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Thread: How do you know when the end is near?

  1. #1

    How do you know when the end is near?

    My 61 year old father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer on August 17. He has a large left-sided pleural effusion and a very large mass in his left lower lob and left hilum (size 12.4). He also has a 1 cm nodule in the left upper lobe and three nodules around 1.1 cm in his right lung.

    Since being diagnosed, he had three weeks of radiation but was told last week by the radiation oncologist that there is nothing more he can do for him...my father had massive radiation two years ago when he was diagnosed with jaw cancer and had a full resection of his jaw and mouth.

    His doctors suggested trying chemo but told us that they can make no guarantees...they have given him 3-6 months to live.

    In just a few weeks,I've seen my father fail so quickly. He sleeps more than he is awake, has trouble going to the bathroom, sweats like crazy, and has such severe pain that a combination of morphine and vicadine doesn't even help anymore.

    Several times he has struggled to get his breath and he appears to be burning up (hot to the touch) but his temperature when taken is normal.

    He has had his lung drained once and most likely will need to have a permanent catheter put in when we go back to the Univ. of PA at the end of October.

    Has anyone experienced this with their parent or themself? Is it worth my father taking the chemo or should he just enjoy what he has left of his life?

    Also, how do you know when your parent is ready to die? My father mentioned this weekend that he thinks he has less than a month left because he feels horrible inside...he doesn't know what the doctors mentioned since we did not tell him. Is he ready? Do you think you can tell when you are about to die?

    I have so many emotions in me that I feel like I could burst. My father is my best friend and I'm not ready to loose him but I don't want to push him to fight if it isn't going to bring him a quality of life.

    The man I look at today is not the man I know. My father was a strong man who could fight anything...and now he is failing in front of my eyes.

    How do you know when the end is near?

  2. #2
    New User
    Join Date
    Oct 2006

    Hello My name is Tonya

    I am going through a similar situation, My husband of 40 now was diagnosed 3 years ago with a tumor on his mandible, he went through a 23 hour surgery to reconstruct his face and neck. Since then last year it showed up in both his lungs he has had 3 lung surgeries in the last year. Recently it showed back up in both his lungs and the cannot do surgery now because of how much there is but we are doing chemo and it is hard but the effects arent too bad for my husband right now there only going to do 2 treatments and then retest him again and see if its slowing it down. If its not they say theres nothing else they can do so I am like you im here to listen and help but im clueless of what to expect. They told us they cant stop this now but can try to slow it down some, they told us to get our arrangements in order but havent gave us a time frame or nothing so I dont sleep or anything wondering if today is the last day or if he is going to quit breathing. If anyone can help us know what to expect and about how long were looking at please let me know. They say now he has Stage V lung cancer. I thought I understood this disease after dealing with it for over 3 years but this disease has no concious and a mind of its own. My husbands left lung has already collapsed. Thanks for reading and god bless

  3. #3

    when the end is near

    I just lost my dad at the end of July. He was diagnosed with stage iv lung cancer July 10 and died July 26.
    After what I experienced, if radiation is done and chemo will only prolong things. Remember to think of who your dad really is, think of the dad you really love, not the body you see.
    My dad only had radiation to relieve the pain he was in as nothing else worked and it did give him releif.
    But we made decisions as a family. My dad made it really clear he did not want to lay there in that bed and be sick.
    Most of all remember the days are numbered. Love him, hold his hand, talk about all the wonderful times. Be grateful for being able to get a glass of water or read the newspaper to him. These times right now are the most precious you have, and these memories will stay with you for a while.
    We had a day of goodbyes, while he was able. It was really important to him to be able to say he loved us - to hold my son all 6'4" to hold me to his chest and say he loved me that he sorry I had a long road ahead. I hope it was important to hear me say that I loved him and the road wasn't going to be too bad because he was always going to be there helping me, guiding me and making me strong.
    I guess I can't stress enough make the most of this time, make him comfortable. If chemo is that answer then its right. Always remember the decisions made now are right, no regrets later.
    I will pray for you that the answers come, that you are able to find each day you are able to see and care for him a blessing.

  4. #4

    What else can go wrong?

    The last time I wrote was back in October when my Dad, a Stage IV Lung Cancer patient, was making the decision whether or not to try chemo for pallitative reasons.

    He did decide to go through with it but we have had nothing but complications. First, his white blood cells were low and we had to give him daily shots, then he had to have a blood transfusion because his red blood cell count was extremely low, and next, he had another blood transfusion but this time for platlets.

    On top of all of this, he has developed a bad case of gout in both ankles and behind his knees, making it hard to walk.

    He has lost more than 20 lbs in the past two months and is now taking a special pill (marijuana) to give him the munchies to gain weight.

    From all of the medications he is on (morphine, vicodin, blood pressure, the special weight gain pill, etc.) he is hallucinating and seeing things that aren't really there.

    Finally, he is talking alot about dying - getting his marine corp uniform ready for his burial and saying he will only be with us a few more weeks (even though his doctors gave him up to six months...which would bring us into next year).

    Are all these things supposed to be happening? Has anyone gone through this? Could this be the start of dying? Or just bad effects to Chemo?

    We are so scared and so angry...why is this happening, my dad just turned 61 - he is too young to die.

