My Dad might have colon cancer. Untreated, what will the end be like? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 08-20-2008, 08:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Mods, I put this here because I thought it might be read by more people instead of H&H. I figured H&H is more for people that want to fight, heal and live.

Please feel free to move it, if needed. Sorry.

My Dad is almost 88 years old and is 5'3".

I am pretty sure my Dad may have colon cancer. His symptoms sure fit the bill, having checked around the Internet. He's had a major weight loss in the last two months, he now needs suspenders to hold up his pants (his pants are folded about 5" overlapping at the waist side seam, if you can imagine what that looks like) and I estimate his weight at < 100 lbs. His skin is hanging on his body and his bones quite pronounced (it is scary to hug him, feeling his ribs in the back). He is quite weak and shuffles when he walks and has begun to hunch over.

He has been having bad diarrhea lately, and quite frequently (he's cancelled dinner with us several times because of it). He has had 2-4 drinks of distilled alcohol per day for over 50 years (gin martinis). He eats a high fat diet. He has not seen a doctor for years (more than 15 years). He is a 2+ pack-a-day smoker. He has had colon problems in the past, polyps, from what I remember. It's not the type of thing my parents would ever discuss with anyone, they are private people.

When asked, he denies any pain. He's not a good actor, so I believe him being pain-free.

I have asked him if he would see a doctor about the GI problems and refuses and I respect his decision. In all honesty, even if he saw a doctor and was given that diagnosis, he would refuse any treatment. So, it is really a moot point with that.

What I want to know is what is the end like in untreated colon cancer? I can't seem to find that info on the Internet. I don't mean to sound gross, but I need to know what to expect. Will he be in pain? Will he lose weight until his body gives out by heart failure?

He lives 90 miles away from me and I am the only one of the four children to care about and for him, directly. He still lives in the house they shared for 35 years, without any caregiving (he refuses any). My Mom is in assisted living (stroke survivor), just a few minutes away from me.

Things have slipped away from him this year. I had to take over all his financial business as he forgot to pay any bills. It hasn't been easy, emotionally, but I don't mind. He took care of Mom and 4 children and we never wanted for anything. It's payback time and I'm the only one who is doing it (my siblings don't even offer and I don't bother to ask, it isn't worth it). I love him.

I know this must sound horrible, to be thinking like this. But, I have to prepare myself and know what it may be like. It's easier to ask the unseen faces of the Internet. Everyone I've know that had cancer fought the disease. Sometimes they won, sometimes the cancer did. But, I've never known anyone to not do anything from the get-go, kwim?

Like I said, I respect his wishes not to see any medical personnel. But, I need to know these answers.

Thank you for any help or answers you offer.
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#2 of 18 Old 08-20-2008, 08:31 PM
 
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I couldn't read and not post
HUGS to you.

I am not sure of the answer.

Would your dad be willing to see someone if he were in pain? There are some really strong pain meds, I know my FIL took it and just slowly slipped away.....
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#3 of 18 Old 08-20-2008, 09:08 PM
 
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I have no answers to your question other then I think it is wonderful that you are supporting him no matter what. Not many people understand this when dealing with cancer. They believe that the person should fight for their life, but we all make our own decisions and it means a lot to have support from the ones we love....

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#4 of 18 Old 08-20-2008, 09:17 PM
 
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My grandpa is dealing with end stage colon cancer right now, and he has also refused treatment. He is about your dad's age as well. He denies being in pain, and he has a home health aid that comes to his house daily to help him with things like washing and housekeeping as he is unable to do those things for himself. He is now afraid to go anywhere for fear of losing control of his bowels, and because he doesn't have the energy to get around much any more. I have to admit it is kind of sad seeing him that way, but I have to remind myself that it is his choice and what he wants so who am I to say? And who am I to think the alternative might have been any better, ya know? He had many good years that might have been lessened by surgeries or chemo or what not, and he chose to take his chances with the disease. He's lived with it for probably 10 years now, even though they (the doctors) told him he wouldn't survive one without surgery!

At any rate, the end doesn't look so pretty but then again is it ever? The best thing I can probably do for him is to help him retain as much dignity as is possible, and treat him much the same way that I always have. My kids don't like to go there any more because it's stinky and he does resemble a skeleton. I don't think he has much left in him quite honestly, his demeanor and tone have just changed.

I do think it might be wise for your dad to have some options as far as pain control is concerned. I wouldn't want to see a loved one suffer in pain if it could be prevented.

