Hello -- My brother was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic and liver cancer two weeks ago. He is 61 years old. The cancer has also spread to the small bowel and is not operable.
This fine man went from NO symptoms and feeling great to a horrible diagnosis that virtually gives him no chance for survival. The doctors told him 6 months.
He has had an internal stent inserted to drain off the bile. An external stent was used for a while but was capped off when things looked better. Things are not looking better now. His jaundice has returned, he is hiccupping constantly and is off his food.
I drove 1,000 miles last weekend to visit with him and we had a fine time. Since I left he won't get out of bed, is taking all the morphine pills they've given him and is not eating.
He was scheduled to begin chemo yesterday but the return of the jaundice postponed it for now.
I've just found this forum and I've read all your stories. They touched me deeply but did not give me any hope. I wept over most of them, thinking of the road ahead for my brother.
He has a lovely wife and two grown children, the younger of whom just graduated from college and has begun a brand new career job. The family is devastated at the diagnosis but has no idea what's to come.
I'd like to recommend this forum to them but won't, at least not for now. Far too sad, too hopeless, too real.
I am writing just to share my despair not to change whatever will be. Thanks for listening.
Thanks to everyone who posted replies to my original post. You have no idea how comforting it feels to know that there are others who know about this terrible disease and how quickly it strikes.
My brother's jaundice has returned and he is hiccupping constantly. He was scheduled to have chemo this week but docs postponed it until the jaundice is under control.
From what I've read here in this forum, I wish he would never have chemo. Still, I am only his sister, not his wife or children, and that decision must rest with him, his immediate family and his doctors.
I have told him to wait, to see how he feels. I am hoping that his days pass without agony and I think the chemo will add stress as well as pain. Am I right?
I am sorry to hear of your brother's diagnosis. The decisions you have ahead of you will not be easy. Both roads have pros and cons. I have asked myself many times if I would have done things differently with my father. I am confident that I would choose medical science each time. It offered us hope and chance. When we were dealing with pancreatic cancer, hope and chance were signifigant in helping us cope and accept what was happening.
I lost my big brother in March this year, he had just turned 59. Of the 3 of us, he was the healthiest, kept active, was slim and had not eaten any junk food since he got married 35 years ago. The disease came out of the blue last summer (2005), when he became jaundiced and they tested him for hepatitis. However, as the weeks went by, it became obvious it was something much more serious and, eventually, we got the diagnosis. He had a stent put in, but it kept getting infected, resulting in fevers and trips to hospital, which were unpleasant for him to say the least. Because the tumour was wrapped around a blood vessel, they couldn't operate, so offered him chemo on the premis of operating if it shrank, but really it was just to keep it at bay, we found out later. At that point they said his chances of living a year were only 50-50, but he lived in hope and I dont think he really thought at that point that he was going to die. How could he, when he had done everything right to stay fit and healthy?
Just after Christmas he started to look thinner and had slowed down a lot, but in February he suddenly went downhill and had to go back into hospital. Within less than a fortnight he had gone. I won't go into the details, but it was a horrible way for him to die, and more so for his family to watch him go through it.
I cannot give you any words of comfort for your pain, except that, physically, I don't think my brother suffered too much, as he was kept on strong medication, but he did say a week before he died that he wanted it to end, which made it even worse. Eventually, when death came, it was a blessed release, for him and for us.
An old man in the same ward was contemplating having an operation, I wanted to tell him to forget the op and spend some quality time with his family, because it would kill him eventually, but of course where there is life there is hope, and I know some lucky sufferers do survive.
Eight months down the line, I think I am only just beginning to grieve, as the shock of his illness and death was so severe (even though I did not realise this earlier). It is much easier to put it out of your mind and not think about it at all, but lately I have forced myself to remember and it has not been easy.
God Bless my brother, and yours and all those who have suffered, and are now suffering from this, and other cancers. And God Bless all those families whose lives have been blighted by this terrible disease.
Our entire family of 20 adults and one 4-year-old sweetheart will travel to Pennsylvania next week to spend Thanksgiving with my brother, his wife, his children. We will give him the best Thanksgiving of his life!
Thank you so very much for your tender words over the past several weeks. Your postings have been to and for ME and they have been kind and gentle. For that I am so appreciative. You have told me the truth, however painful. I know now that unless there is Divine intervention here, my brother will leave us soon.
Since the diagnosis several weeks ago, he has lost 54 pounds. He has had two IV rounds of chemo plus a weekly tablet. Still he continues to lose weight and ground. He is in good spirits despite what he knows now to be the certain outcome.
We will eat turkey together next week, we will play gin rummy, marathon family poker games and Scrabble. He will have his own cherry pie -- if he can keep a bite down.
I believe it is finally time for him and me to talk quietly together about the days ahead and about what our lives through the years have meant to each other. It will be hard for both of us since he was diagnosed one year to the day that we buried our mother. We thought that with her passing we'd have a little time to do what we wanted with our own lives and to say what was on our minds. Maybe we can, maybe we'll just have tears with long pauses.
I'm sure I'm not making much sense here but I know you'll understand that I'm very conflicted about time, about emotion, about conversations and in what direction they go. I want to speak to him from the heart and hope I won't cry, but I'm very sad. I guess it's OK that he know it.
I said yesterday to a friend of mine: "It's not about me, it's about him!" And she said: "You're wrong...Death IS about the living, after all."
Hello again Big Sister,
If your brother has lost so much weight in such a short time it does seem to point to the beginning of the end, although he may surprise you and rally.
I would not presume to tell you how to talk to him, except to say that it is not the time for unburdening one's soul, or guilt. I say this from experience - sadly, I was not as close to my brother as you sound to yours and there had been things said between us over the years. Ironically, we were getting on better than ever when the illness struck him down, which seems even more cruel (for me, at least). There were so many things I wanted to say to him, to be understood but, after consideration, I did not think it appropriate and so I just told him I loved him and he said he loved me which, in itself, was a real breakthrough. It was more a case of being there and trying to stay strong while his family fell apart around him and, after he died I had the added stress of having to organise his funeral. It was better for me at the time, because I was in control but, afterwards, when everyone else was spent from crying, I found I had not even begun. So I see this forum as being very cathartic.
My best wishes to you and your family, hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving together, and maybe he will still be with you to celebrate Christmas as well.