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scared, friend has colon stage 4

hope4maxine
Posts: 2
Joined: Jun 2009

One of my best friends was just told she has Stage 4 Colon Cancer. Surgery removed most, but not what has spread to other organs...liver, etc. 2 weeks ago she was a healthy, 38 year old mommy! How does this happen? Internet says it is only an 8% five year survival rate. How do you actually grasp that in your head?? How do I help her? I am at a loss!

ADKer's picture
ADKer
Posts: 150
Joined: Aug 2008

I am very sorry that your friend has colon cancer. You are helping by trying to become informed about her illness. The statistics that you have read are old; Any survival statistics are at least 5 years old and do not take more advanced treatment options into account. However, Stage IV colon cancer is a very serious and life-threatening disease. The first thing you can do for your friend is to urge her to seek treatment at an NCI comprehensive cancer care center to assure that she receives the best care available from a team of specialized doctors. Here is the web address of a list of NCI approved facilities: http://cancercenters.cancer.gov/cancer_centers/cancer-centers-names.html.

Urge your friend to walk to facilitate her recovery from the surgery; If you are able to walk with her, I am sure that will be welcome. Make an offer of help to your friend with as few restrictions as you can realistically impose, and make the offer as often as you realistically can. Learning to accept help when one has always been self-sufficient was one of the most difficult steps for me after diagnosis. If you are able to help, it may take a number of offers of help before she is comfortable accepting.

I am sure that others on this board will have additional suggestions. Best wishes to you and your friend.

eric38's picture
eric38
Posts: 588
Joined: May 2009

You came to a great place. There are plenty of people here who have either survived stage 4 colon cancer or have lived with it for a long time. Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers therefore it is one of the most researched cancers. They are constantly finding new ways to treat it and alot has changed in the last five years. You have to remember those statistics are based on five year studies so they come from old data and even most of those if you read the date on the page were updated 2 or more years ago. Recent studies from an Md Anderson website says that the median survival rate for stage 4 colon cancer is 30 months and the five year survival rate is 30% and even those were dating back from 2006 studies so even though that is not great it is much better than the old statistics and they will probably find that the rates are higher now. Also, even though there are more and more younger people getting the disease my surgeon told me that most of the people he sees with this disease are in their 60`s or older so those statistics include a majority of older people. So, your friend is still young and has age on their side which probably increases their chances. This is a terrible and life threatening illness but there is hope and even greater hope for the future. In a couple of years there is no telling what they will have come up with and your friend will probably still be here to reap the benefits of it.

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
Posts: 4907
Joined: May 2005

Sorry to hear about your friend. I too was caught off guard as far as the cancer goes. It was "discovered" during my yearly checkup by my PCP (how was an oncologist) by elevated liver functions in my blood work over 5 years ago. I felt great, no health problems at all and I was 46 at the time. So this can go unnoticed for a long time.

As others said, do not read those statistics on the internet, they are outdated. There have been very many advances in treatments for colon cancer over the past 5 years. It's also not uncommon for it to spread to other organs, that's why it's stage IV. Anyway, how you could help best is to encourage your friend to join a group (like this one) or if your town has a chapter of Gilda's Club or something, that can be helpful. Also talking with a therapist can help. If you and her have kids the same age, plan some fun activities for you all or bring over a home made dinner to her (I could use one too).

If she is having a hard time grasping this and is depressed, she should not be afraid to seek professional help and at least entertain the thought of going on a anti-depressant or something for a while to get a sense of normality back in her life.

I have had "friends", mostly co-workers who dropped me like a hot potato when I got cancer. Some people can't deal with it. Try to be there for her if you can but also know when to give her space.

I hope this is of some help, everyone else had great input for you already.
-phil

kimby's picture
kimby
Posts: 804
Joined: Oct 2007

The first days and weeks after diagnosis are the scariest. You don't know were to begin or who to trust. DON'T trust stats on the internet or anywhere else! Here are my stats: I was 43 at diagnosis so less than 5% chance of getting colon canzer, less than 10% of having a second primary canzer, 8% 5 yr survival. If I can't get the disease I can't die from it. If I beat the odds to even be in this position, I'll beat the odds to be here for 5 yr survival. ASCO just released some very promising stats that improve those odds by 30%!! That is HUGE. Statistics are old and our treatments are new.

Your friend needs a team of oncologists that include a medical onc, a surgical onc and a radiation onc. They need to be able to communicate well with each other, even if your friend needs you there to translate from geek to English. They should be specialists in GI canzers and mets. This is not the time for a general medical oncologist. Look for the best.

You were just given the NCI Comprehensive canzer Center web address, but I feel strongly enough about it to post again. This is a wonderful place to start the search for a doctor and facility that she is happy with.

http://cancercenters.cancer.gov/cancer_centers/cancer-centers-list.html

She should have someone with her at every appointment taking notes or recording the appointment. My doctors even suggested a tape recorder.

She needs you. Her family and friends just being there. Try to make her laugh - it's still ok to have fun. Be there for the tears, fears and anger that will come.

