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Adult children and illness

(48 Posts)
dragonfly46 Thu 31-Jan-19 08:42:36

Some of you may know I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. My AC live 3 hours away. My DS rings every week but when I mention oncologists appointments or anything to do with my illness he changes the subject. He is a very caring person usually.
I have not heard from my DD except for a few texts and an email for a couple of weeks and she makes no reference to my condition although she knows I will have got the results of a biopsy since we last spoke.
Has anyone else had experience of this? I don’t want to discuss it all the time but it is like it isn’t happening.

mumofmadboys Thu 31-Jan-19 08:56:47

Perhaps they can't cope with thoughts that you are ill or are worried about upsetting you. Maybe if you mention it first they will talk about it.x

dragonfly46 Thu 31-Jan-19 08:59:27

I try not to talk about and be upbeat and cheerful but when I mentioned to my DS yesterday that I had an oncologists appointment next week he asked me how his dad was. I am sure they don’t want to think about it but it makes me feel isolated.

Humbertbear Thu 31-Jan-19 09:02:19

I am sorry about your diagnosis. I hope your family are now being more supportive. Maybe you need to tell them what they have to do?
4 months ago I told my DS that his father was attending counselling sessions because I could no longer cope with his behaviour. Since then he has not enquired as to whether my life has improved or his father is benefitting from counselling. I don’t honestly think he considers us as people at all - we are just free babysitters. I sometimes think the nanny gets better treatment and more attention.

MawBroon Thu 31-Jan-19 09:05:50

I agree with mumofmadboys, children whether four or forty, can be terrified of parental illness and the intimations of mortality. This makes it hard on us as we have to juggle the natural feelings of 1) protecting our children, 2) getting it straight in our own minds 3) needing to be upfront with our nearest and dearest, 4) not wanting to bang on about illness (or seem to be) and last but not least, wanting some support, care and sympathy in exchange for a life time of kissing it better, sitting up through childhood illnesses, listening out for the car in the wee small hours when they’ve gone out and worrying about their teenage heartbreak.
I fear ‘‘twas ever this, you are not alone.

Buffybee Thu 31-Jan-19 09:17:54

I've not had any personal experience of this but it does seem to me that they are perhaps scared of acknowledging your illness and are basically burying their heads in the sand.
Your post brought to mind how a good friend of mine with breast cancer told me that her son only asked how she was in general terms and the same as you, when she mentioned treatments he quickly changed the subject.
I don't think that they are being deliberately unkind or uncaring, I think that it is just that they can't contemplate their Mum being ill and want it all to just go away, as indeed so do we.
Have you friends or other family to discuss your treatments with?Or there are online forums which give great advice.
Don't be upset with your Dc, I'm sure that if you needed help, they would be there in an instant. flowers

paddyann Thu 31-Jan-19 09:40:06

I've mentioned it before on here,my OH cant cope with his mother aging ,having health issues.He'll happily take her for lunch or do DIY for her but if she gets particularly forgetful or tells him about health issues he visibly retreats inside himself.He has always been very close to her and he just cant bear to think of her not being around.To an extent I understand it ,she's his mum.

dragonfly46 Thu 31-Jan-19 09:43:51

Thank you - wise words from everyone. I suppose I knew this to be the case but it doesn't make it any easier. I do have good friends and my DH who make sure I have plenty of distractions but will also listen when I have to talk about it.

MawBroon Thu 31-Jan-19 09:57:01

I wonder if showing them some of these replies might be a thought? Or using them as a basis for a conversation - over a drink or cuppa, not the phone if possible?

kittylester Thu 31-Jan-19 09:57:02

Good posts above especially maw.

Whilst not in quite the same position as you, dragonfly, we posted about DH from the beginning and dealt with the fall out from various children at various times during the immediate aftermath.

Obviously, we see them and phone them separately too. The family thread is about all sorts of stuff with Dh's appointments in amongst.

Maybe it's having 3 daughters that makes the difference in our case as, true to type, they are more open and more comes out. The boys are more reticent though DS2 did ask me how I am really after sending me a photo of a kitten.

