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My brother had terminal cancer with brain tumours. When I have gone to visit, he says he is tired and leaves the room. He is at home alone with his wife. I can't tell if he is just trying to keep his act together, is really tired and overwhelmed, thinks I will expect a Grand Conversation. I would love to just be able to sit quietly with him while he sleeps. Should I keep trying?
His wife has commented she thinks he should accept my visits but she is grieving and I don't want to impose this discussion or guilt on her (ie. that she would feel responsible).
I do send regular e-mails but he said he cannot necessarily respond. Are the e-mails intrusive? I want so desperately to do what is right for him!

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GardenArtist, everyone is different when it comes to having cancer. My best friend at the time wanted to take me shopping, she and another gal thought it would be fun, and oh how I wished I could have gone, but I was way too tired. Sad part was after I gained back some of my energy, those friends had disappeared.

Methink if someone keeps pushing you back saying "no" when you want to do something, keep trying, eventually we will say yes.

I wasn't much for having visitors because the house wasn't up to standards... sig other wasn't much on housekeeping, so I kept saying "no" to visitors. If one of my friends would have said, "I'm coming over to vacuum and don't say no to me" that would have put a smile on my face.
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When my sister in law died from cancer last year. Once her eating declined, I sent her fresh flowers. Don't know if your brother is a garden type of guy but thought I would mention. The day after my mom died my friend came over with those Alex & Ani bracelets mine said daughter and my daughters said granddaughter. Just thought that maybe seeing you do something nice for your sister in law would make him happy. I also thought of sending a small edible fruit baskets, all fresh fruit cut up. Some even have choc covered strawberries. If brothers appetite is diminishing maybe some fresh fruit would entice him to eat. Sorry to pist 2x but I just rember this stuff
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FF and Patrice, I think your observations and suggestions raise the issue of HOW does someone address, communicate and comfort someone who knows he or she is going to die probably well before he/she would otherwise were it not for cancer.

It wasn't something about which I had any idea until we traveled along that unpleasant journey.
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Maybe you could offer to just sit with your brother while his wife runs a few errands. Maybe you could also ask his wife if there is anything you could do for her. Bring old pictures over in case brother is in the mood to reminisce. If he still enjoys food, Perhaps you could make something he likes and just drop it off. My only other thought was perhaps he could be at the stage where he is withdrawing from family and friends. Good luck
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mauraj , I am so sorry your brother is going through this cancer journey.... it's a very rough ride. GardenArtist is right about the "chemo brain" and how exhausted he would be physically and mentally.

I had cancer but didn't need to go through any chemo or radiation, did have surgery, but it was still scary, and the meds I was placed on made me so very tired. I was able to read email but just didn't feel like answering it. But the greeting cards in the mail were a delight, especially the real funny ones as laughter is the best medicine. It depends on his sense of humor.

I never wanted company unless it was someone with a crazy sense of humor.... same with telephone calls, I just answered those who I knew would put a smile on my face. Those visitors with the "doom and gloom" I wanted no part of. Don't start a verbal sentence saying "Ohhhhh, how are yoooooou today". But give me someone who says "boy, cancer sure sucks", then I know that person understands :)
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Uh oh, major faux pas - I missed this in proofreading and do apologize.

I wrote " because they want someone to worry" - that should have been that someone DOESN'T want someone to worry and that's why they don't want to engage in conversation.

The CURE magazine and website has excellent articles on many aspects and stages of cancer. You might find it helpful to read more about "chemo brain" and "whole brain radiation". It might be comforting to learn more about this horrible disease.

You're obviously a very kind and thoughtful brother. Hang in there - your sister-in-law may need to rely on you in the days to come.

I wish you and your family as much comfort and support as is possible.
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Given the stage of your brother's cancer, I'm sure that he's speaking the truth when he expresses fatigue. Even if he weren't at a terminal stage, chemo and/or radiation as well as the emotional fatigue of battling cancer would justify not wanting to have visitors, not because he's antisocial but it just takes too much out of him.

My sister, who was a very social person, told me after multiple rounds of chemo over a 4 year period, then whole brain rads, that having visitors just wore her out.

I would ask your sister-in-law to you know how long he can tolerate a visitor, don't stay any longer, but also don't anticipate any conversation. Just let him know you're there for him, hold his hand or touch him, and just reassure him that you don't expect any conversation from him.

There's another issue that might be in play - he doesn't want to worry you because of his situation. He may not want to share anything also if he's overwhelmed with the impact of having terminal cancer. Sometimes people don't share because they want someone to worry.

I think responding to e-mail is likely well beyond him at this point. If he has what's known as "chemo brain", he might not be able to think clearly enough for ordinary conversations, let alone e-mails.

What you might do as an alternate is get a series of cards, such as "know you're having a tough time", "I'm here for you",....something just to reassure him but nothing that requires a response.

I would also ask his wife to let you know of significant changes but don't call her on a regular basis as she's dealing with her own challenges. It wouldn't hurt to send her cards as well. It's a lot easier to open a card than get online to get e-mail. And there are so many beautiful cards that both your brother and sister-in-law can look at in quiet moments.

His brain may not be able to focus on an e-card, but print cards are easier to grasp.
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