My 80-year-old father has undiagnosed dementia--we all know he has it, his doctor included--but he refuses to hear about it and pretends it isn't happening. He has leukaemia, for which he is being treated with low-dose chemo, and has now been diagnosed with a second lung cancer (the first one was decades ago). My fear is that this last lung cancer is treatable and that they will put him through another very invasive surgery and he will come back to my parents' home without a smidgen of quality of life left. He was hospitalized in 2009-10 and tolerated the process very, very badly and became even more confused. He is paranoid, violent, abusive, overly anxious, and he clings to life because he is terrified of death and of letting us go (he says--he thinks we couldn't survive without him, but we could, and when we tell him that, he doesn't believe us). Whereas in the past I was proactive, assertive, and capable, I have been weakened recently by being trapped in a building during a mass shooting. I've never quite recovered from the shock, and though I am functional, I am far more fragile than I used to be. I would like to be there for my parents, however toxic their marriage may be, but I find myself avoiding them as much as possible, as their brand of toxicity and dysfunction is very high. There are days now when I think I'll have a heart attack if I see them one more time. I dread having to face the doctors who, very soon, in a week or two, will tell us what--if anything--can be done about this last cancer. In the meantime, I'm so scared of the answers that I've made myself sick with severe GERD.

How does one protect oneself when one isn't strong enough to face more trauma?

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