My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away one and a half years later. What made me saddest was that he was told straight to his face by certain nurses employed by a well-known cancer charity, that he was” going to die”, it could be any time now or in a few months’ time. Apparently, when I questioned their methods, it was because they had to tell him to make him accept, so that he could get his finances in order, instead of letting him think he could stay in charge. This has taken a while to sink in as at the time it felt like the cruellest knock-back we’d ever experienced. Especially as I had been helping my dad to fight back from his original diagnosis of cancer and fractured bone for 6 months and helping him to feel positive again. We had been joining classes and social clubs, something he’d never done before and this had helped him immensely. So when the terminal diagnosis came it was such a shock. It went against the core of everything he and my mother had instilled in me: you can fight anything if you stay positive, stick together and are strong. Instead I was left to deal alone with a very depressed dad who felt more and more negative and was forced to think only of how and when he would die and how painful it would be. I could not have done it alone, but I eventually found help.
To be fair he was looked after by the most fantastic carers and nurses in a nursing home for the final months and we met many wonderful people during this time that tried their best to help him feel cared for and comfortable. I was with him almost every day.
Sadly, I felt that there are very few people who look after their elders. There were people in the rooms nearby who had no one to visit them and some with rare visits. In fact the ones with no visitors got ignored frequently and were left calling for help constantly….. It was a world I was new to, so it was all a shock to me, almost like a nightmare about a cold cruel world that I’d hope to wake up from and be relieved it wasn’t true…
The nursing home staff noticed I was down and “pouring out” emotionally and recommended that I asked for help through the gp. I was referred to various bodies and charities but no one really helped at this most urgent time. I remember begging for help on the phone and being constantly passed on to another number who passed me on to someone else! I was finally referred by a Macmillan nurse to Paul at Cancervive who came out to see me the very next day. With regular weekly visits from a familiar, experienced and understanding person and the opportunity to talk to him whenever I needed, I felt stronger and was able to deal with the impending crisis. Together with weekly visits to my dad from Brighton Buddies by a lovely volunteer, this support helped me and my dad enormously. Without Cancervive’s support I certainly would have had a breakdown and without Brighton Buddies my dad would have to rely on me alone for emotional support!
So through all of this, I realise that although my dad’s struggle with cancer was extremely difficult it could have been worse if there was no help. I know that there are people who may be exhausted out there and need help immediately, in the form of practical advice as well as emotional support and also by sharing stories to help them to relieve feelings of isolation.
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