How long??

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My husband has secondary liver cancer (which we were told would end his life in days to weeks at the end of August) he is 35 years old.

I’ve been trying to work out how long we have, I feel like this is going to go on for ever and it breaks my heart everyday seeing him now get worse very rapidly (after doing so well)

I have read about the dying process over and over again and it says the first thing to shut down is the digestive system and he will stop eating, but he is eating HUGE amounts and I worry that might harm his already very bloated stomach. Why is this so hard and why can’t I find any information about others who have died from secondary liver cancer and what to expect. The hospice nurse and GP don’t really know what’s going on. 

Also nothing seems to help the severe itching he has with his jaundice. We’ve tried so much so any tips to make him more comfortable would be amazing.

thank you 


  • Hi Karla,

    My name is Amy and I am one of the Cancer Information Nurse Specialists on the Macmillan Support Line. Thanks for reaching out to us. I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s secondary liver cancer. Finding out a loved one is dying is such a difficult thing to try cope with. It’s only normal to feel like your heart is breaking every day.

    It’s really important you are looking after yourself too Karla.

    When doctors give a prognosis, this is only a rough indication of how long someone may have left. Sometimes they will last longer and sometimes, unfortunately they don’t reach those expectations. Either way, a lot of focus is put on the timings that are given and as you reach and surpass them it can be very confusing. Especially when your loved on is not changing or deteriorating as you would expect.

    I know you have read a lot about what to expect at the end of life and although it may not fit how your husband is now, you may start to see these changes, gradually, over a period of several weeks or even months. It can sometime help to reflect on how he has changed over the last few months. Sometimes, day to day it can feel like things are just the same when actually they’re not.

    This link explores the main symptoms of liver cancer and how to manage them.

    I wonder if it might help to give us a call to talk through this in more detail. Although we can’t say for sure, we can explore your questions and concerns in more detail and explain what often happens for most people in a similar situation.

    As long as your husband is able to eat and is enjoying eating, we would encourage him to do so. It won’t make his swollen tummy or the build up of fluid in his tummy worse, but it may become increasingly uncomfortable for him. If this is the case, eating little and often and choosing whatever it is he fancies eating should help.

    The hospice nurse should continue to review his symptoms regularly and advise if any changes to medication etc would help.

    With regards to the itching there are lots of ways to try help manage this – from skin care and diet changes to medication and ointments. You can read more about how to manage itch here and discuss anything you haven’t tried yet with the GP or hospice nurse.

    As I mentioned above, please do give us a call if you think it may help. You can speak to one of our experienced cancer information nurses by calling our free helpline on 0808 808 00 00 seven days a week 8am – 8pm.  You can post again here too, and we aim to reply within two working days.

    Take care and Best wishes, 

    Amy C, Cancer Information Nurse Specialist 

    Ref: AC/JF