Dealing with Dad's lung cancer
Hello everyone. I'm new here and hoping to learn some coping strategies. My father was recently diagnosed with lung cancer for the second time, but what makes this incredibly difficult is that this is his second battle with cancer and this time it's not going to have a happy ending.
I'd like to start at the beginning to give some context. I apologize if it's a bit long-winded, but I'm hoping it gives a better understanding of why I'm so angry and sad at the same time.
My father would ride his bicycle occasionally when I was younger. One of his routes would take him near a waterfall with a bridge over it, and he would always stop there to take a quick break and take some sips from his water bottle. But on March 31, 2002, he fell off the bridge. It wasn't a huge waterfall, maybe 20 feet high. But the fall was enough to cause bleeding from his head and my mother taking him to the hospital.
X-Rays revealed that he wasn't in too bad shape; a few broken ribs and a minor concussion. But underneath one of the rib-fractures was an unusual spot. Further testing revealed that this spot was a stage 1 adenocarcinoma tumor. I don't remember if it was small-cell or non-small cell, but I suppose that doesn't matter anymore. After two surgeries they excised the largest lobe in his right lung, and removed the tumor and any traces of adenocarcinoma in his right lung.
To this day, we have no idea why he fell off the bridge. He'd been able to walk on it in the past without any issue, but the fact remains that his fall ultimately led to the discovery of a tumor before it was too late to save him. We all agree that it was nothing short of a miracle.
He was changed for the better after the cancer had been removed. He no longer obsessed over work and became one of the kindest, sweetest, most generous people I've ever met. For the next 13 years he would participate in the Pan-Mass Challenge, which is an annual bike-a-thon in Massachusetts to raise money for the Dana-Farber Institute.
In 2012, after his annual check-up revealed that he had not relapsed in the past 10 years, he was declared officially cancer-free. His story became an inspirational tale of survival that we would be able to tell with a smile.
Fast forward to March of this year. He became incredibly sick; more sick than any of us had ever seen him. He was struggling to breathe and function, and had to be brought to the hospital. It turned out that he had massive fluid build-up in his heart and it had to be drained. When they finally drained all the fluid, he was a new man. But 10 minutes before he was due to be discharged, the doctors told him that tests revealed adenocarcinoma cells in the fluid from his heart.
When he went to Dana-Farber about a week later, we were told that he once again had adenocarcinoma of the lung. But this time it was on the left side, and was stage 4 and had already metastasized. He isn't eligible for immunotherapy so all they can do is chemotherapy every few weeks to try to halt the growth.
Unless we can get another miracle, this is ultimately going to be a losing battle. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that.
I'm surprised at how well he's been handling it. I asked him about it and he explained that he needs to stay strong because it'll help get him through the cancer and the chemotherapy. My mother however, has been absolutely devastated. I can't say I blame her though. This is a man who is the father of her children, and has been her best friend and husband for over 30 years.
I'd been bottling up my emotions because my father is going through enough, and my conscience would not let me force him to be the pillar of strength in the family. But I didn't even attempt to release my emotions, and I ended up turning to alcohol briefly to cope. This only made things worse and I stopped, but my family has an unfortunate history with alcoholism and I have to struggle to resist going back.
But that's not the main issue. The main issue is I don't know how to deal with the grief and anger. This past Friday, I spent the entire day sobbing and having to be comforted. On Sunday, the sadness turned to rage and I was literally shaking with anger. I ended up having to be led to a secluded spot where I could throw plates and glasses and kick the dirt around.
I'm struggling to deal with the sorrow of knowing his time is limited, the anger that this could have been avoided if they didn't stop checking him after 10 years, and the anxiety of not knowing how much time he has left. I don't want my knee-jerk reaction to anger and sadness to be drinking alcohol or breaking things, but I don't know how to release my emotions in a manner which is not destructive.
I'd appreciate any suggestions and advice you can offer.
I am going to assume you are fairly young given the 1989 in your user name along with your parents approaching their 30th anniversary. With this said, it is a lot for anyone to absorb let alone someone on the younger scale of life.
