Father in Law Has Cancer

Updated on April 21, 2016
C.T. asks from Red River, NM
10 answers

We just got the sad news two days ago that my wonderful FIL has cancer spread throughout his brain. They are running tests all day today to figure out what is going on and if he has it in other areas as well. He found out because he suddenly fell down...he has no balance and cannot walk as well as he cannot talk well. He is slurring his words. This is due to the pressure in his brain. They have given him steroids to bring the swelling down so hopefully that will help wi the pressure. We will know more tomorrow after all the scans/tests. He really wants all his kids and grandkids to come this weekend for his birthday, so we promptly bought tickets to fly their Friday morning. This is going to be really sad...we are all gathering around him knowing we may not have him for much longer. He is 74 and was in great health so this comes as a shock to everyone....him included. We are celebrating his birthday and are hiring a photographer to get a photo of us all together. For any of you who have dealt with a similar family member going through this....what can I do? Is there anything I can bring him that would be helpful? What is the right thing to say? How does one celebrate when it's such a sad occasion? One little grandson (age 4) asked him what his birthday theme is and he said "rainbows". Any advice would be appreciated.

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers


answers from Norfolk on

He's not dead yet.
Enjoy what time you have left - and celebrate WITH HIM.
There will be time for sad later.
Now is not that time.

4 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Honolulu on

I'm sorry your family got such difficult news.

A friend of mine had a good friend who was dying from ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). She, too, had a birthday, and was turning 70, and it was very apparent that this would be her last, as she had lost all physical function, including swallowing and speaking, and the doctors had confirmed that she would not live more than a few days or weeks. But she had some high-tech eye thing that allowed her to type by blinking or something - anyway, the details about that aren't important, and I didn't know her so I don't know what she used.

What is important is that she communicated to her husband and friends that this birthday party had better be THE MOST FUN party ever. No one was to say anything sad. In fact, she demanded silly things that most adults wouldn't typically have at a birthday party, like party hats, silly string, bubbles to blow, those things you blow on and a streamer comes out, kazoos, the kinds of things that 4 year olds like. And so all her friends and family did just that. The music was ridiculous, like the chicken dance and the hokey pokey and the bunny hop and Mickey Mouse songs. Every adult wore the craziest junk from the party store, like blinking buttons and oversize fake glasses, etc. (The people who were planning the party just went to a cheap dollar store or party store and bought all kinds of stuff for the party goers to help themselves to.) The kids just thought it was wonderful. And although the party girl couldn't eat anything or physically participate, she watched everything, wore a silly hat, and got all decorated up in glitzy junk from the dollar store and the party store. They danced around her in circles, some people gently turned her wheelchair around as though she were dancing, they held her hand up briefly during the hokey pokey, and they all acted as though she were fully participating. My friend said her eyes just shone with joy. And the party was filled with laughter.

She passed away just a few days later, as they expected, but they knew that they all gave her one last wonderful gift, and that was a joyful party, as they celebrated her friendship.

My friend said that the lesson she learned was this: it could have been a somber affair, with people trying to hug the birthday girl, people sharing memories, people trying to tell her how much they appreciated and loved her one last time, kind of a quiet birthday. But instead, this raucous, noisy, crazy party was exactly what should have been. Several people suggested a quiet celebration, but no, the party girl demanded silly fun.

Have your photographer take the posed family photo, but ask him or her to also take lots of candid, fun, impromptu shots too.

I don't know your family, of course, and maybe this is not what your FIL would enjoy. I'm just sharing what my friend experienced recently.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Try to remember that this is as much as shock to him as it is to all of you. He's still processing this info, and if the cancer has affected his thought processes, it may be even more difficult for him to do this.

My guess is that he does not want you to all be sad - this is his birthday, he wants rainbows, he wants to be surrounded by kids and chaos and love. So give him that gift. He does not need for you to be morose - as hard as that is for you. He needs to see the legacy he will leave behind, of a joyous family with good connections, that will continue long after he is gone.

Right now, you don't know what his timeline is. So make this a celebration as you would any other, but add in the telling of stories and sharing of memories, making sure the kids all hear stories in front of Grandpa. These can be memories from your husband's childhood, or memories with the kids. Tape record or take notes of things your FIL says about them or stories of his own childhood. Take photos, lots of them. If you have some fun photos to take with you on short notice, go ahead.

I don't know what you can take him that will be helpful - you'll have to find out what's in store with any treatments that may be recommended. If you think he would like to tape his recollections or words of wisdom and inspiration for the kids, then perhaps one of those dictation machines. But he may not be ready for that, to face an impending death. Then again, he could live for years - you don't really know. Wait for more info.

