Finding Peace of Mind During End of Life
What is Terminal Cancer?
Any terminal illness is a devastating diagnosis for the individual, family and friends. Terminal cancer, or end-stage cancer, refers to incurable cancer. Often, this means making someone as comfortable as they can be as they prepare for the end of their life.
At the same time, it’s important to note that a terminal cancer diagnosis may involve varying life expectancies. It may depend on the type of cancer, their health status, other health conditions and more.
For instance, many people consider metastatic breast cancer to be terminal. Yet, the five-year survival rate for this type of cancer is 30%. Cancer solely in the breast tissue has a 99% survival rate; Meanwhile, if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other tissue, it reduces to 30-86%.
Are there Treatments for Terminal Cancer?
Since it is incurable, there are no treatments that can help reduce or eliminate the cancer. Mostly, after a terminal cancer diagnosis, the focus is on making the person comfortable and reducing the pain or symptoms.
For instance, this may mean reducing medications so that they don’t experience significant side effects. In some cases, chemo or radiation may be used to extend life expectancy.
In other cases, individuals may choose to participate in clinical trials where new treatments are being tried and tested. Or they may seek out alternative treatments, such as massage, acupuncture, relaxation techniques and more.
Dealing with a Terminal Cancer Diagnosis
This news is never easy, whether it’s terminal brain cancer or another form. At first, it can feel overwhelming and paralyzing in many ways. The following can help you proceed through this difficult journey.
Recognize How You Feel and Accept Your Feelings
Feeling sad, angry, guilty or a mix of emotions is okay. Or you may feel completely numb. The same goes for family and close friends. It will take time to process and come to terms with this diagnosis. Give yourself the compassion, grace and space to feel these emotions that come up. There’s no right or wrong way to navigate this news.
At the same time, don’t sit alone. Seek our support from family, friends or therapy. And start planning. While it may feel tough, it is important to do it as early as possible so that your family and friends don’t have to make end-of-life care decisions for you.
Of yourself and your doctor! If you’re too overwhelmed at first, this is okay. Write down any questions you have as they come up then at your next appointment, you can discuss them. Some questions you’ll probably want to get answers to include:
- What is my life expectancy?
- What should I expect in the coming weeks, months or years?
- Are there tests that can be done along the way to determine how things are going?
- Are treatments worthwhile right now?
- Do I want to carry on with my life as it is or do something else with the time I have left?
- What do I need to get in order? What documents and decisions need to be made before it’s too late?
Talk About It
While it’s your decision as to whether you share your diagnosis or not, it can help to be open with family and friends about it. This allows essential discussions to take place, such as your wishes after your passing, what is important to you and more.
Plan Your End-of-Life Care
This is one of the hardest parts but so necessary so that things are in order before it’s too late. This may include drawing up a will, making funeral plans and deciding what type of care or decisions should be made toward the very end.
Do the Things You Enjoy
If you can, try to enjoy the moments and experiences you have left. Many terminal cancer patients end up fostering a great appreciation for life as they are met with the undeniable fragility of it with such a diagnosis.
The truth is a terminal cancer diagnosis can greatly vary in terms of life expectancy. You may have days, weeks, months or even years. In some cases, individuals live long past the expected timeframe. This is why testing is important to determine the progression of cancer and how long you may have as time goes on. This is also why getting everything in order early on is essential. Unfortunately, years could turn into months or weeks. Planning for the worst-case scenario can help you find peace and put everyone at ease.