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Our son, who is 54 years of age, unmarried and lives alone, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in May of this year, 2019 and underwent 33 radiation treatments and 5 chemo treatments. Pet scan in September showed no cells, and he will have another Pet scan in December. He didn't tell anyone except a "friend" and she didn't tell anyone so my son went through all of his treatments ALONE even driving himself to all of them. We only found out about it in July the day he finished his last radiation treatment. I feel really bad that he had to go through this alone, and when his appetite started going away, he wasn't eating anything and has lost over 30 pounds and he was already slim. He drinks Boost and instant breakfast but still cannot tolerate solid foods due to the radiation burns in his mouth and throat. He is very weak and basically sits most of the day. Is there anyone who can recommend anything that he might be able to eat? Normally we are on his medical chart, but this time we can't even discuss his situation with his medical team due to the fact that he didn't have anyone for an emergency contact. His theory was that if he told us about the diagnosis, I would check out the doctors that he would be going to for his treatments and would look for the best that I could find. He is correct about that, isn't that what parents do, no matter how old their "kids" get? Thanks for any advice given.

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Replies to "Our son, who is 54 years of age, unmarried and lives alone, was diagnosed with thyroid..."

Hello @baz10,

I am sorry to hear of your son's health problems and difficulty getting nutrition and maintaining his weight. I'm wondering if the radiologist has any suggestions.

Has he consulted with a dietician who could help him with meal planning?

Read the HIPPA law. It says that a patient doesn't have to sign so a relative or someone else can access to his records and seek help. My husband did that to me and only signed when he went into the hospital the last time where he died seven weeks later. Without that signed paper, you have no legal right to try to help your son. He has a legal right to refuse help. I am guessing, based on my radiation treatments for breast cancer which burned me, that his thyroid many never function well or at all in the future, so look for him to need thyroid pills the rest of his life if he is not on them already. Based on my experiences, there is little you can do to help your son unless you want to try to go to court and get a guardianship or something. Good luck with that. Sorry to sound so cruel, but I have been in this situation and the doctors wouldn't give me access to his condition and care needs. But they sent him home for me to care for him.
One doctor told me my husband didn't have a wife. He died that year in hospice. Your son doesn't want help. You could try to get mental health treatment but he will have to want to go to treatment. Sorry, I can't do more to help. You could try sending a special food you purchase and have delivered to the house with a Merry Christmas note and see if that sparks some cooperation. He can't really take care of himself and your only option is to try to get him committed to a facility but if he chooses to walk away, he can do it. So sorry.

So sorry to hear about your son's ordeal. I have a sister who has gone through radiation and chemo or two different cancer diagnoses this year. The first one she drove herself to and from the treatments and then went to work or went home depending on the time of day. She refused all help from me but allowed a 'friend' to assist her. For the second cancer she was in much more pain and lost her appetite. She drank Boost and lots of water and juice. Her doctors were not concerned as this is normal with chemo and radiation. The second time she had a port implanted which was used for the chemo. She was fitted with a bag that had the chemo in it and she wore this bag 24/7 for five days. She would get it removed for the weekend and then on Monday start again. She did this for three weeks on top of 30 plus radiation treatments. Still she refused all help from me.

I know it is hard but you must ease off on your son. He is 54 years old and capable of making his own decisions. I can imagine his throat is extremely sore and will be for a while. Let him know you are there if he needs you but don't nag him. Be thankful that the Pet scan showed no cells. It sounds like he knew you to a T. Let him tell you in his time and his way about his cancer and treatments. He sounds like a determined person. My oldest son is 41, unmarried and lives three hours away. I worry about him but don't let him know it. If he needs me, he will let me know which he has done more than once.

My mother had breast cancer in her thirties and then in her late 60's she got kidney cancer. She refused any and all help with getting to and from treatments and after care. She even went so far as to cancel her plans to be at my house for Thanksgiving that year without telling me why even though she knew she had the cancer. She and I always had a very strained relationship and by canceling at the last minute just compounded my feelings of being the red headed step child.

I wish your son the best. He will recover as his body recovers. I'm sure he will talk with his doctors if he has any concerns.

@baz10 I can imagine how difficult this must be for you, the mother. I know it would be for me. Our sons are certainly old enough to make these decisions though and you have to respect that.

As @hopeful33250 said, maybe a dietician could help with meal suggestions of things that may go down easily. It sounds as if you don’t live far from him. Would he allow you to bring some soft but tempting dinners? I was sick when I was in my 20s and could only hold down soft foods. My mother made chicken in a white chicken gravy on top of mashed potatoes a lot for me, egg custard, and puddings. The chicken was basically poached so fairly soft too.

I hope your son will be feel better soon and that he will be able to eat more regularly. Please let us know how he is doing.

@baz10 I understand that as a parent, you want to help. The relationship of children and parents regarding medical visits can be complicated, and I say this with kindness. Your son was a powerless child, and his experience of medical visits and how they were handled may be entirely different from your view as a parent. Some kids have very real fears and sometimes parents don't address these with their young children, and medical personnel can be indifferent to a child's feelings. When we grow up, we still carry some of that thinking into adulthood. If you could trade places and go back in time, how do you imagine that he would think and feel about these issues?

I can speak from my own experience here. I was afraid of doctors and dentists and I didn't get emotional support from my parents as a child. My mom would tell me it wouldn't be so bad, but it was, and I began a pattern of passing out from fear. After an appointment, my mom would ask me if I felt silly about being afraid, just minimizing my feelings. So I grew up worried about the next time I would have to face something painful.

As an adult, I told my mom when I needed carpal tunnel surgery, and she got a big smile on her face which bothered me since she had teased me about fear when I was young, so I stopped telling her about my medical issues. Coming to terms with all of this is part of what I did when I had to face my fears of major surgery for a spine injury. My mom is 90 now, and I have to advocate for her medical needs and intervene when she isn't taking care of herself properly or when she forgets what she needs to do. My parents wanted me to become a doctor, and I had an interest in biology, so I earned a biology degree, but I decided against applying to medical school. I had always tried to please my parents, but this was their career choice that would recall all my childhood fears, and at the young age when those decisions are made, I knew that I couldn't handle trauma. I didn't know how to get past that even though I had an interest in medicine, and didn't know how to find help in dealing with fear.

It was important to me to be able to make my own decisions independent from my parents. I learned my greatest lesson when I had to advocate for myself even though I was afraid regarding my spine issues. For 2 years, I visited 5 different spine surgeons, and none would help me, and I just got worse. I was loosing the ability to control my arms and loosing muscle because of spinal cord compression and I faced a choice of having surgery or a life of disability without it. All 5 surgeons missed connecting my unusual symptoms to my spine problem and some suggested other problems as a potential cause of my neurological deficits and all 5 declined surgical help. But my biology background served me well when I found medical literature with spine cases similar to my own and contacted Mayo, so I knew what the doctors had missed. I had surgery 3 years ago. I did face my fears and defeat them and having done this not only gave me a great physical recovery, but also a new freedom in living without fear.

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