Colon Cancer and Mum

<This post contains 5 photos>

This is a real case of what happened to my mum at an age of 87.5 years.

This post is meant for sharing experience and knowledge, readers founding this disturbing should not read further.

Detection – usually when colon cancer is detected, it is at a late stage. My mum discovered it through a series of testing after discovering anemia and shortness of breath. Three stools samples taken on successive days were tested for occult blood – they were found positive. It was at this stage we knew something has gone terribly wrong!072

Confirmation– mum stayed in a hospital and undertook a CT Scan which confirmed that there was a tumor of two inches by one inch at the splenic flexure. This was followed by a PET scan which showed that fortunately there was not much spreading to the nearby organs but may have infiltrated to fatty tissues. The horrifying aspect was that the tumor was so big that if it grows bigger ( as all malignant tumors will) it will block the colon.

Immediate Reaction– mum almost thought it wasn’t possible to have such a malignant tumor at such a late stage in her life. She insisted that she would not undergo a surgery. The surgeon who administer the scans thought that she was too old for the operation. He said there was a lot of risks involved and told us  there was a 50% chance of mum dying after the surgery. However, he did not advise how we should proceed. Mum thought she has suffered and enjoyed enough in this world, it was time that she should go back to heaven. The fact that she didn’t feel any pain was no incentive for her to do anything.057

Search for a Solution – we realized that we could not procrastinate as malignant tumor can grow very quickly; mum’s colon could be blocked in a matter of weeks or months and the cancer cells will spread. We started out searching for suitable doctors / surgeons. All this time, we prayed, mum was the center of prayers. After many searches and consultation, with the help of God, we found a surgeon who is an Associate Professor of the University of Hong Kong and working in a Government hospital. In the consultation, mum felt that the doctor was a very capable surgeon and that he has a lot of confidence that mum is capable of withstanding the operation. Mum was still undecided on the operation. However, when the doctor asked whether mom would consider having an operation when her colon is totally blocked. Mum responded that she would do it if that’s the case. The doctor then queried why wouldn’t mum do it now as there will be a lot less risk than doing it in an emergency. Mom was then convinced with the operation. The doctor asked mum to undertake several tests to assess that she was good enough for the operation. He is an expert in laparoscopic surgery of the colon.

Suitability for an Operation – mum did a ECG on her heart, a chest x-ray to confirm that she was suitable for the operation. Further more an anesthetist was brought in to confirm that her health condition was acceptable for the operation. She has no other illness. So, age is not always the deciding factor.013

Prayers – I uploaded a post on Prayers for Mom on the day before the surgery and got over 80 responses saying that they would pray for mum. I thank everybody on the day of the surgery in another post. I am sure that God was with mum all the time during her surgery.

The Surgery – the surgeon indicated that the preparatory work will take 1-2 hours whereas the actual operation may last 2.5 hours. We waited and waited outside the operation theatre. Time passed by quickly and there was no sign of mum being pushed out of the room after 4-5 hours. We were deeply worried. After 6.5 hours, the surgeon appeared from the room and told us that the operation was a success. The tumor was bigger than expected and pressed against the spleen. Because of this, he has to remove it very carefully hoping that it will not adversely affect or damage the spleen. Mum’s tumor was removed together with some of the colon which has some polyps; the remaining colon was reconnected.

The Day After the Surgery – Mum was in good mood, she woke up and was talkative. We realized she was given morphine and other pain killers to reduce her pain in the cuts which incidentally consist a cut of some three inches plus four small holes. That was followed by quite a few days when she did not feel good at all.088

The First Few Days After Surgery – she was having a lot of pain, her body was full of tubes – oxygen and bag of nutrients etc. She slept for most of the time and was not in a good mood.

Back at Home – after 11 days total in hospital, she was discharged. She still had some pain in the cut wounds, feeling weak and tired and did not have appetite. However, she is getting better day by day. A month after surgery, she was able to raise herself out of bed, eat and sleep normally. She has not resumed hydrotherapy which she undertook every week before the surgery.