HTH and I'm sorry you are dealing with this.
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#5 of 18 Old 08-20-2008, 09:27 PM
 
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Dh's grandmother passed of colon cancer last December at 96. She had surgery in June 2007 to remove the tumor in her colon, but nothing past that. She didn't have pain. The last several months, she had no desire to eat (said that she couldn't/didn't taste anything). When she stopped eating and drinking, it took less than a week for her to pass. She had hospice care for the last week and they were wonderful to her. She was surrounded by friends and family; people that loved her. Although it wasn't pleasant for everyone else, she died with dignity and love.

I'm sorry that you are dealing with this right now.

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#6 of 18 Old 08-20-2008, 09:36 PM
 
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When my mother was dx with lung cancer I did so much research regarding what was happening and what I could expect to happen. I really prepared me for the end although I don't think I understood it was actually happening when it did. But kjnow ing the information helped me int eh months after process the end. The book Final Gifts http://www.amazon.com/Final-Gifts-Un.../dp/0553378767 was incredibly helpful to me. I read it several times during the months between my mother's dx and her passing.

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#7 of 18 Old 08-20-2008, 09:56 PM
 
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Will he go to the doctor? I ask because if in fact he does have cancer, and can get a terminal dx, medicare will pay for a lot, if not all, of hospice care. Also there are many non-profit hospices that will not turn people down if there are $ issues. If he does have colon cancer, he could be a candidate for ostomy surgery which can be very helpful in keeping patients comfortable, i.e., not worried about accidents. I would try to get him to talk to you now about what he wants. Most people primarily want to know they will not be in pain and that they won't be alone. He will likely also want an advanced directive so that if he goes into cardiac arrest, no one will do CPR or take other heroic measures. Actually all of these things are what hospice is so great for. They will educate him about his options and can make sure he only recieves the care he wants. Once he is comfortable and has a plan, he can be free to say goodbye and his 'I love yous" I am sorry you are dealing with this. It is hard. At the same time, when people are able to have a say in the circumstances of their own death (where, with adequate pain meds/other palliative care), families can experience an incredible time of healing and even joy, knowing their loved one is cared for when they are ready to go. :
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#8 of 18 Old 08-20-2008, 11:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, everyone.

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Will he go to the doctor? I ask because if in fact he does have cancer, and can get a terminal dx, medicare will pay for a lot, if not all, of hospice care. Also there are many non-profit hospices that will not turn people down if there are $ issues. If he does have colon cancer, he could be a candidate for ostomy surgery which can be very helpful in keeping patients comfortable, i.e., not worried about accidents. I would try to get him to talk to you now about what he wants. Most people primarily want to know they will not be in pain and that they won't be alone. He will likely also want an advanced directive so that if he goes into cardiac arrest, no one will do CPR or take other heroic measures. Actually all of these things are what hospice is so great for. They will educate him about his options and can make sure he only recieves the care he wants. Once he is comfortable and has a plan, he can be free to say goodbye and his 'I love yous" I am sorry you are dealing with this. It is hard. At the same time, when people are able to have a say in the circumstances of their own death (where, with adequate pain meds/other palliative care), families can experience an incredible time of healing and even joy, knowing their loved one is cared for when they are ready to go.
Nope, no doctors for him. He refuses (I don't think he wants to hear what they may say and he won't do anything anyway).

Money is not an issue for my folks. They have excellent insurance beyond Medicare, so everything is always covered one way or another.

He would never consider ostomy surgery (or any other type, either). That is not how he wants his life.

See, I can't talk about my concerns regarding cancer with him. It is just not something he would discuss with anyone. He honestly doesn't care much about living anymore. He's not obviously depressed, but I know he is. He's gone downhill since my Mom moved out several years ago, after her stroke made it impossible to live in their house. Living alone has its plusses and minuses, you know?

He would not allow hospice folks to come into his home. Even at my request. It's just not Dad's way (he won't even let me hire a housekeeper).

He already has an advanced directive and I am his POA for health care decisions. I know, if the time comes and things are really horrid, I can request hospice for him. But, it will be hard, knowing it isn't what he wants. It would be like refusing his final wishes, kwim?

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The last several months, she had no desire to eat (said that she couldn't/didn't taste anything). When she stopped eating and drinking, it took less than a week for her to pass.
See, that is something I've noticed, too. He hardly eats anything, saying that whatever it is he is eating (at the time we are together) doesn't have much taste. Dinners out always have leftovers on his plate and he never wants a doggy bag.

