Thursday, November 3, 2011

Perspective check

I just received a call from a friend to ask advice on how to deal with an unthinkable situation.

This friend reached out to me because of my professional expertise on behalf of another couple, whom we also know.

The husband in the couple was diagnosed with a rare cancer, stage 4, in mid September. The diagnosis was out of the blue really. The couple are our age and have a 3 year old, who joined their family from China via adoption around age 18 months.

They started aggressive treatment right after diagnosis and the husband has been doing all right. A few days ago, his doctors determined he's not responding to treatment and has taken a significant turn for the worse. They had to intubate him, and he will likely pass away in the next several days.

The friend wanted to know what and how to tell the child. And whether the child should be taken to see him in ICU in this state or just not ever see her father again.

It's a tricky question and one I've sought professional advice on from child specialists in psycho-oncology since getting the call.

My heart breaks for these friends, for their impending loss. My heart breaks for their child, who has already lost two birth parents, and then a set of chinese foster parents, and now will lose her adoptive father as well. It is just so incomprehensibly, completely unfair. Not fair at all.

For us, this terrible situation also offered us a perspective check. Our situation is rough. And I am grieving our latest setback and am beyond frustrated at our situation. But our situation is not this horrific. We will survive. We will go on. And although I can't see my way out the other side right now, we WILL somehow get there, I hope, if we can avoid giving up.

If you could keep this couple and their child in your thoughts and prayers, I would ask you to.



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  1. So sad. And you're right, it puts things in perspective. I will definitely be thinking of this brave couple and their daughter.

  2. Oh my. Sending up prayers for that family. Perspective can be perverse like that-- you don't want others to suffer just to remind you that things aren't completely impossible in your own life. How very sad for all involved-- sending love to that family.

  3. A friend's 4yo was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. These situations do help us keep our own crap in check. Sending prayers for this family as well.

  4. I am so sorry to hear about your friends. I understand what you mean about perspective... it's unimaginable what they must be going through. We'll keep them in our prayers.

  5. Of course we will include this family in our thoughts and prayers, but for the record, there is still room for you, Will and this baby trying to make his/her way to your house.

    I hate cancer. I hate loss. My heart is breaking especially for this Momma. She must feel the weight of the world crushing down on her. I will hold her close.

  6. Brutal brutal story're never far away from my thoughts. I'll say a little prayer tonight for your friends.

  7. So sad, so very, very, terribly sad. My thoughts are with them all. And you too.

  8. This cuts through my heart like a knife. I now fear something happening to one of us so much more, because I know what my babies have already lost and they just can't lose anything else. I'm so sorry for your friend, AND for your latest setback.

  9. Perspective check indeed.

    Sending love and strength to that family as they spend their final days together.

    So sad.

  10. So very heartbreaking. I will be praying for them.

  11. Oh gosh....I was talking to one of my (cancer) patients today that has been given 9-months and she to has two small kids at home and the same thoughts passed through my mind. I am alive. I am healthy. I do not have children despite a strong desire, but I do have a lot that others are being stripped from. It breaks my heart.

  12. Oh, Mo, what a horrific and tragic situation for your friends and their young child. It is so heart breaking to consider.

    My heart and prayers go out to him, his wife, their child, and anyone and everyone who loves them.

  13. Oh Mo, what a tragic, tragic situation. It's just utterly heartbreaking in every sense of the word.

    I'm keeping them and you in my thoughts and prayers.

  14. My heart really breaks for this family and their child...for the husband fighting for his life and likely losing the battle; for the wife who is losing her precious spouse, and a child who has already seen a loss of different kind.

    I will keep them in my prayers.


  15. Such a tough situation. Sending prayers their way...and your way. Take care this weekend. So sorry for your recent setback! :hugs:

  16. Hi -- I don't usually comment but may have something helpful to offer here. My husband had cystic fibrosis and died in November 2010; our son was 3 at the time. I have the script we used in discussing illness and death with him (big, big sickness; body totally stopped working, etc.); obviously this is all very personal and requires one to be clear about what they wish to teach about death and after, but I would be happy to share it if it might be a starting point for ideas. I also will say that (1) grief in a 3 year old was not what I expected and not not what I expected either and it is very, very real and (2) it is always present even when he isn't talking about it. It is present in lots of different ways. Will, my husband, died at home; Liam was there up to about 36 hours before he died, but not there at the time of death. He was accustomed to o2 supply and home iv treatement, in haled medications, etc. These things did not frighten him but they did require explaination, which we made as factual (but understandable for him) as possilbe (e.g., it is a very small tube that helps the medication get inot Daddy's body). Liam visted Will once in the hospital. We did tell him, about 2 weeks ahead of death, that someday the big, big sickness might cause Daddy's body to totally stop working and when that happened, Daddy would die. After Will died, I did not let Liam see the body. I explained that the body "went away because Daddy's spirit did not need it any more." I have not attpmpted to explain cremation. We had a memorial service which Liam attended and we video taped for later in his life. Liam began seeing a counselor shortly after Will's death. He has done sand table work, very helpful, and been treated with EMDR which I think has been very, very helpful. I am happy to share more offline; this feels like a random list of what we went through, sorry for not organizing it. Sending strength to your friend and her child. And to you, and speed and luck, along your journey. Best,

  17. So very sad. And, yes, makes you realize things could be much, much worse. They are in my thoughts.

  18. How terribly sad. I'm so sorry and yes, will keep them all in my thoughts.

  19. What an awful situation for anyone to be in - I'll be thinking of them.
    I think in that position, I would be tempted to let my child see Daddy one last time. Make things as non-scary and cleaned up in the ICU room, explain about the tube helping Daddy to breathe, and let them cuddle. I think it would most likely be harder on the child to just have Daddy disappear, but what do I know?
    What have you heard about the recommended approach?
    I wish your friend's family a peaceful and love-filled last few days. I hope he passes away pain-free and with his loved ones nearby.

  20. I don't know what to say. I will be praying for this family.


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