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Barbie123's picture
Barbie123
Posts: 8
Joined: Jun 2010

Hi,

I'm new here and just wanted a place to get some information and support. My mother who is 91 was diagnosed with Stage 3 (4 lymph nodes) Colorectal Cancer in August. She had part of her colon removed and now wears a colostomy bag. She is doing fine and living at home by herself. I go over there and do things for her every other day but she seems to be managing pretty well on her own although she is homebound and walks with a walker.

After talking this situation through with our family and her long-time family doctor, we decided it was best not to tell her the tumor was cancerous. She has a very positive outlook and is enjoying life so much we felt that the news would make her depressed and she would lose the will to live. I know she wouldn't want chemo because of things she said about friends of hers that had cancer and saying she would never want to go through that. The oncologist said that chemo treatment would probably only prolong her life by a few months anyway.

I believe we made the right decision. It has been 10 months since her surgery and she seems to be doing pretty well. The only thing I noticed lately is that she has no appetite. She is forcing herself to eat. She is also very thirsty. She just had a checkup at her GP and things seemed to be OK, considering her situation. She also has kidney disease and an irregular heartbeat.

Are these symptoms (no appetite and thirst) normal for someone with stage 3? Also, does anyone know what the prognosis is of a 91 year old that has stage 3 colorectal cancer that hasn't had chemo is? Everything I've read is prognosis for someone that has been treated, and it's about 5 yrs.

Thanks

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
Posts: 4889
Joined: May 2005

I think from what you've written that I would have handled thing as you and you family have. I don't see any point in telling her it's cancerous. I'm at Stage IV so I don't know what is normal for Stage III but at 91 yrs with the kidney issue, this could just be normal for her.

There are alternative therapies like TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) that if I were in your (or your Mom's) situation I would consider before chemo. Chemo can be very hard on the body and this is coming from someone who was 46 at the time of my diagnosis.

There is a member on the board, John23, who is a strong proponent of TCM. He could be a good resource for this topic.

My Mom is almost 91 and is having issues from a back injury. She is doing acupuncture now to help alleviate the pain. At 91 other things are starting to happen too. I'd sign on the dotted line to be healthy until 91 in a heartbeat but that's me...
All the best
-phil

Barbie123's picture
Barbie123
Posts: 8
Joined: Jun 2010

Thank you for your advice. I'm glad I found this discussion group because I think it's going to help me a lot. I really have no one else to discuss this with. Sometimes I feel guilty because I'm keeping this from her, but I do think it's the best thing.

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
Posts: 4889
Joined: May 2005

I think you asked yourself "would this HELP her?" and you don't think it would. I agree with you. Others may disagree. We have a wide spectrum of opinions on here.
-p

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abrub's picture
abrub
Posts: 2098
Joined: Mar 2010

My mom is 92, and some shadows were seen on her breast during another xray. We decided not to pursue it, because we know that at this point, we wouldn't put her through treatment for breast cancer.

As for the 5-year estimate, at 91 your mother is already on bonus time. Every day is a gift - enough it, and help her to do so as well. The prognosis for a 91 year old with Stage 3 colon cancer is the same as for a healthy 91 year old - tomorrow is never a given.

When my parents and in-laws were all well into their 80s, I reminded my kids that they're grandparents couldn't die young - that was no longer an option.

Enjoy every day!

Barbie123's picture
Barbie123
Posts: 8
Joined: Jun 2010

It is nice to talk to someone in a similar situation. You are certainly right, every day is a gift, especially at 91. She has lived a wonderful and healthy life up to this point so I am very grateful for that.

I wish your mom well.

Thanks for your reply!

msccolon's picture
msccolon
Posts: 1956
Joined: Oct 2004

I think you are doing the right thing. The chemo treatments for colon cancer are very rough even for us young people (relatively :) ) I wouldn't even consider it at your mother's age. Plus, consider that colon cancer in the elderly tends to be relatively slow growing so that even if she DID have a recurrence, it's not likely she would have symptoms from a recurrence in her normal life span. Gosh, 91!!!! I so would love to see that! Heck, I'm turning 50 this year and never thought I'd see that! I know you enjoy every day with your mother and I'm sure you feel very blessed and would do whatever you feel is the best for her. It's wonderful to see you here on the board and I sure do hope you are able to find the support and outlet you are looking for! Hug your mother for me, ok? I lost my mother back in 2006 and still miss her today as much as I did when she first passed.
mary

Barbie123's picture
Barbie123
Posts: 8
Joined: Jun 2010

Thanks for your post. Mom started having symptoms (bleeding & pain in lower left abdomen) and before we knew it she was having surgery to remove a large malignant tumor that had penetrated the walls of her colon. Up until that time she had been relatively healthy and had no colon problems. The surgeon warned me that she might not make it through the surgery. He was so impressed that she did make it and after rehab even returned home. It seems like a miracle to me that at 91 she has come through this so well.

I think the reason is that she was the 13th child and was brought up on a farm picking cotton and feeding chickens. She is a real toughie....much more so than I am. She has even mastered changing her colostomy bag. I'm very proud of her and do think that I made the right choice in not telling her she has cancer. I just want her to enjoy her remaining days.

