My Fathers diagnosis

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My Father was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer and was given 1-4 years to live. At diagnosis he was asked if he wanted treatment which would mean being put on a colostomy bag for the rest of his life which at 75 he didn’t want that. I respected his wishes, he would prefer to die peacefully than to have another operation. He is now in his 4th year obviously with the cancer being terminal and with him denying treatment he will not get better. I have come to terms with that. I would just like some advice and it might sound silly but I just want to know what to look out for so that I know when the time is coming closer. At least then I can prepare myself for when it does happen, what things should I look out for? He is still eating and he is still mobile and talking so I guess I have more time than I think? 
thank you.

  • Hello Stepho.

    Thanks for getting in touch with our online community. My name is Helen and I am one of the Cancer Information Nurse Specialists on the Macmillan Support Line. I’d like to welcome you to the community and hope that you find it a supportive environment.

    I’m glad to hear that your Father is doing so well in his 4th year after diagnosis. However, it’s understandable that you would want to know what signs to look out for which might indicate a deterioration in his condition.

    Everyone's different, so it’s not easy to say exactly what will happen when someone approaches the end of their life. But in the last weeks and days before death, it’s common to experience certain changes.

    Likewise, each person’s experience of the last few days of life will be different. It can be difficult to know exactly what will happen, or how quickly things might change. Usually, you slowly become weaker and have very little energy. But sometimes changes happen more quickly.

    In your Father’s last few weeks to days of life, he may need more help to keep him comfortable. He may need support with physical care and to manage any symptoms. We have information about what care and support is available for people with advanced cancer.

    Dying is a natural process. But few people have experience of looking after someone at the end of their life. If you are caring for a loved one, you may be anxious about looking after them at home.

    When you are supporting someone with cancer, it’s important you take look after yourself. Cancer Research UK have links to organisations that can support you in your caring role.

    You may also benefit from sharing your thought and experiences with the members of our Carers Only Discussion Forum.

    I hope this information is useful. Please don’t hesitate to call to speak through your concerns. If you are unable to call, you might consider speaking to us via webchat.

    The Macmillan Support Line offers practical, clinical, financial, and emotional support. You can call us free from landlines and from most mobile phone networks on 0808 808 00 00, 7 days a week, 8am – 8pm.


    Best wishes, 


    Cancer Information Nurse Specialist 

    REF: HK / VG