Cancer - Roseville,CA

Updated on December 19, 2014
T.D. asks from Roseville, CA
14 answers

i found out my dad has cancer two weeks ago. He is in stage 4 and was told it had spread throughout his organs. This is my first time dealing with cancer and have no idea what questions to ask the dr. The dr. recommended chemo but i'm not sure if it's worth it. I don't know how long he as but I don't want him to be sick from the side affects of chemo is he only has a short amount of time. Also I've read some other post on here and people mentioned something about iv nutrition meds and making sure his eating is right. can i have some info. I feel so numb. I don't know how to encourage my dad or say the right things to him. Also he is being very strong for us. any advice is greatly appreciated.

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answers from Santa Barbara on

I have known SO many to go through cancer. I wish I can only tell you good endings.

I happen to know a close relative who decided to to the non traditional juicing and vitamins (he actually had to travel out of the country to Mexico with American doctors to do some of the non traditional things. He passed away just as the other relatives who did chemo. He did have a sense of possible recovery.

Everybody is different. It is okay to specifically say you (the person with cancer) do Not want to know the statistics. It is okay to study the stats. Some people would rather not know something that is NOT positive.

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answers from Washington DC on


I'm truly sorry to hear this. You need to know WHAT KIND OF CANCER it is. You need to know what his prognosis is.

You need to have your dad sign paperwork to allow you to be told what is going on and what is prognosis and care is.

My mom died 6 days after being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. In fact, 15 months ago today she died.

You need to find out what HE wants. This isn't about you and your wants right now - this is about HIM and what he wants and needs. My mom was told this - and I'm NOT exaggerating...the oncologist came in and said the following: "Mrs. X - I am Doctor Krisvanhershian (sorry - it was long). I have reviewed your records and your slides, MRI and all the test. I'm sorry to tell you, you have stage 4 pancreatic cancer with transfer to your liver and kidneys. You have 3 days to six weeks to live. You have 4 options.
1. You can get chemo - it won't do anything for you. You will still die.
2. You can get radiation - it won't do anything for you. You will still die.
3. You can stay here and die. or
4. You can go home and die.
I'm sorry."

We didn't even discuss it. My mom said "I want to go home and die." And the doctor said "fine. I'll make the arrangements. Again, I'm sorry."

We got her home and made her as comfortable as possible.

Tell your dad EVERYTHING you feel for him..share memories, don't let ANYTHING be left unsaid.

Get information. DO NOT google. Please don't google. Ask the doctor in charge of your dad...find out what's really going on. If the cancer has spread to his organs? They probably want to make him comfortable. I know that's hard to hear. It was really hard for us to hear as well.

What to ask the doctor: I know I'm repeating - sorry

1. What kind of cancer does he have?
2. What is the prognosis?
3. How much time do we have?
4. Is there any treatment that might work?

then ask your dad:
1. What do you want?
2. Do you want to fight this?
3. Do you have your affairs in order?
4. Do you know it's okay to let go??

These are hard questions. It will be a hard conversation. I will pray that your outcome is different from ours.

Hugs. thoughts and prayers.

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answers from Washington DC on

ahhh, dang. i'm so sorry.
i was in your shoes 3 years ago. mumsie was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. she had had chemo for an earlier bout, and when this one came through, she chose not to do it again. she went on a wacky supplement regimen from some quack in utah who claimed that cancer is caused by parasites who feed on sugar. we were all fairly terrified by this, but she was serene and happy with her decision, and that ultimately was the most important thing- that she carry on with what made the most sense to her.
for some people it's 'fight to the finish' with every bit of chemo and radiation available. for others it's to live whatever time is remaining to the fullest with zero medical intervention.
it's not for you to pick, hon. help your dad get as informed as he's comfortable being (many cancer patients are utterly overwhelmed with the megatons of conflicting information out there), and then support him in his decision whichever way it goes.
we lost our little mumsie, but she went out as she lived, serenely and with quiet courage. on the other hand, my beloved favorite aunt (who, it's true, had a less aggressive cancer) has been cancer-free and is going strong many years later. you don't know which hand you'll be dealt. so think 'love and support' more than 'diagnosing and fixing.'
my heart goes out to you all.

