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New Here! Anxious To Find Ideas To Help My Elderly Mom

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Old 12-25-2006, 08:17 PM   #1
Jerry 52
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Jerry 52 HB User
Question New Here! Anxious To Find Ideas To Help My Elderly Mom


I have a few questions about my mother's health.

She is 80 and until two years ago was in reasonably good health, except for allergies and glaucoma. She was self-sufficient.

For the past two years she has had increased muscle pain and immobility- severe trouble walking. She's been chairbound.

In late June of this year, after going to bed, she started hemorraging from the vagina; it was severe.

Previously over the past 15 years she's had other vaginal bleeding episodes, though not as severe, and had considered it fibroids.

The blood loss left her very anemic, and her hemoglobin count dropped to 7.8. Subsequently she received two units of blood transfused. Currently without more transfusions, her hemoglobin reading is just above 10.

The pain could be severe arthritis, fed by her immobility, and by the fact we reside in a steamy Southern climate. Or it could be metastastic cancer.

During this hospital stay, the family doctor turned her case over to an OB/GYN who did an ultrasound and subsequently a scraping for a tissue sample from the uterus.

The result has been a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma of the uterus.The family doctor put her on 80 mg, twice daily, of megestrol acetate, a synthetic progesterone for the cancer that should also act as an appetite stimulant.

By virtue of the fact that she has had female bleeding over the years previously, is there any slim chance that their lab work is wrong and it might be fibroids (benign) after all?

Could the severe arthritis she has experienced, which might account for her excruciating neck and back pain, possibly be related to this heavy uterine bleeding episode?

Two months later, in mid-September, she fell at home, breaking her left hip and arm. The hip was surgically repaired and arm was left in a sling to heal.

She is just about to come home again after over three months in rehabilitation, learning to walk again. However she is still in great pain, taking oxycodone every four hours, and not walking very much at all, certainly not at all without a walker and someone right there to steady her.

Since she fell, she has needed oxygen. She never needed it before. The oxygen setting on the machine is at about 2 and a half.

X-Rays then in September showed nothing wrong with the lungs, but because she almost fell in the rehab center (her fall was broken by an aide) about ten days ago, fresh Xrays were just taken.

The family doctor just called with the troubling news that the xrays of the lungs now show several spots, which he thinks are the cancer of the uterus metasticized to the lungs. He suggests a CatScan to rule out "a weird infection" but he's pretty sure it's cancer, based on the X-rays.

If it is cancer he suggests a cancer hormone such as "Tomoxifen" but says she should consult an oncologist because he's not familiar with dosing. I suppose this is essentially chemotherapy?

She's 80 and I don't know how well she'll tolerate it.

He says without treatment she might only have a couple of months but possibly the Tomoxifen might buy a few months. He also suggested she enter a hospice program, they would monitor her and pay for any drugs. She could receive hospice care at home.

At this point she wants to come home, and is afraid of other tests or taking cancer drugs. I think the "terminal" nature of hospice would scare and demoralize her.

Further he says the xrays indicate severe osteoporosis of the spine and that the arm, while not broken again, really isn't healing. Just about three weeks ago the surgeon took xrays of the arm and found it improved enough to authorize full weight bearing in physical therapy.

The family doctor now advises maybe she shouldn't do physical therapy, it might be too hard on her soft brittle to walking she can only if she wants to. She's in a lot of pain and on oxycodone presently. The doctor is suggesting combining that with a long-acting pain patch, but I've heard concerns about their safety. I asked him about the pain patch and safety, and he as much as said that at this point it doesn't matter!

This family doctor also said her blood work looked OK and there was no cancer reported in the pathology of the hip from the surgery.

Spots on the xray where there were none in September, but she was starting to need oxygen full-time then in September...?

Could these spots be other than cancer? She seemed to come down with a virus about three weeks ago that was going through the rehab center- she had a slight fever and a sour stomach, with some shortness of breath.

I've also wondered if possibly any of her medications, including to regulate her heart beat and for blood pressure, might have a side effect of leaving "spots" on her lungs?

If it is lung cancer just how dangerous would Tomoxifen be?

Are there any alternative safer treatments either from conventional medicine or from the holistic world that might help? She has never smoked.

Your responses will be appreciated and gratefully considered.

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Old 12-26-2006, 12:46 PM   #2
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Re: New Here! Anxious To Find Ideas To Help My Elderly Mom


Welcome to the board!

May I say that your mother is very forunate to have an advocate that cares like you do. My grandma is 82 and just had quad-bypass about 8 months ago. However her problems didn't really manifest until after she broke her hip and was down for awhile. I have noticed that when ederly people become immobilzed, other problems surface. Perhaps the interuption of diet and exercise cause vulnerability. Not sure.

