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86 yr old mom diagnosed with stage IV nsclc

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My mother recently moved in with me. She was diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer 10 days ago. The oncologist has recommended chemo. She had a PET scan and MRI of the brain in the last few days (no results yet). She will see the oncologist again tomorrow and also the surgeon to set-up having the port-a-cath placed in her chest. The last 2 weeks she has actually seemed to improve as far as not having nausea and her eating improved but yesterday (the day after having the MRI) she seemed unusually sleepy and that worries me. I'm wondering how she will react to the chemo. Anyone else with a person that age that can give me their input would be appreciated.

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Hi and welcome.

It is hard to say how anyone will react to chemo, since the reaction is so specific to any one person. Late stage cancer can usually be manged as a chronic disease for an extended period of time. The port-o-cath should help the chemo go more smoothly for her.

One thng that can be said is that everyone has side effects from chemo to one degree or another. A common side effect is fatigue. The nausea can be managed with drugs. The most important thing you mother should do during chemo, is to drink a lot of water. The second most important thing is to eat. She may not feel like eating a lot. What eother caregivers have done is to make sure that there are readily availble snacks for her to graze upon. Some caregivers think it is better to have lots of small snacks, rather than trying to eat a large meal.

I had chemo last year. I was tired a lot and slept a lot. I snacked rathr than eat large meals. I made a point of getting some exercise each day, then after that I would crash and sleep. They gave me dexadron to help manage the nausea. That stuff kept me awake for the first night followin treatment, but after that I could sleep. I made a practice of taking benadryl on my treatment days to help offset the wakefullnes from decadron.

I hope your mother beats the cancer back.

Don M

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My wife takes a Zanax before each PET scan which is a calmer. If your mom had one of those, she would be sleepy. Besides, just the stress of lung cancer and all the anxiety and anticipation will fatigue a person.

The port-a-cath should make things smoother, as already said. My wife has one and has been using it for over three years. Yes! Over three years! Don

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Hi Rosemary,

My mom is only 78 but has severe emphysema and normally does not tolerate meds very well as she has a weak stomach. For the past 6 weeks she has been having radiation daily and low dose chemo once per week. She has handled the treatments much better than we all anticipated. She has been very fatigued, but she recognizes her limits and naps often. She has problems swallowing and the 'knot' in her chest/throat but I understand that is from the radiation, not the chemo. She did vomit a few times last week, but I think alot of that has to do with the Boost she is trying to force herself to drink. Her doctor is very adamant that he does not want her to lose any weight and so he gave her a few days off last week to let her feel a bit better but she is back on treatments again this week. (And she has NOT lost any weight.) Meds have come along way and the docs will give her other meds to fight the side effects. Please let her know that many people have very few side effects as positive thinking will go a long way in making her feel better. (I know when my kids are sick I feel ill wondering if I am getting sick!)

And my mom was also given meds to help her relax for the scans that made her sleep alot.

Good Luck! Karen

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Hello Rosemary

I wanted to add my best wishes and prayers to those of the others here for you and your mother.

From what I have learned in my own experience in watching someone go through the treatments, etc. the fatigue you are describing is normal. Between the side effects of the treatment itself as well as the mental stress of trying to cope with the emotions, it is to be expected.

There are wonderful people on these boards here that can and will provide information and great support. Please don't hesitate to ask.


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Hi Rosemary,

I just want to say Welcome here. Fatique is very common when undergoing treatment.

Good luck to your mom. We are always here if you have any concerns.


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First I'll say welcome to this board.

My mom is 74 (will be 75 in two days). At initial dx, I wondered about tolerance of treatment as well. Wish I had the site references I found at hand, but I learned that those in their "golden years" can be expected to tolerate treatment just as well as those in their 20s, 30s, 40s -- the articles did cover those well into their late 80s too. The key is the overall health of the individual at diagnosis, not age.

The articles confirmed that side effect experiences are individual. While seniors can be more sensitive to the experience of side effects (i.e. when side effects are experienced, they can be more intense), it isn't necessarily so, by default, because of age.

In my mom's case, she really has done (and continues to do) remarkably well, given her overall health history prior to dx. The port-a-cath should help a lot -- wish that was offered to my mom as an option: all the needle sticks leave mom bruised up most of the time. Got to be unpleasant.

Hope this helps,


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Hello Rosemary,

Your story sounds like mine. My 85 year old mother was dx with nsclc stage IV on March 9th this year. She underwent 12 whole brain radiation treatments. She had moved in with my wife and I. After the first week of radiation treatments she got weaker by the day. Our oncologists said that at her age she would have trouble getting her strength back.

The mets to her brain started having a terrible effect on her and she became "total assist". She started sleeping 20 or more hours each day and died on April 21, this year. From dx to death, exactly 6 months.

Wish I could give you a more upbeat report, but at such and advanced age our bodies have trouble bouncing back. Prior to the cancer my mom was in excellent health.

I hope your story has a happier ending than mine.


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