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Advice on family illness

  1. Jul 2, 2005 #1


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    My sister-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia on Tuesday. She started chemotherapy today. She's in the same hospital where I waited 9 hours for an appendectomy, which we later found out was performed just in time. Some hospital staff have already made, at best, mistakes: They ran out of anesthetic during her bone marrow aspiration/biopsy and forgot to flush the catheter with saline for her PIC line. Some of the nurses are great, some seem, well, not negligent, but at least indifferent. There are plenty of great hospitals in the area, in fact, she works at one of them, but now that she's started chemo, they say it's too risky to transfer her. She's expected to stay in the hospital for a month. I would be worried about her no matter where she was, but my lack of confidence in the hospital makes it worse.

    I didn't catch what form of leukemia she has, just that it's the easiest to treat. I could have sworn she said (what sounded like) perimyelolymphatic, but that didn't fit anything I found. Maybe it's ALL. Anyway, I'll find out tomorrow. They also caught it early, and she's otherwise healthy. She is also confident in her doctor. So in that regard, things are as good as they can be.

    I'm still reading other sources but was wondering if anyone has had any experience with this or has any advice on what to expect, what I should be concerned about, things I should know,or how I can best be there for my family. Thanks. :smile:
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  3. Jul 2, 2005 #2


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    I don't know what advice I can give, but eat healthy.

    For now, be very grateful that they caught it early.
  4. Jul 2, 2005 #3
    I'm sorry to hear that, honestrosewater, what a battle she has begun to fight. I too no nothing about leukemia, except the basics, which I'm sure you have already explored. Its good she found it early.
    I hope she does well with the chemo, cancer can be beaten. If she can stand to use it..there is a cold cap she can wear, that prevents major hair loss. It is uncomfortable. But it does work.
    She will need so much support to maintain a fighting spirt, and also things that make her laugh. Bringing in her favorit foods will also help. The chemo makes everything taste matallic, and of course the nausea, so weight loss is a real problem.
    I was very ill a year and a half ago, and I went to the very best hospital, they still made mistakes. So changing hospitals is no promise, of better care.
    Hugs to you and your family.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2005
  5. Jul 2, 2005 #4


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    Sorry to hear about your sister-in-law and the mistakes made during her care.

    It would be helpful to know what type of leukemia, because treatments (chemo) will vary. One of side effects of chemo is the loss of appetite, and that is exacerbated by the change of taste (metallic as hypatia described) and nausea. If at all possible, the patient needs nutritious food and possibly vitamin supplements.

    If your sis-in-law has a type of lymphatic leukemia, I believe the odds for remission are much better than a type of myelogenous leukemia.

    As much as feasible, someone should be with her during treatment so as to know what's going on, i.e. she needs an advocate who can think clearly and ask questions. Beyond that, be supportive. Being ill can make one very irritable (understandabl so), so one must keep that in mind and not get too upset with the patient. Such illness is trying for the whole family.

    Best regards to your family, and best wishes to your sister-in-law for her recovery.
  6. Jul 2, 2005 #5


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    Sorry to hear about your sister-in-law. I think the others here have covered a lot of the important stuff. In terms of someone being with her, and irritability, also be prepared for her to go through some bouts of depression. Between the illness, side-effects of chemo, and facing one's own mortality head-on, depression is fairly common. It helps to anticipate this and expect it so everyone can help her through it to keep up her spirits enough to want to fight the disease and get through all the treatments.

    About the only other thing I can suggest is to also keep an eye out on the rest of the family, especially your brother and any children they have. When people step up to the plate and take care and support ill loved ones, they tend to forget to take care of themselves too. So when you do things like bring her favorite foods to the hospital, make enough for the others who are sitting by her side or drop some off at their house for your brother and any kids there.
  7. Jul 2, 2005 #6


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    I could not over-emphasize this point made by Moonbear. Your sister-in-law will most likely be unable to give the care to her family when she is very ill due to chemo. It's very important to support the whole family. Being primary caretaker for someone can be very stressful, and emotionally draining. Having good support from others is very important.
  8. Jul 3, 2005 #7


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    Thanks, everyone. Bringing her favorite foods is a good idea; I'll see if she has any diet restrictions and do that. They're bringing in a dvd player so she can watch movies too. They don't have any children. I'm going over to do some cooking and cleaning. And we took him out to dinner and saw a movie and such, so he doesn't get lonely. Between all of us, someone will be with her most of the time. Her parents are coming down too. Anyway, I'm leaving for the hospital soon, and I'll find out more about her condition and treatment and ask about the cold cap. Thanks again. :smile:
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