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Mom has stage 4 & severe anxiety, panic attacks

Guest anaperiodista

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My name is Ana and my mother, 72, was diagnosed with stage 4 NSCLC on July 16, 2012. We also found out it has spread to her bones. She already suffered from anxiety issues but now it's become so much worse to the point where she is unable to sleep.

She has gone back and forth on chemo and even went on hospice a couple of weeks ago. That was a big mistake because they gave her morphine the first day and she had an extreme adverse reaction. She deteriorated rapidly from that day and several days later when she became over medicated we called 911, which essentially voided the hospice contract. She was depressed and not ready to lie in bed, overmedicated to feel "comfortable" and die. At the same time she is terrified of chemo.

She finally decided she would try chemo and she even got a 7-hour blood transfusion. Then, she had the misfortune of getting pneumonia in the hospital. She spent 10 days in the hospital. Her last night there I witnessed her suffering hallucinations. She was saying crazy things and trying to take off her gown. She had only had a low dose of ativan so I'm not sure what that was all about. She slept for 30 minutes the entire night and it seemed like no medication had any effect on her.

They discharged her the next day, prematurely, I think. Since then at home she has not slept and it's becoming near impossible to put up with her. She can't sit, sleep or lie down for more than a few minutes at a time. She went to the emergency room Saturday and Sunday hoping to get different answers and/or stronger meds from the docs.

Has anyone else gone through this special form of hell? I am not sure how to help her but any and all resources and advice would be appreciated.


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Ana (anaperiodista),

What specific type of NSCLC is it? Adencarcinoma? Squamous cell? Large cell? something else?

The type of NSCLC affects treatment options and the usefulness of certain test. For example, most NSCLC should be tested to determine if it's driven by an EGFR mutation, but if that's not the one then the odds of there being an already-useful rarer one depend on the type. (The other in squamous tend to be more experimental; adenocarcinoma has ALK and ROS1, and maybe more experimental ones.) Both adeno & squamous have a chance of the no-so-useful-yet KRAS, but if she is very frail then experimental treatments might not be a practical option.

Where are you located? Is she seeing an oncologist who specializes exculsively in lung cancer? It's hard for a general oncologist to keep up with the research details for lung cancer.

Best hopes,

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Ana - I am so very sorry to hear about the tough time your Mom is having. Obviously things have not gone smoothly. If you haven't, you might check in with cancergrace.org. They have a panel of doctors who answer questions, and also lots of very good information on all kinds of treatments and side effects.

Everyone is different, but I had symptoms similar to her (althought nowhere near as severe) when they were giving me steriods. Anxiety can be terrible, and she needs to be given help for that.

Is she being treated at a major cancer center? If so, they should certainly have help available to get her symptoms and medications under control. They should also have someone available to talk with her about the chemo. Chemo is not fun, but in most cases is doable, especially with the right medical and emotional support. It sounds like your Mom has just had awful luck, and is certainly due for something to go right for her. Perhaps someone should look into getting her back into hospice. I am allergic to morphine, but there are other options. It sounds like you could all use some help and they are generally a good support system to have.

Please let us know how things are going. I will keep your Mom in my prayers.


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