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A Rant, and Advice urgently needed!!!!

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Ian's family is driving me NUTS!!!! This is perhaps my problem, but this is where you guys come in!

So here's the lengthy back story:

The cast of characters is Ian's family. His family is quite small: he has a dad, who moved out and divorced his mom when Ian was 7, he has a live-in Grandpa, he has an aunt and uncle and 2 cousins in the are who never seem to be around or care what's going on, and he has a grandma and uncle that live in Brooklyn. And his younger brother.

When Ian was about 10, Ian's mom was diagnosed with kidney cancer. The family has no money, Ian's mom was a professional figure skater and had to quit skating because of the cancer, they're in debt because of the divorce, etc. So in order to get treatment, Melody enrolled in clinical trials. She had part of a kidney removed, the cancer eventually went into remission, Ian was responsibe for basically watching her at age 10...Dad tried to be involved financially, but they were estranged AND there wasn't much money, and Grandpa is clueless and deflects so wasn't much help.

Well, she got over the cancer. She stayed over it.

Then her kids started leaving the house. And the cancer started coming back.

Here's the issue: a lot of things really don't add up. No one has ever spoken to any of her doctors. No one knows who picks her up and takes her to treatment. She's never lost her hair during chemo and radiation. The cancer goes away and remerges basically whenever something in her life changes. She does like 2 rounds of chemo and is back to normal within weeks.

She's also an alcoholic.

Apparently, if you sit her down and ask for a doctor's name or a treatment plan or any paperwork, she freaks out and won't talk. And they've never been able to find any paperwork for these last couple re-emergences. She also lives basically alone...Grandpa sits in his little apartment attached to the house and doesn't really even check in on her. Dad is, of course, absent, and both kids are at school. And her brother is basically like Grandpa...absent and clueless. SO she's got no one taking care of her.

Now, is it just me, or is something terribly amiss here? Now, I realize that my family is sort of like the one on 7th Heaven, but without the whole minister thing, and so maybe I'm just an idealist where families are concerned, but so many things seem off.

So, my problems are thusly:
1) No one is demanding one seems to really care hard enough to force her to open up and therefore get all of the emotional help she needs (Ian even just admitted to me that they can't prove that she's actually a cancer patient). Someone needs to get the woman to talk.

2) I'm actually concerned that this could be more of a problem with the alcohol or even something like Munchausen's (that's where you think you're sick so much that you actually start to simulate physical symptoms). I think that she either needs to prove that she's got cancer and accept our help and care, or she needs to see a psychiatrist and accept our help and care.

3) They just don't seem to be able to rely on one another. It's sort of "every man for himself" in what's left of that family. It makes me really sad, coming from the family where we would all give each other the shirt off our backs, or more if that's what someone needed. Maybe this is how some families function, and maybe that's ok. I guess I was raised to see that as being horribly wrong. We've had her over for Christmas and Easter, because I really wanted her to know that she is more than welcome to be a part of the family and that we all love and accept her, and we would give her the shirts off our backs. Which is true.

So, don't get me wrong, I love these people, I think they're good people, but I think they just generally don't function like a family, and it could have (or be having) totally significant effects on Ian's mom.

WHat can I do and how should I do it? Seriously, guys, this is eating me up and I have no idea WHAT to do, but I know someone needs to do something! Is it just me? Do I have no business speaking up? Or am I obligted to?
post #2 of 19
My first point is that Munchausen's is when you actually make yourself ill with poison or whatever in order to get medical and other attention. I know what you mean where you believe your sick (hypochondriac) or where mental problems cross over into physical ones (conversion disorder, among others), but they're all different.

My second point is that I know these things because Ian's family is almost exactly like mine.

I can understand your frustrations because anyone who has ever got near enough to our family has shared those same frustrations.

And I am sad to say there ain't nothing you can do. People who won't talk won't talk, and despite all the movies and tv shows to the contrary, it's gonna stay that way. The only thing that can change is people's reactions and relationships outside the family. Subjects are verboten, and you can ask point blank about them and nobody will ever answer you. Ever.