I also know that ours have a 'siblings' thread so heaven knows what happens on there.

BlueSky Thu 31-Jan-19 10:03:25

Yes a lot of adult children especially males seem unable to face the fact that us mums are mortal too and subject to various health issues. Must be a protective mechanism trying to avoid the subject but they care possibly even more than those who are able to show sympathy.

Hm999 Thu 31-Jan-19 10:07:29

Years ago my mother had a cancer scare and was in hospital for tests and things for a couple of nights. Several years later she said something about how I never visited her in hospital, but went to see MiL for her big birthday surprise that week. Subsequently I realised that I was meant to understand that the 'tests and things' was actually having a bit removed and tests. No one had actually told me in plain English. A fulltime job, 2 small children, and I was supposed to be a psychic.

Day6 Thu 31-Jan-19 10:14:02

dragonfly I think all the posters before me have summed it up.

It's fear that makes them reticent to talk about your illness, or they're avoiding that conversation because they think keeping the tone light is the right thing to do. I know from personal experience that I tend to bottle up problems, not letting my children know about health concerns because I want to spare them the worry.

They are trying to spare you any extra fretting by avoiding the subject but I imagine the news of your cancer has affected them deeply.

In an ideal world (or in films..) you'd gather, sit round a table and be utterly frank. You'd say please talk about my cancer and they'd ask questions and you'd all wipe away tears, hug and from then on support each other. It's a shame we shy away from being direct when illness strikes. They don't want their Mum to have cancer.

I hope treatment is going well dragonfly and do not take it personally that your children aren't enquiring about progress more. It's human nature isn't it? Behind the scenes they care so much and they are hurting. I hope when they come to terms with what's happening to you they'll want to know more and open up. flowers

Jaycee5 Thu 31-Jan-19 10:27:51

Hm99 has made a good point. You could try telling them. When your son changed the subject, could you not say 'I was talking about my illness' and change the subject back. Text your daughter and ask if it is possible for her to give you a bit more support with your illness. Don't labour the point once you have made it but sometimes you have to make your feelings known.

dragonfly46 Thu 31-Jan-19 10:39:37

Maw wise words indeed. I think it would be so much easier if we could see them face to face but that is not possible at the moment and to be honest I will not know too much more until next week.
I was just feeling a little low this morning. It will pass.
Thank you all for your comments. Other people's views always put things in perspective.
Maw hope your shoulder is getting better.

JacquiG Thu 31-Jan-19 10:44:06

You need support. Why not look for Breast Cancer Care support forum. It's excellent and I found the people on there are willing to listen, and offer suggestions about how things can be made better in some way. There are many practical and generous people on those forums.

There are qualified nurses who can offer specialist advice too.

Breast cancer is pretty ubiquitous these days, and far too many people think it is just a rite of passage for some old women, chemo no biggie, and so on. No. It's a big thing.

I should get snippy with them, and tell them what the score is!

Do you have a partner? (Dad is mentioned in your post.) What is his reaction? Can he support you?

I hope you get well again soon without too much trauma. Meanwhile, use the internet. Find how you can help yourself get through it and be healthier when it's all done. Look at good nutrition, lots of veg and fruit (highly coloured, lots of greens), sleep, exercise, leisure is very important and people with cancer should have more fun.

Incidentally. When I had my little bout with BC, my son was supportive but I didn't talk about it much and thought he was being pretty cool about it, which was OK. Last year I learned he was terrified.

mabon1 Thu 31-Jan-19 10:46:00

Mum always there and never ill. They just can't cope. After my husband died took one of my sons 4 years to mention his father but that was the way he coped. Give them time.

Yorkshiregirl Thu 31-Jan-19 11:07:47

I've been through this myself, and I'm so sorry you are unable to discuss this with your family. Cancer can be lonely as nobody understands until it's in their body.
My daughter was supportive, but from the word go her outlook was "you'll be fine", and this was her way of coping because she couldn't bare to think otherwise.
I would have been very upset if my children had no interest in the results of my biopsy, and I would have told them so.
My treatment is just about done now. If you need any support or just a chat about this feel free to private message me.
All the very best.