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answers from Portland on

My cousin with whom I shared my house had metastizied melanoma. He included me in his medical decisions by asking me to go with him to appointments. He was open to hearing my thoughts. After he died I realized I didn't ask enough questions of him. We both danced around his impending death as if it wouldn't happen until later.

He prepared for death by writing his will naming me as executor. He listed most of his assets but not all of them. He had a large investment for his retirement and neglected to name a beneficiary. After you and your father know more about his prognosis you need to discuss the hard questions about what to do after his death. Don't wait thinking you'll do it later. My cousin died before we'd done that.

The other important thing I didn't do was talk with the social worker who helped families dealing with cancer. After Keith died I realized I had many questions and feelings she could've helped me with.

I suggest that making an appointment with the social worker early on is important. You have asked what questions to ask the doctor. The social worker will give you all that information even before you ask. Visits to the doctor's office are short. You can talk with the SW as often and for as long as you need. I knew that but never made an appointment. After he died I realized I had put my brain and my feelings on hold and vowed I'd know better next time.

I'm 71and death is often on my mind. Yet, I haven't put my legal affairs in order. I don't fear death but I find taking those steps intimidating. As if doing so would hasten my death. I know that's not true. I'm telling you this because I know facing death is difficult. Preparing for it is important.

Added insight: I let my brother handle all the legal stuff for my parents. I wish I'd paid more attention and discussed this with them. They've been gone 13 years and my brother and I are still trying to come to terms regarding what he did and didn't do. I had talked some with them over time about their wishes. I feel that my brother did not honor them. He put assets into a trust which he had them sign just days before they died. He destroyed their wills.

Your family may be more above board. I suggest that you still need to know your Dad's wishes and gain family agreement before he dies. That is a lot to deal with in a short period of time. Discussing death and managing his estate is painful. If you're able to discuss his affairs before he dies will make his passing less difficult and allow you to focus more on grieving together as a family.

My cousin's cancer had spread to several organs. He decided against standard chemo but investigated several treatment options. He tried a new treatment, that was under study at the time, which l involved the injection of a combination of chemicals during a several day hospital stay. He did this two times. He was incapacitated during the hopitalizations but felt well enough to participate in life otherwise. He was diagnosed in October and died in March. Although he was weak and without an appetite he was able to participate with family and friends. His prognosis suggested he had 6-9 months and he lived 6 months.

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answers from Danville on

I am so sorry to hear of your dad's diagnosis.

I would suggest googling his specific cancer. There are SO many types, and the statistics vary widely in terms of successful treatment. Many cancers are treated as a 'chronic' issue these days...It never is 'gone', but rather is held at bay indefinitely. There are chat groups out there where patients (and their families) share all kinds of information.

Ultimately, it is your father's choice as to how he wishes to proceed.

If you want, feel free to PM me.

My fiance was diagnosed in January of 2008 with a very aggressive cancer. He had a wonderful quality of life until march of 2013. He died in April of 2013.

As his partner and caregiver, I researched ALL of the options. I gave him ALL of the information I found. Ultimately HE called the shots, and I was supportive of his choices.

This will be a difficult journey to be sure. But, there is joy to be found as well!

I send you, your father and your family healing thoughts and prayers.


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answers from Dallas on

I am so sorry that your Dad has cancer and that you are having to deal with that. I copied an article that might give you some questions to ask:
The health care community has made remarkable strides over the past 20 years in treating cancer, but more than a million people in the United States are still diagnosed every year. As devastating as that news is, whether you have cancer or are close to someone who does, there are some basic facts to understand about the diagnosis in order to begin moving forward with a treatment program.

