Mom diagnosed with Lung Cancer. Need advice on helping her to eat

Posted by Karyn @kj9, Wed, Jun 10 3:14pm

Hi, I’m pretty new to this group but I’ve seen the support and help you all give each other and I think it’s great. I”m writing today because my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. We are being seen by an oncologist and receiving treatment. Where my sister and I need help is with getting her to eat. to make a long story short, my mother was doing okay until recently when the docs found an arrhythmia and prescribed a blood thinner. Well my mother ate her self up with worry about taking the medicine. She worried so much and she lost a lot of weight. Having lung cancer and losing weight is not a good combination and my problem now is she only eats about 700-900 calories a day. Not enough to gain any weight and certainly not enough sustain yourself. She has always been a petite person but now she is so thin, my sister and are afraid. She doesn’t have enough energy to do anything, she’s constantly so tired. we try to tell her it’s because of lack of nutrition. My sister and I are trying everything to get her to eat enough food in a day. My question is, has anyone experienced this? or have loved one who has gone through this? do you have any suggestions on how to get them eat? open their appetites? what kinds of food might work? I appreciate any thoughts and ideas. My sister and I are at out of our minds with worry. Thank you in advance for your support.

Hello @kj9 and welcome to Mayo Connect,

I'm so sorry to hear of your mom's heart problem and lung cancer. Those are difficult diagnoses to have, especially for older adults. It sounds like you and your sister are doing your best to encourage her to eat and your interest and care means a lot.

You suggest that your mom's loss of appetite might have something to do with her worry over the blood thinner meds that she is taking for her heart rhythm problem, as you say, "my mother ate her self up with worry about taking the medicine." If anxiety is causing the loss of appetite your mom's physician might be able to prescribe something for her to reduce the anxiety that might also help her to eat better.

Have you talked to your mom's doctor(s) about her weight loss and her decrease in appetite?

REPLY
@hopeful33250

Hello @kj9 and welcome to Mayo Connect,

I'm so sorry to hear of your mom's heart problem and lung cancer. Those are difficult diagnoses to have, especially for older adults. It sounds like you and your sister are doing your best to encourage her to eat and your interest and care means a lot.

You suggest that your mom's loss of appetite might have something to do with her worry over the blood thinner meds that she is taking for her heart rhythm problem, as you say, "my mother ate her self up with worry about taking the medicine." If anxiety is causing the loss of appetite your mom's physician might be able to prescribe something for her to reduce the anxiety that might also help her to eat better.

Have you talked to your mom's doctor(s) about her weight loss and her decrease in appetite?

Jump to this post

Hi, Thank you for your note. Yes, we did mention it and her doctors suggest she take an appetite enhancer, megace? not sure I spelled it correctly. But now, she read the side affects of that does not want to take that. I think she's calmed down about taking the blood thinner but we can't seem to get her appetite back up so she can eat enough so she can put the weight back on. I"m not sure if she's depressed or not. My sister and I thought of that as well.

REPLY
@kj9

Hi, Thank you for your note. Yes, we did mention it and her doctors suggest she take an appetite enhancer, megace? not sure I spelled it correctly. But now, she read the side affects of that does not want to take that. I think she's calmed down about taking the blood thinner but we can't seem to get her appetite back up so she can eat enough so she can put the weight back on. I"m not sure if she's depressed or not. My sister and I thought of that as well.

Jump to this post

@kj9 You and your sister are certainly trying to help your mom but I can see that this is a difficult situation. Do you think she might get less stressed about the appetite med over time as she did with the blood thinner? You might see if her PCP thinks that the appetite problem is associated with depression.

You don't mention your mom's age or her weight, but the low amount of calories would be a concern for any of us. You might contact her doctor's office again and see what they might suggest.

Will you keep in touch and let me know how you and your mom are doing?

REPLY

Good evening, @kj9, I jumped across the block and over to this group when I saw your post about your Mom. I thought it might be helpful to share my Mom's story of "taking control". My Mom had breast cancer that metastasized into other areas. All of a sudden, she started eating only bananas and creme-filled vanilla cookies. I talked with the folks in the dining hall and they couldn't get anywhere with her. She simply stayed in her room rather than go down for dinner.

