Cervical cancer/prescription pain killer addiction

My SIL, a lovely, vivacious woman, has morphed into a pseron I don’t recognize.

Last year, when she was still talking to us, she would occasionally casually mention taking a “Vicadin” or a “Percoset” (sp?) for a backache or a toothache. I asked her if she was kidding and she said no, but that she only took them on occasion, “as needed.” I told her to not mess around with things like that and she laughed and said she was kidding. But she made 3 separate references to it within a few months, so I became somewhat concerned.

Fast forward to Feb 04. She, uncharacteristically, looks like hell. She doesn’t return anyone’s phone calls anymore. Her face is all puffy, she’s gained weight, she’s short tempered. I call to check up on her and her daughter tells me that she’s in bed, and has been in bed all weekend. Apparently this is a trend for her. She goes out drinking on Friday nights and then stays in bed all weekend with “headaches.”

I finally tell Mr. Pundit to relay to his brother what my suspicions are, that she’s become addicted to pain meds. Everyone in the family is talking about the change in her appearance and personality. BIL snoops around, does find a vial of Vicadin and/or Percoset (sp?), and confronts her. She admits taking them, but then breaks down and says the reason she was taking them was because she has cervical cancer. (?) (!) Yes, she says, she has cervical cancer and that she didn’t want to tell him. She says the reason she’s laying in bed every weekend, and gaining weight and getting all puffy, is because she is taking chemotherapy pills on the weekend and they knock her out. The Vicadin is to alleviate the pain.

When this story is relayed to me, I was flabbergasted. She had cancer for months and didn’t tell her husband? She takes prescription pain medicine for cervical cancer (she says it’s “level 2”)? She is still out drinking and partying while she is undergoing chemo for cervical cancer? She went away to SanFrancisco for a week in January in the middle of cancer treatments?

Nothing seems to add up. However, while she’s been known to lie very easily, I cannot comprehend someone making up story about having cancer, esp to a man who lost his mother to cancer a few years ago! That just seems so diabolical.

So I don’t know what to think? Has anyone ever experienced either cervical cancer OR an addiction to pain medication? Her husband buys her story. But I still have a gut feeling that she is lying, as horrible as it sounds. Her entire personality has changed and it isn’t the melancholy that I’ve seen with other cancer patients. She alternates between being jealous and nasty to being zombified. But I just don’t know enough about either cancer treatments or vicadin addiction to know what to even look for.

Please pardon me for being blunt and feel free to demand an apology, but I have just had a little experience with someone who had a drug problem. If she is a drug addict, she’s capable of anything. She will lie about herself, lie about other people, lie about cancer, anything.

I’m not saying she doesn’t have cancer. I’m just saying that it’s a fact that no lie is too “diabolical” for a drug addict to tell. If that’s what it takes to cover their behinds, they’ll do it.

No matter what, I hope she is able to come out the other side. I wouldn’t wish illness or addiction on anybody. And I hope that whatever happens, it doesn’t drive you nuts. You’re primo Doper material!

Thanks, Kung. When your friend was addicted, what was she like? SIL is happy and bubbly when she arrives, but by 9 or 10pm is unrecognizable – tired and grumpy and mean to the kids.

I just don’t know how to approach this with her. Do you just ask bluntly if she’s addicted?

I just feel like she’s drowning, and while everyone is talking about how she’d fledgling, no one will put themselves out to help.

Sounds to me like she’s drugged when she arrives (not “jonesing”, IOW), but by 9 or 10, she’s getting into withdrawal stage (yes, when you’re addicted it happens that fast), and is getting bitchy because of it.

Sure, you could ask, but I’d be very surprised if you got an affirmative answer out of her. I have lots and lots of experience with addicts, and, IME, they have to go on for years before they’re ready for help (this is a generalization; when it comes to addiction, anyone’s MMV). But you could let her husband know that you are concerned, and want to do anything you can to help. In addition to programs like NA, there are related programs for the relatives of addicts, and the relatives are encouraged to participate, even if the addict is still using.

I second what Kung Fu Lola said about the lying: no lie is too terrible for an addict, if it means they get to keep using. I know a woman who is long-term addicted to narcotic painkillers, and, twice now, she’s talked her father into funding liver transplants for her. Now, she probably really does need a new liver, but both times, she’s used the money (a total of about $12,000) to drive all over the country, drug-seeking. She comes back with piles and piles of narcotics, and stays stoned all the time. It’s sad and ugly.

