My friend is in Denial!

Hi all, I'm so happy I discovered this resource. I'm here because of my best friend W, that I have known for over 40 years. She's a life long smoker, born of two smokers who both died of cancer. On a side note, my mother currently has cancer, but she is doing well. I joined this forum because I need support due to my friend/ Here is the situation quickly.

She is 53, a lifelong chain smoker (since 12), her teeth started to become loose and began falling out in the last 12 months. She has a paiful tumor under her tongue, that she has had since October. The side of her face is very swollen, her neck looks like it has bumps under it, (on the left  side) the growth inside of her neck is visble by everyone that looks at it. She has been on heavy duty antibiotics including Cipro for the last 5 months, and nothing improves, nor makes the growths go away. She has trouble swallowing, she is tired and also has some mucus and swollen sinus. She has an appointment with a nose thoat head doctor on July 24, so almost 4 weeks away. I believe she has cancer, and since her neck is now swollen and wasn't at first, it seems like the canccer has spread from her mouth to her neck. She continued so smoke throughout the day. She had an earlier appointment but cancelled it and changed it to the 24th. She is bascially and sadly a vegtable now, not driving, completely dependent on her husband, who only has one weekday off, hence the July 24 appointment. Here are some questions for anyone that would be kind enough to answer. I have begged her to quit smoking for 40 plus years to no avail, I know that is not the issue now. Can she wait almost 4 weeks to be seen by a general doctor? What happens to untreated cancer in 4 weeks without treatment? Everything I have read indicates this is a fairly aggressive type of cancer, right? I'm fearful for her, and she is like a sister to me, she is a sister. I just want her to live and be healthy and have nothing but happeness. What happens to a cancer that is apreading and not getting any treatment?? Thank you all!

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Comments

  • littlemisskitty
    littlemisskitty Member Posts: 35
    Hi Pat,
     
    Welcome to CSN.

    Hi Pat,

     

    Welcome to CSN. Honestly from what little I know (I'm knew here too) it depends on the type of cancer. There are different types and each grow at it's own rate. The fact that she smokes i definitely not helping her case at all. I would recommend helping her to get looked at if you can. Sometimes learning what is wrong with you is scary. I had to convince my mom to go back and get looked at when she first found out she had cancer. Then even knowing she had cancer before and possibly was regrowing in her neck, she was just plain scared and didn't want to go to her appointment to find out. She did go when I offered to take her but I could tell she was still scared. 

     

    The process from what little I've learned is that you won't hear the word cancer until after a biospy is done. They can't determine if it is for sure cancer until they take a sampling so while her appointment is a month away, it will be some time after that before they can make sure it's cancer and then they will come up with a plan of action as to how best to heal her. If she's so weak already and struggling with eating, make sure she is getting the nutrition she can to be strong enough to go through whatever treatment necessary.

     

    You guys are in my prayers and thoughts. I hope they are noncancerous for her sake and yours but support her either way and definitely encourage her to go to her doctor as soon as possible because the longer you wait, the more it spreads. Spreading makes it harder to treat.

  • KTeacher
    KTeacher Member Posts: 1,103
    Doesn't sound good

    thank you for being such a good friend.  Her symptoms don't sound good but it is not cancer until a biopsy diagnoses it.  What type of doctor has she been seeing for the antiobotics?  Hopefully you are close to a Comprehensive Cancer Center, if she is diagnosed with cancer she will want to go where the most up to date treatment can be given.  Please stay in touch.

