Cancer: Time Limits

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? Isn’t 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 mother’s 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 won’t 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-Hodgkin’s 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!

Auntie Mae


  1. That was really nice, my nan has got cancer and it is ture the doctors gave her like 4 months and 4 months has bin and gone and she is still here but she is not getting any better she is gettin a bit worse I hope she doesn't go soon I want her to see me grow up lol!! Love you nan xxx

  2. This article really lifted my spirits when I need it most.

    You see, a really close family friend was diagnosed with brain cancer, and the doctors recently told him he has 6 months to live. Naturally, I was devastated. I'd always figured he was too stubborn and tough to let the cancer get the best of him. However, after reading this article my hope has been restored. Maybe the new treatments (if we can find a place that provides it) really will help him.

    With much thanks,


  3. It was very helpful, thank you!

  4. I am told my mom has three months …she is in her last stage of CML … It's absolutely unbelievable as she seems fine to me and it's hard to understand what lies ahead that will be so harsh on her that she will slip away.

    The article like this gives me much needed HOPE & the courage to stand strong for my Mom & give her much needed comfort, support and most important a loving care for as many days that God has granted her.

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