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Newbie - Concerned about frail father & surgery

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Old 03-12-2005, 11:23 AM   #1
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 2
alohagurl HB User
Newbie - Concerned about frail father & surgery

Aloha to all,
We're meeting with the surgeon today to find out about the biopsy they took during my father's colonoscopy and to discuss whether he should have a surgery or not right away.

For those who are newbies as well, I've given an approx. timeline with our 1st dr. visit.

My father was feeling weak 2 wks after we came back from vacation to the mainland (NV). It was really cold during the new year so I think it kind of triggered it (difficult breathing, weak, dizzy, no appetite, weight loss, constipation and diarrhea. We thought it was just exhaustion from the trip so he avoided going to his dr. Finally got him to go in late Feb/early Mar since his symptoms didn't go away.

1st primary dr. visit (Tues): They ran blood, chest xray, urine tests. 2nd dr. visit (Thurs same wk): Results showed he had anemia so they needed to do more tests to find out why. He was asked to submit a stool test. Dr. scheduled a CT abdominal & pelvic test. He had to drink barium for the testing. This was scheduled for the following Thurs. 3rd dr. visit (the following Tues): Result - found a tumor/mass on the right side of the colon (about .9 or 4" or so). Need to do colonoscopy (I'll refer this as C) to find out.

The prepping for the C was horrible for my father. He was scheduled for a C this past Thurs. So after we got the results, he could eat anything that evening but needed to drink 4Tbs of Milk of Magnesia. Wed he started a liquid diet to clean out his colon and took the Fleet Phoso Soda (ginger flavor -3Tbs) with Gatorade at 2pm & 8pm. He was in the bathroom all afternoon and all night and didn't get any sleep. Since he was already weak this made him worse bc it dehydrated him. His C app't was at 6:30am. He was in the worst shape I'd ever seen him in. He had a difficult time changing clothes and walking to the car with a cane (he doesn't walk w/a cane but he needed support). He also experienced diarrhea leakage so I bought Depends for him that morning. We got to the hospital and they saw how bad he looked - very despondent. The RNs had a difficult time getting a blood pressure (very low) and he had an irregular hearbeat. He also had the chills. They decided to admit him until he got better and so they could monitor his heart. By the afternoon, he looked much better after receiving IV and a blood tranfusion. BP about 95/65 (in the morning it was about 80s/50s. The next day (Fri) they ran more tests and x-rays. They performed the C at 2:30pm that afternoon. His Dr. and later the surgeon dropped-by to explain their preliminary findings. The surgeon was just briefed by the other drs so he didn't review the CT scans yet, nor did they have the biopsy report yet. He explained to us the surgery, complications, etc. We're going to be meeting with him at 11am today (Sat) to talk about it more in-depth.

I've been up pretty much up all night researching everything (questions to ask, surgery, treatment, etc.). Most likely the surgery will need to be done but we're going to ask for more time over the weekend to talk to people. Although the surgery is pretty common (cutting out the tumor area and reattaching the colon), my main concern is my father's mentally & physically condition. I, personally, don't think he is strong enough to fight off the possibility of infection and his heart irregularity is another thing. He didn't have a heart problem until prepping for the C.

My father's profile: 73yo, 5'9", about 110lbs (used to be 140lbs in his 50s), no family history of colon cancer, semi-active (yardwork, traveling), was a smoker (1 1/2packs/day - quit in Jan after he had shortness of breath), beer drinker (daily? - quit drinking at the same time), blood pressure tends to be on the low side (90s/60s), heartbeat is about 90s, anemia, no energy, no pain (thank God), sometimes constipated/diarrhea, easily worried and sometimes depressed with all this news. His spirits are up since the nursing staff at the hospital is great so I'm hoping his morale goes up. When he first found out, he was ready to throw in the towel but I told him he had to fight it for us. I'm trying to be strong for my family (father, mother & older brother) but sometimes it overwhelms me. Since I'm worried I cry during alone times. I just don't want my mother to worry bc she had a minor stroke last summer and I need her support. Without her I don't think I can get very far.

