Depression following terminal diagnosis

  • 1 reply
  • 35 subscribers

My mum was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer in Feb this year. She was fit enough to be offered the Whipple's procedure (Mid March), she has made great progress, and although food and gut health have been issues, this did not slow down her progression back to a good level of activity and stamina.

Last week she started chemo - just one session, and then the following day got the results of the scan she'd had two weeks ago. The cancer has spread to her liver. She has stopped any further treatment, and has been told she has 6-12 months. This was last Tuesday - since then she has slowly withdrawn, and stays in bed, not eating much and saying that she has stomach issues that mean she can't leave the house for any length of time. 

Is there anything we can do or anyone we should get her to speak to regarding depression, end of life expectancies?

  • Hi Rebecca2710, 

    I am Sharon, one of the nurses on the Macmillan Cancer Support Line.

    Mum’s diagnosis and subsequent scan results must have come as a big shock to you all Rebecca. It is not easy trying to process bad news and it is important to use whatever support is available to you, so I am glad you have reached out to us here at Macmillan. Please feel free to call us on 0808 808 0000 if you feel it would be useful to talk things through with someone.

    It is important for your mum to get a medical review straight away, via the chemotherapy unit, her GP or 111. After having chemotherapy, mum is at higher risk of developing infection and if she gets an infection, will not be able to fight it off as she normally would. 111 have access to some medical records and can prescribe medications if necessary.

    She should let her GP know about her low mood so that they can support her appropriately. There are some self-help tips to improve your mood on the NHS ‘Every Mind Matters’ website, and we are happy to support as best we can if mum wants to have a chat. We also have a partnership with Big Health, a company that has a mobile app that is clinically proven to help people with anxiety (daylight app). Big Health will not charge you if you access them via Macmillan using this link.

    There are several health care professionals that can be involved in care at home. Your GP and community nurses are the main sources of support in the community. It would be a good idea to ask mum’s GP to refer her for a palliative care assessment, and a referral to the specialist palliative care team.

    A palliative care assessment will either be carried out by the district nurses or a local hospice, depending what services you have locally. They will visit mum at home, have a chat about what is happening and how they can best support her. They can order equipment and source care for mum when it is needed. They will give you a number to call if she needs help/advice with anything night or day.

    The specialist palliative care team or Macmillan nurses (they have the same role, their name depends what is in your area). They work with GPs to provide symptom control advice and answer questions about what to expect.

    Marie Curie has a booklet about what to expect at the end of someone’s life which you may find useful.

    Supporting a loved one with cancer is not easy. It’s equally important that you look after yourself and get support too. Remember, we are here for you and your mum if you need us. As well as our support line, we have webchat, and forums ‘Pancreatic cancer’ / ‘Carers only’ here on our online community, where you can get support from others in a similar situation.


    Pancreatic Cancer UK also have their own forum and support line.

    Kind regards,


    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. Ref; SA/LD