I just had my first colonoscopy and had two non-malignant polyps removed. Before, I was just putting it off but after what happened to mom, I felt I needed to get it done. It didn't turn out to be such a bad experience as I expected.

I know you must miss your mother terribly. Yes, I will definitely give my mom a hug.

I'm glad you will be enjoying your 50th birthday.

Thanks again for your support.

PGLGreg's picture
PGLGreg
Posts: 741
Joined: Jul 2006

My mother, who would be 91 too, had she not died last year (not from cancer), had loss of appetite and loss of thirst. Dehydration became a real problem for her. From what I've read, it's usual for old people to lose thirst and consequently to become dehydrated. So unless it's a symptom of something bad (and I wouldn't know about that), it might be a good thing if the thirstiness helps your mother to keep drinking lots of liquid.

In your place, I would have decided also not to raise the issue of chemo with her. I made similar decisions.

--Greg

John23's picture
John23
Posts: 2140
Joined: Jan 2007

There is no "time limit"; no-one can tell how long anyone is going to
remain alive. Your mom might live to see her 110th birthday.

I think she she be told of her condition, and the options; she has a right
to know, and a right to make her own decision.

I don't blame her for not wanting to do Chemo or radiation, but
there are other alternatives that appear to work for many of us.

I was a stage 3c as classed by one oncologist, and a 4 by another.
My prognosis was bleak, and with chemo, etc.. without, they wouldn't
give me any "time period". My operations and staging was in Oct of 2006.

I used medicinal/pharmaceutical strength imported Chinese herbs
made into a broth and taken for six months, at six month intervals.

Many others here have taken the "juicing" route, with amazingly great results.

Your mom can try any of the alternatives, since they don't have
side effects, nor will they do damage to her immune system. In fact,
both the aforementioned will help build her immune system, helping
her fight other diseases as well as cancer and cancer related illnesses.

"Do no harm" is the criteria that seems to be too often overlooked
in modern day western medicine.

If mom wants to march to her own drummer, help her find the
parade that's already marching to her favorite beat.

We're out here!

Good health to you and yours.

John

tootsie1's picture
tootsie1
Posts: 5056
Joined: Feb 2008

I think you've made a very wise and loving decision for your mom. It would be horrible to put her through such rough treatment at her age. Please keep us posted on how she's doing.

*hugs*
Gail

HollyID's picture
HollyID
Posts: 951
Joined: Dec 2009

It's so hard to see our parents growing old, isn't it? My mom is about 85 now, and not in the best of health, but she's doing OK. Your mom is toughie just like mine. She picked cotton, worked on a farm and grew up just being tough. She was a youngster when she was living in Arkansas and fell into a pile of scorpions. When she told me that, all I could think of OUCH!! They did sting her but her and her siblings went along playing.

Thirst and anorexia is common among older people. Would it help to fix her meals and maybe even ensure or something that she would really love with lots of calories. When I was taking care of my ex father-in-law, he loved root-beer floats. I fixed him one whenever he wanted. He was elderly, as well. I loved that man like my own dad.

Now as far as statistics go, don't trust what the internet says. I was also diagnosed as a stage III. When I talked to my oncologist, he told me that 80% of stage III's are cured at surgery. The only problem was he wasn't sure whether I was in the 80% or the 20% and therefore, I chose chemo just because I was younger (46) when I was diagnosed. I've tolerated my chemo very well. He worked at a university (in fact, he still is adjunct professor) and they did a study of people who did or didn't take chemo.

Personally, if I was 91, I wouldn't do chemo if I was aware I had cancer. Chemo is evil. It affects every part of your body. I really think you're doing the right thing.

My best to your mother. She is in our thoughts.

Hugs and Love

Holly

coolvdub's picture
coolvdub
Posts: 410
Joined: Aug 2009

Hi Barbie,

I agree with the majority here. At 91 I personally feel Chemo would do more harm than good. Early on in my battle with cancer I made the decision it's all about quality of life verses quantity. I was diagnosed at 47 last April and staged at 3b. I did the chemo, but I don't think I will ever do it again if I have a recurrance. I'm approacing 4 months since I completed chemo, and the side effect of neuropathy is worse now than when I was on chemo. I have it bad enough in my hands that some things are hard to do, and my feet are just as bad. Sometimes the most compassionate thing to do is nothing. If your Mom is happy and resonably healthy, that's a good thing. I do agree with what John said, alternative treatments can and do work wonders.

Don

vhtqm1's picture
vhtqm1
Posts: 107
Joined: Feb 2010

you mentioned she's thirsty and has a history of some kind of kidney disease. i would think those two would have more in common then the cancer leading to being thirsty. do you happen to know what her glucose levels were? any history of diabetes? also, if her kidney function is declining the build up of toxins can cause one to be thirsty. i'm not saying this is an issue but i would get this checked out since you have a history of this illness.
irregular heartbeat can also be a consequence of some kind of kidney disease and or diabetes.

if you can get a copy of recent blood work and or urine test i would check the following.
blood test---creatnine, bun, potassium, sodium, gfr, and look to see if any protein was detected in urine sample.

hope this helps?

ed

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