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My mother has leukemia - Comments

jel's Avatar Comment 1 by jel

Sorry to hear this Jay. Despite the fact that you knew it would do no good, I think your reaction was quite normal, we all look for anything that will comfort us in a situation like this. I cannot offer any thing else than the hope that she has an easy end.

Thu, 23 Jun 2011 19:58:32 UTC | #842021

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 2 by ZenDruid

You have my sympathy, Jay.

The only 'good' bit in this news is that you have some time to recapitulate with her on the best memories you can share, since those will be her legacy to you when she is gone. I hope she can experience both physical and emotional comfort in her last days.

Thu, 23 Jun 2011 20:17:54 UTC | #842028

Corylus's Avatar Comment 3 by Corylus

Bad news Jay.

If keeping busy helps you get through then working towards a positive goal might help. Some campaigning for people to join a bone marrow donor register would be appropriate. It could also lead to you helping people like your mother. I am on the Anthony Nolan register myself, and I hope one day to be asked to make good my promise.

I understand you are a cultural Jew and your family theistic, accordingly this lady might inspire. You will doubtless concentrate on the drive rather than the faith, but you do not have to mention that to them.

Best wishes in this difficult time.

Thu, 23 Jun 2011 20:21:11 UTC | #842029

skiles1's Avatar Comment 4 by skiles1

Sorry to hear it JAY G.

It's very difficult what you're going through. In a similar situation I once thought "what the hell could it hurt?" and said a little prayer, but as I'm fairly sure you're familiar with, there is no advantage in praying even if there is a god, because there's no correspondence between who receives prayer and who lives or dies. Albeit I hope your prayer works somehow.

I have a grandmother in a situation similar to your mother's situation; I put my hopes for her in science. By supporting groups like this, you support finding cures for diseases. I hope your mother gets well soon.


Thu, 23 Jun 2011 20:41:16 UTC | #842035

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 5 by AtheistEgbert

I can sympathize Jay, my mother is in her eighties and has multiple health problems and is not going to last much longer. It is a difficult time for me, and her near death a few years ago made me break down in the hospital at the time.

Thu, 23 Jun 2011 20:44:52 UTC | #842036

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 6 by Rich Wiltshir

You have my continued respect, Jay.

When my wife was diagnosed in 2002, I nearly passed out.

I can't promise that you'll ever get used to knowing what's going to take her from you.

Jan and I took every opportunity to find laughter; our attitude was "there's only one day that won't have a tomorrow"; we had a lifetime of saying "I love you" every day and, though I remain empty inside, there are no regrets.

Our final times together were part of the grieving process and she did all that she could to make it easier for us all to 'move on.' Few of us realise how much we admire our loved ones, until it's too late.

Our atheism was a strength to us both, not least because we knew this life is no rehearsal. As a friend said after Jan died; "the story's not over; there are just fewer cast members on stage."

My guess is that you're mom will want to do as much as she can to ease the pain for the rest of you. From your postings on, I see you as a man with the strength and insight to support her achieve this. In some ways it may make the next year harder, but the time afters she's dead will have better foundations for your journey through grief.

This is my experience. I truly hope these words are of some help.

Thu, 23 Jun 2011 21:42:43 UTC | #842053

Robert Howard's Avatar Comment 7 by Robert Howard

Sorry, man. Pray if it helps, cos you never know, and keep us informed. There's a lot of people here who care about you, including yours truly.


Thu, 23 Jun 2011 21:59:07 UTC | #842057

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 8 by QuestioningKat

Sorry to hear of the challenges in your life and your mother's life. Spend lots of time with her and ask her if she has any unfinished business she would like for you to help her out with. Finish up any of your own unfinished business also. Enjoy the memories and time you still have together.

About the praying. Yeah I miss it too. I'm pretty introverted and like to talk inside my head. It helps me to process what's going on in life. I'm still working on an alternative. Do what you must. No one here will judge you.

Take Care

Thu, 23 Jun 2011 22:52:47 UTC | #842063

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 9 by Nunbeliever

My mother died two weeks ago. Her funeral was held earlier today. She died of a cerebral infarction. One day she was healthy as a horse. The next day she's dead. She was only 60 years old. I can relate to the sense of shock you are referring to. I really have no good advice on how to deal with your emotions. I can barely stand my own for the moment being. Although I don't think it really matters whether you are religious or not in a situation like this. When you grief you are always alone. No god can help you out. The only thing you can do is hang on to your friends and your family. There is no easy way out.

There's one interesting thing about my mother's death though. Religious people often say that atheists just refuse to believe out of stubbornness but when they are in trouble their knees will bend out of sheer desperation. Yes, I've had my fair share of desperation the last two weeks. But not once, not even for a second did I turn to god, reconsider the possibility of an afterlife or any other supernatural beliefs. Although I've been an atheist for more than a decade this was really my trial by fire as an atheist. Religion just isn't a part of my life anymore. Not even in my darkest hour. Funny as it might seem I actually find some strange kind of relief in that. I know I will find happiness again in my life. And when I do, I know I will be much stronger and comfortable with my life. My happiness will be built on solid ground, so to speak.

