Extreme Shortness of breath/weak/avelox/alimta

I'm new on this site. I have been reading some of your discussions and have found some good information by others sharing their experience. You all seem so sweet and love your sharing of experiences. My dad was diagnosed with NSCLC Stage 2 on Dec 1, 2009. He started with shortness of breath August 2009 (was active prior to this) & had a cough that wouldn't go away. Dr gave him cough meds, etc which didn't help. In Nov 2009 he had really declined with shortness of breath, weakness. Went to ER and said he had pneumonia. Tumor was found in lower right lobe. Recommendation was to surgically remove lower lobe with cancer. That was Dec. 1, 2009. Dad is 74 yrs old. He was in ICU for 4 days and regular room for 3. He also found out he had emphysema during surgery. Cancer was in lymph nodes close by to tumor. He smoked for 30 years but quit smoking for the last 28 years. Prior to August...no breathing problems even though apparently had had emphysema. Anyway, came home and he worked extremly hard to build endurance & created some light exercise routines. Was recovering well but still needed oxygen most of the time except when seated with no exertion. Did PET scan on Dec. 28 (4 weeks after surgery) and showed spots on adrenal glands and now stage IV saying it had metastized. Oncologist recommended treatment with just alimta as she was afraid alimta/carboplatin would be too harsh for him since lung surgery. Got 2nd opinion and they advised same thing. First chemo went well. Got a little weak but not too bad at all. 2nd treatment last week was ok but began having much more weakness/shortness of breath really bad. By day 8 he was continuing to decline with shortness of breath (way more than usual) and weakness. Put him in hospital suspecting pnuemonia or blood clot. Did scan and it showed congestion but not pnuemonia yet and no clot. Put him on IV of Avelox for 24 hours. Came home but still extremly weak and horrible shortness of breath. Started Avelox in pill form and mucinex to break up mucus in chest. Continued to decline. Now he can't even go to the bathroom hardly by himself he is so weak and continues to gasp for breath. I did research on internet on the Avelox and am thinking he is having side affects from that. Talk to oncologist and they agreed to take him off of Avelox and prescribed Zirthomax. They said to give him benedryl to relieve reactions. Seemed to help his breathing a little but still extremly weak and heavy breathing just to stand up and walk a tiny bit to the nearest bathroom. He is coughing up brown junk and now more red blood mixed in which REALLY concerns me. Oncologist said lungs look good except for some congestion. I called Pulmonary dr today and he said to bring him in next wednesday to check him out. I don't know if chemo created this whole severe shortness of breath / weakness or if Avelox did. He was doing so good and getting stronger. Was able to walk for 20 minutes, drive his truck and then this all hit 8 days after 2nd chemo. he says he feels like he is back to where he was right after lung surgery. Does any of this trigger any feedback with your experiences? This is all new to us. While we have learned a ton in a short period of time.....we have much more to learn. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Blessings to you all...Kim

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I'm sorry to hear your father is going through this. Why didn't they start him on chemo after surgery? Unfortunately, this could be the cancer causing these symptons. Wait and see what the pulmonologist says. This is a waiting game of tests and treatment and you just never know all the answers. Wishing you both the best. Take care, JC

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Hi Kim, I'm sorry to hear about your dad. What Cards7up says sounds about right to me too. The brown stuff your dad is coughing up might just be bacteria but the red sounds like blood and could very well be from the cancer. I coughed up blood for months before I started radiation.
Another good site you might check out is Cancergrace.org. There are experts there who might be able to give you more information... Good luck and God bless you...


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That is exactly what happened to me. I was short of breath at first because I had bronchitis, but nothing like after having chemo. I became so weak as you say, he is and so out of breath, it was an effort to walk even a few steps. In fact I had to sit up to sleep and stay in the living room close to the bathroom. It lasted for months. I was so distraught, getting no help from my oncologist except they put me on morphine 15 mg tabs every 4 to 6 hours as needed for shortness of breath! Not for any pain. It did help some, but not a lot, just made it more tolerable. I found years later. I am in remission now 4 years and just recently am able to make my own bed, and walk,and now on a stationary bike 1/2 hour per day, and walk 50 minutes per day. All this just the past few months. Why??? I asked myself why am I so short of breath all the time, so asked a new PCP and he checked me out, and found I have hardening of my coronary arteries. Congestive heart failure. He put me on a diuretic pill, and immediately I am walking, still short of breath, but trust me when I say nothing compared to how it was for 4 years! I was so mad that my own oncologist never spotted this, and I had to wait and find a doctor who knew what he was doing with this. So, get another opinion if need be, or have them check his heart and see if it is fluid around it that a diuretic may relieve for him too. I also have lung disease and damage from COPD, emphysema and bronchiectasis. But nothing compares to getting this water pill to rid the fluid around my heart.
God bless and good luck, I know how hard it is on him. I went through it for years like this.