So….she was moved to a sheltered area with more surveillance and given an appetite enhancer. Suffice it to say that her cognitive decline became more inclusive of body self-care and she was released to an even more intensive care level. At that time she stopped communicating even when I took her around the rose gardens in her wheelchair. I don't really think she ever spoke again. My suspicion was that controlling her food intake was one of the last decisions she could make on her own.

I wish you the very best in the care for your Mom. Just try to be non-judgemental. I am sure I will be depressed at that time in my life also. I am 78 now and I already see things very differently. Quality of life for me is starting to mean so much more than the quantity of life.

Bring her lots of love and warm hugs and share them generously.

May you be content and at peace.
Chris

REPLY
@hopeful33250

@kj9 You and your sister are certainly trying to help your mom but I can see that this is a difficult situation. Do you think she might get less stressed about the appetite med over time as she did with the blood thinner? You might see if her PCP thinks that the appetite problem is associated with depression.

You don't mention your mom's age or her weight, but the low amount of calories would be a concern for any of us. You might contact her doctor's office again and see what they might suggest.

Will you keep in touch and let me know how you and your mom are doing?

Jump to this post

Hi @hopeful33250. Thank you for your suggestions. I will place a cal into her PCP in the morning. Yes, I will stay in touch and let you know how we are doing. thank you again.

REPLY
@artscaping

Good evening, @kj9, I jumped across the block and over to this group when I saw your post about your Mom. I thought it might be helpful to share my Mom's story of "taking control". My Mom had breast cancer that metastasized into other areas. All of a sudden, she started eating only bananas and creme-filled vanilla cookies. I talked with the folks in the dining hall and they couldn't get anywhere with her. She simply stayed in her room rather than go down for dinner.

So….she was moved to a sheltered area with more surveillance and given an appetite enhancer. Suffice it to say that her cognitive decline became more inclusive of body self-care and she was released to an even more intensive care level. At that time she stopped communicating even when I took her around the rose gardens in her wheelchair. I don't really think she ever spoke again. My suspicion was that controlling her food intake was one of the last decisions she could make on her own.

I wish you the very best in the care for your Mom. Just try to be non-judgemental. I am sure I will be depressed at that time in my life also. I am 78 now and I already see things very differently. Quality of life for me is starting to mean so much more than the quantity of life.

Bring her lots of love and warm hugs and share them generously.

May you be content and at peace.
Chris

Jump to this post

Hello Chris, thank you for your note. I'm sorry to hear about your mom's story. That must have been very difficult for you. I can completely understand how you must have been feeling at the time. You raised an issue that I hadn't even thought about, that the food intake is the thing she can control. I'm going to follow up with my mother's PCP and I'm going to ask about this. Thank you for your thoughtful words. I hope you will stay in touch, as I will stay in touch with this group and share updates and progress. thank you again.

REPLY

@kj9– Welcome to Mayo Connect. My heart goes out to you. I also took care of my mom when she had Parkinson's and it was very difficult to make her eat too. I watched her pretty much diminish before my eyes. It's very difficult to care for a parent and she is very lucky to have 2 daughters to help take care of her. My youngest sister helped me immensely. Being the eldest I was my mom's main caretaker. It's important that you and your sister set up a system of who will be the main caretaker, make legal decisions if necessary, and speak to her doctor. It already sounds as if that is you.

As of October this year, I will be a 23-year survivor of lung cancer with 2 different types of lung cancer. I am presently at stage 4. I am not having any treatments right now. My son was very worried as you are. He lived across the country and found it very difficult to help me. I gave him the job of keeping everyone up to date on my journey by email.

When I had cancer I pretty much lost control of my whole being – everything centered around cancer and I had to rely on others for options and treatments – people who I had never known before were going to slice into me, remove an organ or part of one, drip chemicals into my veins, and hope to give me some time. I was 51 at the time. Just a pup. It was the scariest time in my life and I lost 5 lbs in a blink worrying about everything. I chewed valium on the way to every test, scan, and doctor's appointment. I was on the breaking point with each new step I had to take prior to my surgery. I'm wondering if your mom just came to a point when she couldn't take anymore then what she was dealing with and then along came another problem, her heart!

When I was in Chemo I lost my appetite too. The chemo that I was given really upset my stomach. No one in the world could get me to eat. But the idea that it was my choice was very important for the reasons that @artscaping gave you.
I'm wondering if the chemo can be making her ill. I'm also wondering why your mom was so upset about taking additional medication for a problem that is easily corrected with medication. Has she always been wary of taking medicine?

REPLY

@kj9. Eating can always be a problem as you get older and then to be diagnosed with cancer and a cardiac arrhythmia can be too much to deal with. Talk with your mom’s doctor to get his opinion.
The main thing is not to pressure your mom. She knows what she’s doing. Have nutritious, fattening foods around that she can snack on any time SHE wants to . Meals should be simple and enjoyable for everyone. Add extra spices
You can also try Boost/Ensure, a high protein,high calorie drink. Freeze it in small batches so it’s like ice cream. Have an ice cream social! Make meal times fun, not a ‘have to gain weight’ ordeal
I was an oncology nurse and this was always a big issue. Brainstorm with your sister and the nurses at the chemo center. See what good ideas you can all come up with.
I forgot to say that megace is derived from marijuana!

REPLY
@merpreb

@kj9– Welcome to Mayo Connect. My heart goes out to you. I also took care of my mom when she had Parkinson's and it was very difficult to make her eat too. I watched her pretty much diminish before my eyes. It's very difficult to care for a parent and she is very lucky to have 2 daughters to help take care of her. My youngest sister helped me immensely. Being the eldest I was my mom's main caretaker. It's important that you and your sister set up a system of who will be the main caretaker, make legal decisions if necessary, and speak to her doctor. It already sounds as if that is you.

As of October this year, I will be a 23-year survivor of lung cancer with 2 different types of lung cancer. I am presently at stage 4. I am not having any treatments right now. My son was very worried as you are. He lived across the country and found it very difficult to help me. I gave him the job of keeping everyone up to date on my journey by email.

When I had cancer I pretty much lost control of my whole being – everything centered around cancer and I had to rely on others for options and treatments – people who I had never known before were going to slice into me, remove an organ or part of one, drip chemicals into my veins, and hope to give me some time. I was 51 at the time. Just a pup. It was the scariest time in my life and I lost 5 lbs in a blink worrying about everything. I chewed valium on the way to every test, scan, and doctor's appointment. I was on the breaking point with each new step I had to take prior to my surgery. I'm wondering if your mom just came to a point when she couldn't take anymore then what she was dealing with and then along came another problem, her heart!

When I was in Chemo I lost my appetite too. The chemo that I was given really upset my stomach. No one in the world could get me to eat. But the idea that it was my choice was very important for the reasons that @artscaping gave you.
I'm wondering if the chemo can be making her ill. I'm also wondering why your mom was so upset about taking additional medication for a problem that is easily corrected with medication. Has she always been wary of taking medicine?

Jump to this post

Hello @merpreb, thank you for your note and sharing your story, I appreciate it very much. My mother has always been wary of taking medications, so her reaction was not surprising. She also later confessed that she had seen friends who were on Blood thinners bleed alot from a small scrap and that scared her more. she is taking an oral medication and no one has said whether or not taht affects your appetite but if it does, it's recent because it hadn't bothered her to this extent before.

I appreciate hearing from everyone, but it sounds like you all are saying that the loss of appetite cannot be reversed? Am I understanding correctly? I know mom is not ready to give up yet…she wants to eat yet, we can't seem to get past the 1000 calories a day mark.
so the not eating more of a conscious choice? I"m just trying to understand and Im scared and worried and I don't know what to do
I'm the oldest daughter and my sister gets scared and panics rather than looking at the situation as, how do address this and what can we do. so many times, I need to be the 'stronger' one and not show the emotion otherwise, my sister falls apart!

Has anyone taken or know of someone who has taken an appetite enhancer? the one that was prescribed is megase (Im not sure I'm spelling it correctly)
thank you all again for your thoughts and feedback. I really appreciate it and it helps me. I hope you will all keep the advice and information coming! a big heartfelt thank you.

