Supporting loved ones (or anyone!) with terminal illness

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Supporting loved ones (or anyone!) with terminal illness

Postby Donna » Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:14 am

I no sooner wrote in another post about meeting life with a smile when I got hit with news that my friend's brain tumor diagnosed two years ago and which seemed to be responding to treatment, now has 3 or 4 new tumors in her brain. As soon as I learned this, I was very saddened and emotional and wondered how the heck I was going to be able to visit my friend, offer support to her, without being an emotional wreck myself. By the way, I don't like to use the term "terminal" but I felt it necessary to use it here, so as to describe the situation in a conventional way.

I observed this trigger in my body...the one that wanted to be sad, crying, and feeling helpless. I knew deep in my heart that everything is right the way it is, but gosh darn I am a healthy person and my friend not much older than me...she may not live much longer. How can I be with her, offer "support" (what is this? what does it look and sound like?) and not portray an attitude that I am removed from her situation and that "everything is as it should be"? ...especially since my friend doesn't share a lot of my spiritual beliefs or views on life ("living in the present moment" etc etc).

I wondered if you all have had any experience with this and how can I be the best support for my friend? I don't want to just sit like a bump on a log not saying anything, yet I wonder what I can offer...? I am going to visit her in a couple of weeks. I don't get to see her often. She hasn't told anyone else her new condition. She doesn't know that I know about her new tumors...her husband informed me of this because he thought it important enough for me to visit her soon.

This is so wild that, again, I can no longer be a skeptic in that I know what I wrote in that previous post was a verbal challenge I made to myself of "Well, if you think you can smile meeting Life head on...what about this scenario?"
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Re: Supporting loved ones (or anyone!) with terminal illness

Postby smiileyjen101 » Wed Oct 03, 2012 6:57 am

((Donna)) inside the verbal challenge was the knowledge that you are 'enough'.

I'm experiencing a similar situation at this time too with someone I admire and respect deeply. He's watched and cared for me while I've travelled my own sometimes difficult journeys, and I'm now helping him on a project amid his own.
Interestingly this morning he called when I asked 'How are you today?' because I'm aware he's just started chemotherapy,

He said: 'hmm, well, that's become a loaded question now hasn't it?
I replied: 'Yep, I get that.'
He mused that he's been told it's going to get a lot worse and it's not too great already, that he's going to have his hair shaved off tomorrow, he's been told its itchier if you just let it fall out in clumps.
He'd previously shared that he's never even had a crew cut before.
And he's now attached to a drip on a stand and didn't realise how confined he's going to be in terms of his mobility, so he's adjusting to that, and he's grateful for distractions, and this was really more of a social call than anything to do with our project at hand...

Not too long ago he said he finds it really difficult to speak about himself... well, just listen to him now :)

The mere 'normalcy' is different, but the acceptance and friendship isn't. It's as natural as ever, how could it not be?

I love that we can be this open and honest with each other and we always have been, through some really scary, dire, stuff. 'we' - not him nor I have changed in our relating, even if we have 'new information' to factor into our activities and our relating, and yes reorganising and doing things 'now' because they need to be done 'now' is kinda how I operate anyway so he has no sense of anything putting me out, because it doesn't. And, even if it did ... I have a karmic debt to him a hundred miles wide.

The 'new information' notion came as he was diagnosed with fast moving cancer, that he wasn't expecting, and I on some level 'knew' was part of the reason he contacted me after a long time of life not bringing us into the same quarters.
When we had to more quickly than 'expected' get to the 'business at hand' after the diagnosis, we reorganised things and I'm okay at balancing the practical and the emotional, and so is he.

I asked him on that occasion how he was and he honestly said "I'm the same person I was last week, (before he was diagnosed) but everyone else is falling to pieces around me. I'm finding that the most difficult part.'
He understands that I 'get' that, from experiences we've shared in my own life journey.
I smiled and said "Yep, it's just new information,is all.'
He considered it, nodded and agreed, 'Yes, I haven't changed, it's just new information.'

I've also just finished reading Bronnie Ware's book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying ~ a life transformed by the dearly departing. There's a topic here on it. It's tales of her journey while caring for terminally ill patients in their homes and all the joy and wisdoms they shared with her on their journeys. It might be a timely read, it has been for me.

In Regret #4 I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
She details in the chapter how people realise and treasure who their real friends have been or were, and how many lose touch with those they would like to reminisce with about what has been important in their lives, those who really understand who they really are - not the sainted or mature versions of themselves, but the real boots and all understanding of true friendship.

She details how she tried to find one of her patient's former friends, her greatest wish before dying. The joy and laughter through the tears when she does manage to reunite some of them together is really beautiful.

You two don't have to share beliefs, you already share a friendship, accepting each other how you truly are.
It's just 'new information' in a dear friendship.

And yes it still hurts like crap, it is what it is, be that laughter or leaking tears. Who can you share these things with if not a dear friend.

I've also had a bit of experience with brain tumour patients, one who is recovered and two have passed on. They can markedly affect a person's personality. On an upside it can turn a real a^%hole into a sensitive and caring person, on the downside it can rob a person of their natural joys, and in some can trigger tourettes type outbursts, and even a 'vacancy' as if they've already left I know from experience with the one who is recovered that they are still 'in there' they just can't communicate it at times.

