1. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Face of courage...or the sadness of defeat?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by NaCl, Dec 29, 2009.

    I raised my kids to feel empathy for others. Over many years, we've housed or entertained dozens of their friends during times of need. Yesterday, in typical family tradition, my youngest daughter asked if her friend (who has no family locally) could join us for word games. Of course, we happily obliged. She told us his story and asked us not to bring it up because "everyone" offers him unsolicited and unwelcome advice.

    Turns out, this young man, only 25 years of age, has brain cancer. His first surgery failed because the cancer returned. Controversy erupted when he refused another round of chemotherapy, saying it made him too sick. Some friends complain that he shouldn't give up the fight. Others support his decision, believing that he will eventually seek further treatment after a welcome break in the suffering. My daughter only wanted one night of fun and companionship for him, one without the tarnished good intentions of advice-givers.

    He had a blast! Laughed with my other adult kids. Won a few word matches. Enjoyed pizza and ice cream. His eyes danced as he became immersed in our way of life. When he left, he thanked every person individually for sharing time with him.

    Today, I'm pondering my own feelings about the young man. Is he brave for making a controversial decision about his quality of life? Perhaps, I mistake resignation of mortality for courage, when it actually reflects defeat of the human spirit. I can't decide. All I know for sure, is that no matter what decision he makes in the future, he will take memories of one happy, carefree evening of BananaGrams with him. I wish him the best and hope he enjoys quality of life...preferrably a long life.

    I am thinking about getting in touch with him to have a fatherly chat...yes, another do-gooder, trying to convince him that his life is worth fighting for. But, if I do that, will I somehow taint the memory of last night? What would you do?
     
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  2. fantasy girl
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    fantasy girl Contributing Member

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    I would leave it... for now anyway. You've only met him once, right? How would you like it if someone you'd only met once came and gave you a 'fatherly' chat about how to live your life.

    Invite him round a few more times, get to know him a bit more. Become more of a friends, then if you still feel the need talk to him as a friend rather than a farther. Don't go in saying that he needs to take the chemo or he'll die. Ask him how he likes his life at the moment, if he would change it, how he would change it if he could. Whatever you do, do not go in all high and mighty as if you know best. It will do no good.

    Sorry if this sounds a bit harsh. Hope this helps.

    Fantasy Girl xx
     
  3. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Perhaps after you get to know him better, he'll appreciate your concern and help. But, he's 25, right? I think, like Fantasy Girl said, he'll get a bit prickly if he thinks you're trying to dictate to him.

    Also, the treatment IS terrible, chances of a 'cure' seem slight, and dying is what happens to us all anyway sooner or later. Do a few more pain-troubled years really count for much if you are at peace with yourself? We've just been going through all this with my father-in-law, who has lung cancer, only I guess people are much more accepting of death in the culture I live in. It's quite unusual to have prolonged treatment for serious illness in Turkey, people prefer to accept their body's mortality.

    Maybe enjoying himself while he can and not having to think about hospitals is how he wants to spend what remains of his life. Your generous family's friendship is a great gift to him.
     
  4. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    I've had one bout with chemotherapy. Everyone close to me knows I WILL NOT have chemo again. Surgery, yes. Chemo, no.

    NACL, do you believe this young man is in his right mind?? If so, do you believe someone in his/her right mind has the right to make decisions about their life and end thereof?

    Bear in mind, that if he were taking chemo, rather than a night of bananagrams, he might have bees shivering, retching and drizzling.

    Just my tuppence.
    RR
     
  5. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've never had chemo so I really cannot fully understand such an experience. On the other hand, I have had young men die in my arms in the jungle, calling out for their mother or begging their God for the chance to survive, only to fade into death. I always lied to them and told them they would be okay.

    With regard to this young man, I certainly respect his choice as well as his right to make such a choice. I just can't understand it. I have seen many people survive chemo. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with metastatic terminal cancer and "given" six months to live. Chemo and radiation failed twice for her with the cancer spreading after each treatment ended. She never lost hope and entered an experimental chemo program. The prognosis was bleak, and while it did not eliminate the cancer, she gained almost nine years of life...long enough to enjoy the births of her great grandchildren and the metamorphosis of her grand-babies into adults.

    Hope seems to be the issue for this young man. He has none and has chosen to die. It just seems so sad for such a young person to give up. Please understand, I am NOT passing judgment on him. Quite the contrary. I believe in the benefits of hospice, allowing people to die with dignity and a certain measure of control over their own fate. There in lies my conflict. Do I get involved, helping him to regain hope? Or...do I decide it's just not my problem and walk away from someone in need? No answer feels right to me.

    On a different note...RR, I hope you never have to make such a decision again. Best wishes...NaCl
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    since he's an adult, i'd leave him in peace, salty... don't try to force your opinions on him when he's made his decision... it would only increase his suffering, which i know you wouldn't want to do... if he changes his mind, that also has to be his own decision...

    btw, i put myself in his shoes, as much as i could, before writing this...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  7. Torana
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    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with maia on this one. Ultimately, it is his decision to make and he is an adult. As much as his decision may frustrate and hurt others, it is what he wants, for now at least. No one can change his mind except for himself.

    You have a wonderful heart NaCl. It is so lovely to hear that you and your family were able to give this gentleman a wonderful and enjoyable night.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Besides, he may be choosing life. Life is measured in moments, not years.
     
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  9. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think everyone has really great points made. I've watched three people die this year from cancer, and with ones like brain and stomach cancer when the prognosis is just so dim, it gets to be a point when it can be too much to go through treatment, not only because it's painful, but because it oftentimes holds false hope toward getting better.