Where do we Go from Here? – with a Stage 3 cancer, it is normal that the patient will undergo chemotherapy after surgery. However, due to mum’s health condition and age, she has decided not to undergo chemotherapy. Is chemotherapy really worth doing at her age?  Not sure what we will do next? No more treatment? Consult Chinese herbal doctors? We are still looking for guidance. We hope the Lord would guide us again as He has done throughout the last few months.099

Thank you Everyone Again – Many blogging friends and readers have prayed for mom, I thank them very much for their kind thoughts and words too. During the difficult moments, I never felt I was alone!

PS  All photos were taken in Jiuzhaigou, China.

172 thoughts on “Colon Cancer and Mum

  1. Wonderful testimony and photos illustrate the story well. I pray your mom and family will have peace at this time. God give you all strength:-)

  2. Dear friend Michael – I am greatly encouraged by this post; your mother is a strong woman and I hope that she has many years still to go – I again send my prayers and good wishes for her complete recovery. I agree with her decision not to have chemotherapy since it is quite difficult to endure, especially at her age. She is fortunate to have you Michael, a fine son who is both wise and practical, and devoted to her. I have been a caregiver in my life as well, for a husband who died 4 years ago and there is no more difficult job. Please take care of yourself too, and keep your spirits up!
    Best of luck and many good wishes to you and your family.
    Jo in Denver, Colorado, very far away but concerned.

    • Hi Jo, thanks for writing to me from so far, thanks also for the prayers, the time and the thoughts. We are totally in agreement with mum that she will not have chemotherapy. Some readers may wonder why my mum still have an operation at this age. Funny, in Hong Kong, the average life expectancy is 86 for females – the highest in the world. Regards, Michael

    • Yes, my mom is having a strong mind and quite clever too. Problem is that she seems to have lost some short term memory after the anesthetic. No doubt, her strong will helps her to overcome. Regards, Michael

  3. I am so happy your mum’s operation was a success Michael, I hope she continues to enjoy improved health daily. I am sure your prayers will guide you in the right direction. My prayers are with you all.

    • Hi Pennie, many thanks for the prayers. Yes, we still need to figure out what we should do next (if anything). Again, we have to trust that God will guide us in the right direction. Regards, Michael

  4. Glad to hear that the surgery was a success. It took me a few months to fully recover from my bowel surgery — and I was 25. While I have no advice on the next steps, I will keep you all in my thoughts.

    • Techniques have improved. Plus i had the whole colon removed. I hear that the current methods are a huge improvement. They had to cut me from stem to stern — literally!

    • Yes, techniques have improved, they are using laparoscopy – but still with the relatively large tumor my mum has, one of the cuts have to be quite big. I am glad that medical techniques have improved so much, especially with minimally invasive methods!

    • Many readers have said that they would like an update and I thought the best way to do it is in a post rather than responding separately. many thanks for your kind thoughts. Regards, Michael

    • She is a women with strong wills and she has said many times that she wouldn’t mind going back to the arms of the Lord. Many thanks for wishing her well!

  5. It is good to hear your mom’s surgery went well. Years ago, I was in your shoes. My dad was diagnosed of stage 3 colon cancer and had surgery. He had a year of chemotheraphy afterwards. Unfortunately, the cancer was too aggressive and he passed at the young age of 60. My family and I are comforted with the thought that we did what we could and what he wanted for his treatment. He knew we were there for him every step of the way. I wish for the best possible outcome for your mom; and strength and wisdom for you and your family at this most uncertain time.

  6. Thank you for sharing, very touching and interesting to read. People are far too quick to forget God in our lives. Prayer is a powerful weapon and a great source of strength. I will remember your family in prayers this night.

  7. Frankly, at such an advanced age, surgery is controversial and more so for chemo and radiotherapy, esp. when she has no symptoms of obstruction. The other two could make life miserable, even in palliative doses. If she has no symptoms prior to surgery, what is there to palliate. I don’t know, I find her choice is not taken more seriously. Non interventional therapy with less medication may be best at this stage. However I am not an expert in this field, but I have been a hospice worker for a long time. The right to die with dignity is also a choice; sorry for the language used, only to be frank.

    • We need to go for an operation as the tumor was getting big – the surgeon said almost 3 inches in one dimension – leaving a small hole in the colon. I agree that chemotherapy and maybe radiotherapy are not suitable to her and it would make life miserable to mum. Life expectancy without further treatment may not be long and we hope that mum will eventually pass away without a lot of pain and with a lot of dignity!

