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Chemo is Not working. Alternatives?

Posts: 64
Joined: Apr 2011



I wanted to ask for your kind help.


My mother is 88 years old, and has esophageal cancer.


Her initial diagnosis showed that her cancer had spread outside of the esophagus to multiple lymph nodes along the trachea (windpipe) and near the lungs.


She has been receiving treatment since March 2011 (about 2 years ago). 


She had chemo from around March 2011 to February 2012.  During this approximately one year period, she refused to have chemo for about 3 months since it was making her very weak and tired.


An endoscopy in February 2012 showed that the tumor in her esophagus had grown slightly larger.


She then had radiation for only 3 weeks in March 2012 in order to improve her swallowing.  But she stopped chemo at that point cause she was so weak.


The radiation produced great results since many of the cancer cells in the esophagus were killed or became dormant.


However, when my mother started radiation, she stopped having chemo for about 7 months.


So from around April 2012 to September 2012, she received no treatment whatsoever.


She had a PET Scan around September 2012 which showed that, despite not receiving treatment for 7 months, the cancer outside of the esophagus had not spread.


However, the PET Scan showed that the cancer in the esophagus had become more active.


So my mother started chemo again in September 2012.  Due to her weakness and fatigue, she had chemo only once a month, once in Sept., Oct. Nov. and Dec.


Unfortunately, the chemo in November caused heart problems - atrial fibrillation, a rapid and irregular heart beat - and she had to go to the emergency room and subsequently see a cardiologist.


Due to the heart problems, the oncologist changed her chemo drugs for her treatment in December but she still experienced heart problems and had to go to the emergency room once more and follow up with the cardiologist again.


She also fainted twice about a week after the chemo and heart problems in December.


She is having difficulty keeping her balance when she walks and fell down twice.


And she has no energy at all to the extent that she can’t even take a bath by herself anymore.  For 3 months now!


Due to all these problems – the difficulties with chemo, heart problems, fainting, falling, great weight loss, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, etc. – we decided not to do anymore chemo, and we tried to find some alternative treatment.


I found a drug online called Escozine, which is a natural extract from the blue scorpion.  I’ve heard that like chemo, Escozine works well for some people but it does not work at all for others. 


My mother stopped chemo for two months (January and February 2013), and started Escozine for about a month.


However, she started to feel pain again under both sides of her chest and in her back.  She was panicking, and thinking that the cancer is becoming more active and spreading. 


I thought otherwise because in the past, I remember she would have pain and she thought the cancer was getting worse but a PET Scan would show that the cancer had not spread much.


I also thought the cancer wasn’t getting worse since her pain would subside considerably as soon as she took Tylenol.  She has to take Tylenol on a regular basis now but it does reduce her pain.


My mother wanted to get chemo right away due to the pain, but I told her that the chemo would cause her more harm than good, and that Escozine may possibly work but that she would need to take it for at least 2 months. 


However, my mother decided she didn’t want to take any risks and wanted to have chemo done right away since she was afraid the cancer was getting more active and spreading.


She had chemo about a week ago, and she started experiencing heart problems and fell down once.


I am really worried and don’t know what to do.


Is there anything that can be done? 


I know that if we see the oncologist, he will want her to do more chemo.


I think the problems with chemo outweigh the benefits.


Is there anything else that can be tried aside from chemo?


Or is it time to think of hospice care?


I would greatly appreciate hearing any thoughts, advice, opinions, information or ideas.


Thank you very much for your kind help!



Posts: 760
Joined: Apr 2012

So sorry to hear about your mother.  Chemo is very hard on everyone but especially at your mother's age.  My husband is 76 and was first diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in 2010.  He underwent radiation, chemo and surgery in March 2011.  Then in April 2012 he was diagnosed with cancer at the cervical of the esophagus.  Doctor said no surgery due to prior radiation, surgery and age was not a good option.  My husband did another 35 radiation and 7 chemo treatments.  Everything was fine in September and October 2012 when he had a PET/CT scan and dilation of his throat and endoscope.  Then with a follow up PET/CT scan, cancer was found in his right lung and the tumor at the cervical of the esophagus was back and very large.  We were told by 3 doctors that surgery (due to spread to lung) was out and that chemo would only prolong, not cure, and could even hasten his time.  My husband has elected no further treatment.  He prefers quality over quantity of what time he has left.

We were told to have hospice come in now.  But at this point, we feel it is not needed.  He is able to do pretty much whatever he wants and I feel that calling hospice in now would only have him give completely up.  He has been on a feeding tube since May 2012 and is able to swallow only fluids and soft foods.  Once you call hospice in that is it, no more treatments, no more doctor visits for cancer, no calling 911, etc.  Hospice keeps the patient comfortable, sends someone to bath them, if needed, gives the family comfort and handles the pain medication.  I had hospice for my mother and I can't say enough about them.  When my husband is ready for hospice, we will have the doctor notify them.  Medicare pays for hospice.

I am sure that your mother is afraid.  I know my husband is and he tries not to think of it.  Heck even I am and my health is good.  But no one promises us today or tomorrow and our time is only decided by the man upstairs.

Wishing the best to your mother and you.  Sharon

Posts: 64
Joined: Apr 2011

Thanks so much, Sharon. 


Your husband is a very brave man to have elected not to have any more treatment.  Quality of life is more important than quantity.  Still, I don’t know if I am strong enough to make such a decision and I really admire your husband’s strength.


I hope your husband feels better and can continue to experience a high quality of life.  I will keep you folks in my prayers.


Thank you once more for your kind help!  Tom

sandy1943's picture
Posts: 883
Joined: Jun 2010

Tom, I know this is hard on you. The one thing I always asked of my family was to let me make my decisions without their influence. I know my family would want me to take treatment to the end, but I know how important quality is over quanity. I want to enjoy my grandchildren, and all my loved ones as long as I can. Perhaps you need to have a heart to heart talk with her and let her know she has the right to live some quality, if that is her desire. I know when I took chemo, there wasn't much quality, and I didn't have the complications your mom had. I also didn't have radiation.

I am one of the fortunate ones. I was T3N2M0 and I'm now cancer free after five years.

I will be praying for your mom, you, and the rest of her loved ones. Not just your mom has been effected but the whole family.

Hugs and prayers, Sandra

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