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brother with colon cancer

Posts: 10
Joined: Jan 2004

my brother was diagnosed with colon cancer a few months ago at age 39. He lives in California and I live on the East Coast. Over the past couple of months I have been speaking to his doctors to get the truth of what's happening. They removed a tumor and and now starting radiation and chemo. Radiation 5x a week for 6 weeks and chemo 1x a week for 6-8 months. He is a stage 3 and the cancer has gone through his pelvic wall. I was visiting with him a couple weeks ago (for our moms funeral unfortunately) and met with him and his doctors. They told me that he had around 18 months left if he did the treatments he has now started. I have heard/read so many stories about miracles (or lack there of) and am interested in any similar situations. The other advice I would like is this...he currently lives alone. We have 2 sisters but neither live that close to him. Will he be able to manage these treatments alone? I can't imagine him going to a nursing home and although selfish, I'm not sure how I feel about him living with me. I really don't want to watch my brother die in my own house and have my wife and 3 kids see him this way either. I don't even know what he would want. I'm just trying to prepare myself for the future. I hope this is making sense. I just don't know what I should be thinking or doing at this stage. Any comments are welcome.

alihamilton's picture
Posts: 348
Joined: Jan 2004

I am so sorry to hear about your brother...a difficult time for you, especially when you have had the added grief of the loss of your mother. I can understand your concerns. I am so glad I am able to help my husband who had a similar diagnosis, through his surgery and treatments. However, your brother is younger and may be able to look after himself. There is no way of knowing exactly how he will tolerate treatment...some people do very well.

As to the prognosis, i am sure you will get many replies from Stage 111 survivors. I am surprised that the doctors have given him such a short time to live. There is NO way of knowing. We were given a statisistic of 50% chance of survival but that everyone is unique and it is impossible to say how an individual will do. If there are mets to the liver, lungs or any other organ, the chances of survival are less, but then he would have been diagnosed as Stage 1V.

I would have thought it would be nice for him to have someone closer to keep an eye on him and to support him. Does he have any close friends nearby.....blood is not always thicker than water!

Posts: 232
Joined: Apr 2003

Hi Jim- I am so sorry to hear about your brother. I too am a bit suprised that doctors have given your brother such a prognosis. Although the survival statistics are poorer than for lower stages, Stage III is still potentially curable. There are a number of Stage III survivors. Is he being treated at or gotten a second opinion at a major cancer center? If not I would suggest that, to make certain he is getting the latest information.

I think fears of the unknown and the prospect of losing a family member are harder on caregivers and other family members than the patient.

As for whether he can manage on his own, everyone's situation is a bit different. How is he taking all of this, and how is he feeling right now? I am asking because I think that has a great deal to do with how things go. Despite everything, I am optimistic and have a pretty can do attitude.

I was diagnosed Stage III/IV 5/02 and confirmed as Stage IV 9/02. I am single and lived 600 miles from any family members. I went through 2 rounds of radiation therapy, 18 weeks of chemotherapy, 13 wks of total parenteral nutrition (home IV infusion of nutrients) because of a stricture in my intestine. I worked through most of this time, other than when I was recuperating from surgeries. My sister flew out to be with me for 2 surgeries I had as well as the week after each.

I could not have done all this without incredible help from people at work adjusting my work schedule to accomodate doctor appointments, offering to run errands, take me to appointments etc. Although I rarely needed their services, the knowledge that they would be there no matter what, and their encouragement were essential.

I had a townhouse, so not difficult to keep up. I did hire Merry Maids to clean my house for 3 months after my last surgery.

Things changed 6/03 and made my sister's help invaluable. I was coughing badly and painful as a result of progression of my disease. At that point, my oncologist thought I would not respond to further chemotherapy. I was very scared that I would soon have serious complications that might make me unable to travel. It would have been difficult for my sisters had to spend time away from family, if I had gotten stuck in a hospital where I lived, and not fair to friends and coworkers to be the ones helping me if I got in serious trouble. So I moved to be close to my sister. My oncologist suggested that I move to an assisted living center. My sister was scared about how much care I would need and encouraged me to do this also. I am only 47 however. I asked her to rent me a regular apartment,with the plan to get visiting nursing/hospice service as needed. Although she offered that I stay at her house, I did not want to disrupt her household. If I feel poorly, I can spend the time at my place rather than slowing her down.

