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What to think with little information?


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The spouse of a close friend has been diagnosed with lung cancer.
I only have been told some information.

All I know is:

• male
• age 41
• non smoker
• had a cough for a little while (I don't know how long), soon had trouble breathing, lung cancer discovered, hospitalized
• the tumor is "13 centimeters" (about 5 inches)
• From the beginning of hospitalization, I believe he went directly into ICU and started receiving chemo and was put on a respirator right away
• In hospital as of today: 4 weeks
• I believe he has completed 4 weeks of chemo
• A few days ago, he had been able to write. Then the next day, he was experiencing "delirium" and could not remember names and could not write.
• There are normal visiting hours. The immediate family was told they could visit at any time.

I do not know the current situation as of today.

Could you help me make sense of this?

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It sounds like an awful situation. I imagine, though, that if your friend isn't sharing more details with you, she may have her own reasons for not doing so. Some people prefer to keep these things private, or only within the close family group. Often a family will designate one family member to dispense information to people outside the family, to minimize the number of times the people directly involved have to repeat the upsetting information. Maybe this family will eventually organize this function, but who can blame them if they don't have the time or energy to do so?

There is such a thing as delirium from being in Intensive Care - it's quite common, you can look it up. It usually resolves after the person goes to a normal room, with day and night visible through the windows.

If I were you I would write my friend a really nice note, just saying that of course you are thinking of them and sending all the positive energy you can, and offering help. Have it delivered to her home (or leave it on her front porch yourself) with a plant or flower arrangement. She will contact you when/if she is ready. When my husband spent 6 weeks in ICU I appreciated friends/family who organized daily meal deliveries to us, without my having to ask or do anything. They got my permission to do this first, though. There were children in my house who needed the attention to meals, and I was grateful not to have to think about it.


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I'm sorry about your friend's husband.  suecris provided some great suggestions.  If you're asking how to figure out what his prognosis might be, it's really hard to say based on that info.  It's obviously very serious--5 inches is a fairly large tumor and there's a good chance it has metastasized, which makes treatment very challenging.  

I'd try to find out from your friend what is most helpful--some people prefer not to have visitors, others do.

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Coincidentally, I got a little more information today. The person giving me the information is not a native speaker of English. I was told it is "blood cancer." Googling this, I found information about Lung Metastases. But I'm still not sure exactly. I'm also told the patient can now speak vowels and write again. Also, they will take him off the respirator in the next few days. I'm also told there will be ups and downs. The person's tone of voice sounds positive.

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Hi Mark - First, it dawned on me that you had specifically used non-gendered words and that I should have, too. Obviously, my comments needn't refer to the spouse as she, I should have used they.

I'm not in any way an expert on cancer, but "blood cancer" refers to myelomas and other related cancers, not masses. [Edit - I looked this up, I was wrong, lymphomas do create masses. I'm gonna stop pretending I know anything.] So the person giving you the information must have meant that the lung cancer had spread (through the blood, they meant?) to other areas of the body. Which obviously is not good. Very good that he can now speak and write some again, and will be coming off the respirator soon, though.

Edited by suecris
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I got more information. The condition is "malignant lymphoma." The mass has gotten smaller, the patient can now sit up in bed and they intend to remove the respirator in a few days and see if he can take in food. I Googled and saw about "stages". I don't have that information. I also don' know if it is non-Hodgkin's or the other. But it seems that if it is in the lungs, it would be Stage IV, right?

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I don't know a thing about lymphoma.  But if that's his condition, a metastasis to his lung is still considered lymphoma, not lung cancer (even though it's a cancer growing in the lung).  The tumors (and treatments) are different, so you really should be asking folks who are familiar with that specific cancer.  There are a number of support forums for lymphoma (not that you are unwelcome here, but I don't think we are in the best position to answer your questions).

I'm glad to hear he's apparently getting some response and feeling stronger.

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