Elderly Mother and Skin Cancer

Last updated: March 2023

Hello All - I am the daughter of a 93 yr old mother who has invasive squamous cell carcinoma - diagnosed 2 yrs ago. My mother has had many Mohs surgeries and freezing procedures, as well as biopsies. She sees the dermatologist every 3 months now. She dreads each visit because she knows something will have to be done. She has spent a life-time in the sun, including Florida on the golf course almost every day without sun screen.

Our visit yesterday was a sad one. She has a squamous cell cancer on her lower right shin that needs a Mohs surgery. This spot is so difficult for my mother because she has a terrible time healing up after a Mohs in that spot. This is her second occurrence in the same area. Her legs have edema from congestive heart failure and nothing heals well in her lower legs and ankles. But when the doctor looked at the latest growth, she strongly recommended a Mohs surgery. It is black and irregular in shape. My mother looked at her and asked what would happen if she didn’t do anything? The doctor was surprised and tried to explain that the cancer may metastasize. My mother asked how long it would take for that to happen and the doctor said maybe 2 - 5 yrs. My mother said “Well I may not be here then, so I’m not going to worry about it.” The doctor was taken aback by her comment and offered her a topical cream that could be applied to handle this for now, but my mother declined. She said "I am just out-living my skin."

It was then that I realized that my mother is putting herself in palliative care. She is still of sound mind, so I had to respect her wishes. I am one to look for cures, but I realized we are not about that anymore with her. She backed it up by telling me she doesn’t want to see doctors anymore - not even her heart doctor because it doesn’t help and she is tired of doctor visits.

I keep a good eye on her everyday and am there if she is having trouble and needs medical attention. She is not depressed and is still interested in life. But what a moving day in so many ways.

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