Ramblingrose22 Thu 31-Jan-19 11:12:35

I am having a similar problem but with DH who has been having the medical issues so I sympathise with the ACs.

DH has bursitis in one hip and whilst I am sorry for his pain and discomfort, I get a running commentary some days which I don't want to hear because I find it upsetting. Fortunately he is having a steroid injection to (hopefully) deal with the pain.

dragonfly46 - my ACs have busy lives trying to hold down a job and are worried about the future so why would I want to add to their worries by talking about my illness?

JacquiG has made a very good suggestion to help you get support. Let your ACs get on with their own lives.

kittylester Thu 31-Jan-19 11:23:18

I have to say that I think that is an odd post ramblingrose. You might feel like that, dragonfly obviously doesn't!

vickya Thu 31-Jan-19 11:36:46

dragonfly46 I've had a lunp removed and radiation therapy. nearly 10 years ago now. One daughter visited although it was a 2 hour journey, the other met me instead. They didn't come to the hospital, which was only a one night stay, and I drove myself to the treatments daily. They too had busy working lives. They tend not to ask about my health much smile but I tell them if it is anything particular. We talk about their health and that of the children though

Some friends' children do hover more and are closer. It varies. If you would like to chat in email when you get more results then message me and I am happy to hear how things are and to share my information. Sometimes someone who has had that experience and can chat about it can help. Most hospitals have a dedicated breast cancer support nurse you can talk to if you need treatment. They can be contacted at any time.

CarlyD7 Thu 31-Jan-19 11:57:43

What struck me about getting older was that we take our parents totally for granted and tend to rely on them for any help or support we need; it tends to be totally in one direction. As we get older, it starts to need to change - that it needs to flow in both directions. I wonder if, as well as not wanting to face the fear of losing you, they're also just not used to offering YOU help and support? It may be that you specifically need to ask for it and make it quite specific, i.e. look, when I'm talking about the cancer, I need you to ..... Ask them how they would feel if it was them, if they had cancer and every time they tried to talk to you about it, you changed the subject? I think they need a bit of a wake up call. Good luck with everything x

Daisyboots Thu 31-Jan-19 12:02:07

Looking back to my BC 23 years ago my children were mainly like yours Dragonfly and rarely mentioned it except for one daughter who despite being busy preparing for her wedding was very caring. A few months later my eldest DS's best friend's mother was diagnosed with BC and my son was very dismissive and said that her BC was much worse than mine. Admittedly he is working with cancer everyday so is blasé about it mostly it did really hurt me because when you have a cancer diagnosis you are shocked no matter what it is.
Now it looks as though I have cancer again in a different area only my eldest and youngest sons are aware that I am having tests. I shall not say anything to the others until I have a proper diagnosis. I have a colonoscopy later today and an upper abdomen CAT scan in Saturday. The myeloma is in my spine.
Maybe it would be better to tell your children what is happening each time you go to the hospital etc and if they try to change the subject force the conversation back to you and explain why. Thinking of you at this difficult time.

lovebeigecardigans1955 Thu 31-Jan-19 12:02:41

My MIL and BIL were like this when my late DH had his diagnosis and indeed during his illness right up to the end. It wasn't that they didn't care - they did very much, they simply couldn't cope. It did feel very isolating as you say and their visits actually added to the burden. We felt we had to be 'up' for them all the time - very tiring.
Healthcare professionals who specialise in your illness will therefore be of great help to you and I advise you to use their services. We all need a shoulder to cry on. If there's a Maggie's centre near you, I've heard they're good.

Gaggi3 Thu 31-Jan-19 12:05:02

My very dear Mother and Father-in-law were happily married for 67 years, and were really close. After she died, he never mentioned her. We would reminisce about her but he never joined in. I can only suppose he found it too painful. I think it's the same kind of thing with your AC, Dragonfly. I had breast cancer in 2016, and know how frightening it is. Take heart, many supporters on here, never too busy to listen. flowers