Ex-Stepfather diagnosed with cancer...I have a few questions


Microbrewing Chickenologist
12 Years
Nov 25, 2007
High Desert, CA
My mom and ex-stepdad divorced when I was 21, but, while I am closer to my real dad, he raised me since I was 3, so I have stayed in touch (not to mention he is the father of my brother and my sister).

Anyway, a couple weeks ago he had a stroke with a seizure. Each time he had a stroke he temporarily lost speech with partial paralysis on the left side and his tongue and jaw seizured. He is NOT high risk for a stroke (healthy blood pressure) and the doctors were perplexed by the seizure that accompanied the stroke. Luckily he had one episode in front of the doctor...very convenient. Well, over the last few weeks, they determined it was a brain growth of some sort, but had to do a biopsy to find out if it was cancer. It is deep in the motor skills portion of the brain and the doctors were trying to avoid surgery, but ultimately they had to go in. They said they got enough to biopsy, but given the high risk area, they got in and got out. Even though he was at a good hospital, he still had problems. He has lost most of his motor skills. He can barely talk or write and says he feels retarded because he knows what he wants to say, but can't get his mouth to work. How frustrating that must be....

Well, they determined that the brain tumor did not originate in the brain (cancerous, but not of typical brain cancer cells). Several tests later, it was determined that he has Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma that has spread to the brain (the brain tumor caused the stroke/seizure). They will do radation on the brain tumor and will treat the NHL with Chemo.

What type of NHL? What are his chance of survival? How aggressive? Will he get his motor skills back? Maybe 75%? 50%? No idea.... He has the doctor's telling his GF of 2 years (and they live together, so she is as close to a wife as she's gonna get minus the paper). She calls me to explain what she thinks the doctor said and asks me to explain it because she doesn't understand anything medical. I have asked the doctor to call me to explain it to me. My stepdad understands the doc, but he can't explain it to us due to the brain damage (temporary hopefully). Supposedly, the GF has told the doc to call me too. But, nothing so far and he was discharged yesterday, so I don't expect one. Frustrating.... The doc would do his rounds in the morning and I work an hour away from there, so taking off work to catch the doc in person means taking a 1/2 day from work....that wasn't gonna happen (not to mention I was out of town for work all last week).

So....since I am limited to what the GF can pass on...anyone have experience with this and give me some insight as to what we can expect? I am familiar with NHL and know that there are various kinds....some worse than others. I also know what to expect with chemo, but being stage 4 and spread to the brain, it seems like a long shot to me. Supposedly the doc said he can treat it, but the GF is in denial about it all to begin with, so if he said it is possible, though slim, she will run with it.

I really do like his GF...they are perfect for each other, but in these matters, it makes it really difficult that she is talking to the doc. I know she is the one there, but a phone call from the doc would be SO much easier since she hasn't a clue what to ask and doesn't understand what the doc tells her.
Think positive.

That said.

I had a patient who passed away with the same thing last week.

He did chemo, radiation and then radiation of his brain.

He died 2 weeks after the brain radiation.

They said it was complications from pnuemonia, but he got the pnuemonia because his immune system was shot due to all of the cancer treatment.

I really was having hope that he had beat the cancer, but it got him.
The first thing I will tell you is pray and put your faith in God.
That being said, I lost my oldest and middle uncles to cancer, started in the lungs and spread to the brain. Middle one lost his sight before it was over. Oldest uncle chose to not do chemo or anything, he lived a few months. The middle uncle, and I will swear to this until I die, willed himself to live, he did it for my grandmother, she could not have taken losing another child, she passed away in Dec 96, my uncle went 3 weeks later.
This is only my experience and middle uncle died in Jan 97 oldest 3 years later in Jan 2000, advances have been made since then. One thing I would do, if it was me or my family is research make sure they are seeing the best DR's and getting the best treatment.
Miracles happen everyday.
I am a medicl social worker on an oncology unit. One thing that would help you avoid this problem is a medical power of attorney. Unless the patient himself asked the doctor to talk to you, it would be a violation of privacy to call anyone who is not the medical power of attorney. I know how frustration it is to try to get the doctors to communicate. Each case is different and you need to base your information on your patient only. In general as you probably know stage 4 is the last and worst stage of cancer. At that stage the canser has spread to other parts of the body. Treatment may slow it and may relieve some symptoms. The american Cancer society is a great source of information and they have a 24/7 phone number you can call for information 1-800 227-2345 or the web is cancer.org Best of luck to the whole family.

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