At least he knows I love him (I never end a phone call or visit without saying it). I have also written him letters, telling him how much I have appreciated all that he and Mom have done for us. No sentiments have gone unspoken.

When the time does come, I know I will rest easy and not look back with regrets at what I should have said or done. I've done all I can thus far and will continue to do so.

I just wanted to know how it might end.

I sure appreciate all your kind words and information. Thank you and please feel free to add anything else you think of.
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#9 of 18 Old 08-21-2008, 12:19 AM
 
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It will end with him knowing you've loved him, thats for sure

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#10 of 18 Old 08-21-2008, 12:26 AM
 
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He's 87 years old and it sounds like he's getting ready to move onto whatever follows life in this world. It sounds like he's done plenty of living and it's almost time to let go.

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19, Hannah, 18, and Jack, 12
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#11 of 18 Old 08-21-2008, 12:37 AM
 
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s to you I am speaking to you as a person who has watched her grandparents, parents, and DH get very ill and die...:...my maternal grandmother had colon cancer and lived the last year of her life as a widow with a colostomy bag eating baby food; I have kept up with the ACS guidelines for colon cancer treatment over the past 28 years since she died, and it has changed again and again. My Father had prostate cancer and refused treatment, but my DH accepted treatment and died just the same, only younger.

Who knows?

He has lived a long life for someone who has broken all of the rules by smoking, drinking, and eating a high fat diet. He must have enjoyed it all. He has lived a long life, longer than my favorite Aunt who was a health nut and did not enjoy it.

If you can, I hope you have asked him about life in the Depression and the War. I had many talks with my Father about life in that part of the century in Ohio. He taught me to do the Charleston and what the radio broadcasts meant to him. It was very interesting. Try to get some family stories from him if you can.

Let your children know him.

Life is short. Think of yourself at that age in the next sixty years. What do you want your children and children's children to know about you and life at the "turn of the century" or life before computers, if even you can remember?

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."
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#12 of 18 Old 08-21-2008, 12:44 AM
 
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I lost my Mom to ovarian cancer 11 years ago. Sorry I don't have any info to add for you on what to expect with colon cancer. But I couldn't read and not post. I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this. But I'm glad you have this time with your Dad to tell him you love him and to feel like you can give back by taking care of him. These things were very important to me when my Mom died and still comfort me now.
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#13 of 18 Old 08-21-2008, 08:05 AM
 
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No answers.

Just a

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." -Plato
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#14 of 18 Old 08-21-2008, 08:17 AM
 
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One by one the days are slipping up behind you ~ One by one the sweetest days of life go by :
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#15 of 18 Old 08-21-2008, 10:05 AM
 
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My Dad died of Alzheimer's this past October. He had Hospice and they were wonderful. My Dad died at home too. Because he was in Hospice my family didn't have to go through an autopsy. The lady with Hospice called the Coroner to notify them. Then she called the funeral home. They came and got my Dad's body.

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#16 of 18 Old 08-21-2008, 01:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Again, thank you for the additional kind words. You are all so nice!

I am so sorry for those of you that have lost someone you loved so much. I knw it won't be easy. I have always made the "effort" to know my parents and to say "I love you" to them and show it, as well. Dad is not a touchy-feely kind of guy, but has, I know, appreciated hearing and knowing my feelings.

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He has lived a long life for someone who has broken all of the rules by smoking, drinking, and eating a high fat diet. He must have enjoyed it all. He has lived a long life, longer than my favorite Aunt who was a health nut and did not enjoy it.
Yup, you got that right! He has always joked that if they made cholesterol in a bottle, he'd buy it and put it on everything! His breakfast for the past 38 years has been 2 fried eggs, toast, 2 pieces of bacon and several cups of coffee. This, preceded by two hours of smoking and followed by more smoking and martinis starting at noon! He has never exercised (though he has never had the need as his body, until recently, has been the same slim & toned condition since he was 20). All his exercise came from day-to-day living, with golf thrown-in weekly. We have always joked that Dad would out-live all of us!

