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January 14, 2013 at 7:08 am #20932babciParticipant
I am a 58 year old daughter of an 86 year old mother who has had her third surgery in a year for removal of melanoma. The last two surgeries occurred in November and December of 2012. My parents live on the northeast coast and I live in the Southwestern U.S. with my family. Since the removal of her facial melanomas (cheek, nostril and eyelid) my mother refuses to allow anyone of us living in the southwest (meaning myself, my husband, our four sons, their wives and babies) to travel to the east to be with her, see her, nor to provide any interactive support in any way other than limited phone contact (she limits our contact by keeping her phone off the hook which prevents us from reaching her or my dad).
I feel so hurt and sad that she has closed herself off from me, especially. I have so much admiration for her and have learned so much from her throughout my life. Being denied intimacy with her now is laying so heavily on my heart. When I am able to speak to her, it is clear that she is extremely depressed. She has verbally expressed her readiness to die. She has also said she greatly wishes she had not had the last surgery (which was, I gather, the most facially disfiguring) and would have preferred to “let nature take its course”. I have encouraged her to speak with her physician about her thoughts and feelings but when I bring up doing so she becomes angry, defensive, or ignores what I say and brings up different topics.
I am at a loss on how best to help her from a distance, am unsure of what she needs from me during this time, and am very concerned about my father’s isolation during this stressful time in their lives as well. I know she is suffering emotionally as well as experiencing physical pain but do not know what is the best thing to do for her in light of her refusal to let me come back east to be with her.
If anyone has any insight or advice on how best to proceed, I’d be very grateful.
Thank you very much. Signed, sad and frustrated daughterJanuary 14, 2013 at 1:04 pm #58547Catherine PooleKeymaster
I’m so sorry to read your story. My first thought was jump in the car or plane and go see her or at least your dad. Things change when you are there in person. But first, I have consulted some oncology psycho-social experts and will let you know their thoughts. Your post was quite lovely and I wonder if you couldn’t send her a letter with some of that content: that you admire her and how much she taught you and means to you. Tell her beauty is skin deep and YOU need to see her. Family can cushion bad times if they are supportive. My heart goes out to you. I will let you know what the “experts” say.January 14, 2013 at 1:42 pm #58548Catherine PooleKeymaster Here’s what our Scientific/psycho social oncology expert suggests:
“This is a very sad situation for all involved. The goals are to get your mother treated for depression and to reconnect with her in a meaningful way. First, explore the strength of the your relationship with your father. Do you communicate directly with him?. If feasible, you should get his advice about her mother’s needs. how best to reconnect and discuss the importance of assessing and treating her depression i.e., discuss her depression with the oncologist and request treatment. Additionally, inquire who may still be close to her mother and hold some sway over her mother’s decision-making e.g., siblings, close friends. Perhaps you can enlist their help as well.
Finally, write a letter telling your mother how much she is loved- unconditionally- and that while you and your family would like nothing more than to visit with her- you above all respect your mother’s wishes. Invite your mother to tell you how you can be of most help to her. The last thing this mother needs is more demands placed on her.
There you go! Good luck.January 21, 2013 at 4:12 pm #58549PatWParticipant
Oh, Babci! What a difficult and painful situation you are in just now! My heart aches for you. Cancer does not impact only the patient, it impacts the whole family and everyone in the family needs help and support during this terrible journey, including you.
I think it is important for you to be in frequent contact with your father– for his benefit even more than for yours. Could you purchase an inexpensive pre-paid cell phone and send it to him? That way you could call him or he could call you without your mother even being aware of it.
I also find it interesting that your mother not only refuses your visits, but refuses phone calls, too. So the problem is not just that she doesn’t want people to see her facial scars. As others have said, depression is probably a major factor here. But I also wonder if she doesn’t want her nearest and dearest to try to cheer her up or try to talk her out of her desire to die. Personally, if I had fought the good fight and finally decided just let nature take it’s course, I would get very irritated if well-intentioned people kept telling me, “Don’t quit! Fight! Fight! The next treatment may cure you!” Perhaps the best way you could support your mother would be to reassure her that you accept her decision (whatever it may be) and you will not chivvy her to change her mind. You would just like to spend some quality time with her. Again, your father may have some good insights about why she is resisting contact.
Finally, if her prognosis is poor and she is suffering from fear, depression, and embarrassment, getting her connected with a good hospice organization could help her and your father a lot. Most people think that hospice is an in-patient situation only for people who are within a week or two of death. But most of a hospice’s work is in-home care, consultation, and support. They have a lot of experience working with patients and families who suffer from anxiety, depression, and shame. They can help make life easier for both of your parents in many ways, and may be able to help your mother achieve more inner peace and help her accept the love and support that you are offering.
Your mother is very fortunate to have such a loving and concerned daughter. Please let us know how things go for you.
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