When you have a terminal illness—when you’ve been told to prepare for the unpreparable, and you will leave family and loved ones behind, how do you have the conversation with them?
How do you tell your loved ones to get ready for a life without you?
Redditor TheoryOfUgh was in this situation after receiving a terminal brain cancer diagnosis. Conflicted about whether or not to spare his wife and daughter from this horrible news, he went to the popular subReddit “Am I The A**hole?” or “AITA” for perspective.
“AITA for not telling my wife and daughter that I’m dying?”
Our original poster, or OP, told us about what went into his fateful diagnosis.
“I’ll try and keep this brief, last August I found out I have brain cancer, I won’t survive. I’m not taking any treatment as I don’t want to draw it out so it’s going to be a brief ordeal.”
He’s been keeping it to himself in order to not interfere with his wife and daughter’s lives.
“My wife and daughter have no idea, I’ve done a good job at trying to act like everything is normal and for the most part it has been.”
“My daughter is on track to get into a top tier university this September and my wife and I recently had a great anniversary at home, we went all out and heated up some ready meals and watched Netflix.”
“My reasoning for deceiving them is this: they don’t need to know and knowing right now will make things difficult, there isn’t a person alive who can stop this from happening so me telling them beforehand just causes them unnecessary pain.”
“My wife is really busy with work and my daughter is working really hard in school, I don’t think it’s right to distract them from that.”
But his perceived selflessness may have worse consequences.
“Here’s where I think I may be TA. I’m actively lying to the two women I love the most every day by not telling them about this, they are living a normal happy life and have no idea that I won’t be there by Christmas, I may not make it to see my daughter move out.”
“This is going to be a massive shock to them both and I’m concerned for how they will take this.”
“Unsure what else to say as that’s basically everything. AITA here?”
Anonymous strangers weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Despite the difficult situation, Reddit thinks OP is very, VERY wrong here.
“YTA in the nicest way possible. You think you’re helping them or trying to protect them but you’re just going to make it worse for them.”
“Lying about it isn’t going to stop you from dying either. You need to tell them so they can start to process and prepare for the inevitable.”
“It may be harder for you but it will make things better for them in the long run.”~friendlynea
“For the love of God OP please tell your family. I know you mean so well and bless your bravery, but you said it yourself that you feel terrible for lying to these two women who clearly adore you and who you mean the world to.”
“I’ve heard and seen stories like these so many times in my life and every time it ends up horribly for everybody involved and nobody gets closure.”
“They’re your family. These are the people you go to when you want to celebrate life and all your succeses and the people you go to when you’re at your lowest points in your life and are scared and possibly in denial of what is going to come.”
“Please don’t deny them (and yourself) of the power of love even in the face of illness.”
“YTA, but the most gentle YTA I can say because I know you mean so well. Please let them know and know that they will 100% have your back and love you. I promise you they will.”~imsohungrydude
“My mother had cancer in 2003. I found out on the ride back to college from Thanksgiving break my freshman year and my dad told me, alone, after my brother had been dropped off at the Amtrak to return to HIS college.”
“Mom wasn’t in the car and Dad couldn’t even say the words cancer or chemotherapy (I had to ask and clarify).”
“I quickly found out they chose not to tell my brother because his new girlfriend (now wife) had visited over Thanksgiving. Mom started chemo the next day.”
“Because I am not a complete a**hole, I called my brother (we were not even close at the time) myself and I had to f**king tell him. And then broke down.”
“Because I had been given awful news and then just SEE YOU AT CHRISTMAS inside like 15-30 minutes.”
“But the worst part? Mom had been diagnosed in SEPTEMBER. There had just been disagreement from Sept to November about which exact type of cancer she had; one of the options would have killed her inside of six months.”
“She spent three of those months not even telling us she was sick. Frankly, I’m still angry. I hate secret-keeping and my family is intensely dysfunctional about communication and boundaries on a good day.”
“I can only imagine how I would have felt if suddenly she had died and I had never even known she was sick.”
“Please, please tell them. They need time to process. And frankly, it’s going to make their grief so much more complicated when they’re struggling to be angry at the fact that they didn’t know, and they have the right to be upset that you didn’t tell them.”~birdsofpaper
“YTA. To add some practical aspects to the emotional aspects of your family’s need to prepare:”
“If something happens (e.g., you collapse, have a seizure, start having symptoms that affect your behavior) and you have not told them about your diagnosis, they will be terrified and unprepared.”
“In addition, your wife, who has both a legal responsibility and a familial obligation to care for you, will be utterly uninformed of both your condition and your desires about treatment.”
“If you are incapacitated, she may choose to treat aggressively, as you have not told her what you want.”
“I suggest you buy a copy of the form ‘Five Wishes’ (https://fivewishes.org/) and fill it out, and then share it with your wife.”
“It will help facilitate the difficult conversations you need to have, and if you are in the US, help set up a binding health care proxy.”
“Also, be sure your will is in order, and do it soon when the soundness of your mind cannot be questioned after the fact.”
“If you don’t make a will, your estate will be distributed according to your state’s estate law, which may not lead to the outcome you want, and will probably cost more than having a proper will.”
“As you are likely to be incapacitated for a while before you die, you also need to set up very clear legal and financial proxies.”
“And all your planning needs to take into account your wife might get hit by a bus while you are incapacitated, so you also need to have firm legal arrangements for your daughter’s care should neither of you be available for her.”
“Not talking to and planning with your wife endangers the whole family.”
“You know what is happening. You need to be sure everything is in order to make it as easy for your family as you can.”
“Right now you’re deliberately choosing to make ‘after’ as difficult for them as possible, so that you, selfishly, can avoid the difficult but necessary things you should be doing ‘before.'”~Jazzlike_Humor3340