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My name is Eugenia and my mom, Theresa (Terry), has very recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. She is only 72 and stopped smoking over 40 years ago. She worked in a laboratory doing cancer research for 40 years before retiring 10+ years ago and was handling chemicals for cancer research her entire career at NIH and Human Genome in the DC Area. She started having back pain in October and it took almost 2 months to determine what was wrong. First they thought she had pulled her back picking up her grandson, my 10 month old son, and the doctors gave her muscle relaxers. Then, the doctors thought she had pneumonia and she was given antibiotics. Then, she went back to the hospital because the antibiotics were not working and they did a CT scan and found a mass in her left lung. It has been a long and awfully slow process and after multiple hospital visits, biopsies, scans, etc. and us pushing things along, they found that the cancer spread to her bones - spine, chest, and head. Her spine is covered, which is what is causing her back pain but she is now on pain medication to keep her comfortable and help her get stronger. She starts cancer treatment next week and she has a positive state of mind so far - she is ready to fight this! What can I do to help her stay positive and get healthy and strong? I live in DC but was there for 2 weeks over the holiday helping take care of her and my dad and working with doctors to come up with a plan quickly. She is being treated at Zimmer Cancer Center in Wilmington, North Carolina and they live one hour south. The oncologist wants to treat her with 3 drugs - 2 chemo drugs plus keytruda - every 3 weeks x 4 rounds. We are still waiting for her gene marker testing to come back to know if there are other drugs that might work better for her situation. Does anyone know if Zimmer is a reputable cancer center? Should I be looking for a second opinion or clinical trials at a research institute and if yes, how do I go about doing that? What alternative treatments, food, medicine, should we be considering? I don't want to miss any opportunities for treatment and will do anything to help her fight this. Thank you for any advice you might have for me and my family. Happy New Year :)
HI All, To be honest, I'm not sure exactly what I"m doing here or what I'm seeking from this site other than a bit of comfort and maybe to read others stories and share in the community of people who are also walking similar/the same path. Maybe someone to validate my feelings occasionally as I oscillate between sadness, happiness, intense anger, sentimentality and all the feelings in between. I come from a long history of cancers (not all lung) on my Mom's side of the family. My Mom is one of eight and of those eight two are living (my Mom and her brother). Of those that have passed, 4 out of 6 have died from cancer. The oldest of her siblings was only 73. Out of the 4, 3 of them didn't make it out of 6 months post diagnosis and only one made it to treatmand ent. My Mom started smoking when she was 11 years old. When she was diagnosed with COPD in 2010, I begged her to quit and stop/slow the progression as much as possible. I, too, was a smoker at the time and we had already lost my two of my uncles to cancer. I didn't want her to get sick. As a measure of solidarity, I quit smoking on her birthday that year and I've now been smoke free for 7 years, except for two single cigarettes over the course of that time. I'd been predicting my Mom's future for years but could not get her to quit smoking. On December 8, 2016 I was in the UK traveling on business. My Mom, who's family nickname is Tuffy, had been struggling with what she thought was pneumonia for a while. Getting her to go to the doctor at the time was no small feat of will and she kept telling us all she was fine even though she was having pain. The pain got severe enough in her chest/shoulder/arm that she thought she might be having a heart attack (although possibly the longest heart attack on record) and went to the doctor while I was away. She called me while I was away to tell me she was going. She then called me later to tell me she did have pneumonia, but they found a mass in her lung and that they were going to send her for a biopsy. I was a wreck. I was nearly 3,500 miles away and felt totally helpless and deep in the pit of my stomach I knew what the news would be. I can remember calling my last surviving uncle that night (after having more wines than I should with colleagues at a couple of pubs) and just sobbing that I didn't want to lose my Mom and I didn't know how I was going to be strong enough to go through this with her. I completely came unraveled. My Mom had the biopsy and I traveled back a few short days later on December 10, 2016. On December 15, 2016 her pulmonologist confirms that it is in fact cancer. Adenocarcinoma NSC. He wants her to come back for a test to determine her lung capacity and sends her to a top thoracic in the area. The lung capacity test shows that she's not a good candidate for surgery. She also can't have surgery because she is still smoking and they are concerned the cancer has spread to the chest wall and its in a lymph node near her heart. He refers her to see an oncologist for treatment options. We have a great one local we know from another family members cancer journey and get an appointment with her. Fast forward to our appointment with the oncologist in mid January. She stages my Mom at about a Stage II MAYBE Stage III. The oncologist is ready to start her for treatment in the coming weeks and sends her for a precautionary brain scan since the PET scan doesn't cover this. The scan was done on January 23rd. On January 24th, I received a phone call that they found something in my Mom's brain and we needed to go immediately to the neurosurgeon for evaluation. The news is promising in that it's one tumor and a candidate for surgery. My Mom is admitted to the ER that