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If you can, I hope you have asked him about life in the Depression and the War. I had many talks with my Father about life in that part of the century in Ohio. He taught me to do the Charleston and what the radio broadcasts meant to him. It was very interesting. Try to get some family stories from him if you can.
I have always talked to both parents about their lives and have already put that knowledge in journals for each. They didn't want to write it themselves, but were happy to proof read what I wrote (and, in doing so, it jogged their memories to even more info!). I have my Dad's diaries from his time at Hickham Field (near Pearl Harbor), detailing that morning in December, 1941 and beyond to the journal he kept in Europe during WWII, flying his 50 bombing runs over Germany and Romania and his time in North Africa. I know what his life was inthe Korean War and during his two tours in Vietnam (we have audio tapes he sent to us, recorded during the Tet offensive, with the sounds of gunfire and bombs in the background. It's all very impressive and, sometimes, incredibly sad. I know about Dad's abusive childhood. I know so much about him, more than most of my friends know about their Dads. Same goes for Mom.

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Let your children know him.
Oh, that's no problem. Our son (only child) is the only grandchild that does know him. All the others (5 of them) are scattered across the globe. Three of them have children of their own, too, making my folks great-grandparents to 10.

Honestly, none of the grandchildren would recognize him (or, Mom) in a semi-crowded room. Three of them send the generic-type card at Christmas, and that's that (just a signature, no written message).

Last year, one even sent Mom the wrong card, with a long and very heartfelt message about a planned visit. Unfortunately, it was to the other set of grandparents. Sweet, huh? They couldn't bother to make sure the right card went in the correct envelope. Mom had a stroke a couple of years back and is easily confused as a result. She was so excited about their visit. It wasn't until I took the card from her apartment that she forgot about it (she was spending each day at the window, looking for the grandchildren that wouldn't know her if they walked by her). Once the card (the reminder) was out of her sight, she went back to her normal routine.

Sorry, I digress.......

So, our ds is the only one that actually knows my Dad. He has asked Dad lots of questions about his military career (35 years of it!) and his involvement in WWII (Dad was at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked), Korea and Vietnam. When Dad is gone, ds will inherit his medals, service ribbons and, perhaps, the WWII diary (though, in all probability, I'll burn that, it just too personal).

Mom has written in multiple memory books for us, as well. Lots of information that is wonderfully enlightening about her life. She sees ds several times each week and has vacationed with us many times. His memories of her will be the strongest of all the grandparents.

Dh's Mom died when ds was just 4 years old. He remembers her, but not too well. Dh's Dad, who lives in our small town, is not a very exciting person. Though ds loves his Jidoo (Arabic for grandfather), they don't interact much as fil is, well, boring. His entire life was dedicated to work (he owned his own factory & business) with NO outside interests. There's just so much you can ask about the business for a child to be interested in!! But, he loves ds and ds does love him, so that is enough, I suppose!

Quote:
Life is short. Think of yourself at that age in the next sixty years. What do you want your children and children's children to know about you and life at the "turn of the century" or life before computers, if even you can remember?
Oh, my, yes, I DO remember life before computers!! I'm 49, I remember many things! Ds has heard so many things about both my life and that of dh's. I have filled in several memory books with recollections of many things. Whatever ds will want to know (that he doesn't know already!), he'll be able to find in those journals.

Quote:
Because he was in Hospice my family didn't have to go through an autopsy. The lady with Hospice called the Coroner to notify them. Then she called the funeral home. They came and got my Dad's body.
I wish I could do this for Dad. But, because he refuses to see a doctor (or admit that something is wrong), my hands are tied. I am hoping that when the end comes, it will be quick and painless. Criminy, does anyone know, if he dies at home would an autopsy be necessary? I mean, I guess it would, to rule out foul play.

We already have a family plot in the beautiful cemetary in our small mountain town (where we live). We bought this when my mil died. Both Mom and Dad have made their wishes known (it's written in their legal papers) as regards funerals (none for either), burial/cremation (they left it to my decision) and a marker (both want one).

Sigh, it's not ever easy, is it.

Again, I thank you, so very much, for your thoughts and for sharing what I know must be sad memories of difficult times. Hugs to all of you.
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#17 of 18 Old 08-21-2008, 04:01 PM
 
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here, typically, any death that is not attended by medical personnel or hospice requires an autopsy... the law might vary from state to state.

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#18 of 18 Old 08-21-2008, 05:51 PM
 
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I know that my FIL died at home, but didn't need an autopsy, because his doctor did paper work that he was terminally ill. Prehaps your father can do some paperwork that in the case of his death he does not want an autopsy????
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