Ask Dr. Giles: I'm an emotional mess that's angry and scared.

Tonia writes:


In short my Grandmother was diagnosed with bile duct Cancer “officially” on the 13th. We had a strong suspicion on the 3rd when her coloring turned yellow but hung onto hope that maybe it wasn’t. She had the bypass surgery on the 13th and the Cancer was found in her lymph nodes and at the head of the pancreas.

My grandmother and I are very close. I’m very lucky to have the relationship I do with her. I always knew that in time she wouldn’t be there but for some reason I was still shocked when I was told.

I’ve been around to help with a lot of things since we found out. For various reasons my aunts and uncles have not. My Mother lives a ways away and can’t be here all the time. Because of this I’ve been around for the meetings with the doctors and getting the paperwork figured out and seeing what she needs. I really do consider this an honor.

However, since the 13th family issues have surfaced that are causing stress in an already stressful time. My Grandmother has opted not to seek treatment for a variety of health reasons. One of her children is begging her too and is trying to get me to do the same. The numbers for her situation are amazingly low for success on any level. She’s told me again and again she’s ready to go. I can’t push her on this. I feel its her choice.

I feel guilty because of my frustrations with the situation. I love my family but this is not the time to be figuring out who was “loved more” or who always felt they were the “black sheep” and who got the better christmas gifts. I could be wrong, maybe it is….

I just want them to be kind to her. She’s tired and scared. I want them to be kind to each other too. She held us together and we’re going to have to start doing that on our own soon.

I feel bad writing this but I don’t know where to go. One moment I’m “ok” and the nest I’m an emotional mess that’s angry and scared. I’m 28 and married ( no kids yet) and feel bad for my poor husband and my mood swings.

Is ANY of this normal?

Thanks for reading the looooong post.

Your “mood swings” are absolutely normal. Relative to the rest of your family, you are in a unique position. You have a “ringside” seat to your grandmother’s current life and circumstances. You know how she is doing and how she feels about her situation. Given your responsibilities, you have, to your credit, remained focused on your grandmother’s thoughts and feelings rather than on your own. I’m guessing that the mood swings come from the shift, back and forth, which occurs when you finally have time to contemplate your own feelings. Your grandmother is fortunate to have such a mature and conscientious person as a buffer to the rest of the family. I hope you can continue with this role for as long as you are needed.

At the same time, however, it is important to spend some time on your own feelings. You have grieving and mourning to do which is a good and necessary part of saying goodbye to your grandmother. Write down your thoughts, talk about them with your husband and/or a few close friends. Talk with a therapist. Consider sharing them with your grandmother. She may be in a unique position to help you back.