    • Michael, physical pain can be easily controlled with opiates etc . Dignity can be helped by taking the journey together, by simply sitting together, and letting her know the presence of dears ones.

    • Hi, she is now out of all pain killers and understands that some occasional pain is unavoidable. She has a big cut of 3-4 inches which was opened to get her colon out of the body. The other four “holes” healed very well. Your advice on Dignity is a very good advice. I am following this and hope all siblings and others will do the same. Regards, Michael

  8. I was thinking of your mom, but hesitated to ask. Thank you so much for the update. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers for sure. Before I retired from Mayo, I was working on colon cancer research project and met many people who had recovered from it. I hope your mom will too. Best wishes. Take care of yourself too. Helen

    • Hi Helen, glad to learn that some patients did recover from it. Colon cancer is the second biggest killer in Hong Kong. Many thanks for the kind thoughts. Regards, Michael

    • My mum’s life story can be written into a book, especially the parts about how she survived WWII and many years of adversity. I am sure she is stronger than me and in fact, she was my role model. Regards, Michael

    • In times of difficulty, I also remember Jesus praying in the garden before taking away by the soldiers, asking His heavenly father not to pass the chalice before accept whatever the heavenly father has arranged. Many thanks for the prayers and the kind thoughts, Janjoy!

  9. Dear Michael I realize this a very difficult time for you and your Mum and family. I would suggest chinese herbal remedies and acupuncture.
    I am a westerner and a Nurse Anesthetist, but I have been an energy healer for many years and have been receiving acupuncture for many years. Radiation or Chemo may be too much for your Mum and so hard on her system whereas Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Remedies are gentler while so very effective. I hope this helps. Love and light to you,

    • Hi Suesilver, I understand some Chinese herbal medicine would help. I think we need a very experienced and good Chinese doctor who know how to control the dosage for elderly people. Overdosage may need to problems in other areas like kidney and liver. At the moment, we are still undecided what to do. My brother is quite against consulting Chinese herbal doctor. I hope God will guide us on this. Regards, Michael

  10. I truly wish I had some words of wisdom for you. From my own experience – having my dad and my father-in-law both pass from cancer, I would say support your mother in the best way you can and give her the best quality of life that is possible. Chemo and radiation are very hard on the entire body. Only you and your mother’s doctors can determine if she is strong enough to tolerate it. If it is determined not to do the treatments, be sure to inquire about ‘palliative care’ (comfort care).

    I will add my prayers that the Lord bring forth those experts who will be able to give you the answers you seek and guide you in the best direction of care for your dear mother.

    • Many thanks for writing. Your words ” support your mother in the best way you can and give her the best quality of life that is possible ” already contain a lot of wisdom. While the surgeon is not supportive of chemo or radiation, another doctor thought mum could be given a mild form of chemo – however, we are all against this at the moment.
      Many thanks for the prayers which is appreciated. I hope God will guide us in the best direction.
      Regards, Michael

  11. I am happy to read that your Mom is feeling better with every day that passes Michael! We thank God for that, and also believe that he will guide you on the next steps to take as your mother makes her way to full recovery.

  12. Poor old mum – but she sounds like a fighter! It’s a difficult one, balancing he desire to keep our loved ones healthy and respecting the rule of nature. My moms a similar age, so I feel your helplessness…

    • Yes, she is a fighter – I have a lot of reverence for her. This is really a case of balancing the rule of nature, the individual’s will and our love for our parents – quite a delicate situation which I am sure you are more equipped to deal with it. Regards, Michael

  13. I always feel a little strange pushing the like button when the post is about something sad. Maybe a like and a comment is better. I’m sorry to hear about your mom. I hope things get better for her. It’s nice that you shared your experience with your followers. I have seen a couple of family members through cancer treatments. It is very difficult.

    • Thanks for the like and for the comment!
      Some readers have asked for an update and I thought the best way is to do a post rather than responding separately.
      I have not gone through similar ordeal and in fact not prepared for this. It is a difficult time, but the prayers, the well wishes and kind thoughts do make living a lot easier. Regards, Michael

  14. You are a good son. I pray that your mother will heal. Just heal. I pray that whatever means it takes to give her comfort will come to the forefront of your mind as you seek wisdom dear Michael. My heart and hope is with you and your family. Love, Sheri (PS -My mother too had colon cancer. She had only 5″ removed but she never accepted Chemo either and the cancer never reoccurred. I hope this encourage you.

