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My mother is driving me absolutely insane with her pessimism. I'm trying to be as supportive as possible, but she can turn a conversation about the sky being blue or my brother's wedding into "what did I do wrong to deserve this? why does everything bad happen to me?" and it is incredibly emotionally draining and manipulative. My brother and I are not allowed to have emotions or life experience of our own, because my mom twists them around on us and says "it can't be that bad because it's not like what I'm going through." I understand she has stage IV colon cancer, I understand she's in pain, but she is just absolutely awful about everything and refuses to see a therapist. How can I get her to see reason and make her realize a therapist would be beneficial?

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Absolutely, freqflyer. I get it but I don't think it's a good idea to enable our elders by perpetuating the stigma that psychiatrists are for crazy people. Back in their day women didn't wear slacks or denim. Back in their day Blacks and Whites didn't mingle! Sometimes things need to change and we can guide our elders away from ignorance.
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One has to realize that our elders won't dream of ever going to a psychiatrist... it was a huge stigma back in their day... heavens no... what would the neighbors think :P
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Frankly I think it should be standard operating procedure when a person gets a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness to be referred to both a nutritionist and a psychiatrist. Life changes when you get a bad diagnosis especially if the prognosis isn't good. I don't blame Boxes for not wanting to listen to the same complaints over and over again or have everything diminished because her mother turns every conversation into a pity party. Colon cancer is usually preventable if polyps are caught early by a colonoscopy. Maybe her mother didn't take very good care of herself or perhaps she did but we don't know. What we do know is that she refuses to talk to a professional about her very normal feelings. So, Boxes, if your mother is a religious woman setup an appointment and take her to her place of worship to get her some pastoral care, which is accepted by many faiths now and many places offer a pastoral care ministry. I wish you luck!
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boxesofrocks, until you walk in the shoes of someone who has cancer you won't understand the fear that is happening.... I was diagnosed with cancer 6 years ago and have been cancer free the past few years BUT I am still looking over my shoulder thinking it is chasing after me... that feeling might never go away.

With cancer and with any other very serious medical condition one has to find a "new normal"... that's a joke, there is no new normal as we want our old life back that we were use to for the past 60 some years.

I also went through what did I do wrong? I was doing everything right, what in the heck happened? Cancer changed the way I look, and I hate it every time I look in the mirror. I've put on weight which doesn't look good on me. I had to give up my long hiking trips because my energy disappeared.

boxesofrocks, for me the best think ever said to me by a friend when she heard I had cancer was "that must suck", right there I knew I could talk to her on my bad days. So, let Mom grumble to you, she needs to know that someone is listening.
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Jackie, no apology necessary. I think this post has prompted responses in many of us that we might not have expected. I learned from reading other posters' responses that I might have seemed insensitive, so it was a lesson for me as well.
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I wonder if she is coming back to see the posts. Garden ... sorry for snapping at you. The most important thing is that this woman get support ... nice if from family, but, failing that, I hope she finds resources that are available to her or has a really good friend or family member. Many very empathic and compassionate responses I see here.
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You haven't told us anything about you or your mom beyond saying she has cancer. I assume she isn't terribly old since you speak of your brother's wedding, but of course people marry when they are older as well so I'm just guessing. You also haven't said how long ago she got the diagnosis, and what you are all doing about it.
Probably your mother is still working through the grief at her diagnosis. It is hard to see the sky as blue when your own world is black, to be excited over a wedding when you fear you may be too ill to attend, or maybe you won't be here at all. This doesn't make her the cheeriest person to be around right now, but telling her to "buck up" or "see a therapist" isn't really being helpful. Be patient. Be kind. Be willing to listen to her hopes and fears. Above all be there, both for her and for yourself.
I'm so sorry your family is struggling with this.
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LadeeC, well written insightful, analytical and positive. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
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Here's a slightly different perspective .. not just on cancer, but on any daunting/painful/frightening diagnosis and how people deal. I have breast cancer, and while I choose to treat it without the benefit of western medicine, I *am* pursuing treatment (and it's mostly going well .. up and downs, and all). Meanwhile, my sister has a number of issues: heart, diabetes, painful spine and joint deterioration .. and is on so many medications, I stopped counting at 20 something.

To be fair, I'd say that between the two of us, we have nearly equal chances of survival .. without taking some kind of intervention method(s). Care to guess whose life, pain, depression, issues, etc dominates any conversation when we're together? No one can imagine her pain; if there's any kind of pain, she's experienced it, and is the expert on it. In her mind, the world should make way, room, avenue, passage for her .. and only her. And if I should bring up or mention my cancer, she becomes distant or enraged, as though I'm taking away the attention she needs and deserves.

So, yeah ... people get negative. And it's ok to feel that way. Until it becomes obvious that being able to complain is more important than taking steps to change something (either the condition or the attitude ... BOTH have options and choices).

Personally? I'm done with the attitude and being a doormat. Right now, my focus is on me. My health, my cancer, my future, my LIFE. I'm not complaining, here. I'm making an announcement to the Universe. I'm moving forward with my life.

