Been told 2 months left

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My brother (59) was diagnosed with adrenal and lung cancer in October.  Since then it's spread to his prostate and a month ago a CT scan diagnosed that it's now spread to his brain and they are stopping all treatment.  Yesterday his consultant told him he'd probably only have around 2 months to live.  Although he's been bracing himself for the news, and obviously extremely upset to be told such a short period is left, we as his brothers & me as his sister don't really know how to deal with it.   I don't want to broach the subject directly with him but can you tell me what the last couple of a cancer patient's life will be like so we can prepare for it.  Also, any particular questions or general conversation subjects we could chat about. I know his wife and him have done Wills and POA and there are no money worries.  I appreciate every family is different but any help would be much appreciated.

  • Hi Maggiesoup,

    I’m Kirsty one of the cancer information nurse specialists that work on the Macmillan support line. Thanks for getting in touch, especially at such a difficult time.

    Processing that cancer treatment has not helped and has been stopped can be overwhelming. Changing your focus from hopes of a response to treatment, to living with cancer and managing symptoms is an emotional adjustment. It is natural to feel upset, or in shock and a bit numb. You might find that some days you feel angry and others you feel sad. Different days will feel different, leaving you feeling exhausted at times.

    Please be kind to yourself as you work through a range of emotions. There are no rights and wrongs – just how you feel in the moment.

    You mention not wanting to broach difficult subjects with your brother as you wonder what you might chat about. Perhaps you could let your brother know that you don’t know what to say but that you are there to talk about anything he wants to. This creates a safe space that gives him permission to bring up difficult topics, should he wish.

    If chat turns to family chat or interests, then you know that was what he wanted on that day. He might enjoy chatting about memories from the past. He may also be glad of having someone to share what he is going through each day with. As you say yourself, everyone is different.

    It sounds like your brother and his wife have begun to look ahead in a practical way, which is often a starting point for many. You don’t mention any support from a palliative nurse. A written referral is needed by your brothers GP or consultant for palliative care at home. This includes help with emotional support as well as managing symptoms as they change.

    Thinking ahead to possible change can be upsetting. You comment on gathering more information to allow you to prepare for those changes when they happen. Generally, there are three areas of change, or a dip in health that can be monitored.

    These are a lack in energy leading to feeling tired and sleeping more.

    This leads to moving around less, sitting more, or choosing to stay in bed.

    Combined with eating and drinking less.

    You may already be aware of some of these dips beginning to happen. If so, it can be difficult to know whether they are due to side effects from treatment or due to cancer symptoms. Your brother may feel a little better in himself for a while, now treatment has stopped.

    When you feel ready there is some additional information in our booklet a guide for the end of life. I have also included more information on the last few weeks of life and the last weeks/days of life.

    Reading information can sometimes make everything feel so real. We are here every day from 8am – 8pm on the support line 0808 808 00 00 and on webchat. Please do get back in touch for a chat sometime.


    Best wishes,

    Kirsty, Cancer Information Nurse Specialist 

    You can also speak with the Macmillan Support Line team of experts. Phone free on 0808 808 0000 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm) or send us an email.