Although she has helped me so much with moving, and numerous little things, knowing that she is there if I need her is the most important thing.

I am lucky, I worked with people with medical knowledge. I lived fairly close- no more than 20 miles from any of my doctors. I now live 6 miles from the comprehensive cancer center at which I am treated. I am very fortunate in that I have responded to chemotherapy which has shrunk my tumors dramatically enough that I feel well enough to fly back, and fill in at my old job part time each month, 20 mth after diagnosis, and hopefully for some time to come.

Here is hoping that your bother responds well to treatment and never gets to this point.

Best wishes,


Posts: 10
Joined: Jan 2004

Thanks for your reply. He has had two different oncologist tell me the same thing. When they removed the tumor, the surgeon told me there was no way to get it all. That's the reason for the radiation and chemo. They did tell me it will never go away. Again, this is new to me so I'm trying to gain good information like yours. Thanks.

Posts: 8
Joined: Jan 2004

Jim, sorry to hear about your brother. His diagnosis was the same as mine two years ago, and I'm now 37. After they removed my tumor, I had the same chemo and radiation series as your brother, however, I also had a bowel resection, where they took out all the surrounding tissues and a portion of my lower colon. That increased my chances dramatically. Your brother may not be able to benefit, but it did improve my stats.
I too live alone, and during my chemo and radiation worked every day. I didn't have anyone local to care for me (lots of long distance phone calls), but it was surprising how people were willing to help...just didn't know how all the time. If he's independent before cancer, I'll bet he can remain that way during the treatments.
Keep daily tabs on him, and those tough decisions will come easier when/if you have to make them...and remember, there are still miracles happening daily. Cully

Posts: 10
Joined: Jan 2004

Thanks for your message. Your situation does sound a lot like my brothers. Do you/did you have a colostomy bag? They said he would have to have this for the 6 months or so that he has the chemo. Do you know how long doing chemo they can tell if/how quickly it's working?

2bhealed's picture
Posts: 2085
Joined: Dec 2001

Hello Jim,

I have two perspectives on this cancer issue: my sister died of intestinal cancer 11 years ago and I was dx'ed with colon cancer 2 yrs ago. I, too, was Stage 3 like your brother. I am completely curious why they think he's only got 18 months?

I was lymph positive but with no metastisis. I chose to not do any chemo (radiation was never offered) and instead have used Eastern Medicine which so far has been successful.

I never shielded my children (and they were young at the time) from my dying sister....it's part of life. She needed the support we could offer. My other sister moved in with her for a time to take care of her and her baby. (Her daughter was 5 months old when she died). Her husband was able to be home much of the time but traveled for his business so it helped to have someone there fulltime. We all put our own lives on hold for her last year. It is what families do when need be. Fortunately we lived close enough to do this easily. Yes, it is a disruption, but I cherish the time I gave my sister now that she is gone. We were to have moved/job change/ but we put that on hold to be with her. I am glad we did!

My folks have moved (temporarily) to near me to help my family while I heal. People do this all the time.

I just lost my FIL this week to complications from cancer surgery.

So if your brother is Stage 3 I assume he had lymph activity. Why the radiation?

I cannot help you about the treatments and if he can handle this alone, but I can tell you emotionally he will need someone....many someones. Cancer can be a very lonely journey. Coming here is a good way for you to educate yourself, but I recommend you get the book:

Beating Cancer With Nutrition by Dr. Patrick Quillin


And as for you.....make sure you and your sisters get colonoscopies IMMEDIATELY! No one told us to get them when my sister was dx'ed and since she was so young (30) we were told her cancer was very rare (found out it was the location that was rare) we thought it was a fluke. Had one doc told me to get checked I would not be here going through colon cancer myself. And we had no prior family history. this is not negotiable. It's a must.

