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My sister has cancer how do I tell her 13 yr old daughter who lives with me?

My sister has cancer how do I tell her 13 yr old daughter who lives with me?

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Super frequent scribe

Re: My sister has cancer how do I tell her 13 yr old daughter who lives with me?

I had people ask me if I feel deprived or angry because I didn't have a normal childhood - I think that it's hard to when you don't know what a 'normal' childhood is. I see a psychologist every 6 weeks and have been seeing her for 5 or 6 years now. My husband is very supportive as are our adult children. We also get on really well with my neice's father's parents. At the moment I am kind of in 'caretaker' mode looking after my neice to support her and it's only just beginning to dawn on me the reality of everything. My sister is also known to 'cry wolf' and some of our family think this is all nothing more than a cry for attention and they do not believe she had it the first time either. In distance the closest family member is 6 hours drive away from her. It is common for people with Borderline Personality Disorder to struggle with telling the truth and once they start down that line their version of truth changes as they go along. Their moods can be all over the place and as much as they long to have a normal relationship with people for some like my sister it is just not possible.  Other than my grandmother I do not have a close relationship with anyone on that side of my family. They have alot of baggage especially as my father married several times and he has unmedicated bi-polar and extreme OCD. I really hit the jackpot with them! My husband and I have been together for almost 28 years and we have a very strong relationship and we are close with all of our kids. Sorry for blurting all of this ... 

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Re: My sister has cancer how do I tell her 13 yr old daughter who lives with me?

No need to say sorry, I think it can be very cathartic to get all that stuff out.  What I take from you post is:

 

  • loving husband of 28 years
  • great grown-up kids
  • supportive psycologist
  •  good relationship with grandmother,

Your neice is in great hands, how lucky for her that you are around to offer stability. Sure it must feel overwhelming at times, but you can do this.

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Super frequent scribe

Re: My sister has cancer how do I tell her 13 yr old daughter who lives with me?

@jdbza Sorry to hear this is the second time your sister has had breast cancer, and regardless of knowing about the first time or not, it now falls on your shoulders to tell your niece. It's a lot to bear. When you said 'keeping it from her until we get to NZ and seeing how sick her mum is would be a mistake', it sounds like you've made some tough decisions on how to handle this already. Have you heard back from your sister yet? I hope the information from CanTeen arrives soon and will be thinking of you for your Skype chat.

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Re: My sister has cancer how do I tell her 13 yr old daughter who lives with me?

CanTeen has been amazing! They have emailed me information as well as having someone to talk to. I have not heard from my sister about what she has decided to do. So until 4pm my time tomorrow when she is due to Skype I don't know how it is going to pan out ... 

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Super contributor

Re: My sister has cancer how do I tell her 13 yr old daughter who lives with me?

Hey @jdbza

 

How did things go with your sister and niece? I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering if things went ok.

 

Cat Happy

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Super frequent scribe

Re: My sister has cancer how do I tell her 13 yr old daughter who lives with me?

Hi ... I apologize for not commenting sooner (I've had a stint in hospital and got discharged Thursday with orders to rest). My neice has responded as expected - angry because her mum hid it from her for so long, worried she will die, what will happen to her if her mum dies and what difference she might see when she sees her in person for a visit next week. Her emotions are all jumbled up and all over the place. She is doing her best to ignore how she is feeling. With this week having been her last for the school year there has been a lot going on she has distracted herself. This week coming is pretty hectic then the following week I take her out for lunch with her mum. I think until she sees her mum in person her emotions will stay pretty jumbled. We have given her CanTeen's book on 'Dealing with Your Parent's Cancer - Now What?'. I also wrote down everything her mum said to us about how and when she was told she had cancer, what treatment she has had so far etc. Then I typed it up and emailed it to her mum asking her to check that everything was correct, printed it of to give to my neice for her to keep as a reference. We have found that giving her a book about something we have spoken about helps her understand and take in more of what we talked about. I go thru the book with her, talk to her about what we are reading and then we use it as a refernce point to talk further. I'm struggling with how I'm feeling. It's hard having to put them on hold to help my neice. I have an appointment on the 23rd of December with my psychologist and I will talk to her then.  