LadeeC
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Perhaps we should all be more supportive, instead of critical, of the daughter. I won't deny that I found her post unsettling, but maybe we don't know enough about her to judge her. That includes me. We don't know how she's managing to cope with her mother's diagnosis, whether she's fearful, whether she doesn't understand the seriousness, what any back story might be.

I won't deny that I sometimes make snap judgments and need to reassess my situation. Maybe I'm guilty of that this time as well.
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Countrymouse: thank you for validating my own shock. I went out and this was bothering me all morning so I am back to say that I, too, have never seen anything so callous either, to the point of sociopathic. Mom is in stage IV, know she is in pain, but she is annoying? And not letting them enjoy life? and the wedding? Not dealt with it? I don't think so. The post was quite clear. I am truly grateful for both my daughters at this moment and that I love and care for my own mother and for most of you who also do the same.
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CM, no apology necessary. I can understand that my position might have been misinterpreted; I was just trying to clarify it.

Sometimes what we write doesn't seem as accurate as it was when we wrote it; guess those little computer gremlins have their own interpretation!

These are complicated issues, ones I think each of us address in varying ways and try to find our ways through a literal swamp of conflicting and frightening emotions.

And I don't disagree with your assessment of the OP's position, but I don't think she really understands the fear that her mother feels. I remember how terrified I was when there was once a possibility that I had to address the same diagnosis.

It was as if all the priorities of life were put into a cone, with cancer being at the bottom, and it was impossible to climb out because of the difficulty and fear of getting past the issue of cancer. Not a good comparison, but I think you can understand what I mean. The pressure of a cancer diagnosis pressed out concern for everything else and literally was like heavy, suppressive, black, malingering cloud. It was terrifying, and I had to work hard to find some stability; thinking of worse case scenarios and how mine didn't fall in that category was one way I could wade through the swamp of fears.

Thanks for the concern though.
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GA, I apologise - I didn't in any way mean that you're not perfectly correct in what you say about different approaches to facing cancer. Absolutely people have individual reactions to their illnesses and hugely varied ways of dealing with it. The reason for my shock was that the OP explained that her mother is in pain, and clearly struggling, and the OP seems, at first sight at least, to be impatiently dismissive of what her mother is going through - and actually critical of her negativity and even selfishness. "Get thee to a therapist"? "Could be worse, it might be raining"? "Don't spoil the wedding"? It's not enough, is it.

I'm sure you'd be the first to point that the most important thing anyone can do for a loved one with this kind of diagnosis is listen. No? I'm sorry to say it, but I don't think I've ever heard anyone be so wholly, coldly unsympathetic as the OP appeared to be towards her mother. And actually, that's what made me wonder if she has in fact herself really digested the news.
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That should have read: Everyone is different. this woman, and I believe mmost of us, need major help and support and love at this point. If our loved ones cannot for whatever reason do this, there are others who can. I sincerely hope you wil at least give her the cancer link. She, at the very least, will then have a support group (online or in person), a phone number to call, a live chat with someone who cares and much more. How other people have responded does not matter. She is an individual and this is her response ... very very understandable and she is in heed of help and it is out there.
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Yes, everyone is different. But, this woman (and I believe most of us) would never major help at this point in our lives. If our Loving children cannot do this, then perhaps there are others who can and
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Please give this to your mother
http://www.cancer.org/ This is the American Cancer Society. They have much information, online support groups, hospice options for palliative care, an 800 number to call and online chat with someone to help in crisis time. Theere is also hospice and many other places they can refer her to. She needs support at this time.
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FYI, my sister was diagnosed with Stage III/IV cancer and lived for another another 4 years, fighting all the way. She might have been frightened, but she never gave up. Each person is different.


Another family member has been fighting for years and refuses to give up, focusing not on the repeated recurrences but rather on how rich her life is otherwise.

And while Stage IV might be a death sentence, each person can approach it differently, especially with help from others through Gilda's Club, at which people really know cancer from having experienced it themselves or with their family.
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Again, Countrymouse has nailed it and with such grace. Beautifully said!!! I too was stunned and that is perhaps why I responded as I did. Stage IV is a death sentence and a terrifying one not to mention the pain. It is a very normal reaction to knowing you are going to die. If the original poster cannot do this for whatever reason, I truly hope that she might direct her Mom to support groups both online in in person (if she has the strength) for people in this condition. As to therapy, possibly grief therapists. Also, hospice can be an invaluable support. I will look for the links and post them below. Please give them to your Mom.
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I think I would be extremely hesitant to suggest to anyone in your mother's position that she should look on the bright side.

To be candid, I was stunned by the original post. To bewail the 'pessimism' of someone with Stage IV colon cancer? I am lost for words, I'm sorry.

Address your mother's pain and terror. And, by the way, address your mother's cancer on your own account: how do you feel about her illness and prognosis? I wonder if you've really thought it through.
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Jackie, I am the poster who raised the issue of photos of conditions that are dire, not with the intent of being callous, but trying to help the mother see what positive things still existed in her own life.