    • Hi, great to hear from you. Just heal is all I ask of God too! Thanks for the prayers and the kind thoughts, they are of tremendous help.
      In mum’s case, a long length of colon was removed, all that’s left is around 16 inches. It is encouraging to know that not all colon cancer surgery is necessarily followed by chemotherapy. Regards, Michael

  15. Sorry to hear of your mother’s illness. Unfortunately, cancer is more common as we age. Think very carefully before you encourage your mum to have chemo: my aunt took that path at an advanced age and her condition deteriorated immediately, to the point she couldn’t enjoy her last days. At 80 something, it’s best for your mother to make the decision. My father had colon cancer in his sixties, advised to have chemo, given only six months to live. He chose to take the Meditation path, visualizing his immune system attacking tumor cells and lived another 17 years. All the other men in his ward, with a similar diagnosis, had the chemo, and died within the expected time frame.

    My specialist advised all the family to undergo regular colonoscopy: it is very easily treated if caught early. My brother died of the disease, diagnosed at a very late stage. Both my other brother and sister have had polyps removed, the precursor to cancer. It’s on both sides of the family so we’ve been having colonoscopies for a number of years. Brothers, sisters, children need to receive regular checks to ensure you all remain cancer-free.

    • John’s Hopkins’s latest research shows 2/3 of the cancers are by chance and 1/3 through habits / heredity. The colon has many mutations throughout the life of a human being and therefore all of us are susceptible to a higher chance of getting it. My mom’s family has a history of cancer as well.
      I won’t be encouraging my mum to do chemo and she resists it as well. As a believer of God, she is not that concerned whether she dies earlier or later – she is quite a brave woman.
      This is the first time I heard that Meditation can help keeping it away – interesting!
      Yes, my siblings and nephew / niece are also alert about the possibility of having it through heredity.
      Many thanks for writing to me. Best wishes for the new year!

  16. My prayers go out to your mum and family, and may the Lord give you all strength to this difficult time. Great to hear the operation and post-operation went well. Your mum seems so strong, really an inspiration to all of us at her age. Wishing you all the best, and thank you for sharing with us.

    • Hi Mabel, great to hear from you again. Many thanks for the prayers which are much needed at this time; much appreciated. I hope mum is getting better and better, she is really an inspiration to many of us. Regards, Michael

    • The first thought was that she may be left to die with the increasing size of the tumor; I think we have been seeing a small miracle and I think our Lord for that. many thanks for the kind thoughts. Regards, Michael

  17. I understand how frightening it all is, as I thought I had colon cancer last October, although it is ulcerative colitis. Your mother has been extremely brave and strong and has had wonderful support from you. This is an uplifting story, that she could recover from such an ordeal at her age, and very encouraging to anyone embarking on the same journey!

    • Hi Grace, I am glad that you see it as an uplifting story ; a reader thought it is so sad. I also see it as an uplifting one. My mum thought she was going to die but she was brave enough to survive the surgery and not really afraid of death. It will be encouraging to someone embarking on similar journeys. In situation like this, the lesson is always ask for a second opinion and don’t assume that one is too old to have a major surgery. What I didn’t mention was, in fact, my mum has a chronic knee problem and relies on wheelchair for moving around for the last few years. Regards, Michael

  18. The best to you and your mom and your family during this difficult time, Michael. My Mother-in-Law had a similar set of circumstances and was ablet to have several more good years post-surgery without chemo. I’m hoping it’s the same for your Mom.

  19. Hello Michael. I’ve only just come back to blogging after quite a long absence. I’m sorry to hear about your mum’s cancer, but glad to hear that the surgery went well. I hope she continues to heal well and that she and the family enjoys lots more happy times together. Thanks also for sharing those beautiful, beautiful photographs!

