My best friend here in New York had surgery for Throat Cancer today. I think they feel it is beyond treatable at this point. I am struggling to take this information in. His husband just texted me "Stage 4." We're in shock right now.
When we come out of shock, what can I do to help him? He is a gourmet cook, and I can burn water, so that's out. This is a sad and new experience for me and I don't want to say stupid things or overtax him with my attention.
Anyone going through this? How do you deal with well-meaning friends with the best of intentions?
He's a sweet guy so I know he'll try and make everyone feel comfortable. Worst nightmare scenario here.
Sad and Confused
I knew someone with throat cancer who eventually died. The cause? HPV from sucking cock. Her husband's cheating cock!
Why did you capitalize throat cancer, OP?
As for your question, just be a friend to your friend from here on out, seeing him as often as it's comfortable for him.
Find a natural, beautiful location - not just some fucking park full of strollers - and take them there for an afternoon. You don't have to say much, just be quiet and take a walk.
Be there for him when he needs you and get out of the way when he doesn't want anyone around.
Ask your friend if there's anything you can do for him and tell him you're sincere. Then ask his caregiver the same thing. Check in a lot. When my dad got sick, he was just learning how to text on his phone, and I would send text messages when he was too tired for company. He got a kick out of that, so whatever means of communication you use, communicate.
Why don't you offer to take his place
At which hospital was your friend operated on?
I had prostate cancer in 2007 and a very rare and aggressive salivary duct carcinoma in 2010, but only Stage II. Two months of radiation and no on-site reappearances nor metastases--so far and I'm in year three.
Maybe things will turn out well for your friend.
If you offer to help, most people will say no.
But you can prepare/buy food, offer to pick up prescriptions, buy presents of books/movies/flowers/magazines/liquor, etc.
Don't wait to be asked.
Stay in touch. One of the saddest parts of my Mom's cancer was the way every friend she had scattered. People need to be there for the dying. I don't know how those "friends" of hers can call themselves Christian. Oh, they were all there for the funeral. Just be a presence in their end of life and not a disappointment, OP.
How old is your friend?
I had a friend who just died 4 months after diagnosis with a brain tumor. I had the same questions, even looked on Amazon for a book about being with a friend with cancer, etc. Just visit as much as you can and stay loyal. If he can talk, listen. Ask him to tell you how he is, what it's like. If he can't talk, hold his hand and sit with him. This guy's girlfriend organized a sign-up sheet online (I think the site is called signin dot com??). So there would be people spread out and not everybody showing up at the same time. They also suggested food to bring if you wanted. I lost my best friend to cancer in 1994; she was like a sister. She died in 7 months. It's one of the hardest losses I've had. It's a shock but you will recover in time. Very sorry...take care.
R8 is right, don't ask if there's something you can do. Offer to do something. If family is coming in from out of town, offer to pick them up at the airport. If there's a dog, offer to walk it or pet sit. Offer to buy groceries or prepared foods. Offer to clean or take the dry cleaning in. Don't wait to be asked because you won't be.
Ultimately, your friend's illness is not about you. This is your chance to be of service, to be generous. Take it.
He obviously won't be around much longer, make the most of it.
What is their financial situation, OP?
Offer to take him for treatment. His husband will have so many things to do in addition to working and may be stressed about all the time off he's had to take.
OP: it's not about you. Quit being so damn selfish.
Don't treat him differently than you treated him before. Just be present when you sense he may want you there and disappear when he gets annoyed that you are there. He will be going through many stages of coping and sometimes people just want to be left alone. Many people feel a sense of guilt when someone close to them is dying, as if to say, why them and not me? Don't project that on this person. Your guilt is not their problem at this stage.
Tell him jokes, watch trash TV, whatever you can to relieve the situation.
FYI - Radiation treatment for throat/mouth cancer is extremely painful. If he is going that route, there is a good chance he won't be able to talk. Give him a dry erase board or a tablet (iPad) of some sort so he can communicate.
Thank you for all your kind responses.
Depending on how close he is to the end, suggest hospice. Maybe not quite yet. But frankly, hospice can be brought in if a person is determined to probably pass away in the next six months. Insurance covers the cost. Many people wait till the last few days and that's a shame.
