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Stepmother is in the hospital and they think it's lung cancer...

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Old 07-03-2007, 05:53 PM   #1
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: South, Florida, USA
Posts: 3
spinner324 HB User
Stepmother is in the hospital and they think it's lung cancer...

Hi. My stepmother was experiencing shortness of breath and went to the Dr last Wednesday. He diagnosed pneumonia and put her in the hospital immediately. Turns out it's double pneumonia. I've been lurking here the past few days, hoping to learn something...

They did a chest x-ray and saw spots. Her blood oxygen level is 88 everywhere but at her finger, which registers 95 (they can't figure out why). The antibiotics weren't causing any improvement. The took fluid from her lung and didn't detect cancer, but set her up for a Bronchoscopy. They intubated her and decided to keep her intubated for 24 hours to give her lungs a chance to improve. She's also heavily sedated. They did the Bronchoscopy and didn't see any large tumors.

They were going to do another test (I don't know the name), but since they would have to collapse one lung to perform it, they decided she wasn't strong enough. Decided to wait to see the Bronchoscopy results.

Just found out a little while ago that the 24 hour culture came back inconclusive, but now the doctor is saying that it's likely it's advanced cancer, complicated by the pneumonia. They're talking a week to 10 days. She's just not getting better.

We are all in shock. They're talking about doing that other test again (the one where they collapse the lung), but I don't get why. Is it going to give her another year or 6 months or one? If it's that bad why not take out the tube and wake her up, let her say her goodbyes???

She's been married to my father for 35 years. We've had a very rocky relationship, but my father loves her totally and completely, and her kids and my sister and I are very close. I hurt for them.

If anyone has any advice on questions to ask the doctors, I'd appreciate a reply. My prayers and positive thoughts go out to everyone dealing with this...

Last edited by spinner324; 07-03-2007 at 05:53 PM.

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Old 07-03-2007, 08:28 PM   #2
Senior Member
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Central Minnesota
Posts: 163
Lady_J_1_01 HB User
Re: Stepmother is in the hospital and they think it's lung cancer...

I am so sorry to hear of your news... It is hard when we are hit so fast with such life changing often unknown things I know I was petrified.. I hope you can get second opinion....I just wanted to let you know You and yours are in my prayers.
There are many people in hear who have a lot of knowledge in this and Im sure they will reply soon...with what they found in this situation....

Old 07-04-2007, 05:35 AM   #3
Senior Veteran
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,514
Re: Stepmother is in the hospital and they think it's lung cancer...

Hi Spinner
Sorry to here your stepmom is so sick. Well the O2 level is obviously low because of the pneumonia. The finger monitor showing a higher level?? Who knows...machine malfunction? Technician error? Just some fluke of your step moms own body function? Weird, but wierd things happen with the body and how it functions.
As for the doctor diagnosing cancer without any conclusive physical evidence, it doesn't seem right to me. Have they done any ct scans? MRI's? PET scans? Those are all noninvasive and should be done before collapsing the poor womans lung, where she is so sick. (I've never heard of that test, whatever it is, and hope they never use it on me!)
I would ask the doctor WHY he thinks it is cancer if none of the tests have shown that?? Other than the fluid in the lungs, what is he using as "proof" of a diagnosis of cancer?
I will pray that she improves and they can figure out what is going on to make her so sick and help her, rather than just hand out their "time tickets".

Old 07-04-2007, 06:27 AM   #4
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Location: Charleston, SC
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conan1017 HB User
Re: Stepmother is in the hospital and they think it's lung cancer...


My wife (only 43) died about 6 weeks ago with pnuemonia, due to lung caner. So my heart goes out to you, your dad and the rest of your family. Not knowing the extent of her lung cancer, it is hard to say. But if she is heavily sedated and has a breathing tube ...that is alot to overcome. She needs to draw deeper breaths for the antibiotics to work, so being sedated isn't helping. My advice is the old saying ...hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. If I were in your shoes (and I've had a step-mom for 30 years) I would be there for my dad in every way possible.

I am so sorry for what your family is going through. My thoughts and prayers are with you.


Old 07-04-2007, 05:10 PM   #5
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: tucson, AZ, USA
Posts: 5
saraA17 HB User
Re: Stepmother is in the hospital and they think it's lung cancer...

Hey Spinner,
Wish I could offer help and/or advice, but I'm sort of in the same boat right now with my Dad. This is all new to me, too. We, at least, know what we are dealing with.

I will send prayers out your way and as was mentioned, try to be there for your father.

Best of luck to you & yours.


Last edited by saraA17; 07-04-2007 at 05:12 PM.

Old 07-04-2007, 06:48 PM   #6
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eblguim HB User
Re: Stepmother is in the hospital and they think it's lung cancer...

I would definetely get a second doctor on the scene.
No one can diagnose advanced cancer without a biopsy.
8 months ago my husband had a massive pleural effusion and after having a CT scan where small multiple nodules appeared on both lungs, the doctors diagnosed "advanced metastatic cancer". Since my husband decided he would not take any chemo he did not have any of the invasive procedures.
Well, its been 8 months and 1 week. The effusion is half the size - we saw 4 doctors and they all said that was impossible - and he has no signs of any disease whatsoever. He could still have cancer, but at that time they insinuated "iminent death".
So - get a second opinion. She could have cancer and she could have something else. This kind of "sentence" without any proof sounds like this doctor is playing god. That is bad medicine.