  20. 🙂 Dear Michael,

    sending your mother the very best wishes! She must be a “tough cookie” (I mean that in the very best of ways!) to get through this and I trust she will.
    All the very best to you and your family, too – health and HAPPYness! 🙂

    • Hi, glad to hear from you. You are right, my mum is a tough person; I am sure she will be healed. Many thanks for the blessings. Best wishes to you and your family in 2015!

  21. My deepest sympathy (in a positive sense), Michael, and kindest regards to your mother. i’m glad she is recovering from the surgery. The spirit and family support are key elements. I can also understand her not wanting to undergo chemio which can be very taxing. Buuuut. (And I know that from close relations’ experience) the combination Surgery-Chemio is generally the best long-term option. I suggest you let her rest a coupla months, see how she goes, and then, maybe, retake the issue. 🙂
    Again, my warmest regards to your mother! 🙂
    (What’s her name if I may ask?)

    • Hi, my mom’s name is Wong Lai Wah, Dorothy. Yes, we realize that surgery plus chemo will be the best for her but this will be very taxing especially at her age. We are following your advice – let her rest a couple of months and in the meantime, see what other options are available. Many thanks for your kind thoughts and advice! Regards, Michael

    • All my regards to Lai-Wah! As Dorothy (in the land of Oz) I’m sure she will pull some strings and get well. 🙂
      Have a nice week-end, Michael.
      (But then you’re probably not Michael either, right?)

    • Hi, our whole family were baptized in the 1950s – that was where we got our Christian names of Dorothy (for mum) and Michael (for me) etc.
      Have a lovely weekend!

  22. Beautiful post, Michael, regarding your mom’s health. As you can see, you are not alone. My thoughts and prayers continue through this healing process. Lovely, peaceful pictures.

  23. I am praying the surgery remains a success and no complications occur. So happy you found a surgeon who had faith and believed in your mother’s strength. May her health continue to improve. Chemo is so hard on the system. Holistic medications seem the right way to go. Bless you Michael. ❤ Jennifer

    • I am glad to have found a surgeon who believes that the operation is doable. Many thanks for the prayers – this is much appreciated.
      Thanks also for the advice on Holistic Medications – I will look up for what is available locally. Regards, Michael

  24. Glad everything went well with your mums surgery – we are all in God’s hands and I pray that God touches her with His healing hands and bring remission to her without the chemo. My aunt had pancreatic cancer at age 40, given 6 months to live and she passed away 45 yrs later at the age of 85. The cancer was always there, by the Grace of God it never grew any larger. I pray that for your mum and that she have many happy years yet. I too found I was not alone when my husband passed away – the blogging community is a family that is for sure. Keeping your mum and you in my prayers.

    • Hi Patty,
      I am sure the cancer was with mum for a few years – it usually remains not noticeable. I suppose many people live with cancer for quite a number of years, that’s incredible!
      Many thanks for the prayers – for which I am grateful. Sad to hear that your husband has passed away; I am sure he is with our heavenly Father.
      Regards, Michael

    • Thank you Micheal, yes Tom was welcomed home with our Lord, it comforts me knowing that. He was a true man of God.
      I am also a cancer survivor, and I was told that the cancer could have been in me for up to 10 yrs. Hopefully one day they will find even better ways to detect cancer, although I know the doctors have come a long way in detecting and stopping cancer.

    • People say if you live long enough then you will have cancer; not sure how true is that. I hope modern day medicine can detect and cure cancer more readily and without pain! May God bless you, Michael

  25. I am glad to hear that she is recovering and will continue to keep her and your family in my prayers. God will guide you to the correct decision. Please make sure that you and any siblings you have are screened for colon cancer via stool sample for occult blood and colonoscopy. It is very treatable when caught in the early stages. Take care Michael and thank you for updating us.

    • Hi Nora, thousands of thanks for the prayers, I hope God will continue to guide us in making correct decisions. My brothers have all gone for colonoscopy, with the exception of my sister whom I will persuade her to go. I am also warning my nephew and niece who have grandmothers on both sides having colon cancer – I told them they should be doing it in around 30 years time ( too early to warn, I suppose)! I feel I have the obligation to update you all. I think my post is not that well written, hope you understand and tolerate. Regards, Michael

    • Your post is written very well. You need to give yourself more credit. I am glad to hear your family members are getting screened. Also, I enjoy all of your lovely pictures. Take care – Nora

  26. Dear Michael, thank you for this update as one who has been praying for your dear mother and you and your family and continue to do so for her recovery and your family’s wisdom as you decide on the next step. God bless you and your mum.