REPLY
@becsbuddy

@kj9. Eating can always be a problem as you get older and then to be diagnosed with cancer and a cardiac arrhythmia can be too much to deal with. Talk with your mom’s doctor to get his opinion.
The main thing is not to pressure your mom. She knows what she’s doing. Have nutritious, fattening foods around that she can snack on any time SHE wants to . Meals should be simple and enjoyable for everyone. Add extra spices
You can also try Boost/Ensure, a high protein,high calorie drink. Freeze it in small batches so it’s like ice cream. Have an ice cream social! Make meal times fun, not a ‘have to gain weight’ ordeal
I was an oncology nurse and this was always a big issue. Brainstorm with your sister and the nurses at the chemo center. See what good ideas you can all come up with.
I forgot to say that megace is derived from marijuana!

Jump to this post

@becsbuddy, HI, thank you for your suggestions. we actually have a call scheduled with a nutritionist this afternoon from the cancer center. she was drinking Ensure or boost and then she said she didn't like the taste! I like the idea of freezing it like ice cream though, that might work.
do you think she knows what she's doing? i'm not sure, I know she is not ready to give up, but if left on her own, she wouldn't eat at all! she has gotten to the point that she is week and one of her recent blood tests revealed she was a little malnurished!
I"m also working on setting up a call with mom's PCP to see what she thinks – thought sometimes she can be more negative than not. the ONcologist thought the megace or some appetite stimulant is okay to take and would be helpful. I didn't know that about megace, is that a bad thing?

REPLY
@kj9

Hello @merpreb, thank you for your note and sharing your story, I appreciate it very much. My mother has always been wary of taking medications, so her reaction was not surprising. She also later confessed that she had seen friends who were on Blood thinners bleed alot from a small scrap and that scared her more. she is taking an oral medication and no one has said whether or not taht affects your appetite but if it does, it's recent because it hadn't bothered her to this extent before.

I appreciate hearing from everyone, but it sounds like you all are saying that the loss of appetite cannot be reversed? Am I understanding correctly? I know mom is not ready to give up yet…she wants to eat yet, we can't seem to get past the 1000 calories a day mark.
so the not eating more of a conscious choice? I"m just trying to understand and Im scared and worried and I don't know what to do
I'm the oldest daughter and my sister gets scared and panics rather than looking at the situation as, how do address this and what can we do. so many times, I need to be the 'stronger' one and not show the emotion otherwise, my sister falls apart!

Has anyone taken or know of someone who has taken an appetite enhancer? the one that was prescribed is megase (Im not sure I'm spelling it correctly)
thank you all again for your thoughts and feedback. I really appreciate it and it helps me. I hope you will all keep the advice and information coming! a big heartfelt thank you.

Jump to this post

@kj9– I don't believe that loss of appetite can't be reversed. I believe that the reasons for your mom's loss might be due to a combination of things: fear, chemicals form chemo and radiation side-effects. Once she is finished with her treatments her appetite should return. What are her treatments?

REPLY

@merpreb, she had about 7 radiation treatments and we are through with that. now she's on oral meds, she takes one pill daily.

REPLY
@kj9

@merpreb, she had about 7 radiation treatments and we are through with that. now she's on oral meds, she takes one pill daily.

Jump to this post

@kj9– Radiation can cause a person to lose their appetite. But this also depends on the kind of radiation. Do you know what kind? Has your mom decided not to take her heart meds? Sometimes it's better that she hears things from people other than from family memebers Another question. Perhaps it would help if your mom became memeber on Connect so we could encourage her personally?

REPLY

Hmm, I don't recall the type of radiation off the top of my head. I know it was focused. no, she takes all of her meds, she' okay with that. I do think it would be great for her to be a member here. I will sign her up this weekend, and I did mention this group to her and I think she would like that. thank you so much

REPLY
@kj9

@becsbuddy, HI, thank you for your suggestions. we actually have a call scheduled with a nutritionist this afternoon from the cancer center. she was drinking Ensure or boost and then she said she didn't like the taste! I like the idea of freezing it like ice cream though, that might work.
do you think she knows what she's doing? i'm not sure, I know she is not ready to give up, but if left on her own, she wouldn't eat at all! she has gotten to the point that she is week and one of her recent blood tests revealed she was a little malnurished!
I"m also working on setting up a call with mom's PCP to see what she thinks – thought sometimes she can be more negative than not. the ONcologist thought the megace or some appetite stimulant is okay to take and would be helpful. I didn't know that about megace, is that a bad thing?

Jump to this post

@kj9. No, megace is not a bad thing . We used it frequently in the hospital

REPLY
Please login or register to post a reply.