  • wmc
    wmc Member Posts: 1,804
    Welcome to the H&N Group

    First let me say welcome, and very sory you need to be here. It doesn't soung very good at all, but until a doctor says it is cancer it's not. Lymph glande in the neck all the way to the ears total about 200 to 300 glands and when there is infection or something wrong they can swell because they are just doing there job. There is several types of cancer and the most common one that this sounds like is SCC. [squash cell carcinoma] it is a slower growing one but it sounds like it has been growing for over nine months. Also it sounds like BOT [bace of toung] I know how hard to quit smoking as I smoked for 42 years and have stage 3 COPD and still smoked. I quit cold turkey 8/28/2013 ae 8:00 pm. I knew I had cancer and was going to see a turmor board to evaluate me and what needed to be done. For me my lungs were to bad to survive a normal surgery and they felt they could not keep me alive unless they did a perminate trache and I breath out my neck and remove my larynx [voice box] and remove 86 lymph glands. Not a hard choise to make, live or not live. Now I have a 25% chance the cancer could come back if I don't smoke. If I keep smoking the odds are 90% it will return, and they will also need to remove 30% of each lung so I can breathe. I have not had a cigeratte and they are no longer concidering doing a lung reduction. Her problem is SHE has to want to quit, or it will never happen. You can try all the patches, gum, and everything else. But if you don't really want to quit you wont. She has to want it and you have to treat it just like an alcoholic. You can never have that first one ever again.

    She has been on antibiotics for some time. She needs to eat yogert every day or take probiotics daily because the antibiotics kill all bactera, good and bad. She still needs the good so probiotics will do that. Get one that has four billion in it. IF, this is cancer she will most likely have surgery, chemo, and radiation. She needs to stop losing any weight and needs to gain. She will need to get the teeth worked on as radiation will damage them . You are a very good friend, and she is about to go down the roughest road she has ever seen. But she can do it as so many of us have and will be here to help. Don't pospone the docters and lets just hope it is not cancer and just a tumor and infection. I hope this helps some. I'm not suger coating this and might seem a little blunt, but it's just fact and you need to know what is true.

    Bill

  • Pat Brown
    Pat Brown Member Posts: 11
    KTeacher said:

    Doesn't sound good

    thank you for being such a good friend.  Her symptoms don't sound good but it is not cancer until a biopsy diagnoses it.  What type of doctor has she been seeing for the antiobotics?  Hopefully you are close to a Comprehensive Cancer Center, if she is diagnosed with cancer she will want to go where the most up to date treatment can be given.  Please stay in touch.

    her step son is a doctor in

    her step son is a doctor in another state, he's the one that has been prescribing the anti biotics. I know he's not her doctor, and shouldn't be doing that, I wrote him a harsh email, and he has since stoped  prescribing anything. He has made this entire situation worse in my opionin. Her denial is deep and wide, but it's the way her entire family operates with everything. Thank you for your kindess I appreciate it!

  • Pat Brown
    Pat Brown Member Posts: 11
    wmc said:

    Welcome to the H&N Group

    First let me say welcome, and very sory you need to be here. It doesn't soung very good at all, but until a doctor says it is cancer it's not. Lymph glande in the neck all the way to the ears total about 200 to 300 glands and when there is infection or something wrong they can swell because they are just doing there job. There is several types of cancer and the most common one that this sounds like is SCC. [squash cell carcinoma] it is a slower growing one but it sounds like it has been growing for over nine months. Also it sounds like BOT [bace of toung] I know how hard to quit smoking as I smoked for 42 years and have stage 3 COPD and still smoked. I quit cold turkey 8/28/2013 ae 8:00 pm. I knew I had cancer and was going to see a turmor board to evaluate me and what needed to be done. For me my lungs were to bad to survive a normal surgery and they felt they could not keep me alive unless they did a perminate trache and I breath out my neck and remove my larynx [voice box] and remove 86 lymph glands. Not a hard choise to make, live or not live. Now I have a 25% chance the cancer could come back if I don't smoke. If I keep smoking the odds are 90% it will return, and they will also need to remove 30% of each lung so I can breathe. I have not had a cigeratte and they are no longer concidering doing a lung reduction. Her problem is SHE has to want to quit, or it will never happen. You can try all the patches, gum, and everything else. But if you don't really want to quit you wont. She has to want it and you have to treat it just like an alcoholic. You can never have that first one ever again.