I know from experience that words aren't of much use in situations like these. But, nonetheless I want to wish you strength from the bottom of my heart. And there is at least one positive thing about this horrible event. You still have time left with your mother. It might be just one year or many more. But, try to enjoy everyday with her. Yes, there there will be much suffering. At times she will most certainly be in great pain. I can't imagine what it's like to see a loved one in pain feeling all helpless and futile. Still try to enjoy her company. I would give anything to have only one more week or even a single day with my mom. An opportunity to say all those things I wanted to say but never seemed to get off my chest for some stupid reasons. An opportunity to just hold her hand and kiss her good night one last time. I miss her so much! So I am actually begging you. Even if it might seem impossible right now, try to enjoy every second you have left with your mother. Every single one!

I wish you all the best,

Thu, 23 Jun 2011 22:54:20 UTC | #842064

Robert Howard's Avatar Comment 10 by Robert Howard

Comment Removed by Author

Thu, 23 Jun 2011 23:07:51 UTC | #842066

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 11 by Nunbeliever

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Thu, 23 Jun 2011 23:16:22 UTC | #842067

Robert Howard's Avatar Comment 12 by Robert Howard

To Nunbeliever, I thought I had actually removed my comment before anyone got a chance to read it, but you were too fast for me. I hope you're not alone at this time, but if you want to talk to anyone, mate, I won't be going anywhere for the next few hours. My name is Robbie, by the way.

Thu, 23 Jun 2011 23:24:39 UTC | #842069

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 13 by Nunbeliever

Thanks for your concern, but I am alright... or as alright as one can be in a situation like this. One day at a time as they say...

Thu, 23 Jun 2011 23:38:01 UTC | #842070

Robert Howard's Avatar Comment 14 by Robert Howard

Comment Removed by Author

Thu, 23 Jun 2011 23:54:17 UTC | #842072

josephor's Avatar Comment 15 by josephor

That is terrible Jay sorry to hear that.

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 00:34:50 UTC | #842076

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 16 by Steve Zara

I'm so very sorry for you. These aren't, I suspect, going to be easy days for you at first. Emotions come and go. But hopefully you will find strength to cope.

Something I would advise is to remember that you need make sure you take care of yourself as times get emotional and difficult. You can only help others if you have some reserves left.

By the way, there is no shame in prayer, even for an atheist. Atheism is not a doctrine; if it's about anything, it's about freedom.

Nunbeliever - my sincere condolences. What an awful time.

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 01:43:55 UTC | #842083

zengardener's Avatar Comment 17 by zengardener

: (

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 01:45:16 UTC | #842084

Quine's Avatar Comment 18 by Quine

My heart goes out to you, Jay, and I wish to add my condolences to Nunbeliever.


Fri, 24 Jun 2011 02:10:23 UTC | #842089

educationsaves's Avatar Comment 19 by educationsaves

Condolences. I have hope she will beat this.

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 02:34:57 UTC | #842094

Bobwundaye's Avatar Comment 20 by Bobwundaye

I'm sorry to hear about this. Last year, my dad died very unexpectedly from a stroke. Luckily, I was visiting my folks and so had spent a lot of time with him in the preceding two weeks. And it is this time that I find most precious.

Spending time together, sharing memories, but I think, also having your mom tell you or write down some of the stories of her life you haven't heard yet (or even those you have), will help everyone come to terms with the situation. I think one of the greatest fears of mortality is that we won't be remembered - even though we will be dead and whether we are remembered will make no difference to us in that non-existent state - in the here and now, we all long for significance. We want to know that what we did mattered, and perhaps, just as importantly, that the people around us, know us completely.

Tell your mom that you love her as often as you can, and just as importantly, that what she did really mattered.

As for you father, I have no idea how your family dynamics work or what he is like, but he might need some extra support and help to allow his emotions to the fore. In this regard, I found the Kubler-Ross theory of coping with any major traumatic event a very useful structure that helped me identify not only where I am in the process, but also in helping my mom come to terms with my dad's death.

We're all rooting for you.

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 02:40:06 UTC | #842095

helena!'s Avatar Comment 21 by helena!

I'm sorry to hear about your mother. I hope she gets the best of medical care. I only suggest you spend quality time with her and cherish every moment together. I'm not sure how I will handle the situation when that time comes for my mother. I think no matter what you cannot avoid the shock of it all.

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 03:02:08 UTC | #842097

ccw95005's Avatar Comment 22 by ccw95005

I think all of us, no matter how convinced we are that there is no God, wish that there were someone somewhere who could make it better at a time like this.

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 03:45:54 UTC | #842106

Sample's Avatar Comment 23 by Sample

Being incapable of eliminating tragedy or wonder from my life, I find that mixing both provides a drinkable cocktail when times call for escape and sobriety.

Your Mother's prognosis is tragic, a terrible wound. I am very sorry to hear it. You are wise to ask for advice.

