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Stage 4 colon cancer
Old 12-07-2013, 04:45 PM   #1
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Stage 4 colon cancer

Found out a friend and neighbor was just diagnosed with this 11/25. First doctor wanted to just send her home to get her affairs in order, a second operated and the neighbor now has a bag around her waist for elimination. Chemo may by started Monday if her healing is adequate. Several spots on her lungs, liver double normal size, fist sized tumor removed as well as some lymph nodes. Blood work fairly normal. Young woman, 3 year old twins and a 6 year old.

I get the feeling stage 4 isn't something one survives very long but don't know. We've told her to call whenever she wants to talk; can anyone offer up their thoughts on what is going to happen and guesses on when? Suggestions on what to say or what we can do? Kind of rocked by this - an outstanding little family that we greatly admire.

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Old 12-07-2013, 05:03 PM   #2
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I am sorry to hear about your friend. In general this has a very poor prognosis but every patient is different in their disease course.

Your post struck a chord with me as my sister is terminally ill with a young family.

Things that help her and her family are: meals signed up for in advance and delivered needing just to be reheated, rides for children and to pick up out of town family who come to help on rotating basis, calling when going to store to see if anything needs to be picked up. We use a website lotsahelpinghands.com to list needs and organize help.

In general the more specific your offer the better. Call if you need something is well-meant but better is a specific offer. Such as I have free time Tuesday morning what can I do? Or can I bring dinner next week. What day is good? You get the idea

You are a good neighbour to want to help
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Old 12-07-2013, 05:07 PM   #3
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Things that help her and her family are: meals signed up for in advance and delivered needing just to be reheated, rides for children and to pick up out of town family who come to help on rotating basis, calling when going to store to see if anything needs to be picked up. We use a website lotsahelpinghands.com to list needs and organize help.

In general the more specific your offer the better. Call if you need something is well-meant but better is a specific offer. Such as I have free time Tuesday morning what can I do? Or can I bring dinner next week. What day is good? You get the idea

You are a good neighbour to want to help
Very well said and right on Sarah!
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Old 12-07-2013, 05:49 PM   #4
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Appreciate the suggestion, but at present and for 4-5 months we are 1000 miles south from them, so unless we are willing to fly back into the cold we are limited in what we can offer. Very sorry about your sister and poking that wound. We would rather see her alive than go to her funeral, which is why I'm looking for big ballpark prognosis.
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Old 12-07-2013, 05:52 PM   #5
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From the American Cancer Society website:

What are the survival rates for colorectal cancer by stage?
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Old 12-07-2013, 06:40 PM   #6
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Call her often. She may not want to talk to you, but don't be discouraged by this. Repeat often. That way, even if she doesn't want to talk, at least she knows that you made the effort. Send cards, letters, email. Do the same for her husband. Chemo is terrible, and will take all of her strength and time to manage the effects, but encouragement is crucial. DW went through several rounds, worst time of our lives, but the support we received over the process was precious to both of us.

Also, don't give up hope. We mark 4 years next month on a disease that was thought to be a 6 month sentence. They are making unbelievable strides in cancer treatments these days.
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Old 12-07-2013, 06:50 PM   #7
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I am so sorry to hear about your friend Calmloki. ..and for you Sarah.

I know firsthand how devastating a cancer diagnosis can be.

Calmloki, since you are so far away from your friend, perhaps you could do some internet searches on agencies in her area that may help. Meals on wheels is a good one to start with.

If she is married, perhaps you could talk to her husband and find out what might perk her up a little. Since she has small children, gift baskets sent to the little ones I'm sure would be appreciated as the focus is on her health now.

But you know, in my opinion, being a caring friend who is willing to listen is worth more than gold.

I'm proud of you.
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Old 12-07-2013, 07:16 PM   #8
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Very likely your friend knows the odds already... Our approach to friends that we know have debilitating or terminal illnesses is tobe open in our discussions... not to bring the subject up, unless the person wants to... and then to be sympathetic and understanding... No double talk, no false optimism about miracles, or last minute medical breakthroughs.

We are continually amazed at the resiliency and acceptance that most people have, in this situation. We find that many friends unintentionally avoid the ill person, not because they don't care, but simply don't know what to say. Our counter to that is: "It doesn't matter WHAT you say"... just being available to talk... to understand... is so much more important than anything words can say. Chances are that the patient has already exhausted the what if's.

One of the appraoches that I take, is a factual discussion. I try to do my homework, to find out what the disease/problem is medically, so I can speak in terms that my friend has been dealing with. Some commiseration with the physicality... discomfort, pain, and side affects of medication, radiation or chemo.

Speaking plainly usually avoids the additional discomfort of the patient having to comfort the visitor. In my own experience, with colon cancer, and subsequent sigmoid section... the hospital time and recovery was much easier to handle when visitors were frank and candid, rather than my having to "nurse" them through their discomfort, and their "you're going to be fine" optimism.

Everyone has their own approach, and there is no right or wrong way, but in our senior community, I've found that being honest seems to help the most. In some ways, I'm the go to guy to deal with the tough cases. Not a job I'd choose, but rewarding, when bringing the "patient" and family member together with reality, and avoiding the tendency to walk on eggshells during discussions.

Suggestion... this website to be saved as a favorite place... to be referred to when bad things happen...
UCB: Responding to Death: Grief and Loss
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Old 12-07-2013, 08:02 PM   #9
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Calmloki,

I am so sorry..about 20 years my father was diagnosed with colon cancer, IVB. The oncologist said he had about a year to "get his business affairs in order". I remember him patting my mom on her shoulder and saying, I am so sorry. They took out four lymph nodes, all malignant. There were no enlarged liver or spots on the lung. Our family prayed fast and furiously. I do know several folks who have spots show up on lungs that are nothing. That may be possible with your friend.

That was when he was 62. He is 83 now and doing well.

Perhaps you can send gift cards for take-out food? I recently sent one to Subway, of all places. The friend was going through chemo. She is in rural Maine and there were no other choices. She sounded most appreciative, which made her all the sweeter, because I knew it was about all i could do as far as gift cards and it seemed so pitiful. Send cheery, thinking of you cards and emails?

Hope is a powerful thing.
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Old 12-07-2013, 09:32 PM   #10
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Sorry to hear that. It will take a miracle for her to survive long but miracles do happen however small the odd is.

Recently lost my younger brother (less than 50) who had a DD & DW. He had fought cancer for 8 years after being diagnosed with stage 3 (and 1/2) cancer. I looked up on internet to deal with his situation. There's a lot of info out there. But everyone has their own way to go. My brother became bitter (normal symptom) and pushed away his loved ones leading up to his death. So, it was important for me to be patient, and don't get hurt by what he said and how he said it. Being there as much as I can helped my brother deal with the situation.
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Old 12-07-2013, 10:24 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Meadbh View Post
From the American Cancer Society website:

What are the survival rates for colorectal cancer by stage?
Thank you. At 6% the odds look poor for a 5 year survival rate, but the study is based on diagnosed patients between 1998 and 2000, so I'll hope treatment has advanced in efficacy over the last 13 years.

I appreciate the comments of all here and take them to heart. Never know what life will pass out - give your loved ones a hug tonight
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Old 12-08-2013, 09:03 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by calmloki View Post
Found out a friend and neighbor was just diagnosed with this 11/25. First doctor wanted to just send her home to get her affairs in order, a second operated and the neighbor now has a bag around her waist for elimination. Chemo may by started Monday if her healing is adequate. Several spots on her lungs, liver double normal size, fist sized tumor removed as well as some lymph nodes. Blood work fairly normal. Young woman, 3 year old twins and a 6 year old.

I get the feeling stage 4 isn't something one survives very long but don't know. We've told her to call whenever she wants to talk; can anyone offer up their thoughts on what is going to happen and guesses on when? Suggestions on what to say or what we can do? Kind of rocked by this - an outstanding little family that we greatly admire.

PM if you wish.
Positive memories are priceless.
Attitude matters more than logic.

My brother fought stage 3/4 colon cancer for 18 months until the cancer won in Jan 2012.

A few things stand out- he and his wife never once asked "how long do I have"-that is a defeatist attitude. He was on 3 different types of chemo... I know once it hits lungs or lymph nodes the battle is tough from a friend which is in medical field.

Invite them on a trip- I remember to this moment the fishing trip 1000 miles north into Canada to be with my brother to catch his northern pike. If they invite you to something, GO. It may not be your cup of tea, but you won't regret the experience.
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Old 12-08-2013, 09:05 AM   #13
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perhaps you can send gift cards for take-out food? I recently sent one to subway, of all places. The friend was going through chemo. She is in rural maine and there were no other choices. She sounded most appreciative, which made her all the sweeter, because i knew it was about all i could do as far as gift cards and it seemed so pitiful. Send cheery, thinking of you cards and emails?

Hope is a powerful thing.
agreed!
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Old 12-08-2013, 10:37 AM   #14
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Hope this link works. Barbara doesn't speak specific to cancer, just the end of life process. The original post was about what happens, I wanted to share something that helped our family.

When MIL was diagnosed with stage 4 Melenoma, we were 1500 miles away. DW called her Mom every day, just talked about whatever DM wanted to. That became very difficult when DM no longer knew who DD was. My wife still called, the Hospice nurse told her it would help her DM. This wasn't easy, but 8 years later DW is happy she spent that time with her DM.

