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Bowel obstruction caused by cancer - what to expect?

(20 Posts)
basildonbond Tue 17-Dec-13 20:50:33

My mum has terminal peritoneal cancer and is getting steadily worse - she's back in hospital this week as her bowel is obstructed. She's far too ill for surgery so she will just be having palliative care

I know (from dr google) that this is not a good sign but can anyone tell me what we should expect from here on in?

LucyBabs Tue 17-Dec-13 20:59:33

Hi basil I'm so very sorry to hear your Mum is so ill
My mum died 13 months ago from Ovarian cancer the symptoms and how the cancer presents itself is very similar to what your Mum has.

When my Mum's bowl first became obstructed she was well enough for surgery, she had a colostomy procedure.

As her illness progressed she too became to unwell for surgery she was sent home and palliative care took over.

She gradually slept more and was not eating she had days when she would sit up and talk to us but eventually as the morphine was increased she slept all the time. My Mums death was very peaceful and she had no pain.
She died during the night with her family around her.

I'm not sure any of that will help you.
Its a tough road ahead for you.

Take care of yourself

basildonbond Tue 17-Dec-13 21:50:51

thanks lucy that is very helpful

do you mind me asking how long it took from when your mum was too ill for any more surgery

spudmasher Tue 17-Dec-13 21:57:19

Wishing you strength.
My dad had bladder cancer. It was a good 6 months before e died. At the time, they said it would be weeks. I think there is little to be gained from being given a time frame. Please live each day and make each one special. I wasted a lot of days being upset and useless and I wish I'd been more engaged from the start.

basildonbond Tue 17-Dec-13 22:36:43

thanks spud - I know what you mean about a time frame not being particularly useful but my mum has been desperately ill for months now - if it's going to be a few more weeks we can keep going with visiting every day etc but if it's going to be longer we just can't keep this intensity up - my sisters and I are at risking of getting burned out juggling parents' needs (my dad is also unwell) with children/jobs/spouses sad

80sMum Tue 17-Dec-13 22:45:27

Basil, I am so sorry about your mum.
My dad had rectal cancer and in the latter stages his bowel became obstructed and he was deemed unfit for surgery. He lived a further 10 days, gradually fading away. Basically, once the bowel is badly obstructed the person can't process food properly so they rapidly weaken.
I'm so very sorry. Such a sad and stressful time for your family.

LucyBabs Wed 18-Dec-13 11:56:57

I agree with pp once the bowel becomes so obstructed and food can't be processed it will be quick.

My Mum came home once surgery wasn't an option and died 2 weeks later. The first week she was up and about eating small amounts and chatting as normal the 2nd week she began to sleep more and didn't eat at all. The Wednesday she spoke for the last time and passed away the early hours of Friday morning.

Will your Mum be in a hospice or at home?

I have 6 siblings and each of us stayed with my Mum for the week leading up to her death.

This is something I wouldn't recommend. I was emotionally exhausted and started to have panic attacks. I didn't sleep for more than an hour that week.
If its possible take it in turns to be with your Mum.
Palliative care are usually very good at telling when its time.

Its such an awful time. Sending you positive thoughts basil x

If you have any more questions I'll try my best to answer them for you

gaelicsheep Sat 04-Jan-14 10:34:59

Hi basildonbond. So sorry to read this. How is your mum doing? I came across this thread because my mum is suffering the same thing. She has a horrible rare cancer of the uterus which has steadily worsened to the stage that she now has cancer throughout her peritoneum and elsewhere.

What has shocked me is how quickly this has deteriorated. She was with us at Christmas, and although she was having real trouble with eating and was in some pain, I didn't think she was as bad as I expected. She is due to start palliative chemo next week and we were assured that the couple of weeks over Christmas and New Year would make little difference.

Well honestly I cannot believe how this has developed over the past week and a bit. Mum has spent the past two days solid vomiting with horrific levels of pain. She can't keep anything down, not even water or tablets. She's now got district nurses coming in three times a day to give anti-emetic injections. I'm terrified for her. My Dad reckons that she can't have a total bowel obstruction, because she managed to "pass" something yesterday, but it must be getting pretty close to this.

A couple of weeks ago she was given 3-4 months if she opted not to have treatment. It seems to me like things have developed substantially since then, and there's now a big question mark over whether she will even be able to start chemo given how much the past few days have weakened her.

I find myself wishing for her sake (and if I'm honest all our sakes) that this will be quick and that she will not linger in this amount of pain for another 2 or 3 months. I wish I knew more about what to expect. It's not helped by not being there. I was planning to go up next weekend after her first chemo treatment, and once every two or three weeks thereafter, but now I'm thinking that I might need to be up there sooner and for longer. No one seems to be able to say at the moment. A bit of an essay, sorry. sad

Basildonbond - if you want to talk then do feel free to PM me. xx

noarguments Tue 07-Jan-14 23:09:09

So so sorry for you OP and for gaelicsheep. We went through this with my Mum last year. It was truly a horrific time. I don't have any advice ( and the tears are rolling again as I type ) other than to say be kind to yourself, let the carers / nurses take as much strain as possible, they know what they're doing (and will be able to tell you when it looks like the end).
I found somewhere (I think it was macmillan website) a web page about what to expect right at the end - last few weeks / last few days / last few hours etc. It helped to explain things - my Mum seemed quite agitated right at the end, which was overwhelmingly upsetting, but it didn't apparently indicate any pain, just the effects of the morphine and the body closing down.
So sorry.

gaelicsheep Wed 08-Jan-14 13:23:34

Hi noarguments. Thanks so much for posting. I hope basildonbond is OK. I'm still unclear as to whether my Mum has a bowel obstruction or not. She has been taken into a hospice for symptomatic control, because the vomiting just got so horrific. She is feeling a bit better but is still barely eating or drinking as far as I've heard. I am going to see her over the weekend and it cannot come soon enough.

throckenholt Wed 08-Jan-14 13:31:19

My mum also died of ovarian cancer a couple of years ago. Pretty much she stopped eating (had no real interest in eating). She got incredibly thin - so much so that you were afraid to touch her to move her for fear of hurting her. I was grateful that she was in a nursing home by this stage - at least the staff knew how to move her (although they were spread to thinly).