    • Hi Sherri, many thanks for your continued support. I must say how grateful I feel to you and others who have prayed for my mum and me – I think what we are experiencing is a small miracle which is only possible with prayers from so many people. It is the first time I have asked in the open for people to pray, I am sure our prayers are heard. I am hopeful that the Lord will continue to guide us in making correct decisions. Best wishes to you and your loved ones, Michael

  27. Thank you for this life lesson. I join your prayers with all brands of bloggers . The greatest thing in life is to fight and continue to seek the welfare of our people . The fullness feels when our father or mother die and we thank them life lessons and above all have been with them in their hard times , haberles learned. I admire your testimonies . I admire your mother. Health and vitality to the Always Always .

    • Hi, this is my first encounter with cancer, to say the truth, I was first horrified. This is a life lesson I learned myself but thought it may be good if other people know of it too so that they are not caught unaware. I also admire my mum’s courage – I have learned many life lessons from her. Many thanks for the kind thoughts. Regards, Michael

  28. My thoughts also are with you. My father in his mid-80s sas operated on for colon cancer, discovered as a result of symptoms such as those you describe for your mum. The cancer did not recur, he had further good years of life and died of other causes (really, of old age) at age 89. May your mother also recover well, and enjoy her continuing life.

    • Hi Penny, I am grateful to your kind thoughts to my mum. Many thanks also for the information too. Some people said surgery only cuts away the symptom but the cancer will continue to survive. I sincerely don’t want this to happen. I will leave this all to God. Regards, Michael

  29. I am happy I caught up with my reading today and found this post. I’ve been thinking of your mom And prayed for a successful surgery. I’m happy to hear it went well and she is getting stronger. I’m sure God will give you guidance on what, if anything more , to do next. I’ll keep her in my prayers.

    • Hi Tiny, I am grateful for your continuous support and prayers for my mum. I hope God will look kindly upon us and increase His mercy on mum and all people in the world. Regards, Michael

    • Hi Jane, many thanks for the kind thoughts which are much appreciated. I am closely watching mom to see to that she is recovering well. Regards, Michael

  30. Sending prayers to you and your mom. As a recurring cancer survivor I understand how difficult it has been for you both. I know that your prayers will guide you. What a strong lady your mom is!

    • Hi Grace, glad to hear from you. We are still pondering what to do after the surgery. Many thanks for the prayers and the kind thoughts and words which are much appreciated! Regards, Michael

  31. I am catching up with Blogs I Follow today, and read this post. Your mother is brave and wise, I hope she can continue to heal and enjoy life. You are a good son, Michael, and I will be praying and thinking of your mother. And thank you for the beautiful, serene photos.

    • Hi, great to hear from you. Many thanks for the prayers which are needed at this time, many thanks for the kind words and thoughts too. Regards, Michael

    • Hi, surgery is the first battle, recovery the second and living a life without cancer recurrence the third. Many thanks for your kind thoughts, hope she continues to overcome 🙂

    • Many thanks for the prayers; much appreciated!
      We do hope that there is a miracle which gives quality of life to mom in her remaining years.

  32. My mother also was found to have colon cancer two years ago after experiencing anemia and other problems. It was not as advanced as that of your Mum, and surgery was successful. She is 80 years old. My greetings to you and prayers for a healthy life for your Mum.

    • Hi Steve, Glad to know that your mum’s surgery has been a success. My mum still has some hurdles to go through, hope everything’s OK and many thanks for the prayers. Regards, Michael

  33. This is a very difficult situation for your family. I hope you have good guidance regarding your next steps.
    I guess you already know about the need for first-degree relatives of someone with colon cancer to be checked periodically so any polyps can be removed before they become cancerous.
    I wish you and your mother all the best.

    • Hi, we still don’t know what is the next step – it has to be something acceptable to mum and also the siblings. We hope that God will again give us the guidance – we know He is always in the background. Yes, apart from my sister, all siblings have been checked for colonoscopy. many thanks for your kind concerns and the reminder which is very much appreciated!

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