Old 07-05-2007, 01:22 PM   #7
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Location: Rochester, NY USA
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sawbuck44 HB Usersawbuck44 HB Usersawbuck44 HB User
Re: Stepmother is in the hospital and they think it's lung cancer...

My father passed on 6/6. His situation was very similar to the one you are in as far as only having a week left and having a breathing tube. Check out the posts on my name for the whole story.

Does your stepmom have a living will? My father did and his said DNR, yet when he knew he was going to ICU, the docs asked him, if your heart stops do youwant us to do this? they showed their hands pumping he nodded yes. (he didn't have the tube until he went to ICU but he was losing the ability to talk - he had a brain tumor, but also copd - long story but they said he also had lung cancer which metastisized from his brain - very complicated health issues), they said if you have trouble breathing do you want us to put a tube in. again he said yes. By 11pm that night he had gone from nose prongs, to a face mask, to the tube.

The next day we got there and asked him if that was what he wanted and he said no. We asked again to make sure and he nodded very strongly that he did not want the tube. We had to tell him that once it was out it wouldn't go back in and that we wouldn't know how long he had. While they were testing him to see if he would be okay (I guess not die right away) to take him off, they neglected to tell us that they had to stop the sedation to see if he could breath on his own. I told the nurse, he looks like he is choking. She told him to relax and take slow breaths, and then she went about her business. I told her not two minutes later, he's doing it again. That's when she told us that they stopped the sedation and that he could feel the tube in his throat.

He was so sick getting infections that the surgery to perform a biopsy on the brain tumor was called off at the last minute. The next day he was back in the emergency in bad shape.

He passed a week after that. At the end, he was on 100% oxygen and it didn't even help one bit. I'm not sure if your stepmom smoked, but my dad smoked since he was 14 and heavy at that. If you have any questions, I'll try to help. What I would suggest is making sure that your stepmom wants the tube. Sounds like she will be like that till she passes. My dad did not want to spend the last few days not being able to even give my mom a kiss or try to talk / whisper to us.
If you open the door even a little bit - the devil will fling it open. Keep it closed with prayer.

Last edited by sawbuck44; 07-05-2007 at 01:24 PM.

Old 07-05-2007, 06:11 PM   #8
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: South, Florida, USA
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spinner324 HB User
Re: Stepmother is in the hospital and they think it's lung cancer...

Thank you all so much for your replies, and your prayers and well wishes.

I don't really think the doctors are trying to play G-d. I think I just don't have complete information because they are on one coast and I am on the other, and my Dad is so upset that I don't get complete info. My Dad is not easy to please, and he cannot say enough about the care she is getting (it's one of the best in the country and she is in a specialized Women's Pulmonary ICU), so it's likely not the doctor's arrogance or incompetence. I'm sure he is getting 2nd opinions , too - so thanks for that warning!

After doing a bit of online research I think they were wanting to give her a Video-assisted thoracoscopy. They decided against that, though, and she is at this moment undergoing a regular biopsy. They are going to go to the lymph nodes 1st to try to avoid cutting into her lung, but if they don't get anything from the lymph node they will do the lung biopsy.

She is still sedated, but they pulled it back somewhat today and she was
able to open her eyes, squeeze people's hands and see that she's surrounded by people who love her. That is good. She is still intubated and on 100% oxygen, too.

We should know the results by sometime tomorrow, but I think if they see something definitive they'll be able to tell us right away. So, we are in the waiting game again.

When I spoke to my Dad yesterday he told me that if it is cancer and it's end stage, he's going to have them extubate her and bring her fully conscious. Then he's going to have someone come in to do her hair and nails, and they'll go from there.

I have a toddler so it's hard for me to go out there - I'm a stay at home Mom and child care would be really hard to set up, especially with my mother-in-law starting radiation next week for HER cancer (Paget's Disease just in the nipple, had a lumpectomy, nothing in the margins, radiation a precaution). That said, I may still go.

Really, my heart breaks for all of you that are going through this as a patient or a family member. I wish you all peace. Just coming here and reading your stories has really touched my heart.

Old 07-07-2007, 08:16 PM   #9
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: central florida
Posts: 87
bkerber HB User
Re: Stepmother is in the hospital and they think it's lung cancer...

Spinner, Im so sorry that you have to go through this as well as your family. Its a terrible ride. And Sawbuck, my dad's case mirrored yours pretty close. His oxygen got down to nothing and after he had already been intubated previously when he got really close it was going to have to happen again and he kept saying yes, I would like to be intubated. Right before they were going to have to put the mask on him we explained that if he were intubated again it would only prolong what was going to happen anyway, it tore my heart out to say that to him, but he accepted it and died right after they gave him morphene so he wouldnt panic. As much as that hurt, it was better than having to make the decision of when to unplug him. Im so sorry for all of you that are having to deal with this. God Bless

Old 07-07-2007, 09:10 PM   #10
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: new york
Posts: 9
chriml HB User
Re: Stepmother is in the hospital and they think it's lung cancer...

Did they do a cat scan? My mother passed away from lung cancer and they did a chest x -ray and found she had some cloudiness near her lung so she went for a cat scan and it was. she lived for 5 years after she had part of her lung taken out and chemo. Does she have any symtoms? coughing, coughing up blood, difficuty breathing?

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