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New to cancer

emily123
Posts: 3
Joined: Nov 2006

Hello,
About a month ago a cancerous tumor was found in my dad's colon. A week ago he underwent surgery and had the tumor removed. Dad is home and doing well. The doctor was optimistic he got it all and the tumor didn't spread to any organs. We just got the pathology report which shows he has stage IIIB cancer. 2 out of 19 lymph nodes were found positive for cancer. He will be meeting with an oncologist in 2 weeks and will be getting chemo. I've been surfing the web for info about cancer and chemotherapy. I keep running into "survival rates" for 5 years which brings me to my confusion. I thought he was cancer free and just had cancer cells in him that can cause cancer and the chemo would kill the cancer cells. Then he will just have to undergo constant testing to ensure cancer didn't recur. The "survival rates" I keep reading about make me think that in his stage of cancer that chemo just prolongs his life for a few years until cancer takes over and kills him? Am I wrong to think he can get rid of the cancer and move on with his life or is this a death sentence? Please help with some insight.

tennislover
Posts: 64
Joined: Mar 2006

Hi There, I am pretty sure you will recieve a lot of response to your post. I am a stage IV survivor and there are many out there. I have only been at this for 8 months but I have read about many people who are stage 3 and 4 that live very long lives. I have found it best not to rely on statitstics, it has a way of pigeon hole-ing(??) you into thinking that you only have a year or two. There are so many treatments out and there are so many ways to fight this thing. please dont think that this is a death sentence for your dad! Like I said, you will get a lot of stories from this post, there are a lot of walking miracles out there!!

kerry's picture
kerry
Posts: 1317
Joined: Jan 2003

Emily,

I so glad your father came through his surgery ok. I was diagnosed Stage 3 also, with 2 out of 12 lymph nodes positive. The medical research on cancer and chemotherapy has come a long way since the statistics were done. The stats are a bit behind. We have lots of Stage 3 and Stage 4 survivors here. Many are doing chemo, others have done chemo and alternative methods involving changing diet and lifestyle and others have choses only the diet change once the cancer tumor has been removed.

Doctors like to prescribe chemo for Stage 3 to go after those microscopic little cancer cells that they could not detect upon surgery and pathology. Consider it your insurance package. His doctors should watch him closely with scans and blood tests.

This will be a new journey in your lives. You have our thoughts and prayers and we'll be here for you to support you any time you need us.

Best of luck to you and your father.

Kerry

chynabear's picture
chynabear
Posts: 483
Joined: Jul 2005

Emily,

I'm glad that you found this site, but sorry you have to be here. I hope you find it to be as helpful as so many of us have found it to be. I'm sorry to hear about your dad's recent diagnosis. I know this is a very scary time and you are frantic to find any information you can. You are a blessing to your father to be looking for information. Knowledge is power.

That being said, please keep a few things in mind when you do your search.

First, don't pay a whole lot of attention to statistics because you will learn that so much of the information is very outdated because new and better drugs are developed and situations are so very different. Also, remember that no matter what the percentage, there is absolutely no reason your dad can't be in the surviving percentage. I remember that I was so freaked out about numbers after my diagnosis that I had to quit reading. My oncologist told me that we were going to make me better and we were going to beat this. We never discussed percentages and rates. Someone on this site said it best: "Expriation dates are for Dairy products and Odds are for Vegas." My onc also told me the day I finished chemo that his best advice he could give me was to continue to do research and read anything I can about studies beind done.

Next, Stage III is survivable, long term. There are many people here that are Stage III and even Stage IV that are very much alive and well with NED (No Evidence of Disease). Feel free to read personal web pages. I am a 2 year survivor and counting. Your dad is very fortunate to have all of the beast removed during surgery. That alone is something to be greatful for. As it was described to me, chemo at this point is insurance. Yes, there is always a chance that some ******* cells will even evade chemo, or the cancer might come back, but then you deal with that as it comes. Cancer is no longer the death sentence that it once was. Even if the cancer does come back or spreads, he can fight and beat it again.

Make sure you keep a diary of questions to ask the doctor and feel free to ask as many questions as you want to. That's what they are there for. Never feel like you can't have a second opinion as well.

