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Dexter

'God' is killing my mother

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About a year and a half ago my parents went to the doctor for a checkup. They never went often but my father was having GI troubles and had a family history of more serious problems so they both decided to have full physical examinations done. My father turned out to be fine after some low-grade antibiotic treatment. My mother was found with a tumor in her colon. The tests came back that it was cancer and had likely been there for years. After surgery a couple weeks later, the tumor was removed and tested to see if the cancer had reached the lymph nodes. After several agonizing days later the word came back. It had. The cancer cells were now free-floating in her body. The doctors advised chemotherapy. We have all seen people in church go through Chemo. The weakness, the hair loss, the helplessness. It’s awful. The treatment is barbaric, though it is the best we have for now. And I yearn for the day that future generations look back on cancer treatment the same way we look back on leaches and bloodletting. Because even with the treatment, the doctors told her it was a 50/50 chance that it would put the cancer into remission. 

 

As we started preparing ourselves for this new reality, faith kicked in. Either way, it was in God’s hands so why worry? And this thought did comfort us, but I soon realized that it also opened us up for all types of external suggestion. While we told ourselves that either God wills it or not, my mother did not want to die. She was going to do everything in her power to fight it, to stay with her family as long as possible, and she was going to do it through her faith in God. 

 

So the very first MLM Supplement sales person in our church touting a cure for cancer had a meeting with my parents the very next day. You see, it was through God’s help that she was going to fight this cancer. Why wouldn’t a cure come through a respected member of the church? And a week later, boxes of supplements arrived at their house. 

 

My mother spent hours at her computer watching videos and doing research. She saw the scientific videos, but they just talked about the difficulties of treating cancer, how much and yet how little we still know and the heart-breakingly slow progress we are making. There were the awful stories of people who underwent Chemo, were laid low by the aggressive treatment and before they had even recovered, the cancer had returned and they never got better, dying puny and pitiful; a mere husk of the person their loved ones once knew. No one ever wants to see that. But there were other videos; videos of hope. Videos that knew the cure for cancer and they even said it was God who revealed this to them. A sign! A hope! After all, God is the great healer, right? It’s through God, not man who admits he cannot cure cancer, that you will find healing. So does it not then logically follow that God put the cure for cancer right in front of us, if only we had the faith to trust Him and just reach out and take it? My mother tasked me with researching terms and concepts. I struggled to find any scientific journal articles on most of them. The ones that did have journal articles dealt with high-level concepts and had nothing to do with its application in treatment. During a conversation with my mother that ended up devolving into her shouting at me that I had no faith in God (it hurt back then), I pointed out that there was no correlation between treatments and results for the things she was looking into. Almost none underwent double-blind testing and the ones that did were at best inconclusive. But she knew God would save her. How could I trust man’s fallible science over God’s ultimate power? I looked to my sisters for help. They too were worried and concerned but my youngest sister told me she’d do some hard questioning of her own. 

 

My mother turned down Chemo, deciding instead for a combination of self-treatment with a new aggressive diet that completely does away with all sugars and found an alternative medicine doctor who touted all these alternative treatments that Big Pharma would never allow to be used in hospitals, because they work so well. It was then I realized that this questioning my sister was doing was not demanding evidence, but rather demanding answers. She went with my mother to meet this alt med doctor and from what I am told, she gave him the third degree, questioning everything and demanding answers. But one does not go into alt med without having a strong sense of self-assuredness. He answered all of my sisters questions and she left confident that she had done her task well. Had we been taught how to actually question in our youth, she would have. I can ask an apologist any question. They will always have an answer. I know, because I always had an answer. So too did he. 

 

I’d like to take a step back and say that the decisions that come after a cancer diagnosis are hard and deeply personal. Chemo, while about the best we have for the moment, is not a great option. I would not want to base my life and my everything on a coin toss. So I can completely understand if a person declines chemo, choosing to optimize the quality of their remaining life rather than the quantity of it. And were that my mother’s decision, I would be, well… I won’t say happy… but I’d be at peace with that decision. But now, my parents are tens of thousands in debt. My mother’s hope all rests on these… charlatans. And I simply do not know what to think.

 

If I were to bore in and try to convince her that this is all bunk, I am terrified by the thought, ‘What if I actually succeeded?” Am I prepared to deal with picking up the pieces of a shattered mother whose inevitable next step is heavy depression and thoughts of death? Am I prepared to deal with the knowledge that I caused it? Am I prepared to deal with driving a schism right through the center of my family. Even if I got saddled with all the debt from this, is ~$100k really that much compared to our family unity that we all rely upon?

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This is clearly a really difficult thing to deal with. Usually after such a diagnosis people go into denial about what's happening, and some people remain there until the very end of their lives. 

