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Doc said chemo would only extend my mom's live a few weeks to a month! Can you help me?

Posts: 2
Joined: Jun 2009

My 83 yo formerly heathy mom (she modeled for god's sake and walked every day and looks better than I do) was just diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer that spread to her bones. She is getting radiation for the bones. Her onc tells me that the chemo (Avastin/Alimta) which she'll get every 3 weeks might prolong her life for a few weeks to a month more than without the chemo. Without chemo the doc says mom may have 6 mos. She said the problem is that her sodium count remains low and she's anemic. She had wanted to give her oral chemo but will have to use this IV drip instead. So here's where I need help:

-Does this sound right? Just a few weeks to a month more!? Is it worth it to go through chemo.

-The onc told me about how much longer my mom would have on the chemo but not my mother or brother. They originally talked to the onc when I was out of town and my brother didn't remember much other than she said, "It wasn't good news." I asked to see the onc to get as much data as I could. I told my brother today and he thinks we shouldn't tell mom about how long the doc estimates the chemo would extend her life. He thinks if we tell her that she will feel it's a death sentence and won't try. He wants her to at least try the chemo and see how she feels.

It's devastating to see my mother in this much pain. I'd rather it be me.

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sep 2006

If your mom is healthy otherwise, particularly mentally, if your mom is completely cognizant and mentally engaged in the world around her, my suggestion would be that she should know.

Bear in mind, before I go on here, that there is no expiration date on your mom's forehead. Despite what any doctor, even the very best, might say, it is only a hazarded guess, albeit an educated one. It does not take into account, I think, your mom's spirit, your mom's will.

It sounds as though your brother is fearful that such a pronouncement will destroy mom's will. I don't know the situation, obviously, but I can say that you cannot display, cannot exert, your will, if you do not know what you are facing.

I would tell her, given the above.

As for the differences between a chemotherapy life and a non-treatment life, one in which the decision, according to the docs, in only a matter of weeks or months, this, again, should be a matter for your mom to decide if she is up for it.

Many of us, if we really trust our doctors, or more to the point, if we believe our choices are between, say, seven months with chemo or six months without, most of us would probably opt for the six months of quality life. A life rife with chemo frankly tends to lose its appeal in a hurry.

That said, me, personally, I would opt fot the chemo, because I believe there is always hope. And I prefer to fight. I happen to like it on this side of the ground.

I am fairly certain this has not been helpful.

I do wish the best for your mom and her family.

Take care,


MadelynJoe's picture
Posts: 96
Joined: Sep 2003

Dear Sue:

I am sad to hear of your Mom's illness. I know this type of pain because I lost my Mother to Stage IV lung cancer almost 20 years ago. Try to stay as strong as possible for her sake.

I am a 4 year non-small cell lung cancer survivor with no evidence of disease at this time. I joined a wonderful support group 3 1/2 years ago and have learned more about various types of cancer of treatment that I ever wanted to know believe me.

From my personal experience and what I have heard from people with metistatic disease - a few weeks is not worth the risk for regular chemo. One of my friends took Avstin alone (no hair loss, but some other side effects)and it extend her life for over 2 1/2 years. She had breast cancer spread to liver. Another friend extended her life for over 11 years with Alimta/Avastin and many other drugs. You never know what will happen. Avastin is not like other chemo drugs that kill off healthy cells along with the cancer. Avastin targets the tumors themselves and cuts off the blood supply to kill them. Avastin has been approved for treatment of Lung Cancer also. I do not know much about Alimta.

Please keep us informed.

Best regards,


Ellen Arlington
Posts: 4
Joined: Jun 2009

I'm so sorry about your Mom. Two thing to remember: no one knows how long any of us has left (with or without cancer) and Alimta and Avastin aren't so bad. I'm halfway through treatment now and finding them easy to tolerate (I'm still going to the gym). My main side effect is tiredness.

Posts: 2
Joined: Jun 2009

Bless all of you for your responses. They have given me hope.

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