You can tell your bro to join us here too. We're a fun group of semi-colons. :-)

peace, emily the alternative radical who will be telling you to start juicing your bro before long!

Posts: 10
Joined: Jan 2004

Thanks for your reply. Please let me know why you're asking about radiation. Is it odd based on what I've described? Again, trying to understand all the terminology and what does what.

2bhealed's picture
Posts: 2085
Joined: Dec 2001

I think you answered my question concerning the radiation when you said they could not get it all. Why could they not get it all?

Please visit those websites I wrote down. www.hacres is from a guy who cured his colon cancer with diet and juicing. Do NOT give up!! There are other ways to combat this disease.

peace, emily

StacyGleaso's picture
Posts: 1249
Joined: Mar 2003

Hi Jim...

Everyone who posted a comment prior to mine is exactly right. No doctor can predict when a patient will expire with any TRUE accuracy. I understand them not wanting to give him false hope, but it is ridiculous for them to think that they are that good in predicting such things.

I was a stage 4...I like to think of myself as an over-achiever! Mine also spread to my liver, and as a result, 40% of my liver is now gone. No big deal. Today, I am fine, and that was two years ago. I never asked or was offered a timeline of when the cancer will win, or if it even will. Detection is a big part of the cure. So is attitude. You didn't mention how your brother is doing now? Is he confined to bed, or still heading off to work everyday? Everyone does handle treatments differently. I was able to maintain my 50 hr per week job, and tend to my three kids all without missing a beat. My kids never even knew I was sick. Never lost my hair, no side effects to speak of. I think I was VERY lucky, but I also think that by telling myself I was in charge, and not the cancer, I handled it all very well.

Have your brother e-mail me or anyone else on this site for support. It truly does help.

Please keep us posted on his progress...


spongebob's picture
Posts: 2598
Joined: Apr 2003

Ahoy, Jim -

I don't really have anything more to offer to what everyone else has already said - don't listen to "timelines", keep a good attitude, eat/sleep well, etc.

I just wanted to say that I lived alone during chemo (I didn't get radiation). I worked two jobs to make ends meet, and I dealt with an (e)strange(d) wife who was bent on trying to make my life so miserable that I went to an early grave. Since I was getting divorced, I relocated closer to my job/cancer treatment facility and didn't have any friends to help. I managed OK. I opted to live alone - although getting a roomie would have made the economic impact much easier to cope with - because I wanted my privacy. If I was sick, I didn't want anyone there to hear it. If I wanted to sleep at 2 in the afternoon, I didn't want anyone there to keep me awake. If I felt like crying, I wanted to be able to do it without anyone knowing it (NOT THAT I DID CRY, mind you...)

Anyway, just keeping in touch with your brother and letting him know you care about him andthat you're tere for him will mean the world to him.

You're a good person for contacting the CSN and seeking info for him. Know that the "semi-colons" as we call ourselves are here to lend and ear or give advice anytime.

Best regards

- SpongeBob

wildcat's picture
Posts: 40
Joined: Apr 2002

Jim I am also sorry to hear about your brother. I am really surprised that with a Stage 3 colon cancer they are not more optimistic on the time line. I am a survior of two years so far (age 44) of stage 3 colon cancer. I would encourage your brother to keep looking for treatments and I am not talking about going to Mexico. There is a hospital in Omaha that is using a flushing treatment with a friend of mine. Yes, they said this will last probably only five years but with the success of cancer research they anticipate something else to come along. The treatment consist or scraping and/or removing the tumors. They than literally flush the organs with Chemo. A very harsh and nasty treatment (it is done while in Intensive Care). But he is looking absolutely great the tumors are not growing and it has been 18 months. They feel he has gotten strong enough to do the treatment again. He said it was worth the seven days of hell. I don't even know if this is an option for your brother but they visited three different clinics before finding this treatment.

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