Would you tell a man that he had only days to live?

A colleague of mine (let’s call him Bill) had been suffering Lymphoma cancer over the past few years. Bill had been living with disease for quite some time, surprisingly comfortable in the knowledge that the cancer was one day going to return because it’s apparently not curable.

However during these past 12 months the lymphoma returned with vengeance and he had been undergoing regular chemotherapy. He was a trooper I must say and I grew to respect and admire the man.  Apart from the bald head you would never guess that anything was seriously wrong and Bill continued to work in between lengthy hospital visits and the painful side effects caused from the chemotherapy.

He was due to go into hospital for one final treatment and it appeared he was in recovery. The treatment appeared to have been successful and he was excited about returning to work on a full-time basis. However we were sadly given the news that Bill had a brain tumour. I wondered about his poor wife. She has been a rock all this time and I knew they were very close. They adored each other and Bill and his wife had been happily married for over 20 years.

We were told it was very serious but we weren’t really sure what that meant. My manager had been in regular contact with his family and then one day I picked up the phone and it was Bill. He sounded great – a little weary and slow but very coherent. I was delighted and thought it would be a matter of weeks until Bill returned to work. Later we were informed that the tumour had indeed reduced in size and once again we thought Bill was on the road to recovery.

But as fate would have it, the brain tumour returned and I was informed that Bill only had a matter of days to live and that there was nothing else the doctors could do. He had lost sight in one eye and his hearing was all but gone. In such a short space of time Bill had gone from being a fairly healthy well-built man (he is an ex Judo champion) to nothing but skin and bone. It was just dreadful.

A few weeks had passed and Bill was still with us although at this stage, he was in palliative care. It had become known to us that his wife had not informed Bill that his brain tumour was terminal and she wasn’t going to. This led to an interesting conversation at work the other day. One colleague is quite astounded that his wife had not told Bill that his condition was terminal because he believed if he was Bill, he would like to know. I, however, believe she made the right decision. Having known Bill for three years, I truly believed that by telling him that there was nothing left to be done to treat him, he will give up all hope and shrivel up and die very quickly.

At the time, I also believed that telling Bill his condition was terminal and the doctors were no longer treating him that you were robbing Bill of any hope. The hope and the will to live. We often hear stories of people being on their deathbed or who’ve been told they only have days or weeks to live who make miraculous recoveries. I believe this is the Law of Attraction in its purest form and to be so brutally honest with Bill at this stage was potentially eliminating all belief and hope.

The sad news is that Bill did pass away a few weeks ago. Of course he must have known death was coming but he was never ‘officially’ told.

So what would you have done? Would you want to know that the doctors are no longer treating you because they believe that modern medicine could do no more? If you were Bill’s wife, would you have told him? Interested to hear your thoughts.

RIP Bill!

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~ by Shae on June 24, 2011.

3 Responses to “Would you tell a man that he had only days to live?”

  1. I would absolutely tell them what’s going on.

    You just don’t know what they’d like to say to someone before they go which they’ll never get the opportunity to unless they know the true score.

    Here are three interesting questions we pose to our clients when they are a bit unsure about their future goals in life; they really help you define and get clarity about what’s really important to you in this life:

    Imagine you are financially secure, you have enough money to take care of your needs for now…and in the future. How would you live your life? Would you change anything?

    You’ve just found out that you have 5-10 years left to live…the good news is that you won’t ever feel sick. The bad news is that you won’t have any notice of the moment of your death. What would you do with the time you have left? Would you change your life? How?

    You only have 24 hours to live…what didn’t you do? What dreams remain unfulfilled? What do you wish you had finished? Where do you wish you had gone? Who did you not get to be? What did you miss?

    I’d feel robbed if I missed out on saying goodbye to people and sharing one last laugh…

  2. This is a tough one!! I am sure his wife meant well by not telling him, everyone has different ways of dealing with life. I would definately want to know if there was no further hope!! I think most people would want to know. I would feel very robbed if I didn’t get to tell the people who mean the most to me good bye and let them know how important they were to me, and I would also want to make the most of the time I had left to be with my family and friends.

    Having lost a friend who just made 50 before she passed away, it was nice to be able to thank her for her friendship and tell her what she meant to me. She never gave up hope even though from diagnosis to her eventual passing was short.

  3. I wonder that we don’t all embrace the fact that we could die tomorrow and live as though every day were our last, that would be truly living…

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