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Ovarian Cancer - what to expect
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Ovarian Cancer - what to expect

My fit and active 82yr old mother has been diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer 5 weeks ago and given 2 months to live.  You can imagine our shock - mum rides her bike every day, gardens and does the cryptic crosswords at night.  The only symptom was a swollen stomach. She had 3.4 litres of fluid drained. One dose of chemo made her incredibly ill and she has refused anymore tratment. The drugs to ward of the sickness gave her constipation. She is now on a natural "bowel cleanser" tablet once a day. She still strains initially before having success.

I am her daughter, her carer and I would like to know what to expect next. At the moment we are living each day as it comes and enjoying each other's company. She is in no pain as yet but her stomach is hardening slightly so it looks as though the ascites is starting to build up.

I am sleeping in the room next to hers. Can you give me some idea what to expect and how we will deal with it?

Thank you
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19 Comments
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I am puzzled by the "Stage III and 2 months to live"?    She, technically-speaking, would need to progress to a Stage 4- at this stage,  the lungs and liver are compromised and this can mean that death is imminent.   But not always, as you have likely noted if you read other posts on this forum.  Personally, I would expect her to live longer than two months, as long as she does not have other health concerns.

Given that she is so active, it is difficult to say what course she will take.  Often with the elderly, the disease makes them sleep more and more, until they just sleep themselves away, as I call it.   But these patients are usually given to sleeping much of the day already.  On the other hand, I have seen active people of all ages who remained active up to the last week to five days, in which they had a dramatic but brief downturn.
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I really don't know what to say except that you and your mum are in my thoughts and prayers.  My dad passed away at the age of 57 from lung cancer as a result of exposure to agent orange in Viet Nam.  He was dx in Jan '93, and died in Dec '93.  You are doing everything right.  Just enjoy each day with her.  Every day we have is a gift.  Leave nothing unsaid.  Too often we don't tell the people we love just what they mean to us.  As I've told my dh, family and friends:  Speak kindly of me now while I can hear & enjoy it!!  Godspeed
~Tascha
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I can't give you any advice, but can certainly offer your name in prayer, along with your Mom.  I lost my Mom to OVCA at age 45 - 20 years ago, so know what you are dealing with.  I wondered about the Stage III though - from what I read it would need to be a Stage IV for such a prognosis - maybe some of the other girls can help you out with this.  Know that you are in my prayers.  Spice
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Your situation sounds remarkably like the one we faced with our 92 year old mother---we also called her Mum. PLEASE go and read the story I posted just above yours.Bob.
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Bob where is the story? How do I find it?
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Thank you for all your comments. It is so helpful to hear anything from people at this stage. Definitely told stage 3 because it was outside the ovaries and into the lymph. The scans showed it not to be in other organs, so I do wonder why the encologist said 2 months. It will be up in 2 weeks and mum is still up at 5:30am and out digging in the garden every day. Could that one dose of chemo make such a difference I wonder? Or just didn't he bank on mum being si fit. She is having a sleep every afternoon. I went to a naturopath a couple of weeks ago and was given a herbal concotion which she has twice a day - tastes a bit like chocolate. Just hope for her sake that it will be quick when it comes - because mum doesn't want to linger when she can't look after herself.

Thank you again, What a great idea this is.

Couldn't find my question or answers for a few days - so posted a similar one again. Please ignore!
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My sister-in-law was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in March 2006, she had surgery and chemo and everything was under control. According to her doctors it was in remission, this past October she started feeling some pain and went for her regular checkup, it was discovered that she had 3 large tumors.  She's been going to chemo and radiation and we have been informed that it is stage 4 and only a miracle will save her. We've never been through this and need to know what to expect.  She's in alot of pain and her abdomen has been drained 3 times in the last month, last time she had 2.7 litters. She's under alot of pain medication and sleeps alot. She is not accepting the prognosis and neither are some family members, although I would give anything for her to fight and overcome this I understand that the odds are against her.  Please advise me as to what is expected in the days to come.

