Jan 28, 2012 - 7:50 am
Hi to everyone. I have been posting for almost a year on the esophageal site, but now I find myself here. Bit of a back story, just to introduce myself. My husband passed away in November 2011 from stage ivb ec, and now I find myself as primary (sole) caregiver to my 83 year old mother in law. She has a fairly healthy medical history, however, in the last few years, she's been diagnosed with alzheimer's, angina and lung cancer.
She is a person who cannot handle any type of change, (the alzheimer's has magnified this hugely) sometimes even an unexpected phone call or having forgotten something will send her into anxiety like attacks, which she insists on going to the hospital for. They have always done the usual heart and blood tests and send her home with an ativan or lorazepam to calm her down. In the last year, she has been to the hospital over 7 times for this. It would have been many, many more times to the hospital, but the staff at the home where she is living can usually calm her down and convince her that she does not need to go to the hospital. She often goes into panics and bouts of confusion and will call me up to 10 times a day, often because of really trivial things (ie- can't find an ice skating program on her television, does not know what time it is, wants to know how old she is..... the list goes on and on, it's endless really).
So, this is where the story gets a bit weird....... Joyce (mother in law) and Lee (my husband) were both diagnosed on the SAME day, with the SAME doctor, with back to back appointments...... oh my god! Of course we were devastated, and hearing a stage ivb for Lee and lung cancer for mom was just too much to handle. Lee, being the POA at the time decided that we were not going to tell her about her cancer. The surgeon who we met with somewhat supported that, but also recommended surgery and radiation. In Lee's opinion, and mine as well to an extent, she could not handle the news, let alone the treatment, especially the surgery part. She would simply fall apart and likely give herself a stroke or heart attack with the panic. Secondary to this, with Lee's terminal diagnoses, we just did not see how I would be able to be primary caretaker for both of them. She has no symptoms of lung cancer, no pain, no coughing. It has now been almost exactly a year since her diagnoses, and still, she knows nothing about it, and has no cancer related symptoms.
I do not know what her staging is, the spot was about the size of a nickel, and no mets. (stage 1-2??) Anyways, now that Lee has passed away, I am POA, and just want to do the right thing. The doctor stated that at her age, the cancer cells spread very slowly, and she is likely to eventually die of something unrelated to the cancer. She has not had any scans in the last year, so I have no idea at this point what the cancer is doing. I feel like I'm drowning..... for the last year I've been so busy being caregiver for my husband, and trying to keep Joyce on the rails, that I find myself now falling apart, I can barely manage to get to work everyday. My energy and motivation are at a zero, and the thought of dealing with this issue is so overwhelming I just can't think clearly. Joyce truly has no one else but me, no family, no friends. no one. My friends and family were overwhelmingly supportive when Lee was sick, but I don't feel it right to lean on them yet again.
Please, someone..... if you can give me some advice, what should I do??? Do I leave it as is, and let her have quality life and less anxiety, or do I seek treatment for her, and pick up the pieces as they fall?? I honestly don't think that she has the state of mind to even understand the diagnoses. After having a son die from cancer less than 3 months ago, I think she'd just fall apart and never be able to get back up again. I think that if she found out about her cancer that would be her death sentence. At the same time I feel like I'm just being selfish, because I just can't handle dealing with this. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.