After initially advising the patient about the cancer diagnosis, there is often a period of (understandable) disbelief. But once the news has been accepted, it is time to mobilize. Every patient with cancer, in cooperation with family members, needs to ask the treating doctor some important key questions. Even a preliminary view of the future is empowering for the patient who can begin to see the road ahead and "prepare for battle."

It is important to talk frankly with your cancer care team, and it helps if you know what to ask. I recommend that every newly diagnosed person ask their oncologist or treating physician these all-important questions:

1. Is the kind of cancer I have treatable?

This is where any cancer discussion needs to start.

2. What kind of cancer do I have? Where is it located? Has it spread?

Your treatment plan will be constructed based upon this information that will come from the pathology report. Your oncologist will oversee all aspects of your treatment including surgery, chemotherapy and medication, and radiation and recovery.

3. What stage is my cancer?

Cancer staging is a key marker to determine the extent of the disease from which a treatment strategy will be implemented. Ranging from stage 0 to stage 4, the stage assesses the size of the tumor, lymph node involvement, and whether the cancer has spread. The stage is determined after the tumor and lymph nodes are removed and examined by a pathologist.

4. Should I take or continue using supplements (vitamins, minerals, etc.)?

This is heavily dependent upon what kind of treatment protocol you undergo. Many people take vitamins and mineral supplements to support optimal health and nutrition, but first and foremost, I encourage patients to consume high-quality food. Some high-dose antioxidant supplements can lessen the effectiveness of cancer treatment, so it is important to discuss any vitamin supplement usage with your physician or dietitian.

5. Will I be in pain? What medications can ease the discomfort?

Many patients with cancer are already in pain from the disease. Cancer treatment and/or surgery can lessen or even alleviate this pain. When needed, there are pain management physicians who specialize in helping to minimize pain for patients with cancer and who are undergoing therapy.

6. When should I tell my family?

The only person who should make this decision is the patient. It is a very personal preference.

I do recommend that the patient and closest family members (spouse, sibling) be fully informed about the cancer and treatment plan before talking with others. This will lessen anxiety for all involved when there is a clear understanding of the type of cancer and the medical options available to treat it.

The oncologist should be part of the conversation with the family in order to help address questions and concerns. Many of my patients choose not to share their diagnosis with certain parties in an effort to maintain as normal a life as possible throughout the process.

7. What is the standard treatment protocol for the type of cancer I have and what are the downsides?

Once you understand the kind of cancer you are dealing with you can better understand your doctor's plan to treat it. This, along with your age, general health, the location of the cancer, and other contributing factors will all be considered. Sometimes, there are choices for patients to make in order to attack the cancer. Some treatment plans are more aggressive than others. Any protocol will have a downside. Find out the plusses and minuses for each of them.

8. Can you recommend colleagues for a second opinion?

Cancer treatment is never easy. Once the patient commences with treatment, it's important to believe this is the optimal strategy to achieve eventual success. Therefore, it's important to have at least two medical opinions about how best to treat the disease.

9. How will cancer treatment affect my daily life?

For the majority of people, cancer treatment is debilitating to some degree. There is no definitive response to this question but it is helpful and comforting to patients to hear that work, socialization and even physical activity may continue, in some capacity, during treatment.

10. What cancer support services are available?

Patient and family member support is vital to assisting with the physical, emotional and financial challenges that lie ahead. Every family needs to take advantage of these services, including palliative care, which helps to lighten the responsibilities and lessen stress for everyone involved.

Empowering the cancer patient with knowledge

There is an overwhelming volume of new and unfamiliar information to take in during this kind of conversation. If possible, have as many key family members present during this discussion. Take notes and ask the doctor if you are unclear about anything. (Remember, you are paying him for his time.)

After this meeting, convene as a family, with the patient, and express your unified commitment to working together successfully to help your loved one deal with the disease. Each member of this group should warmly assure the patient of their unconditional support throughout this journey.