I had hospice for my mother and she lived 3 months. But they made such a difference.
Google hospice in your area. And be ready with the information.
It was a wonderful RN at the hospital who told me and then when I agreed - set up the first conference.
I know someone who was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and lived 15 months after the diagnosis. Is your friend going to have any sort of treatment or not?
Ask what you can do and let them know you're there for them.
Send e-gift cards from Amazon - he can download movies, music and books immediately.
Offer to send in a cleaning service. When my friend's son was dying, someone sent a cleaning crew and cleaned, top to bottom, even cleaned out the fridge for her. Which was good, because she ended up having tons of people coming and going after he died and she didn't have to worry about some fusspot judging her for the dust on top of her refrigerator or the crumbs in the silverware drawer.
I sent a box of meat from Omaha steaks because everyone else sent lasagna. To this day she still can't eat lasagna. Why does everyone send lasagna when someone is sick?
So many good suggestion about things one can do.
I have been very close to two people who went through a prolonged fatal illness. The most important thing is to "be". Be with them,connect, relate to them just as always, don't diminish them as their body fails. Allow them their experience, take your lead from them. The gap between the dying and the living is a real one, but don't cede anything that can be retained.
Great advice at R23. You will know what is best and what is most needed just by staying in the picture.
How are things? Just wanted to check in.
[quote]Why does everyone send lasagna when someone is sick?
Because it's a complete meal that can serve a lot people (post funeral usually) and takes virtually no preparation.
Don't fret OP, sometimes throat cancer doesn't end the way you expect and hope it will.
If the doctors felt his cancer was beyond treatment they would not have operated on him. They don't want to waste their time on someone they can do nothing for.
Some of the posters are correct. Be there for him. If he knows you are sincere, he will let you help him. Just sitting and talking with him will mean everything.
[R28] is right. The word cancer sends fear through all of us--Stage 4 even more so. It doesn't mean your friend is near the end but that's his medical diagnosis. Take sometime and take to your friend and his partner to figure out the situation calmly. Treatment of cancers have come a long. Good luck.
Listen to the advice from #4. I had major surgery for pancreatic cancer, then 6 months chemo. It was nice to have someone to talk to or a visitor now and then but for the most part I didn't want anyone near me. The last thing I wanted was to feel like I had to entertain a friend or relative who couldn't listen to me when I said I didn't want company.
No idea who or where you or your friend are but sending healing wishes and love. And hope he responded well to treatment.
Stage IV isn't always a death sentence. It cannot be cured, but it can be treated. Your friend may be around for a good while there's no telling.
Be a good listener. Don't try to make him feel better by saying things like...'we're all terminal' and 'you can beat this thing'...just listen and acknowledge his feelings. Go to chemo treatments with him. Go over to his place and clean up and just hang out...not a 'visit'...while he naps...just be there, but not in a way that puts pressure on him to participate. Take your cues from him. And don't start telling him about wacky cures found on the internet.
My BFF's brother had stage 4 cancer I forget where, and survived! He was putting it off forever. He's basically fine now, and yes I'm shocked.
I agree and disagree with R13. Ask and offer. Asking helps the person dealing realize there are people around and if there is something he/she needs, they know they have someone to go to. Follow up with offering to do stuff. You mentioned that he's a gourmet cook, that's great, but in a time like this, he's most likely not going to have the time or energy to prepare him anything.
Go to the store and pick up prepared meals or stuff he can easily throw together. Even if he doesn't want it, he'll at least know it's there if he needs it.
I had a friend who had Esophageal cancer and it was awful. Everyone knew but her that the majority of people with it die around a year after diagnosis. As others have mentioned, the best thing you can do is just be around. People often let their own fears about what's happening prevent them from spending time with the sick person or their family, and that's generally what they need.
Be there to listen. Bring them stuff, movies, books, etc. to try to help them take things off their mind. Offer to clean or do laundry, stuff like that. Even if they don't accept it, it's the offering and feeling of support that means everything to them. My friend's husband, after his wife passed away, told me that it was just knowing people cared and that he had people who he knew he could turn to if he needed to, that got him through the ordeal.