While in the hospital for a stroke, my 82 yo mom was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She does not know.

Started by

my mom recently had a stroke that robbed her of her eye sight. while in the hospital Dr discovered several masses in both lungs. Never a smoker but did have R kidney removed 5 yrs ago due to clear cell cancer. Dr talked to her about more tests to determine type and stage but she refused. I told the dr I thought she was too confussed at the time to understand what was going on but he disagreed. After weeks of rehab she is now at my house and she does NOT know anything about the cancer ! Does not even remember being in the hospital. She is so fragile right now and very depressed about her eye sight,my heart breaks for her. I am not sure if I should tell her about the lung cancer or not. Dr has said he will talk to her about it or not. kind of leaving it up to me to decide. I just don't know what to do. She is getting so much stronger with hard work after the stroke but is so depressed. Seems to be feeling ok with the exception of extreme fatigue and occasional wheezing. So confused on telling her or not !!!


I can understand why you might choose to not tell her. At 82, how aggressive will any treatment be? But if you don't tell her and she finds out anyway she may feel as if you've taken away her options. In principle, everyone has a right to be an active participant in their own health care but I think there's some fuzziness around that principle and maybe that's where you are right now. If the Dr. is leaving the decision up to you I'm assuming he's not going to treat the cancer? And she's so depressed already.....I think either choice will be the right one. I know you'll do what you think is best for your mom and that's always the right choice.
When my dad was diagnosed with late stage, aggressive prostate cancer that had already advanced into his bones, he was not interested in hearing more about it. My mom was frustrated as she wanted Dad to ask the doctor how long he had, etc. My dad took the hormone shots that the doctor recommended and lived relatively pain free for 8 years until a massive heart attack. He never asked the doctor any more about it, which highly frustrated my mother. She confronted the doctor about what she saw as my dad's "denial" and the doctor told her - what we had all been telling her- LEAVE HIM ALONE. The doctor explained to mom that people will ask what they want to know and some people simply do not want to know any details.

I suggest you leave your mom alone and let her enjoy her days without thinking about the cancer. Not necessarily denial, perhaps a healthy coping system.
This is a hihgly personal decision and depends completely on your understanding of your mother. I certainly would not tell my mother.
Thank You all for taking the time to respond. The Dr. has said there are no options for her. Her health is too frail to handle chemo,etc. Because my mother refused further testing ,we have no idea what type or stage we are dealing with . All I know is there are several large tumors in both lungs.Dr says 1 yr or less. Very hard when she constantly asks why she is so tired,why God took her eye sight and when will she get stronger. She is very depresed about all of the above and is all she says ALL day. I feel so bad for not telling her but I just don"t think she can emotionally handle it.
i think the right time to ease her into the news will present itself. my mom was dx'd with dementia last summer and some of my family members told her as soon as she was conscience. she didnt take too well to these efftards telling her she was stupid. weeks or months later i would have disclosed the issue at a good time like when she was already lamenting about her confusion and memory defficiency. the stark details never have to be told. " doc sed your lungs are inflamed as hell " . she may die from pneumonia. noone ever has to lay terminal cancer on her.. im just suggesting a little tactfullness.
Find out if there are things that will make her FEEL better (steroids? vitamins?). Best, most healthy food possible, with a few treats thrown in. The depression may be lethargy from the cancer too (a friend's comment was "the cancer eats first", meaning that unless there is super-good nutrition the rest of her body won't get enough nutrients to heal well.
If there were anything that would slow the tumors that might not be hard on her might be worth looking into. Some drugs stall the tumors awhile.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support