Dec 16, 2009 - 9:40 am
My father-in-law has stage 4a throat/neck cancer. He's in his mid 70's and is in the middle of his third round of chemo coinciding with his first round of radiation. His cancer manifested itself in a swollen lymph gland that doctors insisted was an infection (two needle biopsies were negative). After they opened him up to remove it, they realized it was squamous cell carcinoma and had spread from somewhere else. They removed what they could and we started on this path. That was all this summer. His original cancer was found beneath the tongue, localized, and he has a possible small mass at the back of his neck but they are unsure (it showed in the PET). He had side effects from his first two rounds of chemo but came through them stronger than they expected.
He's had multiple events of cardiac syncopy we think from the tumor around his carotid. And previous to his chemo he had been having constant headaches - his headaches reoccured during his break between rounds 2 & 3. His break was a few weeks longer as they wanted him to regain strength and it took time to schedule his feeding tube, and he fell in the hospital afterward, requiring stitches and monitoring.
My mother-in-law is his primary caregiver but is also older and not very strong. My husband is as involved as he can be - we live 40 m away - but he travels for work, works two jobs, and we have two young kids. His brother who is single was not involved initially but is somewhat involved now, staying with the folks periodically to help through rough times.
I've seen mixed studies on survival rates. I've been cautiously optomistic up to now, but after this latest fall, the headaches returning, and the radiation doc not waiting for FIL's stitches to heal before starting b/c of his concern that they've waited too long - I'm really worried and getting scared.
Also what can I do for my in laws (given I can't visit much b/c of the kids)? Are there things that helped you in particular? And what can I do for my husband? It breaks my heart - my mother died suddenly of a stroke 20 years ago and I know how horrible that was, but this seems entirely different in the exhaustion of just the day-to-day.