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Cancer Care Chronicles
April 18, 2019

Communication About Death and Dying—Three Little Words

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of Rochester, Rochester, New York
JAMA Oncol. 2019;5(6):777-778. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.0410

The three hardest words I ever had to say were “Dad. She’s gone.”

To fully understand the magnitude of those words one would have to travel back 11 years. I was 17 years old and my mother was 55 years old when she had a cholecystectomy that became a bowel resection and a cancer diagnosis. My mother tried her best to explain; it was cancer but not cancer—something slow-growing and not aggressive, but based on the results of lymph node biopsy specimens, it had already spread and was not curable. She had a rare cancer—carcinoid.