Whether you have any business speaking up or not is something for you to decide, but I have to tell you it's not gonna make a difference. They will keep acting like they do. You MIGHT MIGHT get her to admit what is really going on. But chances are it will be one of those things that we never speak of again. And it will probably happen again, if she is using illness to control people.
post #3 of 19
Allie sweetheart- you are engaged it Ian and will be his wife- his family becomes yours and vise versa. You do have a right to say something when you see someone that you care about (obviously you care about her and have a woderfully huge heart!!) going down a downward spiral. It does seem odd that she won't give you answers to those cancer questions. I would call the local cancer clinics in your area and just see if they have her name on file as recieveing treatment/etc. See what you can find out and then talk to her. If you can't find anything....there is probably something mental or alcohol related going on. Eithor way- she does need to get help and support for the alcohol- reguardless of if she has cancer or not it does sound like she has an alcohol problem and that must be addressed. Could she be drinking because she's going through an "empty nest" state and misses her children and feels lonely? I would set aside a time to bring her dinner once a week with you and Ian where you can sit donw and just make time -even if it's just for an hour- to let her know that ya'll are there for her and are family. Even if she resents it at first- it will be comforting to her to know that ya'll aren't giving up on her. I would sit down with Ian and let him know that he must start paying attention to the issues going on in his family and point out that his mom needs to seek help for her alcohol and potential mental problems (word it in a kinder way though). I think you have a huge heart- and it shows hon...i'll pray all turns out well and she can get the help that she needs. Also- if she is indeed going through chemo- ya'll would be able to tell- my best friends mom has cancer and there is no denying it.... (not all cancer patients loose their hair from chemo though) but the other side effects would definitely be noticable. That being said- cancer can cause depression and other that might be something to bring up - maybe she did have it when he was younger...and she's been depressed since and is claiming to have it now that her kids are moving out so that they will feel a need to stay with her Just possible scenarios. I would ask everything in a very kind non-accusitory manner and let her know that ya'll are just genuinely concerned. If she is indeed going through cancer again- ya'll will be able to help her...and if not..ya'll will be able to try and get her the help she needs for her alcohol and mental problems if need be. She might get upset- but she'll get over it. She's lucky to have such a caring future daughter -in-law Good luck gorgeous!
post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Zissou'sMom View Post
if she is using illness to control people.
And, IMO, this is EXACTLY what she's doing. She seems, and has always seemed to have very poor self-esteem and she seems to let people walk all over her like she's a doormat, and then she pulls THIS stunt. I'm sorry, honey. I've seen 3 of my relatives go through cancer, and I know all cancer cases are different, but the ones who survived were not good to go within weeks. It's taken my Aunt, who is in total remission MONTHS to get bac enough strength to go to work. I don't doubt that she HAD concern is that all of this secrecy and unanswered questions are just to keep us from totally leaving her alone. Think of it...they all call her and express all of their worry, then she gets better, people stop coming around, then she gets sick again. It's too great a coincidence to me.

And sorry about the mess-up...I was thinking along the lines of conversion disorder. She does get sick...visibly. It's just not the complete drain that I remember my aunt and grandfather going through. And I'm obviously not a doctor, but I just would think she'd have more than bad flu symptoms.

I grew up in Pleasantville, IL (well, Naperville...where our Mayor's nickname is, and I'm not making this up, Officer Friendly) and everyone's family is like mine. I never met anyone who was goingto have to take out student loans until I moved into my dorm Freshman year, for pete's sake. So, here I am, coming from Fluffy Dream World and I just don't know how to deal with things like this because of my naivete.
post #5 of 19
That is so sad! I can't understand how a family can't be close to one another and not care about doctors appointments...especially when cancer is involved! But, I grew up in a family like yours. When my both my parents came down with cancer aunts and uncles I couldn't even remember were calling asking how they were. I just can't fathom a family where "to each there own" was standard. But, every family is different.

The only thing I can recommend is to continue letting her know that she is part of your family and to open your home to her. I'm sure it's heartbreaking, but at least she knows she has someone to come to if she really needs someone. Other than that, I don't think you are going to change the rest of the families attitude, or her's if she is using cancer as a way to control people.

Good luck hon. Hang in there.
post #6 of 19
Sorry if my post came off a little harsh. Bitter much?
I've witnessed too many people be hurt by my own family when all they wanted to do was help.

Also, what you see on the surface is likely not the whole story and there are undoubtedly lots of secrets, probably even that Ian doesn't know.

I grew up in fluffy little dream world too, and if you asked most anyone who grew up there with me they'd have no clue that I wasn't also in fluffy little dream world. You do know exactly how to deal with things in the real world. I, on the other hand, know how to deal with dysfunction and crazy people but don't know how to deal with the real world... not something to call naivete!
post #7 of 19
Originally Posted by Zissou'sMom View Post
...And I am sad to say there ain't nothing you can do...
And they might actually end up resenting you for trying to help.
post #8 of 19
Well, my family is not a fluffy dream world. We do verbal battle on a regular basis. But when one of us gets sick, by golly, we all gather around so tightly that the doctor can hardly get to the patient. So this whole situation is inconceivable to me, too. And you're such a sweetheart for wanting so much to help!

Whether it's you or Ian or someone else who tackles this, getting past this woman's defense mechanism is going to be difficult. See if you think one of these approaches might work...

