What can you tell me about pancreatic cancer?

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by hearts and roses, Jun 29, 2011.

  1. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Seems father in law's initial tests show he has a tumor on his pancreas and he's being referred to a cancer treatment center in Tampa (they live near the Cape on the other side of FL).

    I know what I've read on line, but that's it. Anyone have any experience?

    On a side note, say a little prayer for H - his mother has decided that he is the one she will relay information to - to be passed on to his siblings. Ugh - there is so much room for misinformation or lack of information in this arrangement. His sister, who is executrix of their estate is not happy but willing to go along with it for now - she's banking on me pulling the info out of H so I can pass it along. Thank you.
  2. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Depends, but prognosis is usually guarded at best.

    I don't have time right now, but this evening I can pull out my text books and see what info is available, at least you'll know it's accurate and current.

    I'm so sorry father in law is having to deal with this.

  3. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I don't have personal experience to share. on the other hand, living in Central Florida I can attest to the fact that one of the most highly regarded cancer treatment hospital's is in Tampa. I will include you family in my prayers. DDD
  4. Marcie Mac

    Marcie Mac Just Plain Ole Tired

    My brother died of pancreatic cancer - from what I understand the cure rate is extremely low, but if it is caught early there is hope. Patrick Swazy had this condition as well.

  5. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip


    My Grandma had pancreatic cancer when she passed away.

    I don't think that's what caused her death, I think it was too many things together, but I do know it was very, very painful.

    on the other hand? They gave her some great medications. She told them she did not want surgery or chemo - she wanted to be with Grandpa. Made us all stop and think.

    And - it always depends on how early they catch it!!!
  6. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    We're fairly certain this has been an ongoing issue with father in law. Last year when we saw him in August he looked thinner and just old. I had commented then that to me his complexion looked sallow - pale and pasty. His legs were retaining fluid which mother in law attributed to the long car drive from FL to NY. He's always been a heavy drinker, we're talking almost a liter a day of gin or some other alcohol, so when we were told he had jaundice, that in and of itself was no surprise - think liver damage. It's obvious, in retrospect, that something was going on then.

    Also, about a month ago, he sent H's sister a sheet with all his banking info and other personal accounting/affairs information, will, etc., so he obviously knew something was up. When she asked him he stated that he felt it was time for her to have the nitty gritty details as he is getting up in age (late 70's). She didn't think about it too much at the time and put the papers in a safe place. Now she gets it.

    If something has been going on for a year or so (who knows?), based on what we've all read, it doesn't look good. H and I are worried about his mom in particular as mentally she's not always stable and has severe diabetes. I cannot imagine her living alone in FL without father in law - he did all the business stuff and she basically kept house and did some volunteer work locally. She had breast cancer a little over a year ago and is recovered but has never been quite the same since. I don't know what will happen once father in law is passed, where she will go, who she will move near, etc. I asked sister in law this morning about that and I think I heard her shudder, said she wasn't ready to even think about any of that.

    For now, we're all just taking it day by day as the new info filters in from mother in law. Hopefully, H will get it straight so he passes on viable information. Of course, mother in law will only dole out information as she sees fit and they have a history of being very tight-lipped about things. That old person thing not wanting to burden or worry the children...as well as feeling they need to remain independent and not admit they are scared sh&tless. Ah well, no comment as I wonder how I'll be at that age.

    Thank you for the prayers and info. Much appreciated.
  7. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip


    Your father in law getting his affairs in order is a big clue about what he thinks and feels.

    My parents got all their stuff in order about 7.5 years ago, after Grandpa passed away. Mom is an only child, as am I - and she did not want me to have to go through what she did. Mom is now a young 63. However, after all the stuff Mom had to take care of - between March of 2003 when Grandpa passed and December 2004 when Grandma passed - was nuts. I'm glad she had my Dad to help.

