Lung Cancer - Tarceva

Updated on September 12, 2010
C.W. asks from McKinleyville, CA
10 answers

This is kind of a 2 fold question, but my mom has been batteling lung cancer for years. After many rounds of surgery/chemo/radiations the doc says its not working and that she has monthes (not years) to live at this point. My mom is my best friend and we have a very close family so this is something unimaginable (as it is for most).

Question 1: Now the doctor wants to put her on a drug called Tarceva...its kind of a chemo pill in a way. Does anyone out there have any experience with this drug? I have read some pretty hard core side affects can happen and it may not even be effective. The other factor is that she smokes ciggarettes again (quit for 2 years after diagnosis) And this drug is proven less affective when combined with smoking. She also doesn't want to quit.

Question 2: I feel like my mom is throwing in the towell and its killing us that she doesn't want to take this drug in fear of the side affects (main ones are bad diahrea and rash on face/mouth). How do you ladies reccomend handling this? Do I just need to get over it and somehow accept her decision because afterall its her body and her life? Do I get on my knees and beg her to take the drug? I don't even know where to go or what to do to start accepting the truth right now...uggg!

Thanks for any thoughts...

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answers from Corpus Christi on

First let me say that I am so sorry you are going thru this. My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in Jan of 2009 and he passed away in Dec 2009. So, I totally feel your pain! Yes, you need to respect her decisions and enjoy the time you have left with her. She is the one fighting this battle and I believe that people know when they have had enough. It is a hard and very exhausting process- for the family and especially for the one fighting.

My dad tried 2 types of chemo which did nothing but drain him of every ounce of energy he had. He told us "he would not be a guinea pig to many different types of chemo. If it didnt work, then that is how it is meant to be." His last type to try was Tarceva- it is a daily pill, yes its chemo just in a different form. (VERY EXPENSIVE) It worked for a short time and gave him 4 great months to do whatever he wanted. He went from sitting in his chair 95% of the day to running errands, playing golf and going to a 5 day camp/cook out that he had been planning for a year. It was an amazing 4 months. Then in November things changed almost suddenly- it just quit working on him. He knew it was time and he passed away a week before Christmas.

Sorry for rambling. Your mom and your family is at a point that it is about quality of life, not quantity. You want them to be around for years longer but not if it means pain and suffering for them. Enjoy the time you have with her.. it passes so quickly. I miss my dad everyday and there are so many things I wish I had said and done. I always thought I had one more day. That is one piece of advice I can give you.... Dont EVER think "oh I will tell her tomorrow or I will take care of it later." My dad moved to hospice awake and coherent. It was late that evening when they moved him and my sister and I decided to let him get settled in and go visit the next day. He was never awake again after that night. The next day when we got there he was alive but not awake- he passed that evening. It went so quick- the doctors thought we had another week. I will always regret the decision I made that day. But I know he was tired of fighting it and ready to go on. Good luck to your mom and your family. I am very sorry.

If you want someone to talk to- feel free to PM me.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Savannah on

First I want to say I am so sorry. I lost both my parents to lung cancer and it's really sad to watch your loved one suffer.

Second, if your mom is smoking...there's really no point in her continuing chemo, medications, or whatever. It does sound like she's given up...which is really sad and I know really hard for you to accept or comprehend.

I have no experience with the drug...but I know I was devastated when my parents (at seperate times) decided to stop the treatments and just let nature take its course. It's so hard to understand...but really all you can do is support your mom. Love her, spend as much time as possible with her, and hope that she can live as long as possible without the pain.
My Dad passed away first so when it got to my Mom....I was really more understanding. I wanted her to have a better quality of life than add years, months, days if she was only going to suffer. Quality over quantity is what any of us should want for our loved ones.

If your mom doesn't want to take the meds...don't beg her or bug her about it. Just let her make up her mind and try to enjoy the time you do have together.

As for the medication...even though I have no experience with it...i am sure it's like any medication out there. Everything has some side effect and everyone reacts differently. My Dad had no side effects of chemo other than he lost his appetite. While my mom was puking, diarrhea, loss of appetite, hair...etc. So you just never know until you try it. But if she's going to doesn't matter at all anyhow.

Sorry I rambled so long. I do want to say I am truly sorry. Cancer is horrible. You and your family are in my thoughts.

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answers from New York on

Hi C.,
I am sorry to read about your moms lung cancer. Unfortunately, to take or not to take the chemo is your moms decision. It may help if you look at it as quality of live vs prolonged suffering. The chemo may or may not prolong your moms life but it will not cure her, your mom may have decided that she wants to spend her last days feeling as good as she can vs suffering from the side effects from the Tarceva.

Diarrhea and mouth sores may sound like mild side effects, but it is so much more than that. The diarhea resulting from chemo is debilitating and the mouth sores are extremely painful. And it is not just diarrhea and mouth sores, you have to think about the comorbid conditions that go along with the diarrhea -- extremely painful anal rashes, infections, dehydration from fluid and electrolyte imbalances and sometimes changes in mentation, loss of dignity and mouth sores are extremely painful and she probably would not beable to eat or drink which would result in a whole new set of problems. These are the things that your mom is probably thinking about. Feeling so terrible she would not have any quality to the last days of her life.