When a family works as a team to cope with a loved one’s cancer diagnosis, everyone benefits.

Dr. Bavesh Balar is a board-certified hematologist and oncologist on staff at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, N.J., where he serves as chairman of the Cancer Committee. He contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Get educated on the type of cancer he has. Look at the websites for some of the leading cancer hospitals in the country.(like Sloan Kettering or MD Anderson Hospital in Houston for information. Don't believe everything you read on the internet unless you have verified the source. There is a good book from the American Cancer Society on how to support a family member or a friend with cancer. See if it is online or request a copy from the American Cancer Society. Good luck Each family needs to make their own decisions based on the type of cancer and the prognosis, the health of the person before cancer struck, and the patient's wishes. Pray about it.

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answers from Beaumont on

I am so sorry. Cancer is so hard. You didn't mention how old he is. My dad refused chemo, but he was 91, and realized he'd had a great run. He wanted to live out his life without the effects of chemo. Don't know about the IV nutrition but he was able to take liquid nutritional drinks, and actually liked them, until a few days before he passed. My best advice is to make sure things are on his terms. Find out his wishes and help them get carried out. Wishing you all the best.

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answers from Boston on

I'm so sorry that your father and your family are going through this. It's a scary time.

Susan has written some great questions and comments. It's important that someone else go to every appointment to help take notes and take in the info. Sometimes that's a family member, and sometimes it's a friend - pick the least emotional and most detail-oriented person you can find. Have that person jot down your dad's questions and the answers - don't assume he will remember what he asked and what was said.

Chemo is a complex thing. Some people have a lot of side effects, others don't, and others have them but not in the beginning. Sometimes the chemo has a cumulative effect, and there are few (or no) side effects in the beginning, so there's a chance to monitor the results.

I'm not sure what you mean about IV nutrition meds - there is a limit to what can go in intravenously. There are other things that can be taken orally in the form of a shake - these have all the nutrients needed and are rapidly absorbed. This is much more important than whole foods - they are good but hard to get into someone with decreased appetite and nausea. Some of the commercially available products (Ensure, Boost, etc.) are so loaded with additives and emulsifiers that they are tough for anyone to tolerate, let alone someone with appetite issues.

With all the work in epigenetics and superfood nutrients that appear to have a good effect on cancer (I have some studies that show a powerful decrease in metastasis of some cancers, and there are some encouraging indicators of a natural peptide that interferes with cancer cell division), there is plenty of reason to look at these for more than pure daily nourishment. The sheer number of published papers and studies underway from government researchers and academic institutions is staggering. I also have clinical data from several cancer centers showing the use of 2 nutritional products to decrease fatigue in cancer patients - in neither case did they interfere in any way with treatment. So, while there may be some supplements that interfere, that's not a universal truth. There are several issues: is the nutrition complete and synergistic (vs. just some miscellaneous nutrients which can upset the balance), is it bioavailable (easily absorbed), is it easily digestible?

There's also great info available on an alkaline diet. There is a lot of misinformation out there about how "cancer feeds on sugar" so you have to be careful that you aren't dealing with bogus claims. I have a colleague who runs a couple of conference calls every week that go over all the foods on the "yes" and "no" lists as well as the list of supplements that can be heavily relied upon for nutrition. These are free calls. Sometimes it's a good idea to get a small tape recorder to record the details - that's also a good thing to take to appointments.

Remember that the focus of the doctors is on medical strategies, and not the food science part. Most of them have relatively little background in nutrition, and maybe little more than 1 course in med school. You can combine the chemo approach with a nutritional approach IF both are high quality and properly balanced. Just don't have your father grabbing on to every claim and every item advertised. There are plenty of scams out there that are not based on clinical data at all, and mostly designed to separate the patient from his money.

