Chapter 1: Exploring feelings while living with a serious diagnosis


I hope to see a beautiful sunrise tomorrow morning.

Feeling a sense of hope when life will be cut short can be challenging. Though none of us realistically hope to live forever, living with a life-limiting illness means redefining hope. There is always potential for hope, but sometimes the challenge is finding it. Hope tends to shift as illness progresses.

Family’s perspectivePatient’s perspective

Hope might be seen as something to maintain at all costs. There may be a fear that if hope is taken away the person will give up and die more quickly.

Sometimes well-meaning family members try to restrict information about the illness to maintain hope.

Hope for a cure may change to hope to live as long as possible.

Hope often centres on personal goals, such as wanting to live long enough to see a new grandchild or attend a family reunion.


While it is understandable why families may consider withholding difficult information from the person who is ill, that person is often aware of changes in their own body and is sensitive to it. The biggest drawback to withholding information is that the person who is ill may become more isolated and have nowhere to express fears and questions. The risk of isolating the patient far outweighs any benefit of the seemingly protective behaviour.