Dad has terminal oesophageal cancer. I don't know how to cope or help my family

I found out today that my dad has terminal oesophageal cancer that has spread to his stomach and other areas. They said that it’s aggressive and inoperable. He has been told he has months not years but I still don’t know how long that means. It has come as a complete shock with next to no symptoms he is super fit and has never smoked or had any health issues.

I am 25 and don’t live at home I feel completely helpless and heartbroken. I want to be around for as much time we have left but I don’t want to make him sad by how heartbroken I am about it. I can’t imagine my life without my dad that he won’t be at my wedding or be a grandfather if I have children.

I genuinely don’t know how to be strong in this situation. I don’t know if I should move back home or not start my new job. I don’t know how best to support him and my family especially my mum who has just retired with him to do all these amazing things together they had been waiting forty years for. It feels so completely unfair and I have no idea how to begin to face it. 

  • Firstly, I am so sorry for your situation! I lost my dad in similar circumstances some years ago so can relate somewhat. Its hard to give specific advice not fully understanding your situation. eg How close is you job to where your parents live. Do you you have siblings who can help an who you can talk to?

    It is completely normal to feel in shock at this devastating news.

    I think you need to consider 2 things:

    1 - How can you support your dad (and mum) and spend quality time with him. Would moving back home make things better or worse? You might be too close and tension could rise. Your mum and him might like more space and time with each other too. Or perhaps the opposite plus you could help with his care (if you are prepared to do this). Its hard to say without knowing your specific situation.

    2 - How can you care for yourself. Dont under estimate the importance of this. Can you join a support group to talk to people in a similar situation. Can you share your pain with friends or siblings or your mum? You could also consider counselling. Meditation. Breathing techniques have help me greatly in dealing with severe stress. 

    Sorry I cant give more specific advice and this is just my personal experience. Hope it helps a little bit.

  • Thank you for your reply I’m sorry you went though something similar it is the most horrific thing. I live 3 hr train journey from my parents and my brother lives an hr away so we can try and make sure we are both in and out as much as possible. My family is extremely close so partly want to just spend all our time together and grieve throughout the process but my dad wants us to pretend it’s not happening which I too understand and we need to respect. 

    I am going to look into some counselling if anyone has any tips for places to look that would be really appreciated. It mostly just feels like the my whole world is falling down around me. It feels especially hard because he is so positive and stoic he seems very energetic and I can’t comprehend that I might have a month or so left with him or prepare myself for how he will change. We have been lucky enough not to experience any serious illness in our family up until now but it means we don’t know what to expect right now I just can’t believe it. 

  • I survived the oesophageal cancer but unfortunately it’s now spread to my brain. I went to my remission appointment last week in a fantastic mood (I’ve beaten it)  only to be told I have maybe 8 weeks!! Yes I’ve been devastated but after 9 days of trying to process it I’ve concluded that the only way to address it is that ‘it is what it is’. Life goes on - it’s hideous but it is the circle of life so carry on and try to bury the emotion. I started off crying all day with my kids but what is that achieving? Embrace it, burn out and don’t fade away! I don’t have a bucket list just bring it on and I’ll keep telling the big C to F off!!