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What can I do for my father suffering from cancer?

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female part-time worker in my 40s. My father has been diagnosed with cancer. The cancer has already spread, although he has undergone treatment. I have no idea what I should tell him to make him feel better, or what I can do to help him.

Each time I see him, he is as lively as ever. So we almost forget that he is ill. However, I heard that he had an argument over the matter with my mother. When I was talking with them, my father said to my mother: “I don’t tell you anything about my disease, but it’s very rough for me. Only people who are suffering from the disease can understand.” When I heard that I was lost for words. My mother also feels very upset and distressed. I planned to arrange a family trip so we could all relax. However, my father didn’t want to go, saying that he would feel inconvenienced on a trip and can relax better at home.

I had a comfortable upbringing thanks to my father but I have yet to reward his affection toward me and show devotion to him. I want him to live as long as possible. He said: “I’m happy with three children and three grandchildren. I’ll go in three or four years.” Hearing him talk like that makes me very sad.

O, Aichi Prefecture

Dear Ms. O:

Your father is struggling against cancer but behaves cheerfully. So I understand you want to be as loyal and kind as possible to him. You want to know what to say to him and what to do for him. I assume your father wants to lead a peaceful, normal life one day at a time.

I think he desires more than anything that you, your mother and your siblings get along well with each other and live happily in order to help him fight the illness. If he can feel reassured his beloved family can continue living a healthy, happy life, it will give relief to him, even though he is aware he will depart this world due to the illness.

People are sometimes distressed due to the burden of the disease or fear of dying, even if they are mentally strong. So, if your father is that way, just stay with him and listen to him quietly. You can shed tears with him, too.

It’s difficult to say, but we all are destined to be separated from our parents by death some day. When that day comes, we may be troubled by thoughts of things we should have done for the departed person. But that is the fate of people who see a beloved person depart from this world. After the process is over, your father will continue to live in your heart forever.

Masami Ohinata, professor

(from Feb. 18, 2016, issue)Speech

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