    She has been on antibiotics for some time. She needs to eat yogert every day or take probiotics daily because the antibiotics kill all bactera, good and bad. She still needs the good so probiotics will do that. Get one that has four billion in it. IF, this is cancer she will most likely have surgery, chemo, and radiation. She needs to stop losing any weight and needs to gain. She will need to get the teeth worked on as radiation will damage them . You are a very good friend, and she is about to go down the roughest road she has ever seen. But she can do it as so many of us have and will be here to help. Don't pospone the docters and lets just hope it is not cancer and just a tumor and infection. I hope this helps some. I'm not suger coating this and might seem a little blunt, but it's just fact and you need to know what is true.

    Bill

    thank you so much Bill. I'm

    thank you so much Bill. I'm just about 100% sure she has cancer. The only reason she even made an appoinment for 7/24 is because I sent her cancer literture in the mail. I live in California she lives in Colorado. As soon as she gets diagnoised I'm planning on going there, to make sure she does what she has to do, as far as her treatment appointments and her diet and anything else that needs to be done. Her husband is a terrible enabler with every one of her issues. Both of them are deeply in bed with denial, it's so frustrating, I feel like if the husband weren't in the picture she would have been diagnoised long ago! She did call the quitline yesterday, so hopefully she quits now, I personally don't think she will ever quit, but I'm hoping she does. 

  • debbiejeanne
    debbiejeanne Member Posts: 3,102 Member
    Pat, welcome to our family,

    Pat, welcome to our family, sorry you need to be here.  I agree with the others, it doesn't sound good.  if it were me, i'd see a doctor (ENT) immediately.  the longer she waits the more time it has to grow, whatever it is.  Maybe its not cancer but why take such a chance.  As for the smoking, that is a very hard habbit to quit, i know, been there and done that.  I will be praying for you and your friend.  please let us know how it turns out.  I will also say a prayer for your mom.

    God bless you all.

    dj

  • Noellesmom
    Noellesmom Member Posts: 1,859 Member

    Pat, welcome to our family,

    Pat, welcome to our family, sorry you need to be here.  I agree with the others, it doesn't sound good.  if it were me, i'd see a doctor (ENT) immediately.  the longer she waits the more time it has to grow, whatever it is.  Maybe its not cancer but why take such a chance.  As for the smoking, that is a very hard habbit to quit, i know, been there and done that.  I will be praying for you and your friend.  please let us know how it turns out.  I will also say a prayer for your mom.

    God bless you all.

    dj

    It is not cancer until

    They say it is.

    Although I will agree it sounds like a scary scenario, you won't know for awhile.  I don't know why your friend is waiting until 24 July: most places have taxis.  If the ENT is some distance away there must be someone who can take her.

    Agree she needs to step up her nutrition as she is obviously unwell.  Drinking Ensure is an alternative to eating.  She needs to find a local physician to help manage the pain she is no doubt having from whatever is going on.  If an antibiotic is needed it can prescribed. 

    Since the problem is in her mouth has she seen a dentist?  Has her reluctance to see an actual doctor been based on fear or lack of resources?

    I know it is hard for you to be so far from your friend.

  • Pat Brown
    Pat Brown Member Posts: 11
    update on my friend Gwen!

    First off I'm sorry I didn't update sooner, life sometimes gets in the way! But here I am, Gwen, went to her doctor's appointment on July 24 as schedlued, she had surgery last Tuesday to remove the growth in her mouth. Today Wednesday 8/19 she goes to the doctor to get the results of the biopsy. We will know in about 5 hours if she has cancer. She had called the quit line, and reduced the amount of cigs she was smoking daily, but she smoked up until an hour before surgery. Surgery was 8 days ago (last Tuesday) she has not had one cig but has the patch on and and uses nicotine lozengers. Anyway I will update her diagnosis later today! Thanks all! 

  • wmc
    wmc Member Posts: 1,804
    Pat Brown said:

    update on my friend Gwen!

    First off I'm sorry I didn't update sooner, life sometimes gets in the way! But here I am, Gwen, went to her doctor's appointment on July 24 as schedlued, she had surgery last Tuesday to remove the growth in her mouth. Today Wednesday 8/19 she goes to the doctor to get the results of the biopsy. We will know in about 5 hours if she has cancer. She had called the quit line, and reduced the amount of cigs she was smoking daily, but she smoked up until an hour before surgery. Surgery was 8 days ago (last Tuesday) she has not had one cig but has the patch on and and uses nicotine lozengers. Anyway I will update her diagnosis later today! Thanks all! 