The good news is that people can and do recover from drug addiction. The bad news is, it can take a long time before they want to recover, and recovery without desire just isn’t possible!

You’ll be in my thoughts!

The BIL should offer to go with her to her next doctor’s visit. And when she say’s “That’s OK” he should insist. He should also check for insurance claims. Surely she isn’t going to the free chemo fair every weekend. It’s obviously none of my business, but if I were the BIL this is something I would not let go and take at face value even if I did not suspect she was taking drugs. If she does, in fact, have level 2 cervical cancer she needs help getting through it and may be too stubborn to ask for it.
If she doesn’t, well, that’s a whole new bag of worms and he needs to know that now too.

If she did have cancer ( or anything else wrong with her) wouldn’t there be a pile of incoming receipts and statements from the doctors office(s)?

I know this is a pain in the ass for treating a cold and the paperwork that just trickles in. Some are bills for what the insurance didn’t pay some are just statements whose only purpose are to clog up countertops. Something more serious than that, I would expect the mailbox to be stuffed to capacity.

There would be a paper trail. That would be my first inkling.

Also, if she does have cervical cancer and is taking chemo/radiation, wouldn’t she be more likely to be losing her hair and losing weight? Not being puffy.

Those are my first two thoughts.

Good luck.

Erratic mood swings are a pretty good indication of painkiller addiction. My brother has been an addict for years (vicodin, oxycontin, morphine, pretty much anything he can get his hands on) and the longer it goes on, the more he has to take to get high. He’s overdosed more than once. Once he took a handful of hydrocodone (“generic” vicodin - it’s the active ingrediant) and topped it off with Tylenol (or ibuprofen, I don’t remember which). He had a seizure and had to have his stomach pumped. He’ll kill himself one of these days.

He gets really mad if someone doesn’t help him; if he’s out of pills he’ll call for a ride to the ER for a shot (demoral, morphine, whatever they give him). He’ll call my mom* first, who lives in the same town. Then he’ll call me. I live 20 miles away from him and I have a son to dress and pack up everytime I leave. But I’m a cunt, and a bitch and completely worthless if I don’t drop everything and go over there right now. And I hate him for it. I hate my own brother.

Drug addiction is a bitch, it really is. The sad thing is, there’s not a whole lot you can do unless the person wants help. My brother doesn’t want help. I’m not sure he ever will. If the clinic denies a refill, he will intentionally hurt himself to get another bottle. He won’t admit to it, but I’m not stupid. His most popular claim is chronic back pain caused by… well, I don’t actually know what it’s caused by. He’s full of shit either way. He’s hasn’t claimed cancer yet, but I can’t say it would surprise me if he did.

*My mom has a valid prescription for vicodin (and soma, a muscle relaxer) for a valid medical condition. She also gets migraines, for which she has another pill. My brother harasses her constantly for these drugs and, again, she’s a cunt and a bitch and completely worthless if she doesn’t give him the medication that she really needs. She (finally, FINALLY!!!) told him if he comes to her house again, she will have him physically removed by the local police department. She won’t answer her phone if he calls, either.

I think his whole family will have to abandon him before he’ll realize what an ass he’s become. Sad thing is, I’m not entirely sure he’ll ever really see that.

Husband of a cancer doc checkin’in.

If she had cervical cancer, it’s etiher treateable, or palliative.

If it’s treateable, she would not need that level of pain control on a regular basis, and would likely be receiving radiation treatment form internal radiation sources or surgery, if it’s local , or chemo if it may have spread.

If it’s palliative, which sounds like what she is implying, and would require that level of pain control, then she would most definitely not be gaining weight.
(and would have gone through a couple of rounds of chemo).

This, from this perspective, does indeed sound like a lie from someone trying to mask an addiction.

