My father has cancer for the third time.
My father, age 69 was diagnosed with Stage IV throat cancer in February 2004. He received a full course of radiation and chemo and the radiation hurt his saliva glands making it hard for him to eat many foods.
For two and a half years afterward eating became more and more difficult.
In December of 2006, he was diagnosed with Stage IIIa lung cancer. The tumor was small but there was involvement of the lymph nodes. For this he received a full course of radiation and chemo, plus added clean-up chemos.
This took about 6 months total and he was declared free of the disease.
In December of 2007, just after Thanksgiving the presence of two tumors made themselves known in the form of a seizure. For this he received whole head radiation and Cyber knife treatment.
Since then, his energy level and ability to eat have degraded.
Three weeks ago, we received the bad news that the cancer in his lungs was back. I read the radiology report--multiple tumors in both lungs and in the lymph nodes on both sides and on the neck affecting the nerves in the his vocal cords, paralyzing one and his left eyelid which was droopy. His right lung is partly collapsed due to the tumors.
They recommended a chemo that sounds like Olympian or something like that. It is supposed to be a low side effect drug. But, since receiving it he has been unable to do much of anything for himself.
When we went the doc's 3 weeks ago, he was able to walk to my car from the building, a walk that is more than impossible now. He cannot walk even a few steps without becoming exhausted and out of breath.
His condition has declined rapidly and is still declining. He is on oxygen at night finally after we were able to get a prescription. And we have now begun to have some home care.
My husband and I went out and got him a power chair from Craigslist and my mother has been getting other things to facilitate his care in the home.
He is supposed to receive another dose of this chemo next week, but I am worried that it will kill him. But the alternative is not good either.
I wonder if it has affected the tumor growth some because his eyelid is no longer droopy and his voice sounds more like it used to. (When the vocal cord was paralyzed his voice was very high.)
I hadn't even thought about the eyelid until I started writing this.
I am not sure what to think. The way we finally got homecare and oxygen was to call Hospice. This brought in the question of whether or not the chemo is "curative" or palliative.
I don't know. And since he is present when we speak to the doctor, it is not a subject that I am comfortable bringing up. He is still fighting, but I am wondering and I can tell he is too, what we are fighting for. What kind of quality of life will he have, or can he have on this chemo.
It just seems to get worse and worse and not better.
I guess the proof would be in the tumors--if they are going away. But, from the way he is breathing, it doesn't sound like it.
My mother is losing her patience with caring for him, and I am going to try and see what we can do about getting him in-home care for 3 hours a day so that someone other than her can help him through the bedtime ritual.
He is also taking in less than 1000 calories a day, if that as he can only take liquids. Even taking pills is very painful for him.
I have not gotten involved in his care except for things like getting Kleenex, water, milk, etc. I try to work to give him as much dignity as I can. I don't think that my mother caring for him is good for their relationship because he is almost infantilized by what she needs to do for him.
They are both cranky.
I am seeing a counselor and he has told me that the stress can affect me physically. I am in constant pain, and am somewhat philosophical about the whole thing.
Before, the stereotypical cancer seemed to be diagnosis, treatment and then either survival or death.
This has been a roller coaster. Diagnosis, treatment, horrible side effects, survival, more diagnosis and on and on.
In the short period this year when he did not have the disease (as far as we knew) he became depressed, and worried that it would come back.
When it did come back, he turned into a fighter. But, I don't know now if it the disease that is pulling him down or the treatment.
A good friend of mine has told me not to lose hope, but I don't know if that is what I am doing, or just preparing myself for the inevitable.
I am patient with him (as I can be because I am not tired out like my mother) and I try to be quietly supportive.
My mother will start talking about something like altering the walker to fit through the bathroom door and he is sitting in his chair waiting for him to catch his breath so he can stand up. He will say "doesn't anyone care that I am dying here?!"
I say "I do."
I try to keep conversations about that stuff away from him because it agitates him that he has to be cared for so much by others. He doesn't want to hear about that stuff.
I haven't had a chance to read up on the site here yet. But, I thought I would start by posting.
I have a question to add...
I wonder if anyone has any experience with this. I just read another post where the person said that they were diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer 2 years ago and were still doing well and that you have to fight.
So, here is what I am wondering.
Since my father is so very weak, would it be to his benefit to have a feeding tube? This way, he wouldn't have to take anything by mouth.
I just wonder if maybe for the duration of this chemo that if he had things to help bolster him that once the chemo had a chance to work on the tumors that it would lead to a better quality of life for him.
One of the problems is that things like getting a feeding tube or even a hospital bed tend to signal a dependance that will be ongoing and so he resists it.
So, if anyone has any experience with this. If we could get him on a morphine drip (he shuns morphine, but isn't oxycontin practically the same thing?) and a feeding tube, then he could rest better and regain some strength.
I am afraid that this chemo in addition to the cancer is leaving him vulnerable. If he were to get some kind of infection on top of this, I don't think he could survive it.
Hi Kim. I am very sorry about your father's cancer. I know how hard it is to take care of someone with cancer: I was the primary care provider for both my mother and father during their last months of life... including helping with baths. I too tried to tread them with dignity as you are with your father. It is the role reversal that is so hard. We become the "parent" and they the "child" in the relationship. It sounds like you are a very loving person.
Your mother need support too. It sounds like she is at about the end of her rope. It is good that she is going to have some help but she also need some time away from the house. Often, getting away is not easy for a spouse to do because it feels like they are abandoning their partner. But time away, even if it is just 4 hours a week, is necessary for her own mental heath and, in the long run, for her ability to care for your father.
As for the feeding tube question... That is a very difficult decision that only your father can make. I can certainly see both sides of the issue. On one side, if he does not get enough nutrition, he will grow weaker and less able to tolerate the chemo and/or radiation. On the other side, it might be harder to discontinue the feeding tube if at some point he is no longer benefiting from it. The decision to discontinue the use of a feeding tube is often harder on a family than the decision to start.
You and your father are in my thoughts and prayers.
Just a note to let you know you are in my thoughts and prayers.
I too am a caregiver who is on the roller coaster of caring for an elderly parent with cancer.
It is not easy and a day by day decison making journey.
You are not alone. stay posted here and you will receive the encouragement you need.
There are just wonderful people here who care so much.
My Mother was diagnosed with NSCLC Stage 4 diagnosed April 2008 - Been through 4 lines of Chemotherapy Treatment and Tarceva. Mom went to be with Jesus on Monday May 26, 2014.... She was 90 years old. She passed away peacefully and quietly in her home....we are so thankful for every moment we had her....