So definitely don't make this a pre-funeral! Make it a celebration of life!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I'm really sorry to hear this. I'd go forward with the party, of course, and I think the best thing is to follow his lead. Right now you just don't know what you don't know. Since this is your father in law, be extra supportive of your spouse, too. You celebrate that you can still be there. That you have an opportunity to say I love you in person. While the cancer is sad and alarming, hold to hope that you have a little more time. Cherish him. It's not a funeral yet. It's a birthday party. He wants rainbows? Bring him rainbows. Drawings, photos, crafts, prisms...

FWIW, my FIL has had a brain tumor for several years. Some days it's OK and some days it's not and we just try to go with the flow.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I am sorry you have to go through this, and I am sure you are all in shock.
Be supportive of your spouse.

Ask your FIL how he would like to spend the rest of his time here and then make it happen. Make sure each person gets at least one pic alone with him to have for themselves

My mother passed away two months after her cancer diagnosis. My father passed away 10 months later after a two year battle with dementia.

I put my emotions aside and tried to help them achieve what they wanted to in their final days.

For my mother, I made sure she sad all sentimental things and good byes in order. I helped her plan every detail of her funeral ( flowers, dress, jewelry, speakers, attendants, make up shades, readings, pictures) so that it was based on her wishes. Things can get tense with family members when emotions are so raw. I let her know I loved her and that I know she did her best as a mother.

For my father, I did the same, plus I was able to tell him the best things he did for me as a child and how grateful I was for that, and how much it meant (means) to me.

I tape recorded these so that one day when I miss them or need them, they are just a recording away.

There is going to be a lot of work and decisions to be made regarding his care: how much treatment? Where to treat? When to call in hospice?

Who will take care of him, who will take care of the caretaker? Who is the relief caretaker or back up?

Who will take care of the home? Bills? Lawn?
Who will coordinate doctors appointments? Call relatives? Manage insurance?

Are his legal affairs in order? With who?

These are somethings the family members need to discuss and plan for. It can be so hard when everyone is so emotional.

Before my grandmother passed away, she ordered teddy bears for all the grandkids and had a recording placed in it so each time you squeeze it her voice says your name and how much she loves you. I treasure it still.

I hope you get better news then expected. I am sorry you are going through this. Just remember to take some time for yourself to express your feelings too.

Sometimes it's hard to allow yourself time to process feelings when you have a spouse, kids and other family members to take care of.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

This weekend is not the time to do this but he needs to get his affairs in order. Is he married? Is he alone? Who will help him with his day to day, doctor visits, etc.? My father also had brain cancer and had been in very good health prior. Before he got bad, he dealt with his financial dealings and moved closer to me. He lived in an assisted living facility until he was so bad he moved in with us under hospice care. I would consider what we did, the best it could be. He had lots of say in how to deal with his last months and could live independently until the end. I had the pleasure of being able to help him in the last few weeks so he could relax knowing I was there for him.
Enjoy this weekend as much as possible and have someone find out what he wants to do and how he wants to do it soon...not this weekend. I'm sorry for your news but remember that he is so blessed to have so many people to help him with all this.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

The thing that stands out most to me is the word "sad". Yes, it will be incredibly sad. Please put yourself in his shoes. He's going to feel like everyone is hovering around saying goodbye to him and he's still trying to figure this out.

I am so sorry you're all going through this. It's a horrible shock to you all.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

Do the best you can to make this a very special birthday. Yes, lots of rainbows and unicorns or anything else. Take pictures and record his voice so that you have it after he is gone.

Make everyday the best it can be as you don't know how long he will be here. Do all the things he wants to do within reason. Take care of your spouse and yourself during this time.

Do try to get affairs in order if they are not already. Trace down marriage licenses, insurance polices, banking info, and any other info needed. If need be write up the obituary as that is the hardest thing to do after a death. Contact the American Cancer Society for help as they have people who can put you in contact with others in the same situation.

My heart goes out to you and your family. A huge cyber hug to the whole family. I, too, will be doing this one day in the near future.

the other S.



answers from Miami on

Just want to say how sorry I am. It's doubly hard when it's so serious without any warning. I am glad you'll get to see him.



answers from Seattle on

I'm so sorry! Right now I'm watching a documentary called, The Truth About Cancer. It's all about alternative treatments and there are some very inspiring stories of beating cancer. It might be of use to you. There are some amazing things people are doing with Essential Oils for example. One story was about Frankincense shrinking brain tumors if you place a drop on the roof of your mouth every couple of hours. It can't hurt. Enjoy your time with him this weekend and try to keep him as positive as possible.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions