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On July 16th my mom died after a 4 year battle with lung cancer.  It spread to her brain, bones, skin, and internal organs.  Mom literally had cancer from head to foot, with bone cancer destroying the bones of her left foot leaving nothing but tumor.  Doctors said she was a miracle.  By the time her cancer was discovered, she was already stage 4. 

On the day Mom died, I had heart attack symptoms while sitting beside her while she slept.  I ended up in the ER.  A blood test led the doctor to suspect I had a blood clot on a lung, so I had a CT of my lungs.  The EKG made them want to keep me for further testing, but another doctor released me before any more tests were done.  Meanwhile, Mom died and I wasn't there.  I can't get over feeling guilty.  I had not left her for more than a bathroom break in 5 days before she passed.  That of course probably contributed to the ER visit.  A couple hours after I went to the ER, Mom passed.  I wasn't there at the end.

More than 2 months later I saw the test result of the CT I was given.  I was looking for something else on my insurance company's website when I stumbled upon it.  My medical doctor had told me it was "perfect."  Instead the report stated that I have a "solitary nodule of the lung."  I called my doctor to ask why she did not tell me about it.  It took her 2 days to call me back, but her assistant said it was because she did not want to worry me.  Later the doctor called to tell me that non-smokers don't get cancer, so they don't follow up.  I was outraged.  My mother never smoked in her life.  No one in my family has ever smoked.  We didn't allow cigarettes in the house.  I called a pulmonary specialist and got into see him right away this morning.  He will follow up on the nodule with a CT in 6 months.  I might be feeling paranoid, but if doctors had taken my mom seriously years ago, she might still be with us.  I have a little boy who is only 8 and needs me a while longer.  I hope he and my husband still need me when I'm old and gray.

Are there other family members who are taking test results a little more seriously?  There was a problem with a mammogram, too, so after months of my doctor doing nothing, I made an appointment with a specialist for that, too.  Now I have to have a biopsy.  I hope the spots are benign, but the doctor told me to get life insurance now.  Is that standard advice before a biopsy?  I realize life insurance is something everyone is supposed to have, but it felt ominous.  My mother's former radiologist told me that sometimes family members get "sympathy tumors."  She just sounded crazy to me.  Has anyone else been told this?

Does anyone else have this crazy combination of guilt for failing to save a loved one combined with fear of what might happen to others you love or to you?  I would like to have a conversation with my doctor about how messed up I'm feeling, but I don't think she's the best person for that discussion.  When I first told her my mother had cancer, she seemed angry or at least annoyed that Mom would even try to fight it.  She went on about insurance prices skyrocketing.  Maybe part of my current problem revolves around the fact that I haven't found a new doctor, especially considering her reluctance to follow up on anything suspicious.  Or maybe I'm just paranoid like I said before.

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Gengal I am so sorry to hear all that you are going through.  It is only 2 months since you lost your mother so, as most of us, you are still deep in grief

and to have all this on top of that.  I have had the tough journey of lung cancer myself .  Fortunately after months and months of treatments I have

survived .  However I am still grieving the loss of my husband to lung cancer.  He seemed to have been diagnosed at an early stage but they did not

treat him right away, they said they wanted  ' to watch it "   After several months they scheduled surgery to biopsy and possible lobectomy.  By they time

that came it was in lymph nodes so they decided to close him up .  and scheduled chemo.   By the time that came it was spreading every where. In a couple of

months I was making funeral arrangements.  Your Doctor mentioned life insurance- undoubtedly because if it was diagnosed cancer after they would not sell it to you.

Please get someone to follow up on your CT and breast .  Stress is not healthy.  It does cause disease.  If you are able start to exercise, take time off to relax.

Meet with some friends that you have fun with.  Take care of yourself.  Please keep us updated on how things are going.


Donna G

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Anyone else have guilt and fear?  Of course and these are especially active when we are unable to help a loved one.  In my experience, these are commonly associated feelings when someone we care about encounters life-threatening disease.  

But, let's notionally create two baskets.  Put the guilt and fear in one and your medical concerns in another.  Let's focus on the medical concern basket, the one we are best equipped to help with.  First, I've never heard of sympathy tumors in twelve-plus years as a lung cancer survivor.  Second, it appears your pulmonologist has you on the right course following up on your discovered nodule.  I've read several of my CT scan radiologist reports and they identify all kinds of nodules.  I'm told that is not unusual.  The technology is so precise it identifies everything.  The only way to sort out everything from potential disease is a repeat scan after some period of time.  Six months sounds about right.

I don't know much about breast cancer but a biopsy should disclose if there is something to be concerned about.  So a future CT and biopsy will address concerns in your medical basket.  Let's close the lid on the medical basket for now because without more information, we are left with speculation and needless worry.  I've found it best not to worry about things I can't control and test results are one of those things.

Now to the guilt and fear basket.  I've experienced these feelings.  I might say from my prospective, you have no reason to feel guilt about your mother's disease.  I could also say you shouldn't fear something that may or may not occur in the future. But, this is not the best forum to address those concerns.  A paster or a counselor is a far better resource so I'd suggest a session or several with someone trained to help you deal with these very powerful emotions.

As a postscript, I've never had a physician advise me to get life insurance, but thinking about it there would be a vast difference in premium if you did not check cancer on the application form. Perhaps that is what the doctor is trying to point out. 

Stay connected with us.  You'll likely have more questions and this is a good place to ask.

Stay the course.



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Hi Gengal,

I am so sorry for your loss. It's very clear that you two had a special bond and that your mother was a special woman. I am glad that you've joined LCSC. I hope that you keep making connections with other members like Donna and Tom who can share their experience and advice. Please continue to post updates and ask questions. We are here for you!

Digital Community Manager
LUNGevity Foundation

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