Every case is different, I'm blessed to know a walking, talking, miracle. This guy should have been gone two years ago. He gives credit to great medical care, and a close group of friends that have prayed for him. There is always hope.




Best wishes to you and the hurting family,
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Old 12-08-2013, 11:02 AM   #15
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Found out a friend and neighbor was just diagnosed with this 11/25. First doctor wanted to just send her home to get her affairs in order, a second operated and the neighbor now has a bag around her waist for elimination. Chemo may by started Monday if her healing is adequate. Several spots on her lungs, liver double normal size, fist sized tumor removed as well as some lymph nodes. Blood work fairly normal. Young woman, 3 year old twins and a 6 year old.

I get the feeling stage 4 isn't something one survives very long but don't know. We've told her to call whenever she wants to talk; can anyone offer up their thoughts on what is going to happen and guesses on when? Suggestions on what to say or what we can do? Kind of rocked by this - an outstanding little family that we greatly admire.

PM if you wish.
Everyone is different and you are likely not the only person in their life that really wants to do things for them or be there for them to talk to.

I would stay in touch, be a good listener, and offer to help with the things they mention they are having difficulty with, help them do things they mention they want to do, or talk about things they want to talk to you about.
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Old 12-08-2013, 07:59 PM   #16
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Similar to another recent ER thread regarding Shingles, this thread reminds us to be vigilant about our body's health.

The occult fecal blood test ('stool sample' test) is recommended as part of a periodic health exam, to help detect colon cancer.

Colon cancer develops slowly, taking some 5 to 10 or more years to become deadly, from what I've read. As the above link to 5-year survival rates shows, early detection greatly improves the odds.

So, get that non-intrusive stool sample test annually!
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Old 12-09-2013, 07:58 AM   #17
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I have a friend who found out he had stage 4 colon cancer about three months ago. He was working one day running a tractor, the next in ICU. He had a Colonoscopy 7 years ago and they told him he was good for ten years. He is age 65. One never knows. They removed one kidney and several of his lymph nodes. He is much better today but still not out of the woods. He is back up and about with a great attitude. I just had a Colonoscopy and was told they would see me in ten years. I am age 66 so not sure if I will ever go through this test again or not? I waited 66 years so probably will never get another.
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Old 12-09-2013, 02:06 PM   #18
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(snip)I get the feeling stage 4 isn't something one survives very long but don't know. We've told her to call whenever she wants to talk; can anyone offer up their thoughts on what is going to happen and guesses on when? Suggestions on what to say or what we can do? Kind of rocked by this - an outstanding little family that we greatly admire.
Why are you asking us, rather than your neighbor, what you can do to help? She knows her needs and wants better than we do.

I suggest googling "what not to say to someone with cancer". People with cancer frequently are frequently on the receiving end of remarks that are well-intentioned but in reality unhelpful, infuriating or downright damaging. Looking at "what not to say..." will help you avoid those pitfalls when talking to your friend.
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Old 12-09-2013, 03:20 PM   #19
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(snip)Attitude matters more than logic.

(snip)-that is a defeatist attitude.
I disagree. Cancer treatment either works or not, and it doesn't make a particle of difference to the outcome whether the patient is a pessimist, a pollyanna or somewhere in between. IMO this emphasis on attitude, and the whole "cancer as battle" metaphor are forms, albeit unconscious, of blaming the victim. They put incredible pressure on the person with cancer to maintain an unnatural attitude in the face of extremely negative circumstances, and indeed can demand near-detachment from reality. Based on the ACS statistics linked above, it's much more probable that calmloki's neighbor will die sometime in the next five years than that she'll survive. To acknowledge this as fact isn't "defeatist", it's simply realistic. If this most probable outcome is what eventually happens, to say at that point that she "lost her battle with cancer" is to imply that if she had "fought" harder, she wouldn't have died. It's to say that people die of cancer not because treatment was or became ineffective, but because of defeatist attitudes and not fighting hard enough.

I am also currently in treatment for stage IV cancer, and although the statistics for me are not as dire as those for calmloki's neighbor, chances are I won't survive the next five years either. I do try (not always successfully) to avoid getting into an emotional down-spiral, because despondency is a miserable state to be in, even briefly. Staying out of the black vortex of despair will make my life better, but I don't believe it will make it any longer.
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Old 12-09-2013, 03:52 PM   #20
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A former neighbor of ours was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer just over 2 years ago at 43 - father of 4 young daughters. He had surgery and chemo and it did get into his liver, followed by more chemo. Unfortunately he is nearing the end of the journey - he moved into a hospice facility last week.

I second the motion to find out directly from the friend and her family what is needed most. Or even better, perhaps they have a supportive faith or neighborhood community and someone outside the family is helping them with coordinating details. If they are in a metropolitan area, you might be able to arrange to have a restaurant meal delivered, for example.

Blessings on you for caring!
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