    One of my aunts is dealing with her fourth battle of stomach cancer. She gets sick every day, cries and screams every day, but after that, she is usually fine. She's older than 25, but not by very much. She has made peace with it and knows that she will die very soon. I dont think it's cowardly at all that she has stopped treatment; I actually think it's very brave that she's accepting a very difficult truth. She is not using the time she has left to fight a painful and what even doctors have called futile battle, but making peace with people and spending time with her family and friends.

    Nevertheless: Although I dont know this man, I'm trying to put myself in his position. I have a feeling he's given a lot more thought to this subject than anyone else ever could, but I think I'd like to receive a letter --or something that would lift my spirits and remind me that even people who may not know me very well, can still care about me a great deal. Even if that person disagrees with my choice, it touches me to know that strangers can still care.

    I think you should do what you think is right, but I would also keep too much of an opinion out of it. But that's just me. :)
     
  10. Torana
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    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

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    In the initial post, you mentioned he has no family locally, so maybe instead of getting on his bad side by offering advice, why not invite him around every so often. Give him a few more memorable moments. It isn't much, but you would be surprised how much it will mean to him.
     
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  11. jwilder
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    jwilder Member

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    Acceptance of mortality doesn't necessarily mean the human spirit has been defeated. Perhaps this young man has simply comes to terms with his own mortality and has made peace with it. I wouldn't term that a defeat of the human spirit, but rather a triumph. Perhaps he has come to understand the capacity of humanity which encompasses in equal fervor the will to live and the courage to die. That revelation in itself makes him more brave than most.

    Whatever his reasons for suspending his treatment, they are his and his alone. I wouldn't say anything to him about it. Just be his friend, which is just as great a thing to offer as any medical advice.
     
  12. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    These aren't really the only options/possibilities, and perhaps the answer lies in what's motivating you to try and help this person 'regain hope' - his need may not be for hope, but for exactly what you and your family have already provided - time with people who are accepting of his choices and aren't continually drawing attention to how wrong they think they are... Accepting that one will die isn't quite the same as making up your mind to die.

    Depending on how you approach the situation, you risk alienating him from something that is probably giving him a great deal of comfort and peace if you speak to him on these matters. But you don't have to walk away, either. I'd suggest simply continuing to involve him in life - there's a chance it will inspire a will to fight, but - more importantly - it will most definitely give him something he really does need - quality time.
     
  13. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess the initial question would be:

    Would your input be different from the many who have spoken to this young man before? I have watched family and friends succumb to cancer after difficult struggles. How far each went was a personal choice for personal reasons. A few struggled on because of their children, others simply because they had such a love for life, even during the times where Chemo took them down.

    Beyond that I, like you, have seen successes where utter doom was predicted in the short term. A person such as that would be best to deliver the message to endure.

    I understand the issue of being young and in the back of one's mind, the ultimate denial of mortality.

    Another question is the individual's faith. That may have an impact upon his decision.

    If I were you, and felt strongly that my input had value regarding his decision, I would pen him a letter, thanking him for spending time with your family and enjoying the event, but also bring up that you understand his predicament and have had life-long experiences that are relevant, should he ever want to discuss it with a friendly, yet unbiased individual. You put the ball in his court. If you'd hope to have a meaningful conversation on the topic which is both personal and even controversial with his family and friends, he needs to be open. Otherwise, I believe the most likely result would be for him to politely listen but have a predisposition to already be hardened and closed against your words.

    I know you'll make the right decision as to how to proceed (or not proceed).

    Terry
     
  14. Carmina
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    Carmina Contributing Member Contributor

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    With an absence of family nearby, he might benefit more from being surrounded by a family unit who cares for him. It can show him without telling him that there is much to live for. If not, he needs support anyway. He is a grown man. He can refuse treatment if he wants. He is getting lots of advice. Perhaps what he needs most is a taste of "normal" life.
     
  15. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is what I was going to say. Maybe instead of trying to decide if you should talk to him or not, you should just invite him round more often. Give him more happy nights like the one he just enjoyed. If his decision really is just an issue of him giving up hope, this could help show him there is still a lot to live for. On the other hand, if he's at peace with his decision and just wants to live out the time he's got left making the most of every moment, you and your family will be helping him do that.
     
  16. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like all such issues, there are complications over which I have no control. For example, the "family" that he enjoyed has departed. The daughter, who is his friend and invited him to my home, returned to Kentucky where she lives. My oldest daughter and son-in-law who played Bananagrams with us has left for their home in Costa Rica where they are missionaries. Another daughter is moving to Nevada and my son is a full time college student and working a full time job. After this week, he'll be back in school nights, unable to join in family frivolity. As much as I would love to immerse this young man in an ongoing "family" environment, only my wife and I remain available.

    I decided to send a message to the young man through my daughter, his friend. I asked her to give him our home phone number and to let him know that if he ever needs to talk, he should feel free to call. She conveyed the message along with our promise not to meddle in his affairs without invitation. She is also going to invite him over this summer when all my kids return for our annual pool-side get-together. The ball, so to speak, is in his court.
     
  17. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds to me like you took the best course of action. What a very caring thing to do, by the way! It's really touching that you care so much.
     
  18. Carmina
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    Carmina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Salty is actually quite sweet. *hugs*
     
  19. Torana
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    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

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    NaCl, I knew that if you thought about it for a bit, you would come up with a really good idea and decide what was the best to do in this situation. Honestly, what you have done is the best thing possible for this gentleman, because you are allowing him to make his own decision as to whether or not to seek out your advice, etc.

    You and your family really are wonderful people with very big hearts.
    Big hugs to you all.
     
  20. fantasy girl
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    fantasy girl Contributing Member

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    You made the right choice NaCl, I knew you would.
     
  21. cydney
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    cydney Banned

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    I didn't read everything here, but what a wonderful story!
     

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