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What happens next?

Mlle CC
Posts: 2
Joined: Nov 2009

An 82 yr. old relative (life-long smoker) was just diagnosed w/ lung cancer - that's all we know, as he doesn't want to discuss it. He has signed himself out of the hospital and refused treatment. The symptoms that lead him to seek help were: marked wt. loss, cough, blood in mouth and sputum, freq. urination. This leads me to speculate that he was told he's in stage III or IV; if so, treatment prob. wouldn't help him at this late stage - could actually cause undue suffering.
What, if anything, should we do now to "help" him? Should he just return home to languish and die w/out even pain meds? I have no idea and don't know where to turn. Many thanks...

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

Assuming your assumptions are correct, your relative may refuse any help. But if he is up for some help, the first thing I would recommend is looking into home hospice (see a recent post on this very board by a fellow named cobra about this very subject). These folks are typically both professional and kind, and can assist, when it becomes necessary, with providing pain medications (IF he will accept them, and I have a feeling at some point he will) among other vital necessary activities.

You can help in other ways as well. A simple visit can be a LARGE help to someone facing 'the end of days'. Helping around the house or apartment, helping around the yard if there is one, bringing in the occasional meal, all of these things can be a comfort. In fact, you may want to organize family members to schedule times to visit and provide some of these comforts, so that they are spaced out in an organized fashion.

They seem like simple things, but they really do matter.

All of this presumes, again, that he is willing to accept help. If he is under the misguided illusion that it is easy and painless to die of cancer in solitude, he is greatly mistaken and it is my hope that you can at least convince him to look into home hospice, where he can be tended to in his familiar environs.

Best wishes to your relative and his family. It is good of you, in particular, to be looking out for him and I am hopeful that others in his family are eager to do the same.

Take care,

Joe

Mlle CC
Posts: 2
Joined: Nov 2009

Thank you Joe for your amazingly thoughtful response to the problem of my uncle's illness.
Unfortunately, he passed away last week, just 20 dys. after seeking med. attention and only 10 dys. after diagnosis. He did literally go home to die, as he was stricken w/ cardiac arrest in the middle of the nt. After 40 mins. of EMTs' efforts, he was revived, put on a ventilator, but never regained consciousness. He was removed from the vent 3 dys. later, and died w/in a few hrs. He had to have suffered in silence: I learned in the ER that nt. that he was diagnosed w/ small cell lung cancer, type: neuroendocrine carcinoma, end-stage. Doc. said it was in both lungs, esophagus, throat, and prob. mult. other sites. I wish he would have spoken up so we could have at least made his last dys. comfortable, but that wasn't his way. At least he is at peace now.
One thing I am still wondering about is what might have been at the bottom of his walking disability, as he never discussed that either. I have since learned about "LEMS" - Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome; at least 60% of patients w/ this disorder also have small cell carcinoma! It is a disorder of the neuro-muscular system, and is characterized by weakness and disability in the legs and arms, dry mouth, difficulty chewing and other symptoms, all of which he had. I really feel he may have actually had this - it can precede the onset of small cell lung cancer by several yrs., although my uncle had progressive difficulty walking for at least 15 yrs. before he died. Another thing is that it is so rare - 4 in a million - that I am wondering if it's possible...(???) Have you or anyone out there ever heard about this? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

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