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Supporting someone with incurable cancer

For carers, friends and families of people with a terminal diagnosis to discuss their emotions about the prospect of losing their loved ones, as well as practical issues about palliative care and end of life.

Anticipatory Grief

In Shock
Posted by


I am suffering from Anticipatory Grief my sister has Stage 4 Ovarian incurable cancer, she has had 6 rounds of chemo and now is having Avastin every 3 weeks until the end of year. She will have scans to monitor her.   She is 43 and gets some discomfort in her chest, where it has spread and effected a lymph node, apart from that she is fit and healthy.   We dont know how long she has, a long time we all hope.   

She is not only my Sister she is my best friend and we are very close.  Our parents, myself and her friends are supporting her all the way. She is coping well, she does worry obviously, but she is very positive.  She is single and lives on her own in a flat, but close to me and our parents. We are both concerned about our Mum who has been referred by her doctor to a specialist to test her for Parkinsons.

I am not coping so well, I am having counselling.  At the moment I am having a big wave of anticipatory grief, I cannot stop thinking about  life with out my sister. I am in floods of tears quite a lot, my husband is great with me.  Though unless you have anticipatory grief yourself , it is difficult to understand.  All I think about is about life without my sister, and it is truly unbearable. I feel so lonely, neither my sister over I have children, and I can't stop think about losing my parents and my sister and being the sole survivor in our family. I wish I could control this and make the most of the time we have left together, but my mind jumps to the worse.

I also feel very guilty as I cry on my sister and I don't want to do that to her, but she tells me that she is still my sister and doesn't want anybody to hide things.

I wondered how other people are coping with this type of grief?  Do you have the type of feelings I am having?

Thanks for listening.

A Big Sister xx

Posted by

Hi InShock

The short answer is yes, I do have the type of feelings you are having. You are not alone.

My husband has stage 4 kidney cancer and it is almost impossible not to frame every thought through the lens of knowing our time is so short.

I try not to beat myself up about my down days, and I did find the first month after the big news quite simply horrific. But as time goes on I am finding that there are days when my brain lets me just be, and I cherish those times as respite and rest for the days where the grief is overwhelming.

i wish you strength and the capacity to endure xxx

Posted by

I'm also a yes with having that type of anticipatory grief. In my case, my loved one passed away last fall so I've had awhile afterwards to reflect on things. I think one of the advantages of terminal cancer (if there can be such a thing) is that we know the future and what it has in store. In the case of supporting family members, it allows us to grieve and say our goodbyes while our loved ones are still here. Many of my peers didn't get those chances.

Although I still grieve for my loved one, life has not been as bad as what I anticipated back in the days of anticipatory grief. Rather than feeling miserable, I just live with a hole that my loved one used to fill. It's not especially desirable to live with this hole but it isn't life stopping either. It is like looking at an old photograph of times gone by, sort of bittersweet. I also find myself living with something I didn't expect, a desire to make my loved one proud now that they are no longer here to witness my accomplishments. I am motivated to do things that I probably would have let slide when my loved one was still here. 

It's a cliche, but life does and will go on when your sister is no longer here. We can't change that. But what we can change is to make everyday that your sister has left as good as possible. The two and a half years my loved one lived after her terminal diagnosis were some of the best years of our lives. We did so many things together and crossed so many things off her bucket list, that I am left with a treasure trove of memories that will carry me through the rest of my life. 

Best wishes

In Shock
Posted by


Thank you for replying, it is a shame that are going through this, but it is a comfort to know that I am not alone in my feelings.

I wish you strength in your journey too xxx

In Shock
Posted by


Thank you for you well written reply. It has given me some comfort and some things to think about.  It is so hard, but there are some positives to be found.

Best Wishes to you too.

Posted by

I have come across your posts Vulpes - and those of InShock - while browsing (my dad has T4 pancreatic cancer - palliative care) - and your sense of/ discussion of "anticipatory grief" has struck such a chord that I just want to say - thank you... you've  helped me today -  

"it is almost impossible not to frame every thought through the lens of knowing our time is so short" - captures the tummy twisting living experience I'm having - whilst doing my best not to convey this to my dad. 

Wishing you calm strength. 

Love is at the core of all this. My love for the man who whirled me round and round in Southport's open-air baths; I was his water-baby and just like him,
Fudge it
Posted by

I read this post a while ago and at the time was in quite a different place. I was all very matter of fact about my mum ( she has terminal ovarian cancer which has spread all over the place) was thinking practically and putting anything about her not being here way to the back of my mind. Since then things have changed. My mum has lost her energy and fight. She is sleeping a lot more and is eating less. She is talking more about the end and me and my sister and my mum all have an in easy feeling that things are changing fast and our time is limited.

I feel sick about it. The idea of her not being here makes me cry. I want to be with her all the time, I want to hold on tight and not let go. I want to take in every moment and wish so badly we had more time. It’s just utterly awful, all of it. It’s just shit.