Thank you for listening.  Samy
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Hi Samy... I hope you sister-in-law doesn't give up too easily, as we are all different. I was dx Stage 4 in Feb 04... and just about ready to celebrate 4 lovely years of life. I've been pretty much on non-stop chemo, but my quality of life has been good, and I still do what I like to do and savour each day. I suppose I've been lucky in that I don't get nausea or illness from the treatments, and my appetite has remained really good, and I think that has helped me. Is your s.i.l. doing chemo now? If so, then that should help reduce the abdominal fluid. Is there any possibility of further surgery to take out the 3 large tumours? Perhaps a second opinion could be another option?
I wish your s.i.l. all the best, and I hope she is a fighter. :-)  hugs...Helen..
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To those who have family members suffering from ovarian cancer I can only describe what is happening to my mother right now. She was diagnosed stage 3  one and 1/2 years ago. Surgery was done but the cancer had "sprinkled" throught the abdomen. She presented the symptom of ascites at least 1 year prior to the diagnosis. We were shuffled from doctor to doctor and no scans were done at the time. Of course not being exposed to the wonderful information that has been in the media in the last year or so we did not push. I wish I knew then. We were told that no remission would happen best would be to hold the growth of the tumors. We went thru all courses of chemo available with no luck. For the past 2 months she has been throwing up everything ingested. So after a month stay in the hospital we found that the tumor had completely blocked the bowel. She was released 1 week ago and were told we had about 1-2 weeks. We had also been told that when she deteriorated it would be quick. They were right. We had to stop the nutrient feeding as she has bloated in the legs, hands. The ascites is still there. We had about 5 days where she was conscious but breathing was labored. Today was the downhill day. She has fluid building up in the lungs and she is no longer conscious. We know it is going to end in a day or two but the pain medication seems to be keeping her comfortable and peaceful. I cry for her, myself and I cry for all of you suffering and those whose loved ones are battling this awful disease. My heart goes out to all of you and please stay positive. Fight hard with these doctors if needed. My mom fought hard to win the battle but God has other plans for her. I now know that I am at risk and no longer will I let any doctors tell me nothing is wrong when my body says otherwise! I do not mean to upset anyone further but I am trying to describe what my family has gone thru now that we are nearing the end.
To all suffering please fight and never give in or give up!

Julie
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So sorry to hear about your Mom.  OC is a terrible disease to have and it's a life-time battle for most of us. You are right, the most important thing is listen to your body and sternly express this concern to the doctors.   Thank you for thinking of us on this forum and I wish your Mom a peaceful flight to heaven.
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I am really sorry about the pain your family is going through and I will keep all of you in my prayers, especially your Mom.  God bless..

~Sandy~
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I am fighting and I'll never give up. I watched my mom lose her fight at age 51. I'm fighting hard now. Your encouragemnt to us in your time of grief means so much. Love and prayers, Marie
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I am so sorry to read all of your stories. Please do not give up. I was also dx stage IV in Nov 05. I have been on chemo ever since, but get along just fine. I have only had about 5 months of what they call actual remission and that was the few months after my surgery. Mine had spread to my liver and a small spot was found on my diaphram. I had it burned out of my liver twice now but it continues to pop back up there. It has also shown up as fluid in my abdominal lining but chemo has kept it at a minimal. I have been told that I will always be on chemo. And when one quits working then we move on to something else.
Are none of your family members on chemo at all? Is there anyway possible to find a second opinion? Like you I would be unwilling to accept the prognosis and I think that I would try to find a Dr that is the same.
  Julie you and your mom are in my prayers, and my heart goes out to you.
Samy 17 and Jak27, please do not give up. There is hope and I pray that you both may find someone to help you keep that hope inside you. And yes I would definately go for that second opinion.
  You are all in my thoughts and prayers and I wish you all the best.  Love, Chris
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Thank you all for your support. Unfortunately mom passed away Feb 10th. The hardest part were trying to answer the why is this happening so fast when she was having her last decent, conscious days. Thank god it was a quick passing and now there is no more pain. Any suggestions from you brave ladies suffering from this on what to watch out for? My OB/Gyn was not too concerned about genetic testing as she said that I have been on the pill for 20 years and that seems to prevent ovarian cancer. I wish I would have thought to find this support sight sooner but it is never too late to meet and support others who are dealing with this issue. Thank you ladies!

Julie
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My prayers are with you Julie. Rest assure your mother's spirit has merely left her body for a time. One day We will all be restored to a perfect body. God, our father in heaven, has created families to be forever.