    Grandma was not in very good health, even before Grandpa got really sick at the end. A lot of it had to do with her drinking earlier in life. However - in 2002 they had moved to an assisted-living facility, so when Grandpa passed, she wasn't all alone. But she missed him very badly. Very, very badly. I think perhaps this had something to do with how quickly she went, once they found the cancer.

    I'm not going to tell you not to worry about mother in law. Clearly, you have reason to. But there are options.
  8. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Just thought I would add another thought. I know that they have a Ronald McDonald house in Tampa
    but I "think" they have an adult house that is available to family members of those in treatment. I would assume you could call the cancer treatment center and ask them directly. When our easy child/difficult child had his unexpected brain surgery in Orlando the surgeon "recommended" us for an absolutely lovely home very near the hospital that was an awesome help to us. There was no need for travel to a hotel or for the total isolation of being alone in our fear and grief. If I recall there was a daily charge of under $50. We had a large room, security, internet access and a large kitchen that was open 24/7 for convenience of the guests. Truly it made it possible for us to feel connected, safe and "at home" with easy child/difficult child just a block or two away for easy walking access. I think it's worth checking into just in case father in law is an admit and his wife wants to be nearby. DDD
  9. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Jo...I am very sorry to hear this but I will be pretty blunt here. With what you have written here I dont think the prognosis is very good. Severe alcohol consumption pretty much kills the pancreas along with the liver. I have known several people who had pancreatitis and have now died from pancreatic cancer. It is a very painful condition and at his age, I dont think he will be able to fight it off long.

    I am so very very sorry. This is going to be such a difficult time for all concerned.
  10. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    I think this is what we all believe as well. It's very sad, but my father in law lived his life in his own way on his own terms and I think he had a very good time. I don't begrudge him but I think his kids might on some level. I know H's mom does. She said some odd things the other day to H when he spoke with her.

    Like I said, I am wondering what will happen with her after father in law passes. She prefers H's company so I hope she doesn't have designs on moving up near us. Not that I would protest loudly, but I have enough on my plate with my own mother and H doesn't usually make a lot of time for anything other than work. I'm trying not to think that far ahead.

    But yes, from what I've read and heard, pancreatic cancer is not a cancer that is detected early and because of that, it's usually not a good prognosis.

    DDD, when my dad was being treated for his cancer, and then later on with hospice, he and my mom were able to stay in a facility attached to the treatment center for a very small nominal fee - it was a Godsend, especially for my mom in terms of support and having her many questions answered. They even answered questions she hadn't thought of asking yet! When we visited my parents while he was there, they seemed to be doing better than when they were at home alone and isolated. You know, my mom doesn't even remember that time at all anymore - I can't decide if that's sad or a blessing.
  11. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Glad you're familiar with it. Godsend it just the right word. Sending best wishes. DDD
  12. 1905

    1905 Well-Known Member

    I know my grandmother died of that. It was very ugly. I'm sorry, she died very soon after being diagnosed. She had a good life. She lives in my heart forever.
  13. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Jo, it doesn't sound good.

    People can survive pancreatic cancer, but in order to do so it has to be caught early, they have to be young and healthy, they also have to be VERY lucky.

    A man I know was diagnosed early, was in his 40s with young children. And even then, they said he had little chance. But they tried. he had chemo and radiation which shrank the tumour, then they finally operated on him once the tumour had shrunk enough, and were even able to save his Islets (so no diabetes following the surgery). He then had more chemo and radiation to kill any remaining tumour cells. It as looking like he was going to make it. The Christmas after he'd been diagnosed, his wife was in total denial and refusing to discuss the possibility that he would not make it - she was insistent that he be surrounded with positive vibes only. But the rest of us did not expect him to reach Easter, and even that was only because he was young, the cancer had been caught early and he had that much time, it seemed.

    But the surgery in the New Year went well, the treatment went well. He got fit and strong again, looked after himself (not a drinker or smoker) and enjoyed his time with his baby girls.

