Topic: Grandmother recently diagnosed w/ cancer...

Hello everyone

I've been reading through the posts on this site for a couple days now and felt I should post my story as well...(its a long story and its only been 2 weeks since she was first diagnosed...)

Up until about a month ago, my 87 year old grandmother was 'healthy as a horse'! She came down with what seemed like the common flu bug mid-March. She experienced pain in her upper right abdomen, high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and very slight yellowing of the skin. This went on for about a week before her symptoms reduced in severity.

Her family physician booked her for an ultrasound and thats when it was discovered she had a large mass on her gallbladder. She was then scheduled for a CT Scan which revealed the mass was in fact a malignant tumor and also that she had gall stones. The Dr. confirmed she would need surgery and referred her to a specialist in Vancouver BC Canada. My grandmother lives on Vancouver Island in a small town that doesn't have many specialists so she had to travel a few hours via car and then ferry to the mainland.

She had an ERCP procedure performed to insert a stent in the bile duct. After this procedure things started improving and it looked like we were ready to take her back home...unfortunately that wasn't the case. Within 3 days, my grandmother was rushed to hospital with high fever, low blood pressure, shivering and pain in her abdomen. Another ERCP procedure was performed and an additional stent was placed to drain her liver as that was also becoming blocked. Along with this last procedure, my grandmother was also admitted to the hospital because of a serious infection (don't know what type, wasn't told). She was in hospital for 4 days and was discharged earlier today.

While in hospital my grandmother was seen by an oncologist. He explained to us that her cancer is at an advanced stage and there wasn't any treatment available to her at this time other than palliative care. He explained further that surgery was too risky due to her age and the fact that the cancer has spread to nearby organs so the complications from the surgery outweigh the benefits. Currently he said the cancer is in her gall bladder, bile duct, lining of the liver and possibly her bladder.

In the 4 days my grandmother was in hospital, the specialist gave us a time line of about 6 months, by the time she was discharged he told us maybe 2 weeks!!!!

I can definitely see her health has deteriorated but she is still very much alert though her body is very weak. I just can't see how the Dr. can be so sure of her survival time line.

I'm still not convinced there isn't anything we can do, I'm considering getting a 2nd opinion but hesitating at the same time wondering if they will be able to tell us something different. She is older so I'm wondering if the Dr. is basing his decision on her age. I know age is a major factor in determining treatment options but we've told him that she is very active for her age.

I have accepted the fact that this type of cancer at an advanced stage cannot be cured but I'm looking for some info on treatments that can maybe slow down the spread. I would definitely like her to have quality of life rather than quantity but it seems that her mind is willing to fight this but doesn't have the strength to do it.

Thanks so much for reading my story...


Re: Grandmother recently diagnosed w/ cancer...

Please do feel free to seek another opinion.  Even if this confirms the diagnosis, you'll feel that you thoroughly investigated and did the best for your grandmother.  Also, the doctors give their educated guesses, but they don't know for sure how long anyone will live.  Palliative care that keeps her comfortable and able to continue her activities will probably be the best route, but you might want to get another opinion on the surgical question.  She's a lucky grandmother to have you watching out for her!