As for your mom (and my grandma) I think it is a question of "quanity vs. qaulity". My grandma's heart surgeon wants to perform some other proceedures, but she is not sure she wants to go through with any more. Being over 80, we have had "quantity" and her condition will never improve, all that we can gain by spending more time in the hospital is "more time". So our goal (my uncle's) is to make her as comfortable as possible. Try to bring as much joy and happiness by allowing her to spend the days, months or perhaps years with her family and not in a hospital.

Having said that, my wife (43) has stage 4 nsclc (lung cancer) which is considered non-curable. Our onc told us that he gives the same chemo she is getting to people in their 80's (carboplatin & gemcitabine). These drugs are not given with the intent to cure, but to improve the quality as well as the quanity of life. Sometimes I question the "quality", but when you have young children like we do, time is important as well. And time may be an issue for your mom as well.

I am not familiar with the hormone you spoke of, but stick around as there are many here who may know. I'm not sure that anyone here can say what exactly you should do, but generally speaking I would see an oncologist for a consultation. As a general rule, it is probably assumed cancer until proven otherwise ...most likely by biopsy.

You used the world "holistic" in your post and I would stay along that line of thinking. Cancer drugs and meds may relieve symtoms, but just as important, you want monitor your mom's emotional and spiritual needs. I think ederly people sometimes struggle in finding a purpose to carry. They need to know they are loved and are needed. I often call my grandma and ask her how to make a certian dish (since I recently became head chef at home) ...even tho I can find a recipie that would do. It really makes her day. She even calls me back to see how I did.

That was alot of rambling, I just hope something said is helpful.


Old 12-26-2006, 02:35 PM   #3
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Janmarie2 HB User
Re: New Here! Anxious To Find Ideas To Help My Elderly Mom

Jerry, First I am very sorry to hear about your mom.It is really difficult to watch our parents get older and develope heath problems.

My mom found out she had stage IV NSCLC hers was an adenocarcinoma when she was 80.She developed a pleural effusion in June 2004 which lead to us finding out about the lung cancer. She battled hard for about 2.5 yrs but Nov. 25 she lost that battle at the age of 82.

My mom had no other health issues and people thought she was younger then she was, heck until all this chemo she even still had all of her own teeth!Her oncologist seemed to feel that she may be better off not doing any chemo because of her age yet weird enough when she decided to call it quits with the chemo in Oct 2006 that same oncologist had a more difficult time accepting that then any of us did. When she met him,my mom saw what he said about not doing chemo at her age as a challenge and decided to show him how wrong he was thinking that just because of her age.

My mom did as well with the chemo as young people do.In many cases she did better then alot of the much younger people on this board. In many ways she was very blessed in her battle as while the chemo did leave her fatigued which she hated, she did not feel sick from it or was she in any pain until right near the end when she started having severe back pain off and on.

She did develope a very bad pneumonia and urinary tract infection after her first line chemo and if it had not been for my pushing the doctors for tests she would have died from that as they wanted to write off the way she was feeling to the cancer when it was infection instead. She got a nice chemo break when for 2nd line treatment they started her on Irressa and the next month switched it to Tarceva. She had a very good year and 1/2 thanks to the Tarceva and lived a normal life during that period before she started having increasing fatigue from chemo again. Tarceva is not really chemo but is a biological drug and it worked wonders on her as it wiped the cancer out of her lungs and when she died she still had no cancer in her lungs. From the very beginning of her journey she had liver mets and it is the liver mets that lead to more chemo and eventually her decision to stop chemo. The 4th line treatment left her so weak and fatigued that she decided the chemo would kill her before the cancer did.

From what I am reading your mom has uterine cancer and they feel what they are seeing in her lungs is metasticized from there? If that is true you are not dealing with lung cancer you are dealing with uterine cancer so the treatment may be quite different then what others here that have lung cancer had.( the cancer in my mom's liver was not liver cancer it was lung cancer as it had spread from the lungs so it was treated with chemo for lung cancer not liver cancer).

From your saying they want to use Tomoxifin I guess like some breast and ovarian cancers uterine is hormone driven ( which some lung cancers may be too) and with those cancers Tomoxifin usually can help. I don't really know what biological drugs are being used in uterine cancers but you might want to do some research in that area.

I think the most important thing I can tell you is never loose sight that it is your mom's life, her cancer, her body so she is the one that has to deal with any side effects of any treatment so all decisions should be hers. Yes advise her and discuss them with her but the final say belongs to her.You have to be willing to accept her decisions even if you do not agree with her as at the end you do not want her angry and resentful that you made her do a treatment or something she did not want to and she as a result suffered from it.

Alot of people her age accept death as they know we do not live forever and they feel they have had a good long life. A few weeks before my mom died she told me how much she loved all of us and didn't want to leave us but she knew it was time and she prayed the good lord would come take her as she did not want to continue living a life where she had no energy to do anything.

