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Feeling Guilty
8 Posts
HI All. Wondering if anyone has any thoughts on this. My mother --75 -- is now at Stage 4 pancreatic cancer with spread to the liver (after initial diagnosis of only gall stones and as such, had gallbladder removed. We were hoping for the whipple but it spread too fast and that is now off the table. She is still considering whether to do any chemo but has yet to make a final decision if she wants to try it. The moments of denial for me are getting fewer and fewer in place of full on sadness but what I am really struggling with is that she was complaining of pain for a few months before she actually went to the doctor. I asked her several times to go see her doctor but did not push it . Of course I can never really know if it would have made a difference if I had been more forceful, but I the feelings of guilt I have been suppressing are starting to get stronger and i am not sure how to deal this. Any tips ?
6 Replies
6210 Posts
Jeff75‍ I totally get where you are coming from. My fiance had symptoms of esophageal cancer for months before I could get him to see a doctor. I pushed and nagged to no avail. It became stage 4 and I felt unbearable guilt. So many what ifs tortured me. But this is in no way your fault. You can only do so much . We cant force our loved ones to the doctor. I'm sorry this is happening.... but it is in no way your fault. Any therapist will tell you the same.
Runner Girl
1379 Posts
Hello Jeff75‍ ,

Completely understand your feelings of guilt. But in the end, it was you mother's choice. Something to think about: Would you have gone to the doctor right away if you had pain and she was "nagging" you to go?

I have the same guilt. My mom was unwell, not cancer, I could see she was losing weight. I nagged the crap out of her to go to the doctor, to eat more. All of it was met with resistance. I spoke with her the afternoon of the day she died. She sounded bad and I asked if I needed to send someone to check on her (she lived an hour and a half away). Her reply was "don't you dare"!! She died that evening, after setting up her coffee pot for the morning, on her walk to her bed. I phoned the next day and she did not answer. I then called the RCMP to do a welfare check. They found her on the living room floor. It's been 3 years now and I've pretty much stopped beating myself up for not calling for someone to check in on her sooner. It kills me that she passed from untreated diverticulitis - which is highly treatable and survivable. She hated doctors with a passion.

A couple of months after she passed I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have completed my treatment, including chemo and radiation.

Runner Girl
399 Posts
Hi Jeff75

I relate to what you are going through. I suppose there is time when there is almost a role reversal of child and parent and it can be very hard to navigate and brings out feelings of guilt and helplessness. The life of a parent is centred round the wellbeing of a child and then the child wants what is best for a parent.

Brighty‍ and Runner Girl‍ have shared how they felt and my feeling of guilt that my father died alone in a psych. ward where he spent the last few years of his life because of Alzheimer resurfaced. When my mother's doctor phoned three years after my father's death, to say she was near the end I and my then 3 year old daughter spend the last 2 days with grandma who was at home under the care of her doctor who visited twice daily and gave her morphine, two close neighbour/friends, the vicar from her church and her little granddaughter who made sure her dried lips we kept moist by very gently wiping them with cold water. The doctor told me that he and my mum had spoken about what she wanted which was to stay at home. The contrast between end of life of my parents have stayed with me 35 years after and I learnt a lot from my mum's doctor.

Each relationship has different histories and only you know your mother and what she wishes. Have you spoken to her doctors about your mom's prognosis and do you have someone to talk to? We, of course, are here.

Take care.


792 Posts
Jeff75‍ - sorry your mom is at this stage. I can relate to having a great deal of guilt for many of my family members. It comes and goes but not so much these days.

When my son was diagnosed with testicular cancer he had it for at least 2 yrs. Maybe if I had been here sooner he would have been diagnosed sooner but also maybe not, there is also the posibility that he could have been worse somehow

There were times when I wished there was more than one of me so I could help the many in my family who needed it but that is not possible so I have to accept that I do the best I can. Life does what it wants and I have no control over it.

I found this article below that talks about guilt from the perspective of the person with cancer but it also speaks to what we as caregivers go through too.

You cant make someone do something they dont want to and it is hard to come to terms with their choices but your mothers choice is not your fault.

Hope you find some peace in the days to come.

1356 Posts
Jeff75‍ please, don’t feel guilty...it’s likely your mother is blaming herself too for not acting on her pain, and guilt isn’t helping anyone. It is however a stage we all go through as we come to accept our situation. I’m sure you know yourself, we rationalize pain - we find reasons for it. And it sounds like her pain was masked by her gallbladder issues.
pancreatic cancer is a tough disease. We lost my MIL to it 16 years ago, and she had thought the pain was her Crohn’s disease for some time. She too was stage 4 at diagnosis, and everything was about managing the worst of her symptoms and her pain.

I agree with Brighty‍ that talking to a therapist should help you process what’s happening and deal with guilt. Your Moms cancer centre will have one available to her and family members, or you could call 1-888-939-3333 to find one.

Im so glad you raised this issue, as you won’t be the only one struggling with it.

Best wishes, Essjay
32 Posts
Of course you feel guilty, it’s a normal response in your situation. You love your Mom and now she has to deal with a terrible disease and you know exactly how that feels from your own experience. As Jeff75 says she is probably beating herself up too for not doing something sooner.
I would tell her exactly how you are feeling as you stated here and that will give her the chance to tell you what she is going through mentally. You have a great opportunity to help each other emotionally here ! I think you will have such empathy. I know how scared I was and still am at almost one year surviving lung cancer. How were you ? You have such an awesome opportunity to be the rock for her just from your own recent experience.
It is a terrible disease but NOT a death sentence today, you know that and now you can help her understand that and be one too.
Talk to those therapists. You aren’t alone in this journey, there is so much support here and give her the opportunity to talk here as well. She may not want to burden you with anything !!
Good luck and let me know how things progress for you .
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