  5. #5
    Experienced User
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    I am so sorry to hear about all of the cases of lung cancer. I lost my twin sister on June 11, 2005. She found out she had lung cancer only 1 1/2 months before her death. They told her chemo would not help, but they did suggest radiation for the mets in the brain. She chose no radiation. She said she wanted to know her children and grandchildren when she died. One lung had filled with fluid. The family called me out and I flew out. I got to spend one week with her and she was gone. I set up day and night with her. She had trouble sleeping. My prayers are with all of you during your time of decisions. Do talk with your loved one and let them know your feelings. It helps you and helps them also. A loved one dying is never easy. Enjoy all the time you can with your loved one while you can. God be with all of you.

  6. #6
    I can completely relate to the things I've read here. My Dad has an odd swelling to his left shoulder, felt fine otherwise. He went to the Dr. who sent him for a CAT scan the next day and a surgeon the next. It just got continually worse from there. The surgeon told us after he removed a portion for a biopsy that it was Malignant and they would know more from the pathology report and several more tests. Now, a week later, we find out it evidentally started in the lungs and is now in the Lymphnodes, the adrenal gland, his right hip and femur. They have told us he as a maximum of 8-10 months with Chemo and 3-4 without. We are so devastated! It is so shocking, because he hasn't been ill or anything and to look at him and think I'm going to lose him so very soon, that this will be my last Christmas with him and I had my last Thanksgiving with him and didn't even know it...it's awful. He appears to have a great attitude about it, he keeps saying he's going to still be around 5 years from now and prove everyone wrong. I hope and pray he's right, but I know he's probably experiencing some denial, as well as still trying to be strong for us. He starts Chemo tomorrow and Radiation will soon follow for the hip/leg. It sounds like from all of the side effects and things I've read here, he's going to start going downhill fast. It makes me really wonder if he should even do it. He's weak right now, but at least he's not miserable. I don't know if I can bear to watch my Dad go through all this. I can't even talk about it or write this without sobbing. It is the most awful thing, he is only 61 years old...Good luck to all of you and God Bless, my prayers will be with you.

  7. #7
    Regular User
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Salem, Oregon

    The side effects of treatment are scary, but not everyone experiences them and if your dad is prepared to fight who knows what might happen? It sounds like he has a good attitude and that is really a big part of the battle. My dad had chemo and radiation. Then a year later, radiation to the brain and now he has had to start chemo again due to a reoccurence of the lung cancer. However, through all of this he has wanted to fight it and has barely had any side effects and has so far surprised his doctors by still being around and alert. He is 79. The one big problem we have battled 2-3 times over the last year was eating, and the only thing that helped with that were steriods. Nutrition is a big part of healing and when he stopped eating each time, he got weak so fast, we thought we were losing him. His cancer was caught early and I know that most of the stories are that this disease takes people quickly and we have been very blessed, however, there are some that can hang on longer and still have a decent quality of life. My dad is still dad, ornery as ever.

    Prayers to you and your family,
    Salem, OR

  8. #8
    Hi Mrinn

    You mentioned that your dad was/is on morphine, this can cause hallucinations in some patients, so it might not have anything to do with the special pill, but morphine, there is an alternative, my nan who is in the last few days of life now was also taking morphine, but she has a thing against tablets so had it in medicine form, because of the problems she had she was then given oxynorm, ask the macmillan nurses or district nurses about the best time to give medicines as some interact and also ask about alternatives to morphine. At the end you will know what is the best thing to do, you will have many decisions to make the drs and nurses around can only give you their advice as to what they feel is best but you will know and if you feel you want more from them then ask.

    I hope you find a way of coping, spend what time you have being there.

  9. #9
    New User
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA
    Hi Mrinn,

    My mom was also told by the radiation oncologist after 3 weeks of radiation they couldn't do anymore.

    But stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer is my mom's primary cancer. Not sure if that makes a difference.

    She started her treatment this past August and received 3 weeks of radiation and chemo at the same time. Then they scheduled her for 6 cycles of chemo (cisplatin and taxotere) but they stopped after 4 because my mom got really sick.. pneumonia, bladder infection, sepsis.. harsh stuff. She had to be hospitalized for about a week after each chemo with strong antibiotics which caused a chain reaction of other symptoms. c diff and oral thrush.

    She finished her chemo the 3rd week of November and we spent Thanksgiving at the hospital. She is only getting Avastin now. We're looking good to spend Christmas at home.

    She is also warm to touch but the thermometer says normal. She had a problem urinating and she had a catheter early on. Her urologist said it was caused from weakness caused by the pneumonia. She is urinating on her own now. She sweats from the slightest effort of doing anything physical. She has a problem with her blood pressure where it drops when she stands. So she is kind of wobbly but she stopped using the wheelchair about 2 weeks ago. She lost about 25 pounds but gained 10 back.

    I wanted to mention that my mom stop taking pain pills - oxycotin. Her pain is primarily in her feet from neurapathy(nerve pain). She is using a Fentanyl pain patch that she changes every 72hours. I recommend it.

    Hope this helps,

  10. #10
    Thanks so much to all of you and your kind words and thoughts. My Dad started his Chemo about a week ago and did great at first, no illness at all, but now approximately 4-5 days later he vomits every time he eats and is so weak he just lies down most of the time. It's Christmas Eve and my family and I are trying to make the most of it, knowing it could be our last Christmas with my Dad. It's just so hard, I don't know how to even begin to cope, I can't do anything without having to stop and cry. It's just now fair and I feel so bad for my Dad, I don't want to see him suffer, it's so not like him to be so sick.

    God bless you and yours, please keep us in your prayers and know that you'll be in ours.



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