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MaryLennox
07-03-2019, 11:02 PM
I have a character who is a woman, around 60. She is relatively healthy until she finds out she has a terminal illness. She can find out because she was having pain and went to the doctor, or just through a routine examination. I feel like cancer is the obvious choice, but I would need a speficif cancer. She is still living at home (by herself) in the first few months after diagnosis, when she has a fall. I was thinking she would break her hip, because it would need to be something serious where she would end up permanently hospitalized and she knows she's nearing her end. She passes away about a month after the fall. From the initial diagnosis and the character passing away, only three months have passed.

I feel fortunate that I've never lost anyone close to me to cancer, but that means I don't know how fast things can progress and what's involved with chemotherapy.

I'm looking for a specific cancer (or other possible illness) and any specific information about the treatment. The timeline of three months is not set in stone, but it would need to be close to that.

Thank you.

lizmonster
07-03-2019, 11:05 PM
Pancreatic cancer. It's notoriously fast. My friend's dad lived about 6 weeks after his diagnosis. My grandfather lived a bit longer (and actually died of pneumonia in the hospital). Both were in their early 60s.

pharm
07-03-2019, 11:06 PM
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect and often caught late enough that a survival prognosis is only a few months to a year. Treatment is possible (chemo and the like), but recovery at that point is unlikely.

eta. Oh, already scooped.

Maryn
07-03-2019, 11:59 PM
For the record, at 60 she probably doesn't have enough bone loss for a simple fall to break a hip. I'm well past that and my bone density is still excellent. If you need her hospitalized and bedridden, maybe something less fragile and feeble, like a car accident?

Coddiwomple
07-04-2019, 12:11 AM
I'm going to third the pancreatic cancer. My FIL died I think two months after diagnosis. He had pain in his calf from what turned out to be a blood clot caused by the cancer. Maybe a blood clot could cause the necessary hospitalization for your character? It was the initial symptom for my FIL, though. He did spend the last few weeks in the hospital, but that was from the rapid nose-dive of his condition and the need for pain meds. There really was no time for a longer-term setup. As lizmonster said, it's wicked fast.

edited to add: He was in his early sixties

MaryLennox
07-04-2019, 12:30 AM
Thank you for your suggestions! It's all very helpful. It definitely gives me a starting point to research more on my own.

benbenberi
07-04-2019, 12:57 AM
For rapid death, pancreatic cancer is definitely the one to choose. It's notorious for its quick progression from initial diagnosis to death because, although it tends to be a rather slow-growing tumor, it typically produces no symptoms at all till very late in the game. My mom died about 3 months after diagnosis; her only prior symptom (what sent her to the gastroenterologist in the first place) was vague but persistent digestive malaise. She was mostly ok for the first couple of months after they spotted it in a CT, then went downhill quickly.

I have also known people who died pretty quickly (3-4 months) from unexpectedly aggressive bladder and colon cancers that were also discovered at an advanced stage, too late for surgery or chemo to do any good. GET YOUR COLONOSCOPIES, PEOPLE!!!!

If you want a fall, consider something like bone cancer, or metastatic breast cancer with bone metastases -- spontaneous fractures of important bones is sometimes the first sign of something seriously wrong.

Alternatively, what sends her into the hospital for that last month may be something much less dramatic than a fall. My mom ended up hospitalized for diarrhea & dehydration brought on by some of her meds, and after that for an abdominal infection probably introduced by procedures she had to reduce tumor-related fluid build-ups, which required surgical intervention.

hester
07-04-2019, 01:00 AM
Ovarian cancer. Vague symptoms, difficult to detect in its early stages. There's also uterine cancer (which can reveal itself through post-menopausal bleeding, but doesn't always. A neighbor of my in-laws passed away from uterine cancer in her mid-sixties).