Thanks for the advice. The kicker is that she has 3 young kids. She used to be nice, in fact overly nice to them, but lately she’s gotten short-tempered and mean. They’ll be at a party and the second she wants to leave, she WANTS. TO. LEAVE. She starts grabbing the kids and yelling at them, even pulling her older son by his ear to get to the van. I want to protect the kids but I don’t know what to do because I have no proof of anything. BIL and my husband both think she has cancer and that I’m being ridiculous, so I’m not getting any support there. When I ask Mr. Pundit who he’s known that has cancer that goes out drinking all the time, he doesn’t answer. He just can’t believe someone he loves and trusts can morph into someone who is so deceiving. He thinks it’s just none of my business. I see his point, but what about my nephews and niece? Are they none of my business?

If she gets into a wreck with those kids, I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive myself. If I confront her, I’m not sure she’ll ever forgive me. I sure wish there was some way I could know one way or another if what I suspect is true.

This sounds a lot like soneone starting to come down and needing a fix

Oh, PunditLisa you have my sympathy. It’s a difficult situation you’re in, especially with all the men in denial/someone-else’s-problem mode. The main dilemma I see here is that typically it takes a near catastrophic event to make folks break out of denial, and admit there’s a problem. If it weren’t for the kids, I’d say let her hit bottom on her own. The overrriding concern here has to be the safety of the kids. If you think she is at a stage where she could either neglect them severely or abuse them, then you should probably report her anonymously to the local child welfare authorities. If not, why not try to speak with her Dr. and see if he is receptive to your concerns. She/he won’t be able to give you any info about her medical condition, but she/he can investigate a little, if she/he gives a hoot, and maybe cut her off or switch to another non-narcotic prescription. (This is all assuming she really doesn’t have cancer. BTW, tell her MD she said she has cancer. If he/she acts surprised or confused, you’ve got another good clue she doesn’t have it.)

Remember you are doing a good thing. Even if those around you are indifferent, or tell you to MYOB, you are looking out for those kids. Also try contacting Al-Anon , they help families and friends of people with alcohol addiction, but I would suggest that the mechanics of addiction are very similar, and they would have more ideas and resources.

And there are always Dopers for support. {hug}

Oh, and if you happen to be of the inclination, pray. For your SIL, for the kids, and for guidance.

Could you call DFCS or Social Services for the kids? If she’s got a drug problem, even if it’s prescription drugs, they would be interested to know that, and if it’s valid treatment, she’ll have to document it. If it’s not, she’ll be forced to come clean. I know it would be opening up a huge can or worms, and it may not be woth it, but at least talk to an attorney about it. If it’s she and her husband, who are two adults, being affected, that’s one thing, but if her kiids are suffering, that’s another.

If you or your husband work or go to school, you may be eligible for free or low-cost short-term counseling. Through work, this is called an Employee Assistance Program. It is completely confidential/anonymous to the employer. It is administered through a 3rd party company like your health insurance, so your employer doesn’t know who uses the service. If you don’t know if this is available to you, your health insurance (especially if there is a separate Mental Health number) will probably know. The type of help provided includes short-term counseling and referrals to the right resources (social worker, medical, etc.).

That sounds a lot like my “friend”.

As for being the black sheep, maybe you could engage in a little fallacy. When you discuss this with Mr. Pundit and BIL, try emphasizing that the drugs are the problem, not SIL. Try talking to your husband as if you believe that she is being victimized by her addiction. This will keep him from going on the defensive, which is a natural reaction for a person to have when his family is “attacked”. It will have the added bonus of making his protective instincts kick in. If it works on your hub, try taking the same approach with BIL. Present your case based on concern for SIL, and back it up by saying; “Cancer is unlikely because of A,B, and C.” If you’re wrong, you can always say; “I was looking out for my SIL. Anyone can see she hasn’t been herself, and that worries me.” If I were you, (and I’m not, so just take this for what it’s worth), I wouldn’t mention anything about concern for the kids because it may make you seem hysterical.

Just my $ 0.02, IMHO, YMMV. Just throwin’ it out there in case it might help.

That’s right…toss some gasoline on the fire, why don’t ya? Being short-tempered or “mean” to your kids is not grounds to have them taken away. You’re going to compound this family’s problems a thousand fold by doing this. There are other ways to deal with the problem. Not every drug addict’s children need to be immediately plucked from the home and processed into the system. She has a husband, she is caring for the kids in some fashion, and the family doesn’t necessarily have to come unglued because she’s possibly abusing prescription drugs. You’re right. It probably wouldn’t be worth it, so why fuck up all these people’s lives?