Still accepting the friend inside the symptoms of their illness is a gift beyond measure. Bronnie discusses a woman who was so ravaged with paranoia and dementia she often needed to be restrained and could be abusive. Bronnie maintained compassion and caring and speaking to her normally, in tiny moments of clarity her patient would 'connect', once telling her she 'liked her' because she was 'kind' another time humming a tune Bronnie had shared with her.

As in all things Donna the best thing we can do for anyone, and for ourselves, is to BE there, be joy, be sorrow, be memories, be fears, be listener, be speaker, as it arises naturally leaving room for it and allowing it, whatever 'it' is... however your friendship normally is will already have dictated the 'boundaries' of these encounters by each of you knowing and accepting and loving and respecting the other.

It's pretty shitty 'new information', granted....
But none of us change who we really are.

And, you know you are already 'enough'.

Much love in your journey.
Our rights start deep within our humanity; they end where another's begin~~ SmileyJen
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Re: Supporting loved ones (or anyone!) with terminal illness

Postby Donna » Wed Oct 03, 2012 2:23 pm

Wow, Jen, thank you so much for caring and sharing all that! (hugs!)

What I got out of what you wrote...

...that being my most honest, authentic self...not needing to act or "support" in any particular way in order for me to live up to pleasing or what may be some standard of caring for someone else that exists in my be vulnerable with my own feelings with my friend through whatever arises...that's true love ...and as you say, that's all I can be and that's enough.

Phew! Feels like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. It's interesting how those egoic conditions we place on ourselves has such a grip. Or feel like a heavy blanket...

I will check out that book you mentioned. May you also be at peace experiencing your time with your friend with similar conditions.
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Re: Supporting loved ones (or anyone!) with terminal illness

Postby heidi » Wed Oct 03, 2012 7:59 pm

Hi Donna - Even meeting sadness with a smile is good medicine. :)
I've written this somewhere else here before, but it seems to keep coming up - in my life and everyone else's. Of course it would since everything dies sooner or later, and our egos are in place to try to keep that from happening and we live in a society that looks at old age as a disease and death as scarey and "bad" - something to avoid, and a medical industry that thrives on that. Somehow that makes no sense to me in the face of the ultimate reality. And I think that causes people to not know how to respond in such situations.

I truly have come to know and feel that the only difference between resting in awareness and "resting in peace" is that for a brief (very brief for some) time we are manifested with hearts being beaten and lungs being breathed and brains doing their electrical synaptic stuff, but what we truly are underneath all of that is persistent and constant awareness - energy - before we were born, during our manifested life, and after we die. I am certain that that's what religions are talking about when they mention everlasting life. Spirit truly is eternal. In understanding this, it makes it all the easier to support other humans intheir quest to live or surrender to death or both.

Recently I've had a friend's young (24) daughter die of cancer and another friend (64) undergo a miraculous healing with the help of wicked medical intervention I never would have agreed to for myself. In both cases, I have found that the best way I can be supportive is to be truly present with them when they call upon me, and to let them know that I am available to them. To listen with my heart open to the highest good. To accept without judgement whatever decisions they make. My older friend talked to me about the spinning mind, especially when she was faced with some gruesome bodily function stuff. I gave her a big bag of books and tapes, meditation tapes, Tolle tapes, healing, soothing stuff. Dropped off food I knew she could eat. Gave her a goody bag with stuff I knew she needed. I did a bunch of Braco gazing sessions holding her picture over my heart. She, a major agnostic, had a huge network of people all praying for her in one way or another. We feel like we got a miracle - but I know it just wasn't her time to go yet. :wink:
As Jen said, being your self and just being there with an open heart is the best thing you can do.
Lots of love xo

P.S. - Every living thing on this planet has a terminal illness, if you know what I mean.
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Re: Supporting loved ones (or anyone!) with terminal illness

Postby runstrails » Wed Oct 03, 2012 11:47 pm

I can't add much to the wise words of Jen and Heidi. I like the idea of giving a Tolle book or tape. It could be really comforting (or even perspective altering).
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Re: Supporting loved ones (or anyone!) with terminal illness

Postby Donna » Thu Oct 04, 2012 2:15 pm

[quote=heidi]To listen with my heart open to the highest good.[/quote]

Seems we are set up with situations to practice awareness.

I haven't seen my friend in a while, so it will be interesting to see where she is at as far as being open to books and other forms of healing. She's a very very independent person.

Thank you, Heidi, for all that you wrote.
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Re: Supporting loved ones (or anyone!) with terminal illness

Postby Donna » Thu Oct 04, 2012 2:19 pm

runstrails wrote:I can't add much to the wise words of Jen and Heidi. I like the idea of giving a Tolle book or tape. It could be really comforting (or even perspective altering).

I try not to give out what seems to be self-help books anymore, runstrails, because in the past I've gotten reactions of "so you think you know what I need?". However, in conversation, I sometimes mention Tolle or other authors and if the person seems curious in wanting to know more of that perspective, I take it as a little invitation that a book may be welcomed.

Thank you for your support wanting to help ME out. :-)
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