I hope this helps. You are all in my thoughts and prayers,

Kimby

Shayenne's picture
Shayenne
Posts: 2370
Joined: Jan 2009

...Your friend has this horrible disease. I am also Stage 4, with a tumor in my liver, mommy of 4 kids, I was diagnosed this year in Jan of 09, and since then, have also been hospitalized twice, once with an infection, and the other with a rupture in my colon, I had to get a temporary colostomy during an emergency surgery, but it saved my life.

You'll see alot of people here and even at The Colon Club who have lived with this disease a long time, it doesn't have to be a death sentence, there are alot of treatments and advanced technology out these days that you can't even listen to the stats that are online now, they aren't right.

I am on chemo, and so far, my doctor said the chemo has killed most of my cancer, that was very encouraging for me, at least I Know the chemo is working, I hope she goes to a top cancer hospital with a colon specialist who knows what they're doing, make sure she does. I drive 2 hours back and forth from home, to go to one of the top 20 in America here.

Do tell her to get on some anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds, they do help deal with the grasp of it all, and she can live with this disease, you never know, there are people here who are NED (NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE) where they don't have it anymore, I just want you to let her know, there is HOPE :)

Hugsss!
~Donna

Fight for my love
Posts: 1530
Joined: Jun 2009

Just please tell your friend not to believe those statistics,believe herself.Each individual is so different,so she shouldn't consider herself as the statistic.I also believe knowledge is power,the more you know about the disease,the better you prepare for it,and the better you handle it.You can suggest her to go to cancer.org and chemocare.com to learn about how to cope and manage cancer,and how the chemo and radiation work.Also tell her that she should stay positive and she has to make a fight to drive this cancer away for her kids and her family.I was very shocked and I was very terrified when my husband was diagnosed with cancer because I am asian and this just happened right after I arrived the U.S for a month.We had been being apart for 16 months because of the immigration process,I thought finally I am here and my hubby and I are reunited and we can go on our life,but this just happened.I couldn't stop crying everyday and I lost 5b in ten days,but finally I realized that I need to learn the knowledge and also make right decisions for getting the right treatment for my husband,so I started to learn all these knowledge and learn how to make nutritious food for my husband.I will make this fight with my husband together no matter how tough it is and we both believe finally we will win.If you can give your friend support and help,that will be great.My hubby and I are both new to the area where we are living,so we don't know any friends and we don't have relatives closed by,but we still have to make do.Also tell your friend to come to this discussion board,people here are very nice and many of them have experience with fighting cancer away successfully.Just let her post the questions that she wants to ask or maybe she can just read other people's message,all of these messages are very helpful.Good luck to you and to your friend.

azsunwmn
Posts: 8
Joined: Apr 2003

I was diagnosed with Stage 4 colorectal cancer in 2002 and I am still living and breathing and doing quite well, thank you. That is not to say it's an easy road. I've had 2 more diagnoses of mestastases in my liver and lungs and have had to fight and scratch for every bit of time I've gotten, but it can be done! The most important thing is getting a doctor you trust completely and have a caregiver/partner to help you. Good luck and please know to never give up!

grandma2selena's picture
grandma2selena
Posts: 200
Joined: Jun 2009

Though my case was anal cancer, cancer is cancer. Good friends at this time is one of the best therapies there is. I agree with all the other posts, to not take everything you read on the Internet as there is so many different, inacorate information on the Internet. The best place for knowledge is from the doctors and right here from those who have gone through or are going through this too.

My advice to you as a friend, just be there for her, listen to her, offer to do what you can for her during this time, even if she says no at first leave the door open. The best support I had was from dear friends like you who were willing to go the extra mile for me. As time goes by and the acceptance settles in your friend will need you more then ever and she will seek your friendship and help.

Everyone is different, but for me those who were not afraid to ask me questions, wanted to know just what was going on with me, were really the one's that encouraged me the most, as so many times they asked questions I never thought of asking the doctors, they were the ones that I knew I could open up to and talk to about every aspect of my disease, and treatments. Hang in there, you will know when she is ready for all your support.

Debbie

tootsie1's picture
tootsie1
Posts: 5056
Joined: Feb 2008

I'm so sorry about your friend. Please don't despair. There are some great cancer centers out there that can offer treatments for her. It's great that you've come here, because there are Stage 4 survivors here who will be able to offer you advice and encouragement. If your friend feels up to it, we'd love to hear from her, too.

*hugs*
Gail

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StacyGleaso's picture
StacyGleaso
Posts: 1250
Joined: Mar 2003

I was diagnosed with Stage 4 with liver mets in 2001. I have been clear ever since my surgery in January 2002. There are SO many positive stories like mine on this site...do not lose hope. As I've said in the past, I'll say it again: Odds are for Vegas and expiration dates are for dairy products...do not listen to any of those things. Take each day as it comes and rely on us here as often as your friend needs to. I was diagnosed @ age 33, healthy mom of 3, so when I say I understand, I REALLY DO!

Happy Tuesday,

Stacy

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