Being Strong For My Grandmother

The can­cer has spread to her bones and sev­eral major organs now. We asked the doc­tor not to tell her, but we can’t do any­thing against his moral oblig­a­tion to inform the patient. Either way, she doesn’t know how seri­ous it is, whether it’s from shock and denial, or mem­ory loss.

But she’s awake, and aware, and feel­ing no pain, which is good enough for me. The most we can do now is to try to make the rest of her life as enjoy­able as possible.

She thinks she’s going to be fine. Keeps telling me that she’ll take me to a nearby park when she’s bet­ter. As much as it hurts me to know this won’t be pos­si­ble any­more, it’s reliev­ing to know she’s so obliv­i­ous. We don’t let our­selves cry around her, for fear that she may real­ize how bad it is.

Her face is more sal­low, her fin­gers and legs ema­ci­ated, but she still has her thick, black hair1. Aside from a dis­tended stom­ach, it’s hard to tell that she has such a grim prognosis.

But by far the hard­est part is hav­ing to cod­dle her like a child to take her med­ica­tion. Telling her she’s a good girl if she swal­lows her pills and reward­ing her with ice-cream. That we’re only strict because we care about her. It tears me in half when she gives such a painful look of dis­taste with every pill we hand her, 18 a day.

She used to be so strong. Now we have to be strong for her.

  1. I used to have even more”, she tells me. []


  1. I am so sorry you are deal­ing with all this. I too have been where you are. Two years ago my dad died from throat can­cer. When chemo and radi­a­tion and exper­i­men­tal drugs failed to stop it from grow­ing he came to live with me the last few months he was alive. We made arrange­ments for in home hos­pice and they were there every step of the way. It was hard watch­ing him those last few weeks as the pain was more than the mor­phine could han­dle but I wouldn’t trade a sin­gle day of the time spent with him for all the money in the world.

    You will get through this and its going to hurt like hell and you will be angry and won­der how this can hap­pen to some­one so good. But in the end it will make you a stronger per­son and you will for­ever remem­ber being with your grand­mother. My heart is with you :(

    • Thank you for shar­ing your expe­ri­ence with me. Knowing how much it’s worth it to be there, even when there’s so much pain, helps me deal with the sit­u­a­tion. I’ll cer­tainly never for­get or regret the oppor­tu­nity I have right now.

  2. Maybe she’s pre­tend­ing she will be bet­ter soon to keep you from pain. I know of a few peo­ple who have done this and both sides were think­ing the other side didn’t know and would be happy in their ignorance.

    • Hmmm…Even though she’s a remark­ably tough and strong per­son, I don’t believe my grand­mother is of sound mind enough to do this right now. I sup­pose that in either case, she’s happy, because she either truly doesn’t know how bad it is, or believes that she’s fool­ing us.

  3. I’m not good in deal­ing with sit­u­a­tions like this, but your story reminded me of the last few days I’ve spent with my dad. You now have every oppor­tu­nity to make her last days happy..
    It does hurt a lot see­ing them in pain, but you will get though it. Not soon, but you will ..

    • I’m learn­ing that I’m also ter­ri­ble at deal­ing with these sit­u­a­tions, because it’s the first time I’ve ever expe­ri­enced any­thing like it. I know I’ll be a stronger per­son once I get through it.

  4. Don’t worry that any­thing you’re doing is not enough; my mother died of can­cer, but I was able to spend a week or more with her before she was very sick, and it made all the dif­fer­ence. By the time she was actu­ally sick, it would have made no dif­fer­ence to have me there — she wasn’t coher­ent. You’re doing the best thing you can do right now, giv­ing her a great sense of secu­rity when she needs it.

    • I’m not wor­ried at all about not doing enough actu­ally. I think my grand­mother already appre­ci­ates the fact that we flew here to see her, and that already says more to her than any­thing else.

  5. 18 pills a day, each as bit­ter as the last. Late life care­giv­ing with a reluc­tant patience gives the heart a dif­fer­ent kind of beat­ing alright.

  6. I can empathize with you. My grandma cur­rently lives in my house hold, wait­ing for noth­ing but Death. She was once a happy woman, who would cook her own meals from scratch, care for some of the neigh­bor­hood gar­dens, and could eas­ily do a math prob­lem in her head. But a few years ago, four I guess, her men­tal abil­i­ties started dete­ri­o­rat­ing from Alzheimer’s. Over those few years, grandma would for­get to buy food, loose sleep on already paid bills, or fall asleep smok­ing. After a lot of kick­ing and scream­ing, she fin­lay moved in. Every morn­ing and evening grandma has to take a lot of pills. One of the pills is an anti-depressant, but that doesn’t stop her for being sad. The image of a shal­low, old woman pop­ping in pills just to live is such a sharp con­trast to the plump, happy woman I’m used to see­ing as a kid. Us (mean­ing my fam­ily) try to take her out places, let her do what she wants with her room (it’s painted all pur­ple), buy ice cream, or let have it her way with the flower gar­den, but that’s not what she wants. Grandma wants a place of her own, and her sound mind back, but that will never hap­pen. I’d give my dom­i­nant hand for her wish.
    I pray for the very best for your grand­mother and family.

    • That’s quite tragic. One thing I’m relieved about is that my grandma is still con­scious, and that she’s sur­rounded by peo­ple who love her. It’s so sad when some­one loses their inde­pen­dence if they want to keep it. It seems like such a harsh way to spend the end of one’s life, when it should be happy and carefree.

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