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My Father's Recent Diagnosis

Posts: 1
Joined: Dec 2003

Hello. About two months ago, my father started complaining that his belly was continuing to grow, despite being on a diet. It was getting to the point where he could not breathe well, and so we took him in the hospital, where they gave a preliminary diagnosis of cirrhosis with ascites, and primary liver cancer. One month later they have confirmed that through a liver biopsy.

What is so distressing is that his doctors say that there is no effective treatment other than palliative. He is too old (72) and has too many lesions (3 - including one near the portal vein) to be considered for a transplant, and resection or chemotherapy would be too taxing on his already impaired liver to survive the treatment. They've given him 4-6 months to live.

My mother and siblings have tried to be encouraging for him, but our optimism is dimming. Has anyone else experienced this kind of diagnosis? Is there truly no hope for him?

gigglegirl's picture
Posts: 11
Joined: Oct 2003

I too have ascites due to liver cancer, although the liver cancer for me was not a primary site. I hope that they have done a procedure for your father called, paracentisis, where they drain the fluid from him abdomen. I am going again tomorrow to have this done. The ascites is very uncomfortable.
I have now had liver cancer for a little over 3 years, but am just now 45 years old. Your fathers age probably has little to do with a transplant, but more a factor in chemo. A transplant is not usually an option for anyone with liver cancer due to the drugs needed afterward for the body to not reject the new organ, they suppress the immune system.
Since my liver cancer is not the primary cancer, mine was breast cancer that metastized to the bones and liver I can not say for sure that the chemo regimine would be the same. Many of the drugs were quite harsh to say the least. But Navelbine and Gemcitabine (Gemzar) were 2 that were not so harsh, also Xeloda. You might inquire about those.
Keeping your Dad comfortable is most important. First hand, I can tell you, when your liver is not happy, you don't feel good at all. And that ascites can be quite painful. It can be drained, I hope they have done that already for him.
The estimate for time, well, it's an estimate, based on statistics and well not all of us fit into the stats. Quality of time is most important. I say that knowing that in my own experience there will come a time where I will be telling the doctor that I only wish to be kept comfortable, no more chemo.
What does your Dad want to do? That is important too. Get a second opinion if your Dad feels well enough to put up with the Chemo.
I pray that your Dad is kept comfortable and that you, your Mom and the rest of the family are given peace and comfort through a difficult time. My own Mom lived with me her last years, she died of Ovarian cancer almost 4 years ago. I know how it is to be both the patient and the caregiver. I think for many it is very difficult to be the caregiver and one needs to honor the one that is ill and that can be quite the challange. Make the most of the time that you have together. Spend as much time with your father as you can.
Liver cancer even if your father was younger may not have had a different prognosis. So, please, love, laugh and live with him while you can the best that you know how.
I was one of the fortunate ones that God graced with more time than most. I am thankful, but please know that the time I had due to the Chemo was a challenge that I am not sure I would have endured had I been older. Being in my early 40's and having been in excellent physical condition other than the cancer allowed my body to take a beating that others, young or old may not have endured. I am sorry if I have shared too much. I only meant to encourage you. God is my strength and salvation. I look forward to being in heaven and leaving this body that fell apart at a rather early age. So, at the risk of being rude, I hope that you too know Jesus and the peace that can be found in knowing that He has a special place for all of us. I still have times when I am in pain and am hurting and feel unsure about how things may procede, especially since some of the drugs seemed worse than the disease. But, there is always a peace knowing that He has a special place for me where I will no longer know the pain that I know now.
My love and prayers go to your Dad, and you and your family. Lisa

Posts: 4
Joined: Jan 2004

Hi. My heart goes out to you both. My wife has metastatic colorectal cancer of the liver in both lobes. The lesions are innumerable and we are seeking a procedure to treat them and hold them at bay, which is radiological in nature. It is called yttrium-90 microsphere therapy and will be conducted at John's Hopkins.

I agree with Gigglegirl, age and physical condition are primary determinants as to how well your father will do, and as to how long your father will endure. As my wife and I have accepted, we are all going to the same address. It is just a matter of time as to when we will get there.

I also agree that one's faith is a comfort in these times. I am a Buddhist. My wife is a Roman Catholic. She looks to a savior. I look to meditation and staying in touch with reality: life is full of sorrows. Attachment to things that we cannot possibly hope to hold onto causes us pain and suffering. To relieve one's self of suffeing we must learn to let go of these things, including our lives. As Buddhist's say, "We must drop the precious gem to which we cling into the pool to be truly free." The more we cling to it. The more pain there is.

Love, compassion, and joyfull sympathy to you and your family.


Posts: 3
Joined: Oct 2004

my father has metastatic liver cancer and we're currently looking for treatments.... how did the yttrium-90 microsphere therapy work for you? i noticed that you posted the message in january... how have things progressed?

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