Dear Auntie Mae,
My mom was recently diagnosed with cancer and began her treatment. When it was found, the doctor said she was stage 4 and only had 6 months to live. How can the doctor tell me my mom is going to die in 6 months? Isnít this counterproductive to the whole recovery and treatment process that would help cure her? Please help me understand this.
A son in agony
Dear Son in agony,
First, let me tell you how sorry I am that your mother has cancer. It is a hard thing to be told. Millions of people have been in your motherís shoes and tens of millions more in yours. My heart goes out to you in this time of struggle.
Let me get to your question about how the Doctor can tell you that your mom has only six months to live. The doctors of Oncology, which means the study of cell problems, aka cancer cells, base their opinions on what are the average span of life and the possibility of survival of that certain type of cancer as compared to all the other people with the same type of cancer. This being said, remember this is only their opinion. The old saying holds true... get a second opinion. If both doctors agree, then their might be some truth to their estimate. However, never give up hope... that is the important thing.
And to your final question, personally I feel it is counterproductive to give estimates to how long someone will or wonít live. Nevertheless, at the same time, I understand why our doctors do it. It is to give the family a chance to get their affairs in order. It helps the terminally ill person to better be able to cope with their disease and illness and to tell every person in their life everything they need to. It helps bring closure to the family and the ill person. As I said before, I think this could be a very bad thing. My mother, for instance, was given 6 months to live when she was diagnosed with stage 4 Large Cell Diffused Lymphoma Non-Hodgkinís disease. At that moment, she looked at the doctor and laughed. She told him that if he thought that was supposed to make her feel better or get well then he was wrong. She continued to laugh at him after the 6 months came and went. We eventually did loose mom, but it was 5 years after the 6 months the doctor gave her. She survived long enough to see me out of college, my father get settled in a smaller home that was easy for him to take care of, and long enough to set ALL of her affairs in order. When she accomplished all this, she then volunteered her body to the betterment of others. She took experimental chemotherapy treatments to help try to find better treatments to give people with her rare and incurable type of cancer a chance to live a longer life.
So my advice you would be this... Do not give up. Hope is the best medicine a person could ever have. Show your love to your mom through the end, and know that if and when she does pass on, it was her time. Remember the good times and forget the bad ones you and your family are facing. Hope and love... the strongest of all medicines!