where you still have your mind to know what’s going on…or dementia where you have no clue. I’m sure you will make the best decision for you and your mom. Best of luck to you
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I think any of us would be VERY emotional at being told we have but months to live. I think you are prepared for her to be, and she has a right to be, and you should expect her to be. I believe her doctor should deliver the news that this is stage four, and the prognosis, and should tell her that there is little option in terms of treatment, but that hospice can keep her comfortable. All forms that are not already done in terms of POLST and advanced directives need to be done asap.
The only thing you can do is let her cry, tell her that you will be there for her, and tell her that you will follow her directions, be certain she is medicated to keep her comfortable, get hospice care for her. You will have support of nursing, social workers and clergy if you wish it.
I am so dreadfully sorry. There is no happy way to receive this news. No matter how much drugging you do.
The doctors delivering this news will help with the denial but YOU must make it clear to him you believe she will go into denial so that he is HONEST. There is no good way for bad news. When I had breast cancer and said to my doctor "What do you think it is" He said "An occult breast cancer though it could be lymphoma". When I said "I never get sick; what can it be that is GOOD" he said "Cat scratch fever, but I don't think so". I could laugh about it later, but at the time it was shocking and brutal. There is no good way to hear very bad news. I just am so sorry.
As to the final way she reacts, that is something you have little control of. After getting the truth, you can live with how she chooses to handle it. If she never does accept it, then know that is one way to handle it and allow her the dignity of her reaction.
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How does it come about that you - and, it seems, your sister - have been given this information by your mother's doctors and your mother has not?
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graygrammie Dec 28, 2021
I always see test / lab reports before the doctor calls. However, except to tell my husband "You're numbers look great," I wait for the doctor to tell him. I knew my mammo results two days before the doctor got around to notifying me. So, perhaps that is how OP and her sister know about mom's results.
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We had quite the roller coaster situation with my 75 year old Mother. She is a lifelong smoker and was in a car accident this past summer (which thankfully was the last straw for her independent driving). They did a CT scan which showed a 3 cm tumor in her right lung. The CT report even said it was highly suspicious for lung cancer. We took her to an oncologist who said it’s lung cancer but they needed to do more tests to determine staging. In the meantime, I told mom she has lung cancer (which was soooo hard considering her husband , my father, passed away from this disease last year).

My mother didn’t even look up from her word search after I told her. She just questioned “how do they possibly know that??!?” And “they are wrong!”. Then went right back to circling words in total denial I had just given her bad news. The next day, I asked her what she would want for treatment and she asked “for what??!!!!”. Yup. She forgot. I didn’t mention any of the cancer stuff again until the PET scan. She kept asking what it was for and I would tell her but on the way home, she’d ask again. She is incapable of having bad news sink in.

Fast forward to the call from the doctor with PET scan results. The dr. told me that the suspected cancer was actually a huge 3 cm granuloma!!!!!!!!!! He and his colleagues were shocked and said this was very rare especially in a lifelong 2 pack a day smoker. She does have diffuse emphysema….but the bottom line….we weren’t looking at cancer.

I told mom the incredible news (although in some ways this was mixed news for me). I don’t want her to die a painful cancer death, but I also don’t want her to die a long drawn out death by complications of Alzheimer’s either. Mom reacted with “well of course I don’t have cancer!”. Lol. This is truly a classic story about my Mom….she has unbelievably good luck. She had Covid a year ago along with all 8 of us in our family. She is in several high risk categories, yet she had it the most mild. No fever, no big cough….just felt a bit under the weather for a day.

I’m telling this story because perhaps you don’t need to go into elaborate info or details about her disease if she is not going to be treated anyways. Keeping it simple to understand and telling her things on a “need to know” basis? I’m not sure how with it your mom is in terms of how she will remember anyways. I would wait until after the new year….but that’s just me. Good luck and I hope she takes the news well.
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My husband had lung cancer and died of it six months after diagnosis. He accepted some treatments to deal with immediate symptoms, but declined chemo which would have added a few months, but would have made him much sicker during thosemonths. Instead, he did what he could still do during his remaining months. Is your mother asking for her diagnosis? Why is her doctor not the one to deliver the diagnosis or to help you decide what to tell your mother?
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My father had a terminal brain tumor that started growing and was going to kill him in short order. When I took him to the ER, the doctor gave me the news that it was growing, and that he had 3 months to live (in her opinion) and there was nothing they could do for him medically; surgery was not an option at 91 years old. The doctor didn't know him from Adam, so it was up to ME to tell him what was going on. Why would I want a stranger to tell him anyway? Although I surely did not WANT to break this news to him, who better to tell him than his daughter and only child who loved him dearly and who would tell him in a loving, compassionate way?

I never worried for a moment that he would 'drop dead on the spot' TChamp.

I broke the news to him that his brain tumor had grown and was causing him the droopiness on one side that he was experiencing lately. I also told him that there was no treatment available for him due to his age, and that surgery was way too invasive a thing for him to endure. He said, "Are you sure?" I said yes. I told him that hospice would be on call for him but that people were known to live for 2 years or more under hospice care, and that he had me and mom to help him and care for him, too. He thanked me for everything, we both cried a bit, and he accepted the news with grace and dignity.

He had every right to know what was happening to him. Why should he have been prevented from knowing what was happening to his own body? I totally disagree with hiding the truth from your mother b/c the news may upset her.

My dad died 19 days after he went to the ER for an MRI. The brain tumor was very aggressive. He died peacefully and with no pain and I'm grateful for that.

I'm sorry you are faced with this situation and the sad fact of losing your mom to lung cancer. If you feel the doctor should tell her, then have him do it. If you feel she'd take the news better coming from you, then you should tell her. But she is entitled to know her fate. Ask the doctor to prescribe some Ativan for her as well.

Wishing you the best of luck with a difficult situation.
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I agree, while you and probably your sister if possible should be there, this is something the doctor should be telling her. She knows she had the scan and I assume used to the process of going in for a meeting with the doctor to get the results since she has dealt with Cancer in the past. This should be an appointment with the doctor that includes you and or your sister, it is not your responsibility or job to deliver the news just to pick up the pieces. It will help of course that you know what’s coming, you have digested the news and can just be there as support for your mom rather than in shock as well.

My thoughts are with you.
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