And, for your information, I'm the ONLY person in my extended family who has not (yet) had cancer. I've been through a lot of different experiences and that particular approach did help, but it does depend on the individual.

You misinterpreted my comments.
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Babalou has said it much better than I did. I got angry & upset. Apologies to all. Perhaps, you are in denial? or very young? Thanks, Babalou for a great response ... yes "terrifying diagnosis" and yes, she need compassion & help +++ ... I did not mean all lpeople on this site; there are a few, but I get that too. Most are good caring people.
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Why won't she see a therapist? Has her oncologist suggested that to her as well?

She wants to see a therapist not because it will make her less annoying to you (and I must admit, I'm not sure that you and your brother are "getting" it), but because it will help her maximize her time left with good experiences, good relationships and perhaps less pain and more acceptance. Her oncologist can probably suggest some therapists trained in the treatment of patients with advanced cancer.

Are you or your brother accompanying her to her oncology appointments so that you are hearing what she's hearing? Stage 4 colon cancer is a terrifying diagnosis. She needs compassion above all and practical help in deciding on treatment protocols, pain management, clinical trials and tough end of life decisions. Let us know how this is going.
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A diagnosis of a life threatening illness is a massive shock to the system & certainly enough to cause depression. I don't know how old you are but you sound like you don't "get it" at all. or just don't care. As to the poster who said show her photos about that other thing that is worse? You have to be kidding me, right? Her mother is DYING. STAGE IV. WTF are you all thinking! done and leaving this site full of either angry or uncaring people.
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Has she always been this way in general? I wonder if she has and this coming up has made it worse? My dad died from colon cancer. They only discovered it after it had spread to his stomach, liver, lungs and chest. He lived 19 months after diagnosis. He got depressed towards the end of his life, or so I was told. He never let on to me that he was depressed. He didn't even tell me it was terminal. He told me he was going to take x amount of chemo treatments and then he'd be fine. He didn't want me to hurt or worry and I'm thinking didn't want me and my siblings to feel like we needed to take care of him, that it was his job to protect and take care of us. Never mind that we were adults.

He was one of the kindest people to ever walk the earth and having cancer didn't change that. I know he was in a great amount of pain though and people handle things like that differently. She's probably thinking of everything she may not get to do. I imagine he did too. He didn't get to meet his grandchildren, which hurts me and my brother to this day. That can cause issues too, being limited in what you can do. I wish I had some words of wisdom instead of rambling on like this, I'm sorry. Just know that it has nothing to do with you and she's understandably feeling sorry for herself.
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Did not mean to post that survival rate. I am sorry. As one astute physician said "no one has an expiration date stamped on them".
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According the American Cancer Society, Stage IV Colon cancer has a survival rate of 11%. Enough said.
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She has Stage IV Colon Cancer. It must be terrifying. Stage IV is pretty grim. Possible death? Enough to scare anyone. Perhaps some compassion and empathy for what she is facing? If you feel you cannot handle this, then perhaps she needs someone who can validate her very understandable feelings.
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I was just skimming through photos of the flooding devastation in S. Carolina, and began to be depressed until I forced myself to think how fortunate I am that I've never been through that and hopefully never will, although we did have a 100 or 500 year flood (depends on whose assessment prevails) last year.

I can't imagine trying to live without safe and clean water, electricity, mobility, heat or with water up to the windows or even second stories of homes, but people along the Eastern Seaboard as well as in inland states have had to deal with catastrophic weather conditions for decades. I feel positively very fortunate that I don't live in SC, and have a lot of pity and sadness for those who do.

Perhaps showing some of those photos to your mother might help her realize that life could be a lot worse.
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I think a cancer diagnosis raises all kinds of causation questions....why me? Did I do something wrong? Haven't I taken good enough care of myself? Have I eaten the wrong foods?

Just my opinion...it's an attempt to rationalize something that doesn't necessarily have a rational cause or explanation.

I haven't experienced the situation you describe, but wonder if you can shift the focus to something more positive, such as maximizing the chances she does have, focusing on making the most of each day, and if necessary, just say tell her gently that it is her life and she can make the best of it by trying to live her life as normally as possible rather than focus on questions with no answers, or she can continue to be depressed and negative, but that you can't allow yourself to fall into that same mental abyss.

Then suggest things she can do, things she enjoys and keep rechanneling the conversation to those. If she's still mobile, try taking her to places she used to enjoy.

You also can be very gentle in telling her that these negative conversations depress you, and that you need to leave but will come back when you can have a more positive conversation. It's easy for me to write this, but it's hard for someone to say it, especially to someone's mother.

Refocusing is a hard thing to do; it sounds as though she does seem to be preoccupied with herself to the exclusion of others.

Another suggestion is to find your closest Gilda's Club, ask if they have a colon cancer support group, and take her for a meeting. She'll find she's not the worst one there. Others can put her in her place more easily and perhaps might be an abrupt awakening that she's not the only one in this situation.

Local hospitals or infusion centers may also have support groups.
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