night and has brain surgery the next morning. She does fantastic. All her doctors can't get over how well she did and how she didn't show any symptoms of the tumor prior to the scan. Immediately, my Mom is now a Stage IV lung cancer patient. After recovering for a bit, she starts chemo and radiation. Chemo is carboplatin and pemetrexed. The Neulasta makes my Mom violently ill so they have to switch her to neupogen so she can sustain treatment. During this, Mom goes through genetic testing to determine the mutations she displays. None of them are available for targeted therapies. At this point though, I don't know what genetic mutation she has. She also goes in for a Cyberknife treatment on the area treated on her brain. Mom finished chemo on June 8th. She went for her follow-up PET scan on July 15th. On July 19th we are informed that Mom is in remission. No active cancer, all post treatment disease. We are elated and I book our trip to Florida that I promised I would take her on once she finished treatment and beat this (my mom from the start said she wouldn't let her take her down. She was fighting - and she did. Not once did she complain or look for sympathy. She just did everything with such grace and strength I could be nothing but amazed. I was pretty convinced if it were me I'd be in a pile on the floor somewhere). We went on that trip the first week of October of this year and it made some of the best and happiest memories I have with my Mom in my adult life. We had the most fun we've had in a long time. We even went to Disney and met Mickey Mouse (something I hadn't done in my childhood). She's still smoking. She's also had 2 follow-up brain scans since surgery and Cyberknife and everything looks great (side note: her neurosurgeon is probably the best doctor aside from her oncologist I've ever encountered in my life. I literally could just hug this man every time I see him) Towards the end of the trip and when we got back, she started to feel sick. She kept saying it was just a cold. By mid October, pain had returned. She went to her PCP, who said she just had a respiratory infection and put her on antibiotics. The antibiotics don't help. At her follow up with her oncologist to get the appointment for her next PET Scan, the oncologist orders an Xray. The results come back that it looks like pneumonia in the lung. She follows up again with her PCP who gets another Xray and then tells her that its just bronchitis and puts her on Levaquan. She has a massive negative reaction, calls the oncologist who then prescribes Doxycycline. She does much better on that but the pain isn't going away. According to her PCP, there's nothing in her lung except the bronchitis. She went in for her PET scan on Saturday, November 18th. We got the results on Monday and it shows that her cancer has returned. Two masses in her left lung along with multiple nodules in both. Thankfully it's spread nowhere else. We met with the oncologist yesterday who wants Mom to go through a second line treatment of chemotherapy with Carboplatin, Abraxane and Avastin. 3 weeks on, 1 week off for 3 months. She said her third line treatment would be some sort of immunotherapy although they are not sure how effect it will be since she doesn't have PDL-1. I did find out during this appointment that her genetic mutation is KRAS. The "mama bear" daughter in me who wants to know everything (boy am I naive) and has an eternal thirst for knowledge made the mistake of looking it up last night around 11 pm EST. Needless to say I didn't sleep very well. I need to take my own advice as I always tell people "Google is not your friend". My Mom has said she is finally going to quit smoking but I don't have much faith. Not that at this point it's going to stop anything but it certainly isn't going to hurt. I'm a whole whirlwind of emotions - I'm mad at her that she is putting smoking before her family and her health, I'm sad that she has to fight again. I'm proud of her for fighting as hard as she had and not flinching when they told her she'd have to go back through treatment. I'm worried for the future. My sister lives with her with her two kids and significant other as well as my Dad. I'm single still with no children and that weighs heavily on my mind as well. I constantly battle with myself feeling like I should be doing more. There's a part of me that wants to find some way to volunteer at a local cancer center or organize a charity event for cancer research. I spend time wanting to scream and wanting to just literally never be away from my Mom for another minute while she's here. This seemed like a safe place to explore and look for support from people who are going through the same thing. I'm sorry for the lengthy post. Things are still very raw for me. I look forward to being a part of the community here. Maigan
I had never experienced anyone personally having cancer until my mom. To watch her rapid change in a year was very shocking for us all. Although, her cancer did go into remission, the damage from the chemo had done a toll on her body. I would share encouraging words to my mom during the process. "You are stronger than you know strength to be." She would smile and say "Thank you." Out of the whole family, I was the most calm throughout this experience. And I often wondered why? I know now that is was the faith that I stood on and I knew that one day she would be pain free. Her last few words to me was to keep going. I was there with my mom in her last conscious moments before the dilaudid was given and that's something I will never forget. She went right to sleep.. When my mom transitioned, I spoke at her memorial service and I encouraged everyone there to smile knowing that there's a new cheerleader on your side! I want to encourage everyone with that. Anyone who has loss a loved one...you have a new cheerleader/fan on your side. Constantly cheering you on. We cannot see them physically, but we can sure feel them energetically! Encourage someone today! http://tiny.cc/sharemylove