What do you say to someone who’s been given 2 months?

The room was eerily quiet. The only thing breaking the silence was my patients raspy breathing. A woman in her mid 50’s, lying in her bed, too weak to get up or move. Barely able to speak or register my presence.

3 months ago she was fine, planning retirement and happy. A week of constant headaches made her see her GP, and one CT scan later it’s diagnosed brain cancer. 5 weeks ago Oncologist gave her 2 months. Tops.

We were called because she was deteriorating and the husband didn’t know what to do. Palliative care didn’t know about her so couldn’t help. There was no DNR or treatment guidance available. I’d spoken with the husband and he was out with my partner making phone calls and preparing to leave.

So we sat there quietly…. and I had no idea what to say to this poor woman.

What do you say?

Breaking bad news to family members or patients isn’t always easy….. but this, this was different.

This was something I couldn’t break news about or give new information on. There was no consolation that I could give (though inside my head I was praying like crazy), or pathways I could explain. This was a new situation, and I’m still not sure how to handle it better when it comes around next time.

So what’s your advice? When someone you’ve just met has 2 months to live, what do you say to them?

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