It became quality verses quanity which makes sense to me. Brings to mind a line a song that says " I wish it had been easier instead of being longer" .

I hope your mom has a CT done also a PET scan and bone scan to see how much the cancer has spread. Her back and neck pain could be mets to the spine and no an Xray is not good enough to pick up on that.

Wish I could be of more help to you about treatment but If it is mets from the uterus it is a different beast then what we dealt with. I do know how you must be feeling as those feelings from the first few months of my mom's battle were so intense and strong. I do not think I will ever forget them. Good thing that as time goes on we adjust. Life does not go back to normal but the emotions calm down and we cope the best we can and in the end I think most would agree with me that while there is great sorrow there is also a strong sense of relief as our loved one will never have to battle cancer again and their spirits can continue in a painfree peaceful world.My prayers go out to you, your mom and family. JanMarie

Last edited by Janmarie2; 12-26-2006 at 02:38 PM.

Old 12-26-2006, 08:21 PM   #4
Jerry 52
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Location: Northwest AR USA
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Re: New Here! Anxious To Find Ideas To Help My Elderly Mom

To Both Conan & JanMarie,

Many thanks for both of your heart-felt thoughtful replies. They both contained much good advice.

Sometimes good advice is hard to accept when you only want your own loved one to get better, but the reality is different.

JanMarie, I guess you and I must learn to accept. Your mom lived to 82, my mom is in bad shape but is 80, and was in good shape until 78. So each of them can be said to have lived full lives.

I know I've tried to be a good son and am sure you were a good daughter.

I guess I really feel bad for you, Conan, with your wife sickly in this way at the relatively tender age of 43- and with children. I certainly hope that she can find answers and hope- it would seem that she definitely has age in her favor (heck! I'm almost ten years older myself) but cancer is cruel and vicious.

So thanks for your kindness in sharing with me while you're going through your own turmoil. And JanMarie, I know that offering the insight probably opened old wounds for you. I thank you for suffering to help me!

Best wishes to all of us for a happier 2007!


Old 12-27-2006, 11:05 AM   #5
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Re: New Here! Anxious To Find Ideas To Help My Elderly Mom

Jerry, You are wrong in that coming here and sharing does not open old wounds but instead it leads to healing those wounds.I had a very good teacher when I was young. My dad's sister who made us all call her Aunt Fantastic lost her husband to Lung Cancer when he was in his 30's and they had 3 small kids all under the age of 10.She also had a half finished home her husband had been building. Life handed Fantastic a huge basket of lemons but she not only decided to make lemon aide but lemon pie as well.

That woman picked herself up went back to college and got a teaching degree and she was one of those teachers that loved her job and the kids all loved her. When her oldest son got to be a teenager he and her finished the house. Best of all she found comfort in helping the families of others that had a family member with cancer. It seemed when anyone she knew learned of someone being told they had cancer they would connect them with Fantastic and she was there to help them deal with it even when often it was just to listen.

As a small child I saw this and I guess I learned an important lesson in life.Aunt Fantastic had a wonderful life despite it all.She was a woman that really enjoyed life. About 8 yrs ago she developed pancreatic cancer and refused any treatment as it would not be a cure. She used her time instead to sell her house and get all of her affairs in order so that her 3 kids all adults would not have to deal with it as I think she knew how difficult it was going to be for them to loose their 2nd parent.

Anyway I think I learned from her that sharing our lifes difficult stories is healing as it may help one other person and by doing so it gives what we have been through some value. I could sit here and cry 'Why me ?Why my mom?" But I already know the answer and it is because this is life. Or I can reach out and try to help someone else down this difficult road and inturn maybe lead them to a better path. I know some have learned about Tarceva from me and have had good results and others have caught early infectiuons the doctors missed by reading my stories about my mom. So to me this is the best place in the world to come heal.So please do not worry about opening old wounds as if something makes me sad as I type it and I cry there is healing in that too. Tears help wash away the pain.

I can tell you are a good son to your mom and she is blessed and no doubt proud of that. An old friend of my mom's told me how proud my mom was of all her children and hearing that meant the world to me. I will continue to pray for your mom, please let us know how she is doing . JanMarie

Last edited by Janmarie2; 12-27-2006 at 11:11 AM.

Old 01-13-2007, 08:31 PM   #6
Jerry 52
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Northwest AR USA
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Re: New Here! Anxious To Find Ideas To Help My Elderly Mom


I just needed to leave an unfortunate update...

In the lonely overnight hours of Thursday January 11th, my mother Dorothy, 80, slipped in her sleep to her eternal reward, at a hospice inpatient home.

Although I regret that I was asleep (just five feet from her) when she passed, I was with her every step of the way, her sole caregiver for the last two years. The last year in particular, she was critically ill.