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answers from Amarillo on

Take a deep breath and then let it out. The initial cancer diagnosis shocks, stuns, paralyzes the patient and family members. Once the shock wears off, you begin to wonder what do we do and how do we do it.

You go by the lead of the person who has the illness and follow their wishes. Yes they can be wonky and sometimes they can be sweet or anything in between.

The doctors will give a prognosis of the length of time left and what kinds of treatment can be done. It is up to the patient to make those decisions and not the loved ones who want the person to stay forever. Do get in order the official paperwork and the wills and trusts and such. If there is time have a family gathering of all the say their farewells and do so at a time when patient is well enough to receive them and participate fully in them.

If you are the caregiver, please get a support group in place for you. Even if you feel strong, you will need them to lean on when times get tough or just to ask questions. Also take time to care for you so you can be strong for everyone around. Get a book or journal and write down what and how you feel so that you can get that out of your system.

Take notes at the doctors' office and at any treatment you go to. Ask questions and have them break them down in layman's terms. Have them draw pictures if necessary so that you understand what is going on. Make sure you have a warm blanket for your dad and you as treatment rooms are cool to cold (they keep them cool to contain germs). Bring with you sometime to do to pass the time away while the treatment is being conducted. If you knit, crochet or read, these are good things to bring as they are portable. (I have had sewing machine in room and turned into my portable sewing room while hubby was in hospital for treatments to keep my sanity during a month long stay.) The side affects may be severe or they may not. He may lose hair depending on the cocktail they prescribe.

Your dad may have a longer time to live than suggested. My husband is still here and we all thought he would be gone by now. He could have died three different times but we were able to get him the help needed and the doctors to help him in his life journey. His oncologist says that he wants to give him the best possible life he can have. So we know that one day it will be over but until then we are enjoying life and doing things we have always wanted to do and never did. There will be no regrets when it does happen only good memories.

Love your dad and tell him so. This is not your fight it is your dad's. He will determine when he is ready to leave. Be there for him and any other family members that can be to help share the caring of your dad.

You will be in my thoughts. Have a good holiday season.

the other S.

PS I, too, am a survivor twice from cancer and enjoy life to the fullest. I live each day as blessing and enjoy the warm sun on my face and the wind in my hair.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Ask your dad if he'll sign a release for you to visit with the doc. Then you need to ask, point blank, if your dad is terminal or if there is reason to hope. It's a hard question to ask because you really don't want that knowledge if it's bad but it will help you move forward and make good decisions.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Some people here have given you some great advice. I will add to this only to say: Go with your dad to an appointment, and ask the doctor questions: what kind of cancer? Is any treatment likely to cure him or just give him more time? If just more time, how much? What are the side effects? If you don't do chemo, what will happen next?

Most importantly, listen and if you don't understand the doctors answers, TELL HIM! Just say "I'm not sure I understand what you are saying. Can you please explain it again?" If he uses words you don't understand, TELL HIM "I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean when you say XXX. Can you please explain this in a different way?"

You and your dad have the right to have everything explained to you in a way that you understand. Sometimes doctors slip into medical jargon, and forget that other people don't understand them. But, I cannot emphasize this enough, you and your dad have the right to understand all the choices and what they mean. Ask as many questions as you need to until this happens.

I'm sorry for the diagnosis, and I hope that you can take the holidays to focus on your family and enjoying happy times in spite of the recent news.

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answers from Chicago on

I'm really sorry.
I would say to please keep in mind that HE needs to grieve, as well. He's going to be angry, he'll withdraw, he'll be frustrated. He may not show you those things, but they'll happen. So please be cogniscent of his needs to work through realizing that he's going to die soon.

As for meds...that's such a personal choice. And it should be his.
He should understand how long, reasonably, chemo will give him. And then he'll need time to process whether he feels its worth it to deal with sickness. Chemo is really, really hard on the body and on the person.
And last, if he chooses not to have the drugs, you need to be prepared to grieve through that process as well. You may be angry at him for not making an effort to give you more time. That's OK, but please try not to take it out on him.

