My mom sleeps all the time now. Is this normal?

My mother was dx in July 09, extensive stage. She had chemo in August thru October, the preventive radiation to her brain in November. She was already spending a lot of her time lying on her couch "napping" but since January she has slept more and more. We found out in the first week of Feb. that her cancer had returned. She opted to try more chemo even though she was already very weak. We did one treatment of topetecan (I believe) and the next week her stats were low so they did not do another. The week after that she became so lethargic and week that we took her back to the hospital. They found that her potassium was very low and possible pnuemonia and started treatment for that. She had an MRI while in the hospital and found that the cancer has spread to her entire lung and bone marrow. Her oncologist gave her Taxotere in the hospital as a last effort to help her. She seemed better in the hospital but since she has come home she sleeps all day and is hard to wake. She seems very confused a lot of the time. Sorry this is so long. I have never posted before, but I wanted to ask if anyone has any suggestions on anything else we can do to help her at this point and if the sleeping constantly is normal?

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Hi there! Welcome!

I am new here too and I'm sure you will receive many replies with a lot of advice to help you along the way.

You have done the right thing by coming here and posting. Please don't worry about how long your post is. The more everyone knows the better they can help you!

I am here to share my mothers journey. She was was diagnosed in '05 NSCLC and she is IV now with brain mets. She is doing well, but yes - sleep is common which I remember she did a lot, but then I also remember she would get bursts of energy followed by periods of very low energy... She had WBRT and for a little while she was feeling extremely tired, but then all of sudden before recently she called me and was ecstatic about great she felt! A few weeks later, she was in the hospital with pleural effusion and they did a pleurodesis and drain, and even though she can breathe much better - her energy levels are just not anywhere close to where they were weeks prior.

There might be something else going on as well so maybe if someone else does have any suggestions?


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What you and Mia have both described is a lot like my mom's experience. As a matter of fact, she is sleeping right now and it is a beautiful spring day outside! For example...This morning she actaully ate the breakfast I made her and said she was feeling good and had more energy. I thought she was going to get up and shower so I ran out to the vet to pic up some meds (was gone about 45 min). When I got up I found her fast alseep in bed. I think this is just how it goes. I've decided to just take the good moments when I can get them and be thankful for them. I figure if her body is telling her to sleep then she must need it...Hang in there!

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It is normal under a lot of circumstances.

It is a normal response to treatment. Can make you real tired.

It is a normal response to anemia, which can come from treatment or other cancer-related stuff.

It can come from dehydration, which can come from chemo or intestinal problems or cancer or a huge host of things -- this is a biggie, make sure we have hydration!

It can simply come from the advance of disease, as the body shuts down :*(

The two most important things here are to watch for any sign of dehydration, and to make sure the limbs MOVE daily, even a lot of little moves several times a day, even rolling around in bed if it is vigorous enough. She does NOT want her muscles to atrophy, and man I know sometimes it can take every ounce of energy just to turn over ... but she does not want atrophy and she really really doesn't want blood clots. Rest when the body wants to rest to some extent is really important, and doing whatever she wants or doesn't want at this point is also really important. But not moving can cause complications she does not want to play with, so make sure she finds a way to incorporate this into her rest. Blood clots, aside from being possibly fatal, can be really painful and we really really don't want that.

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Looks like your mother had Whole Brain Radiation Therapy, sometimes prescribed to prevent brain metasteses? That could be the cause of her lethargy, and if so it will probably only get worse. Steroids might help, but the two-year prognosis for WBRT patients is not good. If they want to repeat the WBRT, you can refuse. You can insist on GammaKnife focused radiation treatment for any brain lesions as they are detected, which my husband has had.
Your mother may also have entered the end-stage process where body systems start to shut down and lethargy sets in. Her doctor needs to check her out. Most important is to keep her from suffering.

Good luck; hopefully your mother will improve, at least in the short term.

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chemo can knock the wind out of anyone's sails - evern those of us who are young and in good health - except - of course for the Lung Cancer - I think I slept the entire 5 months I was taking the chemo and I am still tired most of the time - I am in bed and sleeping by 9pm and can easily sleep 12 hours - I never did that before dx. this cancer and it's treatment is really hasrd to deal with - sometimes sleep is the greatest escape there is. I am dorry your mom is feeling bad - but it's to be expected.. hang in there

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Totally normal - chemo and radiation send you for a loop, and as my colleague described her mom during treatment for ovarian Ca "she was out of her mind" at times.....confusion and a fatigue beyond comprehension as the drugs try to kill the monster....
Hang in there....

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@ mainchancer - I'm not sure where you found your info about WBR, but I'm kind of bothered by your statements that 1) will probably only get worse, and 2)..the two-year prognosis for WBRT patients is not good.

@ JoR - I've had WBR, a year ago. The terrible fatigue, if it is from the radiation,will go away, mine lasted about two - three months after treatment. It may not still be from the WBR - cancer taxes the body in a lot of ways. It could also be residual fatigue from the topotecan, or the lowered potassium. My WBR, as I said was a year ago, and I'm doing fine, in fact, I'm in remission. My short-term memory is no longer tip-top, but it seems to be coming back some. What does your mom's oncologist have to say about her fatigue & confusion?

All the best,

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Thank you all for your responses. I have only just now had a chance to get on and read them. I did not think to put it in the post but we talked to her doctor about Hospice last week. He told my mom that continuing treatment at this point would probably make her weaker faster than not treating the cancer. Each day it seems that she slips further from us mentally. It is so hard because just 2 weeks ago she was able to hold a normal conversation and do everything for herself and now we have to lift her up and down and she can't walk alone anymore. Her oncologist told her that if she were to feel a lot better in a couple of weeks after this last treatment that we could "fire" hospice and she could continue with treatments if she chose to. I am just so scared that she will not be able to live much longer.

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Mainchaser has a lot of negative in that post that I am not sure is correct.

JoR-I had WBR and am still ok after two years. If she had WBR, a Dr. should not recommend that again! I am not sure what kind of health your mom was in or age, but chemo and radiation can drain you. I like Karen did nothing but treat, work and sleep all the time. Good luck to you....

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Hello, My dad also diagnosed SCLC in Oct 08 and has had WBR and radiation to spine and shoulder. After WBR , he sleeps a lot more and has very low energy. He goes on Thursday for more radiation to his breast bone. He says that his fatigue is the worst for him and he gets really tired easily and feels he is wasting his days. He does not sleep well throught the night and gets up often but he says he sleeps better around 6-11 in the morning. I go every day and do his house work etc.. and to get him out every day, even to the shops, so his muscles don't ache and that a little exercise and fresh air does give him more energy. Is your mum depressed or bored? I know this can have an impact on sleeping? Is she eating a little and drinking lots? Any sickness, weight loss, breathlessness? Anemia is common and this causes tiredness etc. She may require a blood transfusion, my dad had one for Anemia and this made him feel better. I send all my love to you as I know what you feel and are going through.Julie

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