Seeking resources for friend with metastatic prostate cancer
June 10, 2015 11:08 AM   Subscribe

I am seeking resources for a 60 year old friend in difficult circumstances who has just been diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer. It is unclear what medical resources may be available. It is unclear at this early point just what or whether any treatment options are available to him or what his projected time to live may be. I am trying to learn of services that might be available locally or online.

A 60 year old friend in difficult circumstances has recently been diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer.

I am seeking resources for friend with metastatic prostate cancer. He has a difficult life with multiple problems. He lives on a remote farm in Oregon in a trailer, where he is the sole caregiver for his mother who is deteriorating with Alzheimer's. His employment history (in construction) has been spotty, with only limited education, although he is fairly bright. He has a history of substance abuse, mainly alcohol, and unknown miscellaneous other drug use. It is unclear what medical resources may be available. It is unclear at this early point just what or whether any treatment options are available to him or what his projected time to live may be. He just received the diagnosis and is dazed and angry and probably drinking and not particularly communicative. He does have a sister who is currently visiting and may help get him connected to support services. Otherwise he seems mostly socially disconnected.

I am seeking resources that might be of help to him. My first thought is AA, and I am also trying to learn of other services that might be available locally or online. Hivemind, any thoughts of how to help?
posted by SamFrancisco to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
Best answer: Don't tell him about AA. Every alcoholic knows AA exists. This is not the time.

Talk with his sister and ask her if there is anything concrete you can do. I know you want to help, but doing little things like sending cards and food and small gifts to make him smile are probably the most helpful right now. Presenting him with a big list of people and organizations to contact is only going to seem like a lot of impossibly difficult work. If you want to research on your own and collect information in case he ever asks for it, that's one thing, but please don't bombard him with a big To Do list right now.
posted by something something at 11:14 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify: His name is Bob. He is the former brother-in-law of a close friend of mine, Jack. I am posting for Jack and don't know Bob personally, so technically Bob is a friend of a friend.
posted by SamFrancisco at 11:16 AM on June 10, 2015

Does he have health insurance or Medicaid coverage? It seems like the most pressing thing is to sort out his medical status. It would be good for his sister to go with him to the doctor as she can help listen to, process and understand the treatment options, prognosis, etc. He should be able to apply for Medicaid retroactively if he doesn't have other coverage, and the hospital social work department should be able to help with that process. They may also be able to help sort out some of the other issues in terms of what care his mother will need, etc.
posted by goggie at 11:41 AM on June 10, 2015

Agreed that this is not the time for AA or anything that addresses tangential issues. His main issue is the metastatic cancer. Focus on that. If he wants cancer treatment, talking with the hospital where he got diagnosed is the first place to go. If he wants more information, he needs to speak with the diagnosing doctor about options and also speak with their social worker and investigate both charity-paid options as well as getting registered with whatever publicly-funded medical insurance he may be eligible for. Offer help directly, speak with the sister, but then leave it alone if your help isn't requested.
posted by quince at 11:43 AM on June 10, 2015

If he doesn't have health insurance this is where he needs to go.

It looks like there is some fast track option.
posted by mareli at 12:04 PM on June 10, 2015

If this is his first PC diagnosis, then he can be treated with hormone therapy. That usually stalls the disease for three or four years. A friend with PC was also given chemo, bit I don't know anything about that. I suggest you look up the Brady Institute at Johns Hopkins on the web. They have as much PC info on line as anyone.

There is a feeling that diet matters a lot for the patient's feeling of well-being. Helping him to have fresh fruits and veggies would be a plus.

Any good urologist and/or hospital can do for him just about anything a big research or teaching hospital can do. I wouldn't want a doc older than about 50 though.

One more thing. Its possible his DX was occasioned by bone pain. If so, make sure he gets the pain meds he needs.
posted by SemiSalt at 12:24 PM on June 10, 2015

There are good treatment options for even metastatic prostate cancer. If he is being treated at a cancer center, they will undoubtedly have social workers who can assist him with insurance, coordination of services, etc. This would probably be a good opportunity to get him connected with additional resources for his mother as well. can be helpful with that.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:33 PM on June 10, 2015

Does he have health insurance? If not, is he on Medicaid? Oregon is one of the states that includes childless adults in its Medicaid plan, so if Bob is not on Medicaid, he should look into applying. Depending on his work history, he may be eligible for Social Security disability under compassionate allowance. If his work history is not sufficient, he may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and/or food stamps.

Bob should get in touch with a social worker at the hospital where he is being treated - that person ought to have resources to help him. He can also contact the American Cancer Society and the Prostate Cancer Foundation to see what help/guidance they can offer.

To help Bob's mom - the Alzheimer's Association might be able to help. Bob and his sister can also look through this website with links to services for aging and disability issues - I don't know where in Oregon he is located but this website ought to help them with aging and disability services in their area.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:30 PM on June 10, 2015

My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer five years ago. At first they thought it was just confined to his prostate, so they removed that. When the numbers kept going up after the radical prostatectomy they tried hormone therapy and radiation. He's been in remission now for 2 or 3 years. So ... radiation and hormone therapy do work.

One thing that helped me a great deal was the Prostate Cancer Forum over on the American Cancer Society's site.

Another thing that helped my dad were support groups and yoga sessions aimed towards cancer patients. Now, my dad is an air force vet, spent his childhood on a huge cattle ranch, loves restoring his classic car .... you would think that he would never do yoga. But he did, and it helped him a great deal. The support groups were hit-and-miss, because sometimes you'd have very sad (understandably) people who would monopolize the group with their tales of woe. But he could try one out and see how it worked. It sounds like building a bigger support network would be beneficial to him.
posted by Ostara at 2:02 PM on June 10, 2015

Best answer: The American Cancer Society's call center is set up exactly for people in Bob's and your situation. Bob can call 1-800-227-2345 and say, "I've been diagnosed with cancer - what now?" and they can just start from there. Or you can call and say "My friend has been diagnosed with cancer - what now?" Their people are trained to help patients, family, caregivers, and a range of others. Just let them drive. They have access to a wide range of information, programs, and resources and they do this all day every day - helping people navigate this process.

They send out free information. For example, while he can get these things on their site, maybe he's not internetty, or maybe he'd rather have it in hand on paper - but (at least as of last check a number of years ago) they can send him basically the prostate cancer overview that tells him all about all aspects of the disease, the treatment, the side effects, how to live with it, how to adjust, the outlook, questions to ask, things to do, etc.

Additionally, they can localize recommendations for programs and assistance resources, whether it be rides to treatment, a place to stay while being treated out of town, support groups, aid groups, and lots of other stuff.

It's a great service. You shouldn't feel weird about calling either, because not only does nobody know what to do in the shock of a cancer diagnosis, the rest of us don't know what to do either if we're family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers. What are we supposed to say? What are we supposed to do? How can/should we help? How do we deal with it ourselves? Anybody connected to the cancer experience (including those wanting to avoid it) can call 24 hours a day.

If you called up and gave them the synopsis of his situation, they could give you some ideas on local resources to get the ball rolling and you could pass that info along, including calling up himself or his sister doing it. You might want to leave it to him or his family to order him any of their literature, but you can sort of survey the field by talking to ACS and get some good starting points.
posted by Askr at 2:04 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

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