Spy_on_the_Inside
07-09-2019, 01:12 AM
Acute pancreatitis would work as well. It can be preceded by prolonged alcohol and drug use, but it can also come on very suddenly, like a gallstone passing and becoming loaded in the panaceas duct. Death is usually caused by multi-system organ failure following.

neandermagnon
07-09-2019, 10:57 PM
For the record, at 60 she probably doesn't have enough bone loss for a simple fall to break a hip. I'm well past that and my bone density is still excellent. If you need her hospitalized and bedridden, maybe something less fragile and feeble, like a car accident?

It depends on someone's medical history. You can get osteoporosis in your 20s or 30s with certain major risk factors in the background. Having too little body fat (below 19% in women) is a risk factor, especially if it's caused menstruation to stop or become irregular (it's the drop in oestrogen levels that causes loss of bone density, which is why it's also an issue after the menopause). Also, undereating is a risk factor too (separate to the low body fat %) because protein and calories are important for strengthening bones and maintaining bone strength, not just calcium and vitamin D. Sadly, some women have had osteoporosis in their 20s as a result of eating disorders.

Also, lack of exercise is another factor, particularly weight bearing exercise. The skeleton is dynamic, just like muscles. Exercise that strengthens muscles also strengthens bones (assuming sufficient protein, calorie, calcium and vitamin D intake). Lack of exercise will weaken the skeleton, even if you eat all the right things. Although if you chronically under-eat and over-exercise that's also going to weaken the skeleton as it won't have the necessary building blocks to strengthen itself. Osteoporosis and osteopenia* in athelets is a thing because of this. Female athletes are more at risk, in particular when menstruation stops being regular due to overtraining/undereating - often because lots of people underestimate the energy needs of female athletes so they don't get the right dietary advice.

*Osteopenia is where there's a loss of bone density but not severe enough to be osteoporosis yet (though it's a warning sign).

So anyway, if the character's in her 60s and in spite of being slender has always been on one kind of diet or another and never done much exercise (or has combined exercising with undereating) I'd find it plausible she could break her hip from a fall.

TheListener
07-10-2019, 03:06 PM
I have a character who is a woman, around 60. She is relatively healthy until she finds out she has a terminal illness. She can find out because she was having pain and went to the doctor, or just through a routine examination. I feel like cancer is the obvious choice, but I would need a speficif cancer. She is still living at home (by herself) in the first few months after diagnosis, when she has a fall. I was thinking she would break her hip, because it would need to be something serious where she would end up permanently hospitalized and she knows she's nearing her end. She passes away about a month after the fall. From the initial diagnosis and the character passing away, only three months have passed.

I feel fortunate that I've never lost anyone close to me to cancer, but that means I don't know how fast things can progress and what's involved with chemotherapy.

I'm looking for a specific cancer (or other possible illness) and any specific information about the treatment. The timeline of three months is not set in stone, but it would need to be close to that.


Thank you.

Pancreatic cancer. It spreads rapidly and not easily detected. No cure.

acute myelogenous leukemia. Progresses rapidly, more serious in those over 65. No cure. Bone pain.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Fever and weight loss. No cure.

Hope these help.

MadAlice
07-10-2019, 09:16 PM
I'm going to 7th (or so) pancreatic for reasons above. For what it's worth though, my grandmother had gallbladder (of all things) cancer that wasn't caught until it had spread too far, even with all her regular doctor visits. From diagnosis they gave her a year, but she was gone in a couple months.

WeaselFire
07-13-2019, 01:15 AM
Breast, lung, pancreatic, ovarian... Any cancer can have that prognosis if detected late. Small cell lung cancer is often detected at about her age and progresses very quickly. Pancreatic is rarely detected early so it fits the timeline. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and ovarian cancers can be mistaken for other issues until too late. Many doctors miss forms of leukemia since it really takes specialized tests to determine and the only real easy symptoms and tests look like any basic infection. Mesothelioma is as deadly as pancreatic cancer and brain stem glioma is always fatal.

Jeff