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Chemo for life
HeatherZ
7 Posts

My mum was at the oncologist today as they have her biopsy results. She's got non-small stage 4 lung cancer. Diagnosed about a month ago and they've already done a radiation treatment on the brain mets and hopefully that will be it - at least for the brain.

Doctor has told her that she'll be on chemo every 3 weeks for the rest of her life because the cancer she has isn't curable. I'm devastated for her.

Does anyone have any experience with chemo for life? I hope she doesn't feel horrid after each treatment. How long can the body handle chemo?

4 Replies
Cynthia Mac
4245 Posts
Hello, HeatherZ‍ , I sure do. In my case, it was my dad. He was diagnosed with stage 2C and had chemo at age 78. His cancer was a rare form of non-small cell lung cancer. It metastasized to his liver just over a year after he finished chemo, and he went into what you’ve described as “chemo for life.”

As far as I know, Dad tolerated the treatments quite well - he actually gained weight over his first round of chemo. His hair thinned out more, but he didn’t lose it all, and he did have to do rinses to stave off mouth sores. I think the most frustrating thing for him was the fatigue. Dad was used to being busy all the time, and sitting around feeling “off” didn’t sit well with him.

In addition to chemo, Dad also had immunotherapy - a drug called pembroluzimab (commercially known as Keytruda). He got in on a clinical trial, perhaps because of the type of cancer he had - so you might ask if your mom would be a candidate for that.

Dad’s treatments were working quite well, but he developed some other health issues almost a year into his clinical trial and he passed away well into his 80th year.

That is my experience. Your mom probably has a different type of non-small cell lung cancer, and her metastasis has settled in a different location, so your mom’s experience (and yours) will likely be different.

Chemo today isn’t what it was 20 or 25 years ago. Doses, generally speaking are smaller, and the medications they give to offset some of the nausea and to prepare the body for the infusion do a pretty good job of dealing with the side effects. Being in the cancer centre really gave me an education in that. There was a full spectrum of patients from people wheeled in on gurneys to people in business attire carrying briefcases, working while they got their infusions.

This post is getting long, so I’ll end here by saying this site is here to support you and your mom. You can come here and ask questions and we’ll try to get or direct you to answers. This discussion (Caring for someone with cancer) has some good advice for you, as a daughter and caregiver. There’s also a discussion specific for lung cancer, and one for the emotional roller coaster that patients and caregivers usually find themselves on. Have a poke about the site, and again, if you have any questions, we’ll try to help you out.
HeatherZ
7 Posts
Cynthia,

Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out.

This is all so new and overwhelming.

JenG
294 Posts

@HeatherZ I’m going to tag @WestCoastSailor as I believe he is on chemo for life, also for lung cancer.

My mom had non small cell lung cancer too, and was on chemo for 3 years. Her cancer spread to her brain and they did stop treatment. She died just over 6 months from the time they stopped treatment. She was 94.

I know how hard it is to watch a loved one go through cancer. And it’s hard for us too. The alternate, however, is worse - that being they aren‘t able or don’t want treatment and our time with them is less.

It’s unknown right now how she will respond and what her side effects will be. They might be minimal and totally doable. You’ll have to wait and see. And while it’s not the way any of us want to live (chemo, cancer) it’s what you and your family have to deal with.

So you take a deep breath. You cry. And you figure out how to make it work the best way you know how. And you have some good days and some bad days. Make sure you get some help too. And let us know how it’s going.

big hugs,

jeng

@HeatherZ

I've been watching your story unfold from afar. Not quite chemo for life but targeted therapy in my case. What your mother will be on is what @JenG 's mom was on. I know a few people on that treatment program. The important thing is something doctors refer to as “performance status” It has nothing to do with going a stage or performing but is related to other conditions that they may have like COPD or dementia to give some examples. These make it harder to tolerate treatment and result in a range of side effects.

@Cynthia Mac 's comments are spot on. If her performance status is good then the trick will be to manage fatigue.

The hard part will be to come to terms with the fact the disease is going to limit her life. Suddenly this person that we thought would live for ever is going to be gone soon. We embark on the hard conversations. Having these hard conversations can be challenging. While the medical system is focused on prolonging life, it may come to down to quality of life. It may be time to do some of the life long dreams that your mother thought there would always be time for. Sometimes folks leave that too late and then there are regrets.

I hope this part of the journey eases for you as you come to terms with it.

Angus

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