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When Cancer Becomes An Afterthought

Posts: 7
Joined: Sep 2012

Hello, everyone.

My Father was diagnosed with Small Cell Lung cancer about a month ago. The cancer has most likely metastasized to his brain. Although he does not seem to be suffering any major ill effects from the tumor in his lungs, the same cannot be said about the brain.

In the span of less than a month, my father has developed an array of symptoms which have made the news and subsequent treatment of the cancer seem like an afterthought. It began with memory loss and then serious difficulty speaking. At first, it just sounded like someone suffering from the verbal equivalent of dyslexia. Lately however, he has been mixing up genders – referring to me in the feminine and even confusing me for my sister.

He’s also begun hallucinating and seems to be displaying signs of paranoia. He’s gotten in the habit of calling me late at night – my number is programmed on his phone – to complain about everyone around him, principally my mother.

He apparently tried to drive earlier today and couldn’t. He vacillates between bouts of rage to feelings of utter helplessness and despair.

What makes this doubly difficult is the fact that he lives overseas. It’s an 11 hour flight from the East coast. While I had every intention of visiting him as soon as possible as recently as last week, his deteriorating mental state has made it practically impossible for me to have a meaningful conversation with him. Between the difficulty speaking, the hearing loss, confusion, and hallucinations, I feel like my father is no longer with us. I am not even sure about my visit at this point.

Fortunately, and for no particular reason, I did tell me father that I loved him about six months ago. He was well then and seemed to have really appreciated it. Although I have many pictures of him when he was healthy, I only have one video; maybe two.

I want to remember him when he was well. I want to be able to remember what he sounded like when he could speak, think and express himself. I also think I have a voice message of him wishing me a happy birthday a few months ago. For some reason, I made sure to save it.


JWren's picture
Posts: 12
Joined: Oct 2012

Go visit your Dad now. To help your mom, and to complete your memories. He will know enough to know something is wrong and not happy. When my husband passed, my son didn't get to us in time. It will be a life long regret. Hugs

Posts: 7
Joined: Sep 2012

Thank You for your advice, Jwren. I will have to go see him very soon. He just called me a few minutes ago and was very distraught. He gets these episodes every few days. I'm not sure if they're the result of the tumor in his brain or just his general mental state. It could be a combination of both.

My father smoked for 40 years and led a very sedentary life style. He also over-medicated. I was hoping that all those years of neglect would not catch up with him but they did. Small cell, as you may know, affects smokers overwhelmingly.

What I was not prepared for is this sudden and acute mental deterioration. I can't help but contrast how he once was - an imposing figure who commanded people's attention - with what is happening now.

I just wish it didn't have to end this way.



ToBeGolden's picture
Posts: 695
Joined: Aug 2010

I am almost 70. Have laryngeal cancer that has metastasized to the lung (I'm pretty sure). I always get lifted by emails and/or calls from my children. They live close but too far to see regularly.

The fact that your father calls I think means he still gets something from talking to you.

On the other hand, you don't need to be available 24/7. You can turn off a cell phone and/or unplug a land line. Be available but on a schedule you can manage. My wife and I have our land line unplugged about 25% of the time. It is to avoid political calls and the like. Our children know the times they can call.

I think you need to find some kind of compromise. I know it will be hard. Whatever you decide doing, it is evident that you love your father and wish you could only help him more. Rick.

Posts: 7
Joined: Sep 2012

Hello, Sir. First, let me say that I am sorry to hear about your illness. Only a truly noble soul can comfort others in their time of need when he himself needs it as much as anyone else. It is also evident that you have found the strength to help you cope with this difficult time. I wish you well. Please keep me posted on how you're doing.

As for my father, his mental state seems to be deteriorating very rapidly (please read above posting).

I still take all his calls and I'm trying to be as supportive as possible. At some point, I will have to go visit; before its too late.



Posts: 7
Joined: Sep 2012

My dad passed away two days ago, a mere four months after being diagnosed with advanced small cell lung cancer. He was 68. 


I travelled overseas to spend some time with him a few weeks ago. Although his health was deteriorating, he seemed somewhat stable the night I left. He died a week later. 

I tried my best to be there in the end but there was just no way to time this. I am glad I had a chance to say goodbye. 


May he rest in peace. 



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