My treating Onc gave me a very helpful folder that had information as to what to expect from chemo and side effects, nutrition during and after chemo, what cancer meant, and so on. Maybe you can call ahead of time and see if the onc office has something you can pick up and read before the first appointment? Also, find out if your father will be having a port inserted. This can be very helpful in saving his veins during chemo.

And finally, please keep us informed. Always remember that we are here if you have any other questions, want to discuss anything, or just want to cry, scream, laugh, vent, or anything else.

Also, make sure that you are taking care of you and have enough support. I'm not sure if you are going to be his direct caregiver but in any case it is always a good idea to make sure you (and any other caregivers) stay healthy.

HUGS

Patricia

Betsydoglover's picture
Betsydoglover
Posts: 1254
Joined: Jul 2005

Hi Emily,

Sorry to hear about your Dad's diagnosis, but glad to hear he is doing well and welcome to our group.

I was Stage IV when diagnosed in May 2005. I have been NED (no evidence of disease) since late August 2005 after 2 chemo cycles (though I went on to complete 6). There are many others on this site with success stories.

Please ignore internet statistics - they only serve to depress and are mostly very outdated. Colon cancer treatment has come a long way in the last several years and most of those stats don't take that into account. My oncologist says that "the book needs to be rewritten on colon cancer" because the book is very outdated!

Also, never forget - we are all individuals. Don't make light of that fact - even if you worry about survival stats of X%, you should always believe that there is no reason you (your Dad, actually) should not be one of those X%. (But again, try to stay away from those stats - in addition to being suspect for today's newly diagnosed patients, they can't serve any positive purpose.)

Emily, you and your Dad are starting a new part of your lives. I wish you both the best. Your Dad has a good chance at a positive outcome. Please come back to us with questions - no matter what form of chemo your Dad's doctors recommend, someone here (most likely many here) have been on it and can provide insight to you.

Take care,
Betsy

emily123
Posts: 3
Joined: Nov 2006

Thanks for all your quick replies. This website is a godsend. It definitely helps talking to people with experience about this. My dad and mom have very positive attitudes which makes me happy.
I like the reference of chemo to an insurance package. That is how I originally looked at it until I got on the internet and started doing some research. Which is what brought me here. My dad is having a port inserted for chemo but that's all I know until they meet with the oncologist. We have no idea how long he will be on chemo. He is overweight so I'd like to try and get it into his head how important diet will be for him. Thanks so much for all the information. You are all very comforting. I will definitely keep you posted and welcome all your comments!

ron50's picture
ron50
Posts: 1720
Joined: Nov 2001

Hi Emily,
I was dx st3 with 6 /13 lymph nodes pos. I had chem. Jan 21st will be the end of my 9th year cancer free. I am considered cured and the red cross here in Australia even let me donate blood again. My best wishes and hopes for your Dad and your entire family.
Ron.

vinny3's picture
vinny3
Posts: 933
Joined: Jun 2006

Sorry to have to also welcome you and your dad to this site. You can find answers to alot of your questions here. I would also suggest going to the website of the National Cancer Institute where you can get alot of information about the different stages and treatment. Don't believe the statistics tell you everything. There are alot of survivors here in all the stages. Once you get a plan of attack against the beast it is usually easier to believe in your survival and your parents good attitude can be a major factor in surviving and, living a good life.

Dick

taraHK
Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

Hi Emily,
You have already received a lot of good advice here and I just want to echo that. Especially the fact that a lot of the "statistics" that we read are based on outdated studies. And the fact that statistics refer to groups, not an individual. Once you know what type of chemo is being recommended for your dad, please feel free to come back here. There is a lot of experience here with the various chemo "cocktails". Individual reactions can be different but it may be useful for him to learn how others have experienced. I encourage you to ask the doctors as many questions as you have or can think of. That is what they are there for! Best wishes to you dad and also to your mom and you and other family.

spongebob's picture
spongebob
Posts: 2599
Joined: Apr 2003

Emily -

Good question and no need to worry about being confused by the whole "5 year" thing - it is very confusing. here's the scoop:

After 5 years cancer-free, most protocols consider the patient cured and do not tend to follow them past that.

back in the day, when they were developing these protocols, medicine wasn't as good as it is today. In many cases patients didn't go longer than 5 years. That isn't the case today.