I would say weigh the pros and cons not so much for yourself but for your mother. What is going to give her the most comfort in a very difficult situation? It's hard to accept that people may cling to information and be abused by those who are ultimately exploiting their vulnerabilities in some way. Unfortunately they often end up going with those who provide them hope, even if there is little to no evidence for the claims made, especially if they mesh well with their belief system.  

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I remember a family in my church who had one of their own end up in an abusive relationship. When they discovered the extent of the abuse, they took it upon themselves to fix it, and they went in, took her away from her abuser and told him to never darken their door again. But to their shock she turned on them, accused them of “ruining everything” and rushed back to her abuser. They didn’t understand that, noble as their intentions were, she was not yet to a state where she could leave. 

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9 hours ago, TruthSeeker0 said:

This is clearly a really difficult thing to deal with. Usually after such a diagnosis people go into denial about what's happening, and some people remain there until the very end of their lives. 

I would say weigh the pros and cons not so much for yourself but for your mother. What is going to give her the most comfort in a very difficult situation? It's hard to accept that people may cling to information and be abused by those who are ultimately exploiting their vulnerabilities in some way. Unfortunately they often end up going with those who provide them hope, even if there is little to no evidence for the claims made, especially if they mesh well with their belief system.  

I think this is what it comes down to. As a person who has cancer and has had chemo, albeit nothing in the league of your mother's, I might have some very small understanding of what is going on in her mind, and I'll say that TruthSeeker is right. A cancer diagnosis completely blows your brains out. Mom is clinging to some hope, however misguided it may be.

 

Have you thought of suggesting she continue the supplements and try the chemo? Perhaps you could convince her that a double-whammy is a good idea. And you might also suggest that God showed the doctors chemo as His chosen cure.

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10 hours ago, older said:

I think this is what it comes down to. As a person who has cancer and has had chemo, albeit nothing in the league of your mother's, I might have some very small understanding of what is going on in her mind, and I'll say that TruthSeeker is right. A cancer diagnosis completely blows your brains out. Mom is clinging to some hope, however misguided it may be.

 

Have you thought of suggesting she continue the supplements and try the chemo? Perhaps you could convince her that a double-whammy is a good idea. And you might also suggest that God showed the doctors chemo as His chosen cure.

I agree with the above. Your mom is going to cling to god now more than ever, and if youre going to try convince her to do chemo, it will have to align with her religious beliefs.

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Hi Dexter. I’m sorry that you find yourself is such a perplexing situation at the same time you are having to deal with a very real possibility that your mother could die much too soon. I think it’s important to realize that your mother has not taken this situation lightly nor has she ignored the possibility of chemo. Looking back at the process you described it seems to me that she has used quite possibly every asset at her disposal to make a good decision. Truthfully none of us can know whether or not she has factually chosen the very best possible course given the 50/50 scientific prognosis. You have done your very best at playing the roll she asked of you in helping her make her decision. She probably understood very well what you were saying and became angry not really at you but at the difficult and possibly deadly decision forced upon her by this disease and the times we are living in. I don’t think you should feel responsible for not having tried harder in this situation. You can try gently suggesting she add chemo to the care she has chosen but if she rejects that I think you can feel at peace with supporting her well (from her perspective) thought out and researched decisions especially considering you would accept her decision if only she had approached it from a different angle. Most importantly your mother needs to feel like you trust her to be doing her very best to take care of herself.   It may be worth while to research online how debts are handled after a persons death as I think passing on actual debt from a parent to a child (beyond reducing an inheritance) is uncommon if it is even possible. It’s clear you love your mother and your family very much and I wish you all the best in these difficult times.

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You could try using her own thought processes.  Tell her Nehemiah both prayed to god and set a watch - i.e. faith and secular approaches working together.  As it's from the Bible, she might take notice.

The reference is Nehemiah 4:9

Edited to add: I once saw this text framed in terms of an argument that a person must take responsibility as well as exercising faith, which is an angle you could try.  Sorry, intended to say that last night but my son's return from a party intervened and I shut down a little too hurriedly...

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Thanks for the advice. What I know on an intellectual level that none of this is my fault, it still feels that way on an emotional level. From where this comes from, I do not know.  But everyone seems to be on the same page and I feel that this is the approach I will take. Not to try to "disprove" anything but rather steer her towards chemo as well. The struggle is the alt med doctors have already scared her into believing that Big Pharma is literally trying to kill her. 

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Dexter:

 

Having cared for two aging mothers, I'd like to offer a little unsolicited advice. Talk to your dad about getting all their affairs in order. Pay a visit to an attorney who specializes in senior issues. They need wills and powers of attorney for both financial matters and health care. And depending on the circumstances, a family trust might be in order. You  need to know where the important documents are and what insurance policies and investment accounts they have. If possible, you should be a signer on their accounts in case of emergency. There's more but a good attorney will be a big help. It's worth the money. Our folks did this and so have we. When our moms died things were so much easier.

 

It's tough to talk about but so important.

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