I just want to thank all of you for sharing your experiences, advice, and caring. It has helped me a lot. When you hear the word "cancer" you freak. But after researching, it made me feel a little better to hear the patient's point of view.

When the surgeon talked to me yesterday, my feeling was let my father decide but I didn't want the surgery right now. After my father gets better and stronger (mentally & physically), sure. After reading this board, I understand how important it is to find out the stage it's at and if not removed, it could spread. Also, if he doesn't have the surgery, he will continue with leakage and/or his colon can get blocked. I think it's best if we let him decide and the family agrees. He knows his body the best. I told myself to take it one step at a time. I was worried about chemo for awhile.

They would like to schedule the surgery early next week and keep him in the hospital until then on a liquid diet. The drs want to avoid having him cleanse his system again. If he gets discharged, he's likely to eat solid foods and that would require cleansing. Again, I would like him to come home bc I know he wants to; however, after thinking about it, in the hospital he's getting better care (testing observance), pampered by the nursing staff and in high spirits. If he returns home, he might worry and get depressed thinking about the cancer & the surgery. I don't want that. Plus, my mother & I can do only so much.

Sorry if I skipped around -- I'm a little overwhelmed but I thought I'd also share our experience with others. Please feel free to comment, ask questions, advise on anything like a 2nd or 3rd opinion, anything. It's greatly appreciated.
A big Aloha to all, you're all special.

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Old 03-12-2005, 01:58 PM   #2
Senior Veteran
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 705
ktee_uk HB User
Re: Newbie - Concerned about frail father & surgery

Aloha Alohagurl

My goodness, you and your dad are having a really tough time. I remember how the bottom dropped out of my world when my mum was diag. She was 77 y/o and in similar shape (except she drank gin not beer).

She was admitted into hospital because of her symptoms and finally diag whilst she was in there. It was the best place for her to be at that time as she was having bed rest, good intake of "proper" calories and felt safe. It is amazing how well she started to regain her strength after just a few days.

She had to have an anterior bowel resection to remove the mass but did not need to have a colostomy. She was kept in a high dependancy unit post-op to keep an eye on her (she had a dicky ticker and lung desease) but she was sitting out of her bed the next day and started to walk about on day 3. She should have been home after 2 weeks but she tested positive for MRSA although had no symptoms so she was kept in side ward for another 2 weeks ( i think, time dims the memory). Once home she did well and was soon back to her gambling routines.

Mum did go through phases of "not wanting to be a burden" and "what's the point at my age", but me and my brother and sister did our best to talk her round to at least listening to what the doctors could offer and then take it from there. She also had a lot of comfort from her church and a couple of close friends although mum always played her cards close to her chest.

It does help to share the burden of making decisions by having just one or two family members or friends or professionals to talk through the unfolding events. You have probably gathered that the doctors tend to feed you info bit by bit according to how much they think you can digest in one go. Therefore, safety in numbers and defintely ask questions, challenge their decisions on treatment plans just to hear why they made the decisions in the first place. It will leave you so much better informed and make you feel like you have some sort of control over the situation. The doctors won't mind, they like to show off their expertise. But please make them work hard for you and your dad.

I hope your dad does well in hospital and dont forget to look after yourself.


Old 03-13-2005, 12:03 PM   #3
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 2
alohagurl HB User
Re: Newbie - Concerned about frail father & surgery

Aloha ktee,
Thank you for your kind words of support and encouragement. It really helps a lot.

My father made the decision to have the surgery before we got to the hospital yesterday. We thought he wouldn't agree to it but he did. Thank goodness. They want to do the surgery as soon as he gets stronger so they're looking at probably this week. We just have to pray and hope for the best. I'm worried about after the surgery. I just hope he's strong enough to recover. I haven't lost hope and trying my best to be strong for my family. As I told my mother, a good cry helps a lot because it made me stronger. As for my father, his spirits are high and the nurses love him and vice versa. So knowing that, it gives us peace of mind. This is the first time he's ever been away from the family.

Many thanks again. Hope everything is fine on your end. I'm off to the hospital to keep him company.

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