16300 Mack Ave
Grosse Pointe Park, MI 48230
Phone: 313-881-8500
Fax: 313-881-7653

Is He Going to Die?

by Deb Sims, MS,RNCS,LCSW

Dear Deb,

Hello. My father has terminal illness and I really want to know whether that mean he is going to die. We have fought this cancer for at least a month now. He has been going for chemo for the past three weeks. We just got a letter today saying that he has terminal illness. I want to know if there is a chance for my father to live. I am sick and tired of these doctors who just play these games. I want to know if somebody out there can help my dad. We don't have that much money, but why in the hell does that matter? This is my father and he means more then anything. Could you please help me? I don't want any websites to go to. I want to know if you know anybody that can help us.

Dear Reader:

I am so sorry to hear about your father's illness as well as your frustration with the medical system. Unfortunately, "terminal" does mean he is going to die. But it does not tell us when. And many people who are going to die can lead full lives until they become too sick. They can travel or do some things they've always wanted to do. And they can finish business with those that will be left behind. Miracles still happen and some people who have been diagnosed as terminal live long beyond the time they were estimated to have. Also, to get the news in a letter is cold and insensitive to the pain it would cause you. It also doesn't give you the opportunity to ask the questions you need to ask of the physician. There are a few things you can do. You have the right, with your father's permission, to call and ask the questions you need to know. If your father is willing, you have a right to another opinion. Have you talked with your father yet about what he wants? This gives you a wonderful opportunity to talk about how he feels and what his requests are. He may want something different than you do. The main thing this kind of wording does is give you time to talk, share what hasn't been said, learn your father's wishes, plan ahead with him for when he's not here or for what he wants to do in the time left.

Right now this has come as a shock. In actuality, your grieving is already beginning. Because of situations like your, we are currently working to enhance our terminally ill section so people can learn what they can do. However, that section isn't finished yet. But we do have one of our key staff members who lived through her husband's terminal illness with him and his eventual death. If you would like, it may help to have her share with you some of what she went through.

But, right now, you've just heard the news and you're living in limbo without even an explanation as to what that specifically means for your father. This is a horrible time to go through.

I'm just so sorry and I'm sure you must be feeling anger, sadness, grief, pain, feelings of abandonment, rage and guilt all at the same time. If you would like to talk further about this or if you would like to learn how it was for our staff member, please write me back. In fact I would appreciate knowing what happens when you talk with your father about his wishes. That's the starting place. Then we can work from there with what to do next.

You and your family will be in our prayers and I hope you will write back and keep me updated.



Debbie Sims is a Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist in Adult Psychiatric Nursing, has a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She maintains a private practice in counseling but her devotion is to her position as Editor for Beyond Indigo an Internet web site for those who are grieving.