One thing is certain, you run the risk of incapacitation if you don't be careful and take care of yourself, Jay. I'm going to say that such an action is not a betrayal to your parents if your goal is to be there for them, when they need you. I don't know if you were thinking that, but sometimes people do.

And lastly, back to tragedy and wonder. When I think that we are likely the only species that can immortalize non-material realities such as memory for the length of our own existence, I am filled with gratitude, awe even. It's a goal of mine to be able to mix a cocktail that isn't 50/50 but rather 51/49 when it comes to wonder and tragedy respectfully.

When I find a way to do that, I will tell the world. Until that time, I'll keep trying, and I suggest you try to.

Best regards,


Fri, 24 Jun 2011 03:49:45 UTC | #842108

mjr's Avatar Comment 24 by mjr

Jay, please could you tell us roughly how old you are and your parents' ages?

My mother died of cancer and it made a lot of difference to me that I was able to spend a lot of time with her in the weeks before she died although I had to go back to sea a week before the end. She died in her own bed after a long hospital stay and then in a hospice. She had a morphine pump and was able to self-medicate. This gave her control and removed the 'fear of pain' which can be worse than pain itself. In the end she saw death as a welcome relief and would have brought it on if that had been legal. Her morphine pump would not allow an overdose. None of our family were religious. Are both your folks believers? Mind you, their beliefs may be in flux at this time.

I don't know you but I see your avatar often; you have my empathy and best wishes.

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 05:33:23 UTC | #842118

rjohn19's Avatar Comment 25 by rjohn19

I feel very sad for you and can only offer a little advice and even less comfort.

To tell believers who are dying there is nothing more is cruel. There is no point in converting them to logic when reason would only be a source of further pain. My father died knowing there was nothing else- but still we never spoke of it one nonbeliever to another.

He never told me he was an atheist, wishing me to find the truth for myself. It was, however, the dot on the I when he allowed no clergy around him in his final months. I had always suspected but then I knew.

Had this (see the link) been available back then, I'd have told him about it. It's how I want to go and I have told my children. Not sure if I first came across it here or at Big Think but it will give me and mine comfort. Your ashes become a mixture in which a tree is grown. I love the idea.

But I'm not sure you should even mention this. In your case, I believe the best course of action is to assure your mother she will beat the odds and survive the disease. Failing that, assure her you will see her in the next life.

There are some battles from which even the most strident antitheist must back down and this is clearly one of those. Having lost both parents, I understand where you are and have a sense what you are going through. Hoping for the best for you- RJ

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 05:49:11 UTC | #842123

josephor's Avatar Comment 26 by josephor

Nunbeliever, you have my sincere condolences it is terrible to lose your mother, but at such a young age and so suddenly must make it even more (if that was possible)difficult to accept.

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 06:30:41 UTC | #842128

Peter Watkinson's Avatar Comment 27 by Peter Watkinson


I’m sure you know those little details that your mum likes and which say so much to her.



I’m sorry to hear your news.

You also have my sincere condolences.


Fri, 24 Jun 2011 06:53:50 UTC | #842132

emastro's Avatar Comment 28 by emastro

I wish I did not understand so well what you're going through - I lost my mother to cancer almost exactly a year ago.

I should also say that she lived - and lived well, traveling the world, doing charity work after she retired, seeing me and my sisters married and her 4 grandchildren grow up - for 15 years after the doctors gave her between 6 months and a year to live. Get a second opinion. And a third.

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 07:41:35 UTC | #842144

seals's Avatar Comment 29 by seals

My sympathies Jay and also Nunbeliever. This is one of those unavoidable times that we eventually have to live through. Drawing upon my own thoughts about the experience, my father died several years ago and eventually I saw his death as no more significant than any other in our time together. I do sometimes wonder if more could have been done in the way of treatment for his condition, so yes, second opinions are definitely worth a look.

When I think of my father I don't think particularly about when he died at all, but the many other common experiences we had, whether happy or difficult. And awful as it is, it is natural that things happen this way - the alternative to this sequence of events would probably be much harder for her than this is for you. Just be there for them both is all I can say, whether in person or on the phone if appropriate. I wouldn't go out of my way to dismantle any beliefs they may have in connection with death at this time.

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 07:56:43 UTC | #842153

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 30 by Marcus Small

Firstly my sympathies which I add to those of others here. Although I am believer of sorts I have been trying find secular/ non theistic prayers, or forms of words to use like prayers. Poetry is always a good resource. Here is I found, that speaks to me in the place I am in. It does not mention God at all.

On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders and you stumble, may the clay dance to balance you.

And when your eyes freeze behind the grey window and the ghost of loss gets in to you, may a flock of colours, indigo, red, green, and azure blue come to awaken in you a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays in the currach (1) of thought and a stain of ocean blackens beneath you, may there come across the waters a path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours, may the clarity of light be yours, may the fluency of the ocean be yours, may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you, an invisible cloak to mind your life.

(1) Boat

The poet can be heard saying this here.

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 10:49:41 UTC | #842188