Finally, metasticized uterine cancer to the lung (with only 20 percent lung capacity left) and a shut-down of her kidneys, claimed her special life. She was on a "Bi-pap" ventilator machine at the time of passing, and amazed her family doctor that she lived as long as she did. She was basically unable to swallow, eat or drink for the last five days.

Maybe at 52, I'm being too melodramatic about things, but I'm convinced that she held on extra time just out of concern for me; she wasn't just my mother, but my very best friend.

Although I never murdered anyone was never in prison never did drugs, etc. I was also a bit of a dreamer and a bit lazy. She always believed so strongly in my writing ability, but I've never mqade much use of it. I suppose I'm the quintessential "ship without a rudder" but a piece of her still lives on in me (we always are the product both biologically and in spirit of our parents) so whatever I do in the future will still be in tribute to my upbringing.

A great Christian lady, I have every confidence that she went straight to heaven, having suffered at least two years of Purgatory here on earth.

Just two years ago at 78, she looked so young that people frequently thought we were brother and sister instead of son and mother!

She loved American country antique furniture, early French and German antique dolls, pets, and helping stray homeless animals, among other interests of an active, inquisitive mind.

But above it all and just under her love of God was her selfless love for me. She bypassed many pleasures she could have earned from her 26-year career to provide for me.

Most significantly in a contemporary world where families can be no more than strangers under a common roof, she ALWAYS provided love and made our middle-class house a first-class HOME.

Although now I must cope with loneliness and no-one to talk to sometimes and carry on with administrative details to settle her affairs, at least I can be at peace to know that her excruciating suffering is over, and that even if I never gave her as much as I wanted, in the end I could give her my presence as my best present.

We also had the blessing of a very emotional, very articulate, very heartfelt goodbye. She was definitely able to hear me (I could tell by eye contact and a firm squeeze of my hand) during most of the week-long final phase of her illness; how sad when instant violent death happens such as in ill-advised war or a car crash, and proper goodbyes aren't possible.

The rosary and funeral Mass will be this Monday.

Maybe once the dust settles, I'll possibly try to scrape enough together for a special trip to energize my mind and spirit, which are tired and crushed. Ideally, possibly to Australia because I'm fascinated by its vastness and remote location, or Brazil, because I think Brazilian women- and Asian women and Scandinavian women- are the most beautiful in all the world.

Then again, maybe I should visit the land of my ancestry, Ireland. After all, my old-fashioned mom always chided me "to marry a good Irish Catholic girl!" That's my unique mother, and I hope I left no doubt she'll be missed.

Once more, thanks for your support during this incredibly trying time.


Old 01-14-2007, 08:27 AM   #7
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rockie HB User
Re: New Here! Anxious To Find Ideas To Help My Elderly Mom

Jerry, I am so very sorry and you have my heart-felt simpathy. I know the relief you speak of when you know your loved one is no longer in that excruciating pain that wracks their body hour after hour. Heaven is a beautiful place filled with our beautiful people and I know one day we will reunite with them. Get much needed rest and let your soul heal. You have done well and your mom is proudly looking down on you with a smile and a thank you.

Take care and come by as you need.


Old 01-17-2007, 07:53 PM   #8
Jerry 52
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Jerry 52 HB User
Re: New Here! Anxious To Find Ideas To Help My Elderly Mom

Thanks for your reply, Jan. I just have to take it a little at a time. The funeral was Monday, a concelebrated Mass attended by maybe 40. Since my mom was a private person and the weather dismal, that was good attendance and it was a moving, healing service commending my mom's soul to heaven.


Old 01-17-2007, 10:29 PM   #9
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Janmarie2 HB User
Re: New Here! Anxious To Find Ideas To Help My Elderly Mom

Jerry. I am so sorry to hear about your mom. I know you will miss her as I miss my mom but she will live on in your heart. Your mom put up a good battle as did mine and now they will suffer no more which is a blessing. If there are animals in heaven my mom and yours are probably tending to them. We joke about the stampede of past pets that must have met my mom at the rainbow bridge! Your mom sounds alot like my mom . I am sure many people will miss her as she sounds like a great lady.

She may have waited for you to fall asleep to die thinking it may be too difficult for you if you were awake. You were there with her and that is all that really matters. Get the book Final Gifts and read it as it talks about how people often choose the moment to die and some wait for a loved one to arrive and some wait for the loved one to leave the room or go to sleep. Anyone going through this should read the book as it is fantastic, Sad but enlightening too, you see death in a whole new way.

Travel sounds good and is such a great way to leave the past behind for awhile. Take care and let us know how you are doing from time to time, sharing your mom's story can be very healing please remember that. Just as I am doing you will find a new normal to your life without mom. Best wishes, JanMarie

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