Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas

 

Dear Virginia,

I'm a single parent and my son is 23. He recieved a very poor degree from his university and is struggling to find a job. He's also recently been dumped by his girlfriend and is feeling very depressed - he lives in a house with some friends. My problem is that I have just discovered I have cervical cancer. No one can tell me what my chances are of survival. I have a supportive group of friends but I just don't know whether to tell my son. I don't want to add to his worries. What should I do?

Yours sincerely, Catrin

Virginia says... You wouldn't take a stake away from a weak plant without, I hope, making sure there was some other support in place. So before you tell your son, I think you should confide in someone – obviously his father, if you're in touch with him, or his grandparents, or even a friend who he regards as some kind of aunt-figure. Some who has known him all his life. Even better, confide in two such characters, and tell them both that you're relying on them to look after your son emotionally not only while you're ill but also, if it comes to that, for as long as they can.

And then you must tell your son himself. He'll be distressed, of course, but not half as distressed if he thought you couldn't confide in him. Imagine if you suddenly died and he found that everyone knew except him. He'd feel not only betrayed by his girlfriend but also one of the people he's probably closest to in his whole life.

And however well you feel you know your son, you have no idea how he's going to react to the news. It's true, he might go to pieces, but on the other hand, he might come into his own. Your illness might be a rallying point for him, a time when he realises that he can't depend on you any more, and that now he has to be the strong one.

It may be that he will grow emotionally out of this experience, whatever the outcome, and the fact that he'll be needed now might, instead of reducing him to a heap, actually make him feel better about himself.

You have no idea until you tell him.

Obviously it would be best not to confide your wildest fears to him. Don't throw yourself sobbing at his feet. But it's no bad thing for a child of your son's age to see that a parent can be vulnerable on some occasions. There will probably be some point in his life, even if you live to a great age, that you will have to depend on him to some extent, and there is no "good time" for this to happen.

Tell him honestly what's going on at every stage and try to keep as calm as you can. If he wants to, let him come with you to see the doctors and have a chance to ask his own questions. Give him some control.

All this might be a lesson for him, not only in how to live, but also in how to face death, even if as of course I hope, it doesn't come to it.

Readers say…

Tell him gently

Sit your son down and gently tell him that you have cancer; he will want to support you – you may well discover he has hidden depths. Your son has friends so he is obviously highly regarded despite his depression. Perhaps approach one of his friends and ask him/her to be supportive. Make sure your financial affairs are in order but stress survival rates for cancer are high these days.

Marie T Hale

By email

He's an adult

Catrin, your son has legally been in the adult world since he was 18. It is time to treat him with maturity and inform him of your condition. We all have to come to terms with bad news of our loved ones; the sooner you tell him, the longer he will have to adjust to the situation. What a shock it would give him if you were rushed to hospital, or have to undergo debilitating therapies, and he was unprepared. You cannot protect your son for ever from life's realities. For him, it may put his own problems into perspective.

Sally

Oxfordshire

Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia,

I was very unhappy when my boyfriend of three years suddenly dropped me. It's taken me six months to get over him and I still don't feel I've recovered. I really thought we might get married. Now I've got a new boyfriend, whom I like a lot and who's very kind and considerate and we get on really well. In many ways he's a nicer person than my old boyfriend, but I still hanker after him.

My old boyfriend got in touch recently and said he'd made a terrible mistake and wanted to get back together. Do you think I should risk it? I feel so torn – I can't stop thinking about him!

Yours sincerely,

Moira

What would you advise Moira to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas@independent.co.uk, or go to independent.co.uk/dilemmas. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers (finewinesellers.co.uk).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
ebookAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Principle Geotechnical Engineer

    £55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Renewable Energy Construction Manager

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Senior Wind Energy Due Diligence Project Manager

    £50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Offshore Wind Project Engineer

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices