Alcoholic mom has breast cancer.

My mom is currently in a 13 month long rehab program to treat her alcoholism. She was just diagnosed with stage IIIA breast cancer a few weeks ago.

She undergoes her first round of chemo tomorrow. My fear is that she will abuse the prescription painkillers they will give her for pain after the chemo. She was also diagnosed with the beginning stages of cirrhosis of the liver before entering rehab.

Will the chemo further damage her liver?

I’m so worried that she won’t stay sober during this very difficult time. Cancer is hard enough, but dealing with it while recovering from addiction I fear will be too much for her.

Chemo may not be affected by alcohol

by: Ned Wicker

Alcohol use does not necessarily interfere with chemo, but in the case of an alcoholic it interferes with everything and complicates treatment.

Your mother’s oncologist needs to know this information, so call him and make sure he has a complete medical picture. I am hoping the cirrhosis diagnosis is part of her oncology file. The cancer staff will know what to do. Surprisingly, however, many people hide medical conditions, even from doctors.

Several years ago I served as chaplain to a medical/respiratory intensive care unit at a large urban hospital. I was shocked to learn that alcohol played a part in 75% of the cases on that unit, and so often the staff had to deal with the alcohol before they could administer treatment for other medical conditions. That’s what I mean about complications.

Because of her substance use disorder, the doctors need to be careful about her pain management, as an alcoholic is already in serious jeopardy of developing a problem with the pain meds. When there are issues relating to pain management, people are often encouraged to learn about alternative treatments.

For example, I have a friend who is living with cancer and has for the last 11 years. He has a prescription for an opiate, but has been practicing meditation. Some mornings he does not take the pain medication because his meditation has been effective. Other mornings, he takes his meds as prescribed.

Research, according to Dr. Calton Erickson of the University of Texas, has shown that medication can have the same affect on the brain as an opiate. This is an interesting development.

The important thing is to have that open and honest relationship with the medical team, so there is an understanding that the alcoholism is a factor.

I pray that your mom can handle her treatment and not relapse. My friend also shared with me something rather profound. He said, “I can chose how to feel about HOW I feel.”

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