Caring for someone with a terminal illness

Ruth ' Interview 17

Age at interview: 60

Brief outline: Ruth's mother was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer in 2008. Ruth described how her mother maintained a positive attitude and was not afraid of death.

Background: Ruth is married with two grown-up children. She works fulltime as a self-employed counsellor. Ethnic background' White British.

Audio & video

Ruth’s mother was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer in 2008, shortly after they had celebrated her 80th birthday. Ruth describes how from this point she began spending every day with her mother and during this time they became closer than they had ever been before. Her mother was a very positive and strong character who never normally complained about any ailments, so when she started to talk of pain and discomfort Ruth took this as an indication that the pain must have been fairly severe.

Her illness progressed and Ruth recalls a traumatic experience when her mother called for her during the night. When Ruth arrived her mother was very unwell and she called the NHS helpline and an on-call doctor arrived. Ruth was surprised when the doctor took a urine sample and left, as she felt her mother was obviously very ill and needed more attention. Unsure about what to do, Ruth called her sister and daughter. Once they arrived they decided to call for an ambulance and Ruth’s mother was taken to hospital and was given pain relief.

She was admitted to a ward where she could come and go as she pleased. While on this ward, Ruth regularly took her out and describes how, during this time, they grew even closer. Ruth describes how her mother remained ‘stoic’ ‘strong’ and ‘positive’ and maintained a great sense of humour throughout. Ruth explains how her mother was not afraid of death and so they felt comfortable to discuss her death and arrangements afterwards. Her mother even arranged and paid for her funeral before she died.

While her mother was ill Ruth continued to work and describes how this actually provided her with some relief from the situation as focusing on something else relieved her worry. She describes how the care provided by the Macmillan nurses was excellent and suspects their care was much better than any other medical care they could have received. Ruth mostly relied on her family for support and feels that they grieved for her while she was dying, rather than after she died.

Ruth describes how the last two weeks of her mother’s life were extremely hard to bear, because she was in a lot of pain and also very frightened. Ruth despaired and asked the nurses to do something, but nothing could be done and because of this experience Ruth fully supports euthanasia. For the last week Ruth’s mother was mostly unconscious and when she finally died Ruth felt a great sense of relief as the suffering had ended.


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