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Lost for words


Champion actifryer
I don't normally post personal stuff on here, but am in the need of advice from you lovely people who always have experiences and tips to share.

To be brief, I live in France just outside a tiny village. I bought my house from my French neighbour, André and his wife and have got to know his family a little, though just to say the odd word, not well enough to invite round for dinner etc.

Recently the family has suffered tragedy after tragedy. In 2007 their eldest daughter died of cancer at a young age. A few months later the second daughter's baby died of cot death. André's wife has suffered from Parkinson's for quite some time and often has attacks where she struggles to breathe. Last year we received notification of a death in their family (it's customary in France for the whole village to receive a card from the undertaker with details of the funeral arrangements etc.) and were shocked to find it was André himself who had died suddenly – on first reading the card, we had presumed it was his wife.

Since then, I have helped out with odd jobs, such as cutting her grass and feeding the dog when she has had to go in hospital and my main contact has been with the youngest daughter who is in her early 40's. But again, just for a quick chat etc. I wouldn't say she was a friend as such.

I was on holiday last week and got a call from this daughter to say she has peritoneal cancer (see here for details Peritoneal Cancer | Conditions & Treatments | UCSF Medical Center ) and was in hospital for an operation to remove her uterus and ovaries. This will be followed by chemotherapy.

Her mother has also been admitted to hospital as she is not eating and is down to just 40 kilos (88 pounds).

I can't really understand why she phoned me, of all people, to tell me this. I asked if she needed me to look after the dog or help with anything else and she said her sister was taking care of things, it was just to let me know. I wonder if maybe she doesn't really have many friends, which was why she called me. I spoke to her briefly before the operation, but to be honest, am lost for words. I speak pretty fluent French (I'm a translator) but on this occasion I just don't know what to say or how to say it – and would struggle in English to be honest.

Has anyone any experience of this particular type of cancer? Or been through anything similar and can offer advice on how to approach it?

I would have liked to visit her (along with my fiancé, who is French) but unfortunately the hospital is too far away and we have too many mid-week work commitments to make what would be a four hour round trip, plus the time spent at the hospital. She said she would be coming out after 6-8 days, which probably means the end of this week.

If it was a close friend, I could probably muddle through, but I'm finding it difficult to summon up the courage to give her a call and keep putting it off. I just do not know what to say.

Sorry to go on so long. I'd really appreciate some help with this.
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I dont know what to advise.....sending you hugs babe - it seems your kindness to the family has meant the daughter has contacted you in a time of need. Perhaps she is linking your previous support and thats why she contacted you - also as you say she may not have many friends.

Best to call her when you feel comfortable - she will have other people round her right now i am sure - so you could always give this as your reason for not contacting her all the time. I also guess that she will call you again soon xxx

That really is a hard one.

What would I do if it was me ????

I think I would try and see the daughter who is taking care of things at the house ( dog etc. ) and offer to give her a break from feeding him if she is busy going to and from the hospital to see her mother and even the long trip to her sisters.

Wait until the sick daughter is out of hospital and then ring and offer any help you can give. You know your limitations.

When my cancer was diagnosed I was so grateful for each and every phone call and act of kindness no matter how minor.

What great tragedy this poor family has suffered.
My god, the poor family. They have really been through the mill recently. They obviously feel close to you and know that you are a good support. You have shown them so much kindness throughout all of their hard times and how lovely to feel that they think so much of you.

I would just give her a ring and ask her how she is, how the operation went and if she needs anything when she comes home. When my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, she didn't necessarily want to talk about what she was going through, she just wanted to speak to someone.



Champion actifryer
Thank you all for your kind comments. I spoke to her this morning and the operation went in her words "impeccable" (really well). They removed an 800g tumour and she is being transferred to another hospital for chemo treatment on the 20g of cancerous tissue that remains in the peritoneum.

She was very excitable and gabbled away at an incredible speed that was hard to keep up with! Perhaps there is a kind of euphoria that comes after such a serious operation - I was in a rail accident many years ago and remember feeling so incredibly glad to be alive in the few days that followed. Maybe it's the same sort of thing?

I know the next few weeks are going to be hard - it must be quite aggressive chemo treatment if they are keeping her in hospital - but for the moment she is incredibly positive and that can only be a good thing.

I'm glad I called - in the end she did all the talking, so it was a lot easier than I had imagined.

Blimey, what a series of tragedies.
I'm so glad you called and that it went okay.
I couldn't really have offered much advice, but I do send you my very best wishes. x


Champion actifryer
Fillymum, I also saw the daughter as you suggested. As we were chatting about pets she mentioned her little cat had died last summer of a tumour and was buried in the field just behind the house. I thought, my God is there no end to this family's suffering? Even the cat had cancer!
Fillymum, I also saw the daughter as you suggested. As we were chatting about pets she mentioned her little cat had died last summer of a tumour and was buried in the field just behind the house. I thought, my God is there no end to this family's suffering? Even the cat had cancer!
Gosh that is so sad Hilary. I feel for the whole family.

It puts ones own life into perspective.