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Need help/suggestions re: attitude


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Hi everyone, I am not sure how to put this without sounding insensitive...so I hope that no one is offended.

My FIL is doing very very well physically, so far. But, we are worried about his mental attitude. We know that he has to have a positive attitude in order to beat the cancer, and to recover from the surgery treatment.

But, to be honest, he just doesn't have it. And we don't know how to help him with it. He is not the most positive/upbeat person to start with, and he has almost never been sick, so this is very hard on him, and we do understand this. He is "disgusted" with how he feels - even though everyone around him keeps telling him what a great recovery he is having. He doesn't feel like eating (pretty normal after major surgery) but keeps going on about how he "will never feel like eating again". He is obsessing about how he can't drive, and doesn't want to ask anyone for help.

I just don't know how to help him. We try to boost his spirits, and remind him how it is only temporary that he can't do all the things he enjoys. But, I also worry about my MIL because he lays the guilt trip on her, and has her so worried about him (mainly because of his attitude) that she can't sleep or eat and is upset when she is not right by his side.

Help!! Anyone have any experience with this?

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Maybe you should just try a different approach and live life as you all did BC (before cancer). I know this is hard to do but maybe it will take your FIL's mind off of his illness a little bit. I know that sometimes friends and families become obsessed with the C word and that is all they talk about. It can either go that way or people pretend nothing is wrong because they are afraid to talk about it. Maybe you can find a happy medium. Try doing some of the things you did as a family before....movies, dinner??? Does he have any hobbies? Does he enjoy reading? I would try and focus on things he enjoyed before his diagnosis and fill some time with those. Also,maybe think about discussing this with his doctor. Some antidepressants might be in order. Hoping things improve!

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What I would recommend is that you try to desensitize yourself to it. Do not take it personally. It is probably not something you can fix. For me, I have worried my self sick that my mom and stepdad fight and argue and that my mom gets so sad, but I have had to accept that it is normal for them and that she has a reason to be sad. I think all you can do is accept that he is allowed to be sad or crabby or whatever, it is hard on MIL I am sure. Maybe you can give her breaks from it. Allow him to be however he wants to be, that is what I try to do now, after all of the great advice from everyone here. I had to essentially let go. It is not in my control. I am positive around mom and helpful to stepdad. One thing I can control in all of this is how much I help and I have really ramped it up with helping stepdad clean the house and cooking meals and stuff. Sorry to ramble, but I know exactly where you are. It is hard. You want any and all time to be quality and to see our loved ones depressed and withdrawn from their normal lives is painful. I hope some of my rambling helps..

Hang in there!

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Maybe you should join him in the depressing talk. He "won't eat again" which should be easier on his wife, she'll only have to cook for herself...

He's "disgusted with how he feels" so maybe he should do something about it and stop feeling disgusted.

He's crabby and cantankerous and hard to be around (aren't ALL old men??) - so tell him just how hard he's always had it, especially walking to school five miles, up hill both ways in the driving snow in July...

I would think that maybe, just maybe, if you mirrored his behavior and gave him some of the same crap as he's giving everyone else, he might get a glimpse of himself and how hard to live with he is...

As for life being hard, go into all the "bad" with current world events, bombings in Iraq, New Orleans, the economy, national debt, etc.

My grampa was a cantankerous ol' fart, but not around everyone. Ya just had to know how to take him and how to deal with it. He has legitimate reasons for FEELING bad, he doesn't have legitimate reasons for making everyone else feel bad. No one needs to be punished, he's not being punished by having this disease, he just drew this sucky card - the "Old Maid" card, so to speak.

I'm holding the same card, and I determine my attitude. When I feel p*ssy, I try to avoid a lot of social interactions because I just plain don't play well with others when I'm feeling poorly. He needs to get his mind around what is going on and deal with it, maybe you can help him. After pointing out bad things, start pointing out the good, AND the fact that he's around to decide what he thinks is bad and good....

Luck to you,


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His life will never be the same again, as none of ours will be. Life changes and goes on.

He can live in the past and wish it was like it usta be, or he can accept that life will be different and adapt to the new normal.

The human spirit is quite remarkable, if he wants to enjoy life he can, if he wants to be miserable he can do that too. Most of us, that are healthy emotionally live one day at a time and find joy and purpose in the New Normal.

You can only do so much, do not let his dispair ruin you life or your families. I see no harm in telling him how it is!!!!!!!


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My wife tells me that I am somewhat like your FIL in that I am not the same after the surgery and the diagnosis. I have learned to pay more attention to her and our kids (2 cats and a dog) so that I don't fall into that despair. I have taken care of myself and my family for to many years to be beaten down by something like this but I still get really mad at myself for not being able to do all the things I used to. And on top of all that my wife is my rock and my soul and we haven't even been married a year yet and she is holding me up and won't let me fall into that mind frame. Just remind your FIL that he can feel sorry for himself all he wants but he can't give up without a fight.


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Feeling helpless and that nothing is within his control is really hard to deal with. Maybe it would help to ask your FIL what he thinks would make him feel better. Maybe talking to his dr. about seeing a physical therapist would help. If he has a list of exercises to focus on to help him get stronger, maybe he would feel more hopeful. Try to turn the focus from what he is going through to how he can make it through more easily. It sounds like being dependent and out of control is his biggest concern.

Your MIL needs encouragement, too. Remind her that if she wants to be a good caretaker, she has to take care of herself. Hovering over him 24/7 won't do either of them any good. When the guilt trip comes, she should practice saying "I know you can do it. You're stronger than you give yourself credit for."

Don't give "positive mental attitude" more than its due, either. Your FIL does not need to be a happy smiling cherub to get better. Just help him focus negative feelings on the disease itself rather than the imperfections of the people trying to help him.

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I have read some very thougtful advice here. Encourage you FIL to take anti-depressants if he isn't already. Your MIL may wnat to look into it too. I took them and I think it helped, I am weaning myself from lexapro now.

People have told me often that they admire my good attitude dealing with the lc. I did not feel that I was doing anything special or whatever, I just tried to be myself. I think that cracking jokes about it when ever possible helped.

Don M

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Hi Darci!

Sorry your father in law is down in the dumps. It is a big pill to swallow all at once but things will get better! He can drive six to eight weeks after surgery and start being his old independent self again. I felt like eating after surgery, that's about all I did for awhile. I had surgery almost a year and eight months ago and I'm doing as much as I can. I had half of the right lung removed also. I'm still here after nearly two years so tell him not to give up! Best of luck to him, you, and his wife!


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