I bet your mom wants quality time with you and the other members of your family. I know it must be hard, try to look at things from her perspective, talk to her and respect her wishes. Concentrate on spending time with your mom, tell her the things that you want her to know and let her know that you are there to support her and respect her wishes.

Also, you may benefit from talking to a counselor or nurse that specializes in cancer care - call the cancer center where your mom is being treated and see if you can talk with someone about your own feelings.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My mother in law passed away recently from lung cancer. A few things we did to help the family prepare was take family photos with a professional photographer. We made sure that we took group photos as well as candid pictures of her with each grandchild. The pictures ended up also being used in the obituary andat the services which was helpful because we didn't have to search around for photos that would work once she passed. Another tip is to have your mom record her voice on special storybooks (I believe my mother in law bought them at Hallmark) so that the grandchildren can still hear her voice once she is gone. I also bought the book "What is heaven " by Maria Shriver to read with the kids. My 5 year old daughter made a book for her Nana about her favorite things to do with Nana. She was able to read it with her grandma before she passed so that her grandma knew how much she meant to my daughter, and now my daughter can read the book to remind herself of special memories. I'm so sorry you have to go through this.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I'm so sorry you and your mom and family are going through this. I lost my stepfather to cancer and it's so tough for the families, as well as the individual going through it.
I respectfully disagree with the PP--even if she's smoking, the new drug may be worth try. It's "less effective" when smoking. It's not like she's "going to get" lung cancer from smoking I don't think it's a black and white easy decision like if she's smoking, what's the use and if she's not then take it. There needs to be more discussion with her doctors.
However, it is ultimately the decision of the person with cancer when and if to stop treatments and meds. You cannot make her do more or do's her life and her decisions. My stepfather eventually just felt like he could not go through any more and he decided to stop treatment/meds. My mom's best friend also put up a grand fight, but eventually decided she'd had enough. It's hard, but it is each person's personal responsibility and right to decide what's the best choice for themselves. Support your mom and promote quality of life, no matter what she decides. God bless and I wish you strength to do whatever is right in your case with your mom.

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answers from Sacramento on

First of all, my heart goes out to you -- I lost my sister to aggressive breast cancer almost 3 years ago. She wasn't yet 40 years old. I was very sad and I miss her dearly. There will always be a hole marking her absence in my life.

My sister fought like crazy, and she was compliant with her med regimen and doctor's advice and recommendations. The chemo and radiation made her feel like a walking corpse at times, but I know she was fighting for more time with her young children.

Have you talked to your mom about how she feels about the end of her life? I know that this is a very difficult conversation/series of conversations to have with someone who you are so close with and can't imagine life without. She might be tired of the fight, she might have made peace with how much time she has left and maybe doesn't want to be miserable during her remaining time (you mentioned that her doctor says she has months, not years - is the chemo expected to lengthen the time she has left?). The smoking is pleasurable on some level, and it also probably represents some kind of control over life, something she's not willing (let alone able) to give up.

Okay, now I'm starting to tear up. This is so sad, and I'm so sorry that you're going through this. I don't know if this has helped at all, but my hope for you is that you're able to enjoy the time you have left with your mom, because at the end, that's all any of us really has.

My thoughts are with you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

When my mum was battling breast cancer that had metastasized to her liver, bones, and brain, I signed up for a couple of listserv email groups. I found them to be excellent resources of information and support. The people on the lists included those suffering from cancer as well as friends and family who had run the gauntlet and they were invaluable. I highly recommend finding some sort of support group for yourself (and perhaps suggesting to your mom that she find one if she's interested), be it online or in person. Good luck to you and your mom and God Bless.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Redding on

I know how you feel because I lost my mom to cancer and we were also very close. It was a long time ago but seems like yesterday. I don't know what your situation is with insurance, but I would call the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. They have treatments that a lot of places don't have and they treat not only with drugs but have a whole program that others don't. I have a friend that took her husband there and raved about how wonderful it was. She had been to a major teaching hospital and the Cancer Treatment Centers of America had something that the other didn't have and said wouldn't work. She said it was a wonderful experience, considering, and that the doctors and everyone there were wonderful. I would try to talk her into it if it were me. And try to convince her that she needs to stop smoking, if not for her sake, for yours and the rest of the family. Tell her you would do it for her if the situation were reversed. And pray a lot. Get everyone you know to pray for her. God bless!

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answers from San Francisco on

let her choose. it is important for her to live/die with dignity. the side effects of cancer treatments are sometimes worse than the cancer itself. she might be ready to go. you will both have peace of mind if she is an active part of the process, and if she can still feel some control over her body and circumstances.

i am so sorry your family is going through this. i lost my mom 5.5 years ago to cancer (i had just turned 29). the pain never goes away. but her being "in control" until the end was priceless and very healing.

hugs to you.



answers from San Francisco on

My Dad took Tarceva for lung cancer, he never smoked though so I can't speak to that part. But he found the side effects to be very minimal. The rash was minor, just some mild redness that was controlled with cortizone cream and he actually put on weight while he was on it and was able to do more, even go on short trips which was a big improvement over how he had been on his previous chemo which was very debilitating. His hair also grew back and I never heard him mention mouth sores.
Your Mom has gone through a lot in the last few years, the chemo drugs can make people absolutely miserable and I always told my Dad that I fully respected his right to make the choice to no longer continue treatment. It becomes a quality of life issue.
Good luck,

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