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My husband, 75, NSCLC IV, had one infusion of cisplatin/paclitaxel after a month of radiation therapy for upper right lobe tumor with node involvement. He was doing OK after radiation, but immediately after his first chemo he had extreme shortness of breath, was in intensive care for two weeks, on oxygen for six weeks. While is hospital, he had the same brown/red sputum you describe. He was diagnosed with pneumonitis with pneumonia and for over a week was given 24-hour IVs of three different antibiotics, one of which worked along with intravenous IV steroids. They called it the "kitchen sink" therapy--tried "everything including the kitchen sink".

After two four-infusion rounds with Alimta, he is now doing well, except that he has some small brain metasteses that will be treated next week. He walks the dog every day in the park, does all the shopping, makes the meals, and works in the yard most days. He is not in any pain or discomfort; we sent back the oxygen machine months ago. He did have quite a bit of neuropathy in both feet and lower legs, and he had infections under four finger cuticles--but they are all gone now. He continues to have some fatigue, fixed by an afternoon nap.

Suggestion: insist on a sputum test, IV antibiotics, steroids for the pneumonitis, and respiratory therapy every three hours (VERY IMPORTANT). Those are the things that has given my husband another year with us.

Good luck.

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Being a newbie myself I'm not sure I can offer any advice. I can tell you that with my mom the side effects of chemo are accumlative. The body seems to hang on to the meds and then you add more etc. Mom has done great up until last two chemo tx. She is horribly weak and tired. Wish you all the best of luck.

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Hi Kimlyn,
Im so sorry to read about your dad- i know how hard it is watching someone you love struggle with something we never give a 2nd thought too. My mum has multiple lung mets-both lungs absolutely covered and she is constantly sob- currently on oxygen- some days she is good and she manages small chores- other days she is short of breath even on rest.
Id agree with everyone else- definitely ask abour steroids- a short term course might be just wht ure dad needs. But id also advise to work on the weakness- its a horrible cycle- weakness will make the sob worse and sob will make him weaker and weaker...so definitely work on that.
Is he eating and drinking ok? Does he need energy drinks? you know simple things that are easily corrected.
Would definitely see the dr again- and ask any questions you have- they shd be able explain atleast some of the symptoms
I hope he feels better soon.
Love and prayers ure way!

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Wow....you all have been so great responding back with your experiences and perspectives! I very much appreciate all your comments. You have all been very helpful. I was just reading your feedback to my mother. She was so impressed that you all cared enough to respond. Just want to update you on what's happening since my original post. They put my dad in ICU the very next day. We had to call an ambulance to get him as he absolutely could not walk downstairs to car. They have taken more xrays and say he does show "something" or fluid in the same lung where lower right lobe was removed. They think it is fluid or congestion of some sort. They put him on IV of a "super charged" antibotic and steriod treatment (which is what some of you mentioned to do!). The respitory therapist comes in to do treatments every 4 hours round the clock. They did rule out fluid around his heart like you mentioned in one of the postings. The physical therapist tried to get him out of bed today to assess what he is able to do. He stood by the bed and his oxygen dropped to 76. They have him on 6 liters right now. His breathing was horrible trying to do any activity and they put him back in bed. I think he was extremly discouraged because he was not any better....yet. His next chemo of alimta is due Feb. 24. I hope he gets better quickly so he can stay on the 21 day cycle because of the mestasis that occured over 4 weeks after his surgery. This is all so crazy because he was walking for 20 minutes at a time, going upstairs/downstairs/driving a little....just a week ago. We are just praying like all get out that he will turn the corner and be so much better tomorrow after all this stuff kicks in that they are giving him now. Thanks for your prayers. I can certainly see why having a group of people like yourselves to share experiences with help so much. My prayers are with each of you as well. i'll post more later......

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