    He got sick again in October and died a couple of weeks before the next Christmas. The treatment had bought him a year which he valued. But even with everything they threw at him, plus luck, he only had a little more time.

    When I was pregnant with easy child, I was in hospital with threatened early labour and a dying placenta. Almost all the other women in that ward had hypertension and/or gestational diabetes. One older woman in my room was a walking stick, she had been so sick and lost so much weight. She had a late-in-life pregnancy, had grandchildren already. But she was happy to be pregnant and her gestational diabetes stabilised fast, so she was allowed home on weekends (unlike most of the other women whose diabetes would fluctuate). This woman lived in the town where my parents-in-law lived, so six months later at Christmas time, we were with our in-laws and our new baby at church, when I saw in the service notes, "flowers to the memory of..." and it was my friend from hospital. I asked the priest as we left the church - the woman had had pancreatic cancer, only diagnosed a week before she died. By that stage she was in a coma. They kept her alive to deliver the baby, then turned off life support.

    Pancreatic cancer gallops fast, and is also often too far advanced before it is diagnosed. The bloke with the little girls - he had it picked up early, but it still took him. And he was fit, otherwise healthy and young. Yes, there are new treatments, but I suspect your father in law is sensible to get his affairs in order. Fast.

    I'm so sorry. This is going to rebound on you, because this is going to happen too fast for mother in law and H to cope, I suspect.

    Might I suggest someone sit with father in law with a tape recorder and get him to talk about his life, his dreams, his ideas? When a person is gone, you can't go back and do this. If he's at all the sort of person who would appreciate being asked to leave a message for the future for his grandchildren, it could be a good way to help other people cope, too.

  14. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Thanks Marg. H has wanted to sit down with his mother for years and get some stuff on tape, but seems we're never with them long enough to do so. His father would not cooperate if H tried to do that. I suggested just being conversational and secretly taping him. My family videotaped my dad once when we were visiting him at the care center - got him telling great stories, my mom playing cards with the grands, and laughing, singing, having a nice time. There was still that certain element of meloncholy, but I have the tape and occasionally look at it. My oldest sister and I watched it with my Mom about a year ago and it was interesting. I think my mom wanted to jump into the television to be with my dad - the longing was so apparent in her eyes, she missed him so much. My perspective is so different now from what it was at that time, nearly 20 years ago. Good stuff.

    Like I said in earlier posts, I think we all realize it's not a good prognosis, though his sister seems to think they may be able to remove, do chemo and be done with it. She's had cancer and that's what happened with her, but she may be forgetting that she was/is way younger and healthier than her dad. They took some tissue yesterday for a biopsy while installing a stent to drain the bile - we should get the results tonight from his mom. I have a feeling a trip to FL is in our immediate future. I don't want H to go alone, but he may actually want to go solo this time around (usually he won't travel without me).

    Thanks again for all the positive thoughts and prayers and REAL stories.
  15. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    The biopsy came back as malignant. I wish his mom would talk to me but last night when she called, easy child answered, and when she told mother in law that I was there, mother in law said, 'No, I'll wait for P (H)". H doesn't always get the info right and he doesn't understand a lot of the terminology and his mother only doles out what she wants. Argh, so frustrating. I guess the plan is to contact the cancer center near them, which is NOT where they were referred to and see about starting chemotherapy on father in law. As a lifelong advocate for difficult child, it is in my nature to do some fact finding and checking, wanting to speak with the doctors, research all options as well as assuage my IL's emotions....but alas, I am not blood and they never fully welcomed me into the family. H's sister and brother are great. I spoke with brother in law last night and he's heading to FL on Sunday, so at least there will be another set of eyes and ears there. I know that she chose H to call with info because she knew he wouldn't press her for info, pepper her with her questions, but brother in law and sister in law most definitely will. So that's it for now. Looks like we will be heading to FL end of July.
  16. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Sorry, Jo. I was going to suggest a trip in the near future, but looks like you are already planning that. I say the sooner the better.