I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. We've been through a lot of cancer in our family and friends - some good, some bad. So I've seen it go both ways.

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answers from San Francisco on

Gosh Im so sorry! You have definitely got good advice. I just lost my mom in July to cancer. She hid it from us though, all of us including y father of 43 years till 2 months before her death when she couldn't hide it any more. She didn't want to go through treatment again, (she was supposedly cured) and I know we would have pushed her. Listen to your dads wishes. When we all were aware I just wish we would have been more aggressive about comfort care (i.e. pain meds, hospice). My mom wanted to go home and we insisted on more testing which made her ineligabe for a morphine drip till way past when she needed it. By that time (only 7 days after admission to the hospital) we were too late to bring her home or go to a hospice bed.
I have a lot of regret about not listening from day one. My mom had her plan. We should have gone with that. Pain meds, home with hospice or a board and care with hospice. Those were her specific wishes from day 1 of us finding out. The outcome would have been the same but the comfort lever would have been so much better. I'm sorry for this journey you're about to go on. Its terrible, and stressful, and heartbreaking. There is no right or wrong way to go about it or be supportive. Just please
Try really hard to leave the decisions with your dad. Talk about them early and be respectful to him changing his plans as his disease progresses.
Hugs to you! Also I would buy yourself a grief book. There are some really good ones out there. You're going to need support yourself. Losing a parent is huge in life, you're going to need support.

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answers from New York on

Every person is different and ultimately the patient gets to make their own decision about how aggressively they want to be treated.

It used to be that once cancer was stage 4 the patient had a very short time left. However, cancer treatment has changed quite a lot. And the doctors can provide only an average prognosis - what the statistics say about survival. My mom survived 7 years with ovarian cancer which is VERY rare. At one point her oncologist advised us that she had 3-6 months remaining and she lived another 2 years and 3 months.

Some people metabolize chemo very well, have few sie effects and it works on the cancer. In those cases chemo ends up being a good thing. But some people end up with every side effect and very severe. In those instances their quality of life isn't worth extending it with chemo. But it's their choice.

If you accompany your dad to the doctor bring a pad of paper and take notes. They'll tell you the type of chemo and you'll think that you'll remember it - but then they all begin to sound the same. See how much information your dad wants to know. Some patients want to know the bottom line "how much time do I have"? Others don't want to know. Unless he's given you HIPAA authorization the doctors can't give you confidential health information.

Unfortunately, some men ignore symptoms until it's unbearable and by the time of diagnosis there's not much that can be done. But if your dad's doctor is suggetsing chemo he must think the cancer can be shrunken. You don't say what the primary cancer is or what organs it's spread to - but ultimately your job is to support your dad's decision. If he wants to do chemo be emotionally supportive and helpful as much as possible. If he doesn't want to do chemo that's his decision and he needs you to be emotionally supportive in that too.

Having been through two close family members with deadly cancer over the last 5 years I can tell you it can be exhausting. For me, and my husband we made up our minds to do what we needed to do so we had no regrets. My mom was very aware of her prognosis and wanted to be as aggressive in treatment as possible. My SIL was in complete denial about her prognosis until she was moved to hospice.

Don't be taken in by charlatans who say they can cure cancer. None of it works any better than traditional approaches. I've seen people travel to Mexico and spend their life savings to have the same outcome as if they had done traditional medicine. I do suggest complentary medicine - which is nutirtional care to keep the body healthy and boost immunity. But most chemo patients aren't hungry - or food tastes bad.

Check out the Mayo clinic website, or American Cancer society. If you google the type of cancer, and phase you can find a lot of information. Perhaps too much.

Bottom line - just love your dad. Offer to be there, hold his hand, do as much or as little as he wants you to do, make sure he knows you love him. And when the day comes that he's gone - whether it's months or years from now - you'll know you have no regrets.

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