Mar 04, 2010 - 7:30 pm
I'm new to the boards. My 80 year old father was recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He had CT scan on February 16th that identified a tumor in his esophagus and an endoscopy the following Monday, February 22nd. The following day he was told that the tumor was cancer and an appointment was scheduled on March 1st with an oncologist. During the oncology appointment, my father, mother and I were told the cancer was at least stage IV and appeared to have spread to dad's liver, lungs and some lymph nodes. The oncologist scheduled a full body scan for Tuesday, March 9th an hour before dad's first chemo treatment. We attended a chemo class last night that explains what chemotherapy is, what is does and all the potential side effects. An infusion port will be placed tomorrow morning.
Since his diagnosis we have gotten a LOT of information and mother and I have done a lot of research on the Internet. Dad, not so much. His attitude is basically whatever will be will be/it's in God's hands - which is fine, of course. He's also been telling people (on the rare occasion when he mentions it) that we're hoping the chemo will "get this thing turned around" and that he'll be glad when he's back to feeling good.
I've talked with my mother privately and told her I feel like we've been talking about everything but the pink elephant in the room. We've decided to ask the doctor about dad's prognosis at his next oncology appointment on Wednesday, March 10th, when the doctor will discuss the findings of the PET scan. The oncologist told dad during the first appointment that we're going to fight this. What we want to know is what we're fighting for; what is the goal of treatment.
1. Is it to "cure" the cancer?
We know that no doctor can tell you how long someone has but you can get an idea. If they say dad has a year to live he could live 6 months or 6 years - we know that. But we still want to know their best guesstimate. I mean, if you think you have a year left you can take care of some things (living wills, DNR, etc.) but if it's 6 years you don't have to get on it right away.
Here's my question. Mom thinks we should ask the doctor when dad is not there. I think we should ask the doctor when dad is there. I think dad has a right to know. I'm happy he's hopeful and want him to remain so but there is a false hope and a real hope. I keep imagining me, him, someone some time down the road hearing that "This is it. You have x weeks left" and the person being blown away because he or she had no clue and they sit there stunned saying, "Why didn't anyone tell me? I would have done things differently, etc."
What do you think? Should dad be in the room when we ask or not? Any suggestions and advice will be greatly appreciated.