1. It might be best to start by talking about just the alcoholism issue, and not the other, even more complicated problem. If she could enter a residential treatment program for that, even for a short time, two things could happen: (a) she'd probably get a thorough physical checkup as part of the program, which would give you a baseline on her condition, including whether there really is any cancer; and (b) she could get her head straight and start thinking more clearly, which might allow her to face up to what she's apparently been doing. That would be a good first step toward accepting the psychological counseling she needs.

2. When you're in the situation of having to tell someone you know she's been lying, it's important to give her some "wiggle room," so she doesn't have to be completely humiliated. Maybe someone could say to her, in private, with great warmth and affection, "Y'know, I wonder if cancer is really the word for what you've been dealing with. Because it doesn't seem to be acting like cancer normally acts. I'm worried you may have been misdiagnosed." If someone she trusts were to encourage her to get a "second opinion, a more accurate diagnosis," from this excellent doctor who handles "complex cases" like hers... maybe she would see that as a way out of all the lies she seems to be telling.

And actually, you might be the perfect person to bring it up -- someone not quite as close as family... someone she might feel less responsible to, and therefore less threatened by. Or maybe not -- maybe it's something Ian should take on.

I sure hope you, or someone, can help her recover. Take care...
post #9 of 19
One of the most common treatments for renal cell cancer is interferon. It is an injection, usually given three times a week (depends on the bloodwork). It causes flu-like symptoms, no hair-loss. However, it is an ongoing treatments, usually lasting months.
I have never known a patient with renal cell cancer to go through the cycle of occurence, treatment, remission, reoccurence, treatment, etc. that you are describing.

Federal law (HIPPA) will prevent anyone associated with her care from talking with you without her written permission.

Good luck.
post #10 of 19
I am sorry that you are having to deal with something like this.

She does sound like a person who has very low self esteem.

My husband has a sister who does stuff like this all the time. I told him once before that she has cried wolf so many times that one day she is gonna have something really bad happen and no one is gonna care. I am already that way about her. I don't like to even be around her cause she lies about everything.

I don't know what to tell you to do though, you and Ian are gonna be getting married, and you are gonna just hafta figure out a way to deal with this.

We are here for you though
post #11 of 19
From your story it does sound like she is having problems coping the loneliness.

Have you thought about making plans for you and Ian to have dinner once a week? Perhaps this would ease the loneliness without having to intervene.

I remember my mom was similar. Once I finished my bachelor's and moved out of the house she was calling me every week. On top of that my dad had officially retired and so the money they had were cut in half. She was diagnosed finally with panic attacks, but she was always claiming heart attack(which most panic attacks mimic the feeling of a heart attack). This went on for about a year and then things finally settled down. was after her doctor and her got into an argument and she was offended that the doctor was calling her crazy and that she needed to see a therapist. That's when the "heart attacks" stopped.

Anyway, good luck. I'm not going to say step in and take over...that's something for Ian's family to do. if they ever do though, then you can help out. Just remember though, that not all families can ever become like yours.
post #12 of 19
IMO I don't think there is cancer - she's a controller and hypocondric - since there doesn't seem to be "proof" of any cancer and treatment - just her word.

But you can just show her kindness - not sympathy to her - don't even mention the cancer or anything else that might be wrong. Invite her to dinner and talk about anything but medical problems. If she brings it up, ignore it and change the subject to something happy.

See what happens if you reverse the psychology
post #13 of 19
I'm going to have to agree with SwampWitch on this one, Allie. When I married Brian his family appeared to be all sunshine and roses but then as I got closer, I realized that it was a very elaborate front to a very dysfuntional family. They survived living that way for many years before me and I'm sure they are continuing down that path now that I'm gone. My family is like yours, we all are very close and would do anything for each other. I basically accepted that Brian's family was how they were because the one time I tried to "meddle" I got major backlash. Honestly I would just leave it alone, try to include Ian's mom in your guy's life as much as possible, but concentrate on your's and Ian's relationship, because coming from that kind of background, Ian is very likely to have issues stemming from it, I know my ex did

and all families are different, not one is the same, and sometimes all is not as it may appear, but that doesn't mean it's "wrong". Like for instance, in my family, we NEVER say "I love you" but that's because we don't have to, it's understood, but if another family says it all the time (and actually means it ) than that's ok, they do it differently
post #14 of 19
I agree with what the others have posted. Does she have a fairly clean house, keep herself clean and eat okay?? Does she work> have many friends or interests outside the home?? Perhaps she could get involved in some way with a local figure skating group. From what you have written she is trying to get some attention whether it is good or bad attention. How does Ian feel about his mother?? I would Invite her over to dinner and bring up your concerns about her health and tell her you want to help.
post #15 of 19
My heart goes out to you, Ian and his mom. All you can do is support Ian, encourage him to get more involved and reach out to her yourself. Offer to go with her to an appointment. Spend time with her and let her spend time with you and Ian. Sometimes just openning yourself up as someone that she can confide in may help.

