Inoperable, malignant brain cancer

  1. I need your expertise here if you can help. I'm a NICU nurse and know very little about inoperable, malignant brain cancer. I just received an email from a dear friend who told me that one of our mutual friends (I worked closely with these people 15 years ago) has just been diagnosed with this dreaded disease.

    She said our friend (70 year old woman) was dressing for church on Sunday before last when she couldn't button her blouse because her fingers were numb. She called her son who came over to help and it was decided that she needed to see a doctor. They went to the hospital, ran some tests and have now diagnosed her with "inoperable, malignant brain cancer" and were sending her home this past Saturday.

    Unfortnately she lives about 4 hours away from me. I love her dearly and want to be able to help in some way. Being a nurse I feel I might be able to help her; if nothing else I'd love to visit with her to help cheer her up a bit.

    In your experience, when a person is diagnosed this way, is there a ballpark figure of how long they live? Or, how long they live without having neurological problems which cause them difficulty communicating or having personality changes?

    I want to write her a note and make plans to visit her if she'd like company but would like to know a little more about what to expect.

    Do you have any other suggestions for me?

    My gratitude to anyone who can help me out here!!!!!

    Warmly,
    Tiki
    :kiss
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  2. 4 Comments

  3. by   elkpark
    I'm not an oncology nurse, but I think I'm safe in saying that the prognosis is so highly variable that it's hard to answer your questions. There are several different varieties of "brain cancer," each with a different expected prognosis, and every person's experience with cancer is different and depends on many variables.

    My first job out of nursing school, many years ago, our wonderful nurse manager, who was a young woman (in her 30s) with two little kids at home, went from complaining of bad headaches and seeming crankier than usual to having a craniotomy at the big teaching medical center and being sent home to die in what seemed like just a few weeks or so. She had a particularly aggressive type of cancer (although I can't recall the name now), and v. quickly got to the point where she resembled a seriously demented older person (in terms of her cognitive function) and couldn't be left alone. However, because she was young and in good physical health generally, she lived a (comparatively) long time before she finally passed away.

    It was quite heartrending for all of us who were close to her, and esp. (of course) for her family. I have never forgotten the experience. Again, I stress that every person's experience is different, and that doesn't mean your friend's illness will run the same course.

    However, I would visit sooner rather than later, if I were you, esp. since this woman is older. I visited my friend at home a couple times, once while she was still able to recognize me and talk a little about work, etc. (although she "drifted in and out" during the visit) and once later on when she was past recognizing anyone. The thing that has really stayed with me, though, is that I was certainly not this woman's closest friend, and was the newest staff member on the unit (others there had worked with her much longer than me), but her husband was so grateful and appreciative that I had made the effort to visit -- he said that I was the only person from work who had visited her at all, and it had meant so much to her and to him. So often, people tend to avoid persons with serious or terminal illness because of their own discomfort.

    Best wishes for your and your friend --
  4. by   leslie :-D
    i totally agree with elkie...visit her now. i would say that it won't be long before you see neuro changes. she's started already with an inability to button her blouse secondary to numbness. give her a gentle hug.

    leslie
  5. by   leslie :-D
    tiki, let me add....when you do go out there, use your assessment on whether your friend needs nsg. care also. does she seem in pain? how is her dh doing? see what the dh tells you and ? hospice......

    leslie
  6. by   Tiki_Torch
    Thank you both so very, very much!!!

    I'll go as soon as I can to see her and will do my best to assess her for any needs she may have. Interestingly 3 years ago she began volunteering at a hospice and she really enjoyed it. I like to think that the same hospice folks she worked with will now be able to assist her if/when she needs such care.

    Thank you both again very, very much for answering my post. You are the best!!!

    Warmly,
    Tiki

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