    Quitting is hard.......

    First and formost you really have to WANT to quit. Then you have to treat it like an alcoholic, you just can never have the next one. When my father quit he said he did not quit because that was so final. He just stopped smoking.

    For me I had to quit [did not want to] or the chance of cancer returning was 90%. So I just stopped on August 28 at 8:00 pm 2013 and never had another one. It helped that I now have to breathe out my neck because of smoking.

    Best of luck, I did cold turkey and don't have any craving even if I see someone smoking. I now give talks to the local schools on anti-tobacco. Never thought I would ever be doing that but I am.

    Bill

  • Pat Brown
    Pat Brown Member Posts: 11
    She does have Cancer

    My friend W went to the doctor today and was formally diagnoised with head and neck cancer. She has to have a catscan done to see if it has spread anywhere else. My friend says the doctor told her "you're going to get to know me really well." She said she has to see the doctor every 6 weeks, but is under the impression she does not need any futher treatment. She said the doctor said he thinks he got it all out of her mouth. 

    Questions, do you guys think a doctor would actually say that? Would a doctor before a catscan tell her she needs NO further treatment? I think she hears what she want's to hear because she's in such denial. 

  • Pat Brown
    Pat Brown Member Posts: 11
    Thanks for the support

    Thanks for all the good thoughts and information. I believe it is also in her neck, because her neck is swollen, I beleive it spread there, the CTScan will tell the story I suppose.

    I've known her for 40 years, I never thought she would live to old age, I've only had that strong feeling with three people. My younger brother, just never felt he would live to be an old man. He died of a rare form of cancer of the muscle at the age of 39. HE never drank or smoked. I felt that way about my husband, and he felt it as well, he always said he would never live to 50, he claimed he knew that at the age of 10. He died in 2009 at the age of 45, from a "heart event" he never drank or smoked either. Then there is my friend, who I never felt would never  live to be old, I started to get that feeling when we were in our 20's, furthermore I always thought she would die of cancer, and here she is at 53 diagnosed with it, I hope I'm wrong about her, I'll always be there for her, but today was a very difficult day for her I know, but for me it was unbearable at times! Thanks again! 

  • wmc
    wmc Member Posts: 1,804
    Pat Brown said:

    Thanks for the support

    Thanks for all the good thoughts and information. I believe it is also in her neck, because her neck is swollen, I beleive it spread there, the CTScan will tell the story I suppose.

    I've known her for 40 years, I never thought she would live to old age, I've only had that strong feeling with three people. My younger brother, just never felt he would live to be an old man. He died of a rare form of cancer of the muscle at the age of 39. HE never drank or smoked. I felt that way about my husband, and he felt it as well, he always said he would never live to 50, he claimed he knew that at the age of 10. He died in 2009 at the age of 45, from a "heart event" he never drank or smoked either. Then there is my friend, who I never felt would never  live to be old, I started to get that feeling when we were in our 20's, furthermore I always thought she would die of cancer, and here she is at 53 diagnosed with it, I hope I'm wrong about her, I'll always be there for her, but today was a very difficult day for her I know, but for me it was unbearable at times! Thanks again! 

    The swelling might be nothing to worry about.

    Yes have a doctor look at it, but it might just be the lymph glands doing what they asr suposed to do and remove and fight infection. They will swell if you get strep throat, as that is what they do when working. Always be safe and have a doctor look at them and he will check them out. "It's not cancer until a medical doctor says it is."

    Bill

  • hwt
    hwt Member Posts: 2,328 Member
    wmc said:

    The swelling might be nothing to worry about.

    Yes have a doctor look at it, but it might just be the lymph glands doing what they asr suposed to do and remove and fight infection. They will swell if you get strep throat, as that is what they do when working. Always be safe and have a doctor look at them and he will check them out. "It's not cancer until a medical doctor says it is."