Good luck.
post #16 of 19
I don't have any advice, but it does sound very similar to my own family. I sat J down and gave him a very big talk before I had him meet anyone I'm related to, and there's a reason we're having the wedding out of the country where a large portion of my family cannot afford to go.

So, no advice here -- in fact, I'm reading this as much to get information on how to deal with my own messed-up family as to offer support to you -- but I have a shoulder you can cry on if you need to vent.
post #17 of 19
Well....Being an Adult Child of an Alcooholic (ACoA) myself I can say that Alcoholic familys are NOT "normal" and that Alcholic families exibit a wide array of VERY bizzar and psycotic behavior. The "Elephant in the living room" syndrom is very common in alcoholic homes so I am not surprised that problems are not worked through and things that seem very obvious to you are avoided and not talked about.

I would suggest going onto and picking up a few adult child of alcoholic books and I would absalutley reccomend "Toxic Parents" which explains WHY [any type of] toxic parents behave the way they do (and why adult children of toxic parents also behave the way they do) and what you and your SO can do to set boundries exc.
post #18 of 19
Wow I wish I experienced a 7th Heaven upbringing! My upbringing was horrendous and beyond disfunctional (alcoholic, drug, and abuse situations from a step-parent)and I seem to be ok with exceptions! I suppose you could suggest that your husband have a sit down with her... Not making any accusations but to bring up his concern! I don't want to say it is not your place to intervene into their family circle because you are part of it, but it would probably bring better benefit if one of her blood relatives addressed this issue! Maybe she really is a cancer survivor (not all patients loose their hair) and maybe she is attention starved and lonely! Alcoholism is a terrible thing and usually a regular consumption from lonely, anger, bitter, sad, and pain endearing people! Alcoholism is huge in my family. Maybe this is her subtle cry for help, maybe she wants the situation addressed! Has anyone mentioned her alcohol issue to her??? Yes she will get immensly upset by the topic but all alcoholics do... Speaking from personal experience with alcoholics! In the end she is the one who gets to make the definite decision to get help and address her issues... The only thing you and the family can do is promote your concern one on one! I wish you the best, conflict is never easy... nor is ignoring the problem! Problems just don't go away and maybe she feels that she is treated more as a problem then a being!
post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by GailC View Post
I agree with what the others have posted. Does she have a fairly clean house, keep herself clean and eat okay?? Does she work> have many friends or interests outside the home?? Perhaps she could get involved in some way with a local figure skating group. From what you have written she is trying to get some attention whether it is good or bad attention. How does Ian feel about his mother?? I would Invite her over to dinner and bring up your concerns about her health and tell her you want to help.
Well, she has no friends and no real substantial interests outside the home. She won't skate any more, and I'm not sure why. She has no other real job training. 2 weeks ago, she got a job as an office administrator for a furniture company, but now she wants to quit because she's "sick". She was fired from her last job for missing a lot of work and refused to justify to her employer why (this is where the red flags began for me). Her life consists of her beloved dog (but she won't walk the dog, just lets it run around on their half acre of land) and daytime television. Her house is moderately clean, but she doesn't replace things when they need replacing until there's absolutely no way she can get along without it (car, computer, necessary clothing items, like shoes, are examples). She doesn't really demand much from her family, and doesn't hold them to or help them keep their areas clean. The house needs a lot of repair. she does seem to keep up with gardening, or has a coupe of the years I've known her. Sometimes, she just lets the garden go.

Ian loves his mom but has no idea how to deal with her. And to be sure, they interact like high school buddies, not like mother and son, and he gives him more direction than she gives him. She called us earlier this week to talk about her boyfriend issues and wanted our advice. Agai, she was prepared to let him walk all over her. She seems to let everyone get away, and then pulls stunts like this. Ian doesn't realize how he enables her. Gets mad at me when I try to talk to him about this critically, but wants me to talk to her. Again, all wonderful people but have a mutually hard time with the committment issue. If I weren't as velcro-y as I am, Ian and I would probably have no chance. And again, he told me when I met him that he would never fall in love or get married. He's obviousy grown up a ton. I think he's easily the most mature person in his family.

Ian and I plan to have kids someday. Am I wrong for not wanting to bring children into that situation? I would NEVER leave my kids with these people...again, they're well-intentioned people who just aren't...functional on a family level. It makes me uncomfortable.
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