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Lung cancer treatment

Posted by

Hi there, 

I'm currently stressing to heck about my mum, she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer last August and started chemotherapy in October, but after 1 treatment she ended up in hospital because her white cell count was pretty much at zero. She has a history of sepsis due to a stent in her gall bladder which went septic and has a terribly poor immune system. She hasn't had any more chemotherapy since but again ended up in hospital this last week because all of her limbs became so weak. She keeps telling me that the 2 chemo sessions she had have made the cancer smaller and that she has more treatment booked for Jan, but when I ask her about it she can't tell me when it is or what the docs have said, says shes just forgetful. My gut is telling me there's something she's keeping from me, and everything I'm reading about her situation is telling me she's hiding the truth. Would you have any suggestions on how to approach the subject with her? We can only WhatsApp call as I live in the Caribbean and she's still in the UK, although I'm going back for Easter. 

Thanks in advance

Linda - Macmillan
Posted by

Hi Jessica R,

Thanks for getting in touch. It’s understandable that you’re feeling stressed just now and it’s not as simple as being able to hop in a car to see your mum. It’s common to suspect that parents are being selective with the information they offer. Irrespective of age they see you as their child and as result often want to protect you. But this doesn’t help you when you’re so far away.

Often the best course of action is to be up front and honest with your mum. It might be worth letting her know what you need to know and why. Explaining that not always having all the facts is causing you to be stressed might help.

If someone goes with her for appointments would she allow you to speak to them if she is forgetting some of what she is being told? Alternatively, you can ask if she will allow you to speak to or e-mail her clinical team direct.

In the end she may be telling you all she can. Most people will retain about half of what they are told at appointments, and when they share what they know they may not be able to recall everything.

Where possible we always recommend taking someone else along for any consultations. Having a list of questions in advance and writing down the answers can help too. With advances in smart phones some people also ask about recording conversations, so they can listen back later.

It might be helpful to post your question to our family and friends and carers only groups. Getting some hints and tips about how others deal with this type of situation can be invaluable at this time.

I hope this helps and you’re able to get a clearer picture of what’s happening with your mum. If we can help with further information please don’t hesitate to get back in touch.

Take care, Linda (Cancer Information Nurse Specialist)