My sister's husband of 52 years died two weeks ago of a massive MI. She had already scheduled a mammogram 1 week after his death, and now the results indicate level 2 DC, with level 3 IDC not able to be ruled out. She meets with a surgeon in 2 days. She is obviously struggling with great difficulty in her situation, and will not allow me to contact other members of the family (even her children) about the cancer. I don't want to betray her trust (I'm the only person she's told, and she's sworn me to secrecy at least until after a proposed lumpectomy), but I think she needs to share her burden with others who love her. Any advice on how I can be of the most help to her?
You must be a very good brother for her to turn to you. This is such a tough situation, and will be for the whole family, as they try to help her through this. For the moment, I'd say respect her wishes, and don't share with the rest of the family. If you're close enough (geographically), ask if you can accompany her to her upcoming appointments; it all gets very confusing very quickly, and it really helps to have someone with a clear mind to ask questions and take notes. Most of all, tell her you're there for her, whatever she wants or needs; don't try to solve anything for her at the moment; just be her shoulder to lean on. I think she'll get over this initial shock of the breast cancer more quickly than she gets over her husband's sudden death; and I'll bet pretty quickly she decides to share her situation with the rest of the family. At that point, you might volunteer to tell people, and to be the go-between if she doesn't want to talk about it with everyone right away. I feel for you all - I hope you can support one another and get through this together. PJH