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Caring for my Mother In Law.

About a year ago my mother in law was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. She didn't let it get her down. I helped with transportation to and from her chemo appointments ... mostly because she was unable to tolerate the treatments and was violently ill throughout that time. By the end of her treatments in July, she was living her best life. Out and traveling with her girlfriend, coming to our house for weekend BBQs, and making crochet projects for her friends. Oct 1st - her life alert went off and our lives changed. She was instantly dependent on us to make sure she had round the clock care at home. We went in for an MRI and were told that the cancer had spread to her brain, treatment was no longer an option. Her primary cancer doctor said she had days, maybe weeks, not months to live. We instantly decided we were going to keep her home as long as that was possible. She is still alert, for the most part. She has trouble vocalizing and has developed a persistent cough... today, one month later, she's on hospice, and is now having trouble with transfers because she's incredibly weak, she stays in her hospital bed all day, she hasn't had any fluid intake and has quit taking any medications. She's pale and has a gurgle when she breaths (that comes and goes) and she's exhausted all the time. However, she isn't in any pain and is ready for what comes next but is seeming to linger with no quality of life. I've never done a forum like this before but her condition has consumed my life and I am feeling like its all I talk about. Its all I want to talk about. I just really needed a place to get this all out there and see if anyone else who is caring for someone might feel the same way.

  1. Hi Karlyn,
    I am sorry to hear about the struggles with your mother-in-law. She is very lucky to have you...I know you have heard that a million times, as have I, but it is so true. My mom was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung cancer- Adenocarcinoma metastasized to her brain. She had brain surgery last week and is recovering at home now. I am her caregiver, I schedule her appointments, speak with insurance agents, research, order second opinions and all of the above. Everything to do with her cancer consumes my whole day, all of my thoughts, and impacts all of my actions. Even though I am speaking about it 24/7.... I too, constantly feel the need to talk about it. It is so strange that even though we speak about it all day, finding more outlets to speak about it makes us feel so much better. I have found that writing/typing every day about her current state, my feelings, her feelings and writing memories helps me feel like I am doing something to help. Even if the writing is just for me, friends, or family to read...it gives me an outlet to feel like I am helping in some way, even though I cannot physically help her any more. I have a care page that I frequently update but I need more and more so I just.keep.writing. I know its not much, but know that your not feeling anything unusual, and that you are enough. <3
    Terin

    1. Hi Karlyn,

      I am so happy that my story could touch you in some way as well as how your story has touched me. The housework and typical cna work, even though it is tedious, just remember that it makes a big difference to her. With my mom, I know how much it drives her crazy seeing the dog hair all over the carpet or not having the house tidy so me taking care of those things takes a load off of her mind and gives her a sense of normalcy.
      As far as the journaling goes, it is not too late to start. Start from the beginning of her story, back track and write and remember as much as you can. I frequently look back on my notes with doctors and write about small details that didn't mean much at the time, but it still makes me feel like I am helping in some way.
      My mom is not in the same current state as your mom-in-law, but if my mom were in that state, I think I would start writing a journal highlighting moments in her life. Sort of like a mini-biography. If you can get her to communicate, or spend some time with your husband, writing her life story and looking back at fond memories may bring joy and comfort knowing that all of those moments are what has made her life so full. <3
      Terin 😀

    2. Hi Karlyn and Terin,

      You both sound like wonderful daughters and daughter-in-law. You should be so proud of yourself. I know it’s not easy taking care of someone you love being sick. Keep doing what you’re doing and make your love ones as comfortable as you can.

      Last January, I found out I had lung cancer. In March I had surgery. Then, in April, 30 days of radiation with no side effects. In June, I had an lumpectomy. I am still doing good and worry about what my life will be like down the road. I don’t want to be a burden to my children. I try and not think that I had cancer and take one day at a time.

      That’s all we can do is try and be positive and keep the faith. Saying an extra prayer for both mom's and mother-in-law.

      Karen xoxo

  2. Hi Karlyn,
    Your letter resonated with me. My mom’s lung cancer was found because her brain mets put her in the ED. Hers was nsclc but she had comorbidities that prevented her from having treatment. She survived only 4 1/2 months.

    Right now you and your daughter are engaged in the most loving act a person can ever take on. Some of the things you described, the trouble vocalizing, difficulty with transfers, the cough, inability to eat and drink will only get worse as the end draws closer.

    My sister and I found that playing her favorite music helped keep her peaceful when she would become anxious. Sometimes it seemed like she was in a space between both worlds. She would respond to things only she could hear. The hospice worker said that is one of the brains ways of protecting the body from pain and anxiety the oxygen starvation cases.

    1. It's not easy to be a caregiver, and it's normal and healthy that the caregivers vent. As a patient, I understand and believe that your mother-in-law know it and appreciate it. You did a right thing to vent.

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