What can I expect when my husband takes a break from chemo?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer (Non-Small Lung Cancer) in October, 2009. He just finished four chemo treatments and was overwhelmed with side effects. He felt that he wanted a break from chemo and his Oncologist gave him a vacation break for two months. I'm scared about the break in chemo, but, more scared about the dying process. I watched my mom pass away and it was the hardest thing I have ever experience. I just received got married to my husband on May 31, 2009 and there was no obvious signs to us that anything was wrong with him. But, he is a smoker and continues to take a puff here and there throughout the chemo treatments. What can I expect next since he is not on chemo now?

Expert Answer

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

I am so sorry that your husband and you received such sad news so soon after you were married.
Taking a vacation from chemo can often be necessary to give the person a break from the side effects and he/she will often feel better for a while. The question is what will happen to the cancer during that time. The cancer can grow even while the person is receiving chemo. It is likely that the cancer will grow while your husband takes a break, but it is important that your husband feel as strong as he can when he receives the chemo so that break can be necessary. It is important that you ask the oncologist or a nurse in his or her office about the dying process so that you can talk about it and gain some understanding. It is never easy but it can help to have some preparation for what may be coming.