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Re: My sister has cancer how do I tell her 13 yr old daughter who lives with me?

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Hi @jdbza

 

So lovely to hear back from you.I'm so sorry to hear that you had a health issue of your own, right at the time you're stretched to your limits in helping others. You're doing an amazing job btw. Really, amazing. I personally can't think of much to add that you're not already doing. My opnly suggestion would be to try and keep your own health as much of a priority as possible. Wonderful to hear you've got an appointment on the 23rd. In the meantime, the Cancer Council have info for carers here but there's a good chance you've already come across it.

I absolutely love the idea of the book for your neice. It's very special to create a resource for someone in need that speaks directly to who they are as a person. Knowing that your neice finds safety and comfort in being able to read about the issue and refer back to it when needed, and then developing something that you know suits her, shows what a wonderful Aunt and carer you are.

Don't forget to use Reach Out Parents for support too. You might even find that sharing your experiences with others can be helpful for you. 

 

Are there things you do to self care that work for you in times like this?

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Re: My sister has cancer how do I tell her 13 yr old daughter who lives with me?

Hi ... I thought I'd post an update. Since I last wrote I took my neice to see her mum for a court appointed access visit. I've written and canceled this post so many times. The events that have transpired are no more believable written in black and white then what has happened. It is possible that my sister is faking having breast cancer ... 

 

She has told us that it is third stage, that it has spred to her lymph nodes and that she is on her 3rd round of radiation and chemo. Yet she has not lost any weight, any hair and continues to eat normally. I asked the advice of 2 doctors and they have both said that it would be highly unusual for her cancer to be that advanced and be under that type of treatment and her not loose weight or her hair.

 

All of this is completely overwhelming. As my sister has Borderline Personality Disorder both doctors have had patients over the years who have invented medical conditions even more serious than breast cancer. Over the years my sister has proven to be a very skilled liar. My neice has no idea of our suspicions.  Am I going crazy or can someone with cancer that advance not show any symptoms of having cancer? 

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Re: My sister has cancer how do I tell her 13 yr old daughter who lives with me?

@jdbza thanks for giving us an update. The new development in this situation sounds really challenging. It's tough because you have a strong hunch that your sister may not be telling the truth and I'm guessing you are not able to challenge her either - not at this point anyway. How are you coping with this new possibility? I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you.

 

When are you seeing your psychologist next? A session could also offer potential solutions to this dilemma.

 

Please take care of yourself and keep us updated.

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Re: My sister has cancer how do I tell her 13 yr old daughter who lives with me?

That is so tough @jdbza you are absolutely stuck between a rock and a hard place.

If it helps you feel a little less crazy, I knew a man who faked illness and, as a result, had a perfectly healthy appendix removed. Doctors are very dependent on what the patient tells them. If someone keeps saying " I feel sick" doctors will have to keep looking for something. And on the other hand, people manifest illness differently. 

Do you have a psychiatrist or psychologist you could talk to? Because I think you've got some really big questions to ask and the internet won't cut it. For example, after reading your post, ten mins on Google and it's easy to find lots of links between BPD and faking illness. But that doesn't help you. What you need to know is what does this all mean for your neice and how do you syupport her through it. Things like, is it better for her to think her mum has cancer or to think her mum is faking cancer. Then of course there's the big, overarching question which is, if she is faking then what's going on for her that she feels this is what she needs to do?

I imagine your compassion muscle is worked to its limit right now but, if you can, try and imagine how much pain someone must be in if they feel the only way they can get what they need is to pretend they have a disease that cuts them off from their own daughter.

Whether it's breast cancer or something else, your sister needs support. And I think the only way to get to that place is by you talking this through with someone that either knows you all and usually gives you really, good advice or a health professional.

 

What do you think?

 

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