    Bill

    Pat

    Sorry to hear of your friend's dx. Hopefully, they got clear margins and no lymph nodes were involved. If so, it can all be in her rearview mirror, hope so. The rough ride is chemo and radiation so I hope she can bypass those, 

    I was also a smoker and had a cigarette on my way to have  19 hour surgery. I was in the hospital several weeks and heavily drugged. Apprently, I was there long enough to get through the withdrawal part because after leaving the hospital, I really didn't give smoking any thought. Hope your friend gets the same break.

  • wmc
    wmc Member Posts: 1,804
    Pat Brown said:

    She does have Cancer

    My friend W went to the doctor today and was formally diagnoised with head and neck cancer. She has to have a catscan done to see if it has spread anywhere else. My friend says the doctor told her "you're going to get to know me really well." She said she has to see the doctor every 6 weeks, but is under the impression she does not need any futher treatment. She said the doctor said he thinks he got it all out of her mouth. 

    Questions, do you guys think a doctor would actually say that? Would a doctor before a catscan tell her she needs NO further treatment? I think she hears what she want's to hear because she's in such denial. 

    YES, that can happen with surgery only....

    Yes that can happen. I only had surgery because they got it all, and a little extra. They had to remove my larnyx and that is where the tumor was, so with it gone and the tumor was in the center I never needed chemo or radiation. However they will keep a very close watch on her. If the CT comes back clean, and we hope it does. They will keep checking her because of not needing radiation. I had to be seen every two months the first year and every six on the second. Next year I think I drop to once a year. He will say I am NED [No Evidance of Disease] even tho he knows it is all gone he will not say cured until five years, but we know we are.

    She is very lucky to have you as a friend. In times like this so many leave or just faid away as they can't handle it or know what to say. When all they had to do was just say Hi. Beleave me she knows that you are there for her. We are here for YOU as well. Please check in just to let us know how you both are doing. You see when you join CSN you become family. We will still keep you both in our thoughts and prayers.

    Bill

  • debbiejeanne
    debbiejeanne Member Posts: 3,102 Member
    Pat Brown said:

    Thanks for the support

    Thanks for all the good thoughts and information. I believe it is also in her neck, because her neck is swollen, I beleive it spread there, the CTScan will tell the story I suppose.

    I've known her for 40 years, I never thought she would live to old age, I've only had that strong feeling with three people. My younger brother, just never felt he would live to be an old man. He died of a rare form of cancer of the muscle at the age of 39. HE never drank or smoked. I felt that way about my husband, and he felt it as well, he always said he would never live to 50, he claimed he knew that at the age of 10. He died in 2009 at the age of 45, from a "heart event" he never drank or smoked either. Then there is my friend, who I never felt would never  live to be old, I started to get that feeling when we were in our 20's, furthermore I always thought she would die of cancer, and here she is at 53 diagnosed with it, I hope I'm wrong about her, I'll always be there for her, but today was a very difficult day for her I know, but for me it was unbearable at times! Thanks again! 

    Pat, I also hope you are

    Pat, I also hope you are wrong about your friend.  You are a good friend to stand with her as she goes through this.  She will need your positive support.  I think the MRI is for comformation they got all the cancer and there's a good chance they did.  so for now, i'd run with the good news.  as you said, the MRI iwll tell the true story.

    God bless you and your friend,

    dj

  • Pat Brown
    Pat Brown Member Posts: 11
    another update!

    My friend still DOES NOT have an appointment for the CScan. Today she said she felt a legion on her tongue, the same place the other one was at, that was removed.

    She belives it's the same legion/tumor, and it wasn't all removed. She said it's  painful just like the part that was removed was. She said she has an appointment this Wednesday for the doctor to look at her mouth. I am just so worried about her and the care that's she is getting. I'm in the middle of a short distance move. I have to be out of my place by 9/12, Thank goodness I found a very nice place to move to, but the next few weeks will be very hectic for me. I am hoping after my move, I can go there to be with her for at least a month. That is the plan now. I want to thank all of you for your kind words, encourgement, and your wealth of knowledge, I can't tell you all how grateful I am to have found such a nice group of people, Thank you all  so much!!

  • wmc
    wmc Member Posts: 1,804
    Pat Brown said:

    another update!