Over about a month, she got thinner, and more confused at times, and more sleepy. The last day she just didn't wake up - don't think she was aware I was there. She did seem content in a strange way - wasn't upset.

I was grateful when she died - both for her no longer having to go through it, and for me and my brother because we didn't have the stamina to keep up the visiting and normal life (work, family etc) for much longer.

Be kind to yourself and give yourself space - it is going to be a tough time for a while.

gaelicsheep Wed 08-Jan-14 23:02:41

Throckenholt - oh it's a dreadful thing isn't it? I don't think we're quite there yet with Mum. She wants to eat but she can barely manage anything. It has improved somewhat since they've managed to clear her bowels, but the nausea is still there and not being well controlled and they are saying this is definitely down to pressure from the cancer sad So sorry about your Mum. xx

throckenholt Thu 09-Jan-14 07:33:36

gaelicsheep - I am sorry you and your mum are having to go through it. Don't feel guilty if you can't be with her as much as you would like, or when you are with her, you don't feel like you are helping much. Just do what you can, and try and cut yourself some slack.

Hopefully you mum will have a better period before she gets to the last stages (and when she does I hope it is quick). That always seems a strange thing to wish - but I wouldn't want to prolong that last stage if I had a choice.

Take care.

Shopgirl58 Thu 09-Jan-14 14:49:30

I understand how you feel. My dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer completely out of the blue two months ago. It is inoperable. He has had two rounds of chemo which made him sleep all through Christmas and New Year. He is now in hospital with infection and high temp and currently too poorly for chemo. He has deteriorated from a fit healthy active man to a very frail tired and poorly man in no time at all. He passed out two days ago. The most upsetting thing for me is to see him week.
I can't see him all the time as I have a five month old and also have a visual impairment which means I can't drive. Incredibly frustrating and difficult time. You are not alone.

gaelicsheep Fri 10-Jan-14 23:43:24

Oh shopgirl I'm so sorry you and your dad are going through this too.

I saw Mum today. The deterioration since I last saw her, 2 weeks ago, is frightening. She barely has the strength to walk to the bathroom. Anything she manages to eat, which is very little, is vomited back up a few hours later. They haven't managed to get her vomiting or her nausea under control yet and she seems to be just fading away. My Dad is now talking about having to get used to being on his own. sad

basildonbond Sun 19-Jan-14 00:09:12

My mum has been in the hospice since Tuesday - hasn't spoken for two days and is now sleeping - the nurses don't think she'll ever wake up again

NicknameIncomplete Sun 19-Jan-14 00:40:50

These stories are so heartbreaking.

May i ask how the cancer was found in any of your cases?

I have a close family male friend who is having a few problems with continued illness (being sick, passing out, not eating, pain). He has bowel problems and a history of cancer in his family. I am very worried about him.

gaelicsheep Mon 27-Jan-14 16:57:10

So sorry to hear that basildonbond. I hope things stay peaceful for her at the end. xx

I'm sorry to say I don't think my Mum is far behind yours. She's been in the hospice for two weeks and is getting steadily weaker. It is looking like they are going to send her home because they've got as much control over her symptoms as they are going to get, but she's in bed the whole time now, is too weak to stand, eating nothing and vomiting throughout the day and night.

NicknameIncomplete - I'm not an expert by any means, but the kinds of things your friend is experiencing could be caused by lots of things. Best advice would be for him to see his GP. In my Mum's case her problems have stemmed from a rare and aggressive type of cancer which spread to her peritoneum and elsewhere after starting in the uterus. The prognosis of her type of cancer is typically extremely poor, so sadly this outcome was not unexpected although it has all happened much quicker than anyone expected.

LIZS Mon 27-Jan-14 17:50:05

I'm so sorry bb and gs. DM is currently on round 2 vs. bowel cancer and fingers crossed the radio and chemo are currently doing the trick. She was however very poorly by the time she was first diagnosed almost 2 years ago and had an obstruction the size of a lemon which almost certainly would have sent her to A and E within weeks.

NI, she went to gp after prolonged "stomach upset", unable to eat or drink well and bloating, had an exploratory procedure and colonoscopy which found polyps and biopsy of more sinister build up. Many such cases are only found in A and E sad

gaelicsheep Tue 28-Jan-14 09:06:31

I can't bear to watch this any more with Mum. The vomiting is getting worse and worse, and this evening I had to watch vomit up this vile brown liquid over and over again. I know they have always said they won't be able to stop the vomiting, but this is happening 5 or 6 times a day at least, as well as overnight. Part of the reason, I think, is because Mum is so thirsty and she's worked out that she's going to vomit regardless so she is drinking as and when she likes, which then brings on more vomiting. They say she has a partial obstruction but my goodness it is looking more and more like a total obstruction to me. I'm going to talk to the doctors today - how can they send her home in this condition? My dad is worrying himself nearly into his own grave about it. As her daughter I am perfectly willing to do everything I can to care for her, but I worry that we just won't be able to care for her as well as they are doing at the hospice.

BB, sorry to highjack. If you feel able to talk about it, I wonder if your Mum has been experiencing similar towards the end? Don't feel you need to answer, I'll totally understand. I just don't know how much longer any of us can bear it. And yet Mum herself is bearing it all with so much dignity and keeping her spirits up so well, I am just in awe of her.

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