Fears cancer patients are dying lonely

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Mandy Mcfarlane

Cancer charity is encouraging more people to be open about fear of dying  

28th April 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

A charity is warning that almost a third of people with cancer in Scotland who worry about death are suffering in silence.

Research on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support revealed that 65% of people with cancer in Scotland thought about the possibility of dying from their cancer during treatment - but just 31% of them talked to someone about their fears.

The report, No Regrets - how talking more openly about death could help people die well, also found just 1% of people with cancer in Scotland want to die in hospital, with most (69%) preferring to die in their own home, or in a hospice (17%).

The charity says that a ‘crisis of communication’ about death is preventing people from having their dying wishes met. Macmillan believes that having earlier conversations could be key to improving this.

The research, carried out by YouGov, found almost one in six (16%) people with cancer in Scotland think about their death "constantly" or "often", but less than one in 10 (9%) have shared their feelings with their healthcare team.

Worryingly, the research found that nearly one in four (23%) of people with cancer in Scotland sometimes feel they can’t be honest about how they feel about their illness.

It's vitally important that people are encouraged to talk about their fears around cancer and dying - Gordon McLean

Gordon McLean, national programme manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “It is hard to contemplate your own death, however a diagnosis of cancer can quickly bring this much more to the forefront.

“Often this is sooner than anticipated and many people will internalise their feelings because they don’t want to cause distress to their loved ones.

“However it is vitally important that people are encouraged to talk about their fears around cancer and dying.

“It is only by supporting someone to put plans in place, that we can ensure they are able to have a good death.”

Mandy Mcfarlane, 42, from Glasgow, was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in 2009, just nine months after the birth of her second child.

"For me at diagnosis I certainly did not want to think of end of life as I was trying to focus on staying alive,” she says. “However, once my treatments were over and I had more time to think, I began to focus on my possible imminent death.

“It’s actually comforting to plan my own funeral as I am not really religious and don’t want a service that has a minister talking about me like they knew me. I want a party, a disco, as I love a boogie. I want to be put in my Wonder Woman costume so that my daughter can have my wedding dress. I want to put on a video at my service so I can say a few things myself. I have my playlist and sometimes I will hear a good song on the radio, or an oldie I had forgotten, and add it to my funeral list.

“I don’t have anything formal yet but once my diagnosis changes I will send an email to my husband and also my friend to make sure he follows my email to the letter.

“I will then write my letters and make CDs and videos for my kids so they don't forget me, so they know what my hopes and wishes are for them and to remind them how precious they are and how much they are loved.

“Lastly I think I may publish my journal I have kept since diagnosis which follows my life after cancer and remind folk that I was still me - Wonder Woman."

Macmillan is calling on the Scottish Government to implement the 2015 Strategic Framework for Action on Palliative and End of Life Care, and ensure that patients are offered an anticipatory care plan outlining how and where they would like to be cared for at the end of life.