Since your main purpose on finding us is to seek advice on seeking how to cope with a devastating diagnosis with your Dad and not the daily struggle of treatment, I am going to leave your thread here rather than move it to the LC forum. However, should you want us to move the thread then we can certainly do that.
It is fully understandable the anger and sadness you are feeling, however, when it becomes harmful, then it needs to be addressed and quickly. What kind of support do you have in your area, i.e. church, counseling centers, etc. I strongly recommend you seek out someplace you can speak with someone, someone trained that can help you calm the anger before is causes harm. Of course we are very good listeners and understand how overwhelmed you feel but what you describe goes beyond what we can even offer here.
Take the next step, make some phone calls. You may also consider reaching out to the cancer center where your Dad is being treated. Many have staff that can help families cope so that would be a resource for you if in fact that offer it.
Good luck and let us know how it goes.
I was 12 during his first bout with cancer and I'm 27 now. I think I was able to handle it easier back then because my parents tried to keep the truth of the matter a mystery to my brother and I because we were so young. By the time we knew what was really going on, his prognosis was optimistic. This is not the case this time.
I'm mainly looking for coping strategies and methods of emotional release, and I agree that my best option is to seek a therapist. I have an appointment with a therapist, but he was booked solid all the way through August. There's absolutely no way I'm going to be able to handle this without help for four months, so I'm looking for other therapists in the meantime.
I have no idea how long that's going to take and how early I'll be able to get an appointment, so I joined this message board in the hopes that I could get some advice from people who have gone through or are going through a similar struggle.
Last edited by mark1989; 04-12-2017 at 07:21 PM.
I'd also like to mention that the aforementioned destructive tendencies were one-time occurrences brought about by attempting to bottle the emotions without releasing them before they went beyond my control. I have since significantly calmed down, but I'd like to find ways to release the emotions as they come so it doesn't reach such extreme ends.
Hello again Mark,
You have taken the first step in recognizing you need assistance in dealing with your emotions during this very difficult time. I will once again say that seeking counsel is the best possible suggestion we can make. While we understand your fears, we are not doctors and counselors.
Push for an earlier appointment or look into the other avenues I suggested.
For the time being, since you are not looking for support in the way of understanding your Dad's treatment in particular but are looking for help for yourself in the way of your mental status, I will leave this thread in the Coping and Support forum.
Please reach out to local charities as well which may offer some guidance along with checking with the cancer center to see if they have programs available in helping family members cope.
Hope you see this.
Although my reaction was to the initial diagnosis of my husband, it was knee jerking, heart breaking and near world ending. I lost my control immediately. But bottling up emotions is no good either I agree and I am so happy you reached out.
Lisa has given you some very excellent advice. Yes a therapist is a great place to start but sounds like you also need an outlet at home or when you are not with that therapist. That varies from from person to person - writing, art, carpentry, reading, running, working out ...cross stitching - lol no wait that is me. You get what i am saying here. Therapy helped me more than I can say but I needed something to help me when I was having my "moments" at home, work or where ever.
But I also hope you and your dad can come to talk about these things. Your whole family. You will find it will make you all stronger, not weaker. Plus you can say things you known you always should have said...meant to say but never got around to say. No regrets. That is the way we live.. I love it. It is so freeing.
Mark, please feel free to message me anytime if you want to talk ok? Not sure I helped here but I hope so.
All the best to all of you.
Wife to husband with squamous lung cancer stage 3 b
dx - April 20/14
tx started May 20/14 - radiation and chemo
June 23 - chemo finished
June 24 - tumor 1/3 the original size
July 4 - radiation finished
July 8 - PET scan shows tumor almost gone, lymph nodes back to normal
Married July 19/14
Sept 9/14 - repeat can shows tumor continues to shrink more, no new spots. New coughing and pain due to chest infection or side effect of radiation.
Sept 19/14 - not infection but pneumonitis, place on dex for 4 weeks
Oct 22/14 - now off of dex and facing even more symptoms of withdrawal
Dec 16/14 - pretty much nothing left but a scar
April 7/15 - ditto scan and screw you stats
Oct 6/15 - more scarring but still cancer still gone
Feb 2016 -scan the same
Aug 2016 - more of the same