You have the big picture pretty much correct. Since there were cancer cells present in your dad's lymph nodes (which were removed), they want to do the chemo to ensure that any other cancer cells in his body are killed before they are able to get a foothold somewhere else in his body. The fact that they took so many nodes for analysis is a good sign. The standard protocol calls for 13 nodes to be excised, that they took 19 iseven better. Studies have shown that patients who have no node involvement whenonly a few nodes are removed and studied have a lower survival rate than those in your dad's situation where 13 or more nodes are removed and there are cancer cells present in a couple.

As far as "survival rates" go in general - don't listen to them. Those are for the academics and the researchers and have no bearing on your dad's individual case - he's unique and not a percent sign. he can get rid of the cancer and get on with his life - there are many people who have done exactly that!

Cheers

- SpongeBob

jana11
Posts: 708
Joined: May 2004

Emily, DO NOT LOSE HOPE!!! The stats are very dated and new drugs are constantly being discovered that help prolong life/cure. Right now your dad is NED (no evidence of disease). The chemo's goal is to get any microscopic cancer cells that may be lurking around.

Hope can affect prognosis. Keep your hope! Even if the stats say you only have a 1% chance of cure - if you are that 1 person in 100, you are 100% cured! DO NOT LOSE HOPE. Focus of making his life wonderful, enjoy every moment and tell your dad and entire family how much you care. Let this terrible cancer make your lives better; appreciate it all!

Keep coming here with any fear and confusion... we are here for you. jana - surviving since diagnosis 10/02! :)

changing
Posts: 135
Joined: Oct 2006

Welcome, we're fairly new to this board but I'm sure, like us, that you'll find the support and encouragment here is phenomenal! Regardless of what the statistics or tests tell you...staying positive is a very large part of the fight! My husband was dx'd in August with colon 3c but I was stage 2...21 yrs ago with breast cancer:)

pink05
Posts: 553
Joined: Mar 2006

Hi Emily,

No. This is definitely not a death sentence. As so many have responded, there are many people with stage III and IV colon cancer that have responded so well to treatment and are currently survivors. Many have surpassed the five year mark. Please do not pay much attention to those statistics. When my dad was first diagnosed, I didn't know about this wonderful site and did research on random websites that gave grim statistics which always got me very depressed. Your dad is not a statistic and his chances of surviving this thing are so good. If you have any questions, please come to this site rather than randomly searching websites for answers.

God bless,

-Lee-

sam991
Posts: 16
Joined: Nov 2004

The 5 year rates are a bit meaningless because as somebody above said the numbers include ancient history/older treatments and also because the cause of death may not necessarily be cancer especially with older patients. Also while all the cancer cells may be killed by the chemo there is no guarantee that a new cancer may not occasionally develop from scratch like the first one did. Think of it like any other possibility, such as being in a car accident. It may happen or it may not. Nobody knows, but the chemo improves the odds. So no it isn't a death sentence.

nanuk's picture
nanuk
Posts: 1363
Joined: Dec 2003

Emily: As you can see, there are as many different stories as there are people with the diagnosis..one of the reasons your Dr is recommending the chemo is because there isn't a Dr or a machine that can predict without question whether or not his cancer will or will not re-occur; even w/o positive nodes they will usuallyrecommend chemo and/or radiation, because there is always the outside chance that one of those microscopic buggars could be lurking..better to do more than less..that is the rule.

lynn12
Posts: 8
Joined: Nov 2006

Emily,
I have just started coming to this site myself, i have read alot of things about alot of these wonderful people. i wish i would have known about this site when i was first diagnosed, like you all i would do is surf the web and my medical books for answers . I too found nothing but stats, listen to all these good people, they really know what they are talking about. I was diagnosed in feb. of 2005 with stage4 rectal cancer, i listened when my doctor flat out told me i had only 2 years to live, i was a basket case for months. i beileved everything i read about survival rates and became very depressed. but then something changed me, GOD, i prayed for god to heal my body. I didnt ask him to heal me if it were his will, i demanded that he heal me. you see emily it is gods will to heal our bodies,all we have to is ask and beileve and it will happen. If the lord can save our soles, then he can certainly heal our bodies. so i tell you this, pray with your dad every day and ask god to heal him, own that statement when god said "ASK AND YOU SHALL RECIEVE" and you will see his awsome love at work for you and your family. this website is great and the people here really do care about what happens to you. take care and god bless you and your family. lynn

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