    My friend still DOES NOT have an appointment for the CScan. Today she said she felt a legion on her tongue, the same place the other one was at, that was removed.

    She belives it's the same legion/tumor, and it wasn't all removed. She said it's  painful just like the part that was removed was. She said she has an appointment this Wednesday for the doctor to look at her mouth. I am just so worried about her and the care that's she is getting. I'm in the middle of a short distance move. I have to be out of my place by 9/12, Thank goodness I found a very nice place to move to, but the next few weeks will be very hectic for me. I am hoping after my move, I can go there to be with her for at least a month. That is the plan now. I want to thank all of you for your kind words, encourgement, and your wealth of knowledge, I can't tell you all how grateful I am to have found such a nice group of people, Thank you all  so much!!

    You're in our thoughts and Prayers.

    We wll hope for the best, and pray for the rest. She is lucky to have a friend like you have been.

    Bill

  • Pat Brown
    Pat Brown Member Posts: 11
    Today Wednesday 8/26

    Thanks Bill,  now today she said she has another painful legion in her mouth, a new one. She went back to the doctor today, and he said it was  new, and "may be a cancor sore".

    She said it's not a cancor sore but another legion. I'm very worried about the care she is getting. Her insurance has still not approved the cscan, so she still has not had one done. I'm fearful that the cancer has spread to the neck, and it's spreading in her mouth, and may be in her lungs. I think it may be too late for her, I'm terrified of that. I'm lucky to have her too, she's been the best friend to me in the last 40 plus years, I don't know what I would do without her. What happens Bill or anyone else, if a cscan reveals it has spread to other places like her neck, and other places in her mouth, or maybe even her lungs? Can you treat it then? Thanks all!

  • wmc
    wmc Member Posts: 1,804
    Pat Brown said:

    Today Wednesday 8/26

    Thanks Bill,  now today she said she has another painful legion in her mouth, a new one. She went back to the doctor today, and he said it was  new, and "may be a cancor sore".

    She said it's not a cancor sore but another legion. I'm very worried about the care she is getting. Her insurance has still not approved the cscan, so she still has not had one done. I'm fearful that the cancer has spread to the neck, and it's spreading in her mouth, and may be in her lungs. I think it may be too late for her, I'm terrified of that. I'm lucky to have her too, she's been the best friend to me in the last 40 plus years, I don't know what I would do without her. What happens Bill or anyone else, if a cscan reveals it has spread to other places like her neck, and other places in her mouth, or maybe even her lungs? Can you treat it then? Thanks all!

    Yes they can, but it just might be a canker as well.

    Our main problem is once we are told that word "cancer" then when anything that is different we think is is bace and the fear starts up all over. I could be a canker sore, and it could be right in the same or close to the same place. I do find it strange that they won't approve a CT scan as they are not really a lot of money like a PET/CT is. If you are fighting any infection even like a cacker sore your lymph glands react. I had one remover when I was around 14 for no reason other than it got hard and should not do that. They removed it and I never gave it a second thought.

    Yes cancer can spread and or even come back. Now with where it was and they remover it and did not see any margins is most likely why they did not want to do radiation. This might be a good time to play it safe and get a second opion. I wiold recomend going to a larger place that has what is called a tumor board. Then all the doctors see it at the same time and all decide what is the best way to treat her.  It would be nice if it was just a cankor sore. She also might be keeping some things from you so you don't get worried. This link is for hospitals for Head and neck, but you can also change it to cancer. I did both when I was looking for a national ranked place.

    http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/rankings/ear-nose-and-throat

    If it has spread even to the lungs they can treat it.

    Bill

  • Pat Brown
    Pat Brown Member Posts: 11
    Cscan

    She's getting the cscan on Tuesday 9/8, everything with her care is so slow. She has new legions in her mouth and on her tongue, and her entire neck is swollen and has been swollen since shortly after this all started. I'm very afraid it's all over her body, her lungs, the neck the lympnoids all over. I'm trying to make a trip there in the next few weeks, I don't have a very good feeling about the outcome with her! Thanks for the support!