I also want to thank you for sharing what to expect ( in some detail) now that my mother's miraculous 3 1/2 year fight is comming to an end. We live about 700 miles away from eachother. The Dr said We have about a month. I am leaving to see my folks @the end of the month. I have not yet made a return flight. It seems difficult to leave my Father during this time. I have children and a husband at home, but they're not babies.

Could things get as ugly as I fear?  My parents both have NO belief in a life after death. I can't bear the idea of my parent facing an end alone that they think is a final separation.

If anyone can lead me to a place where I can learn what will really happen at the end please let me know. All I have been able to find is diagnostic stuff and Progress in the field. What I need now is to prepare myself so that I can be strong for my father and not be shocked at what I see. My prayer is for us all. With gratitude, Wendi
***@****  
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Wendi .. Do you have a Hospice in your area.  They are wonderful, caring people with a lot of experience in this phase of life.  My prayers are with you and your family.  Judy
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My mother-in-law has ovarian cancer but will not get treatment.  It is hard to say what stage she's in because she will not talk about it.  I believe that she is at least in stage 3.  Her abdomen is very big, which I assume is caused by the fluid that many of you describe.  What can I expect if she continues to refuse treatment?  And any advice on trying to convience her to get treatment?
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My mom has given up her fight with OVCA.  She is 81 was diagnosed in Aug 08 had surgery and found that the bowel was involved, which left her with a colostomy.  Her CA125 was over 11,000! At the time, she wondered if she should even have the surgery.  They staged her at 3C.  She had one chemo treatment, it made her really really weak, her medi-port became infected her white blood cell count & bp were so low she was practically incoherant.   In the hospital they removed her medi-port, and then she decided NO MORE CHEMO!  Although her Dr. wants to convince her to do one more...OMG
The Docs aren't very forthcoming with info.  My mom has chosen to live out the rest of her life not feeling horrible because of chemo.  She is 81 and has an active social life...the woman I see today is so different, she looks 100 years old!  She can barely stay awake and is starting to be very confused.  We have an appointment with the dr. to discuss hospice...from the posts above it looks like it will be necessary sooner than later...but the dr. always assumed she would want chemo - they never ask her to decide..I don't know, maybe I'm just venting...I love her docs but they never offered the option of not doing surgery or chemo.  No options whatsoever.  I think she has lost a lot of her fight because of the colostomy  - it took her 2 weeks to even look at it.  She learned how to care for it while in a rest home, and then when she got sick because of the infection & chemo, she is so weak and blah that she lets others do it.  I pray God is merciful and keeps her free from pain and at peace.
Thanks for letting me vent....not everyone in my family is at the stage I am, and it is hard to watch them pushing for one more chemo...I really think it would kill her.
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Hi Kaysgirl, I'm so sorry to learn what you're going through. I went through this with my 74 year old mom in August 2007. It was a difficult time and it's still so hard to believe that my mom is no longer here. Yes, you need to get hospice in as soon as possible so that your mom doesn't need to deal with pain. I can tell you that the last few weeks do reflect confusion, sleeping more, a seeming desire to break free from this life (maybe she'll become less sociable), not wanting to have visitors, maybe you'll notice her talking to someone who's not really there. She'll also lose her desire for food and drink. We, as daughters would rather they eat and drink because we want to nourish them, but in reality it's just their bodies saying "enough" I'm done now. There's a wonderful book (pamphlet, really) called "Gone From My Sight: The Dying Experience"  which delineates the different physical stages of death and dying. Below is an excerpt:

One to three months prior to death

        * Withdrawal from world and people
        * Decreased food intake
        * Increased sleep
        * Going inside self
        * Less Communication

One to Two Weeks Prior to Death

        * Disorientation
        * Agitation
        * Talking with Unseen
        * Confusion
        * Picking at Clothes
        * Physical Changes

Days or Hours

        * Intensification of 1-2 week signs
        * Surge of energy
        * Decrease in blood pressure
        * Eyes glassy, tearing, half open
        * Irregular breathing, stop/start
        * Restlessness or no activity
        * Purplish knees, feet, hands, blotchy
        * Pulse weak and hard to fine
        * Decreased urine output
        * May wet or stool the bed

I found this information so helpful when I was caring for my mom during her final weeks. I wish you the best; I know how very difficult this is. Just enjoy every moment you have.
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