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Hello everyone. At the moment going through a very hard time, I loved my mum with passion, and we lost her two weeks ago.
My mum was 87 year old had different health problems, heart and kidney disease, she had an aortic valve replacement and bypass at the age of 84. She survived the operation which was a very risky one. But she was complaining a lots about the side effects of the tablets and her health declined quite a bit, but she was still independent and had good moments.
After the operation she kept complaining about having to go to the toilet often but every time we went to the doctors they said the symptoms are typical from old age, after all she didn't have anemia or weight loss important signs to watch for according to the doctor and after almost three years of complaining he decides to refer her for a colonoscopy. My mum didn't want to have it but he insisted that it will put our minds at rest and if she had a polyp they could remove it and improve her symptoms. I did ask the doctor what about if is a tumor, and he said not to think the worse and not to discourage her it was important for her to have it done.
She finally had the colonoscopy and the doctor tells me straight away that she has a malignant tumor and that a biopsy had been taken. It was a great shock for us but decided not to tell her because she was very vulnerable and scared. We told her she had a polyp in the colon that needed treatment, and the doctors were informed about our decision.
Shortly after the digestive surgeon called us for an appointment informed my sister and myself first about my mum's tumor stage three didn't spread to other organs but was invasive and offered her surgery. My mother said no straight away. The surgeon understood as he said it had its risks, and he couldn't guarantee to be cancer free after the operation because he couldn't follow the protocol of radiation and chemotherapy before surgery because of her frail health condition and there was a chance that a malignant cell escapes and spreads the cancer, we were all happy with the decision. A week after that the oncologist give us an appointment. He says that as we refused surgery the only thing they could do is to treat her symptoms (bleeding and diarrhea my mum was going to toilet about 8-10 times per day) with four weeks of radiotherapy sessions and give her a better quality of life. He insisted that they were not curing the disease, and after treatment nothing else would be done for her.
He reassured us that the side effects were very mild as she would be given a very low dose.
A week after we saw the radiotherapist doctor, my mum was very worried and asked her concerns. He reassured her that he treated elderly patients in the past with great success living two to three years after treatment and dying from another health problem not from the "polyp".
My mum was convinced and started radiotherapy. On the 7th session she started complaining from lower back pain which we thought it was an isolated problem and she was given analgesic treatment. The pain was growing in intensity and lasting longer than we thought. As a result the doctor had to suspend radiotherapy treatment and she had to be reassessed. We went to the oncologist for him to see her, and he said the pain could be from the tumor growing and pressing against her back. He decided to refer her to palliative care without doing any tests, he just wanted her to be pain free but when I asked him if my mum would recover from her situation, he never guaranteed me anything. So from being independent with a little help, she becomes totally dependent in the space of 6 weeks. After that last oncologist appointment her health continued deteriorating palliative care team are assisting her and two weeks later she dies from heart failure. Now I have a lots of doubts weather we should have done the colonoscopy at all, and why did we go ahead with radiotherapy treatment. But we were following the doctor's advise and everything seemed very encouraging. Has anybody in the forum gone through same or similar experiences. Thank you for reading my post.

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Thank you cwillie, you are very right.
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The only real difference between stage III and stage IV cancers is that they haven't metastasized.... yet. You had the colonoscopy because you needed the information from that test in order to find out what was going on and make informed decisions about the best course of action. The cancer would have still been there if you hadn't had the test, and today you would be beating yourself up for not following through with trying to get that diagnosis, different remorse but the same outcome. It sounds as though everyone did the best they could with the information available to them and that every effort was made to keep your mom comfortable at the end. I'm sorry for your loss.
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Thank you for your answers, I feel much better but I think bargaining it's part of the grieving process, the problem is that it interrupts the healing process because of the doubts, but I managed to make an appointment with the palliative care doctor and he explained every detail very thoroughly and took a weight of my shoulders. Understanding medically why they couldn't do anything to save her clears a lot of doubts. I have an appointment with her oncologist next for him to explain why at the end of December the PET scan report said stage three colon cancer. She starts radiotherapy at the end of January stops treatment because of lumbago pain which gets worse by the day and she dies 6 weeks after that. He never offered an MRI to find the root of the pain.  All he said was to control the pain and not tests.  The tumor was probably growing and pushing against her back.  How comes it became so aggressive? It was an infiltrating adenocarcinoma but stage III no metastasis as well they say that tumors grow very slow in the elderly. 
What I have learned is that in order to know how far the tumor has invaded they need to remove the whole tumor, because my mum didn't have surgery perhaps it was too difficult for the oncologist to predict, but it would have helped if he explained a lots of the times it's luck of communication with the doctor's, if they took time to explain to the patient and family the outcome of everything perhaps we would cope better in the event that the disease progresses rapidly. I would like to point this out to the oncologist so he can be more precise with other patients.
Thanks again for your time.
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To add some clarification, this tumor grew for a long time before being diagnosed at a late stage. If she was capable of making her own decisions then there should be no discussion to "we". It is her body and her choices with her health care providers. "WE" should not be allowed to make choices in this situation: "we" should only be involved in medical decisions when the person is deemed incompetent and should choose quality of life decisions over prolonging suffering. When specialists are involved they give different opinions on options, in your case not being able to say that cardiac disease in combination has a different outcome. Going forward, you are now armed with new knowledge and I hope you explain what your wishes will be. Do you want to make your own decisions or allow someone else?
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It is always the case that we doubt ourselves. Did we do too much? Did we do too little?

I am sure you were a great comfort to her. I am sorry for your loss, but do not beat yourself up ... you did the right thing as it was presented to you at the time. That is the most anyone can ask of themselves or others.
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You did a great job in taking care of her. You made careful decisions based on the information you had, followed up to assure she received care and supported her every step of the way. That's all you can do, and you did a wonderful job of it.
She had a full life at 87 with a family that loved her. That is the greatest gift anyone can receive.
Please don't second guess yourself. As hard as it is, try to let it go. Yes all of us caregivers have dissected our actions but in the end it is what it is.
I am very sorry to hear about your loss. I commend you for taking such good care of her.
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I'm so sorry you've lost your dear mom to cancer.

I don't think I've ever known anyone who has helped managed another's health care who didn't, in hindsight, think that perhaps they shouldn't have done more, less, or different.

You took the advice offered, you kept your mom as comfortable as you could. Please grieve her loss with a sad but easy heart, and don't beat yourself up.
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I'm so sorry for your loss and your mom's pain - please don't beat yourself up - mom was in good hands and had you there with her which is a huge blessing
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