All Topics → Forum: For Caregivers, Family, Friends and Supporters → Topic: We just found out my mom has cancer
Posted on: Nov 28, 2012 11:25AM
We just found out my mom who is 60 has breast cancer. I guess we are all shocked and sad. She has her first apt with a surgeon on friday. As a daughter I know i need to support her, but has anyone ever been through this what seemed to help the most. I just want to be there for her without being overbearing. I feel like this is something so foreign, I do not know whats next or whats going to happen. Does anyone have any advice on how to cope with all of this?!
Thank for for listening <3
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Dec 3, 2012 02:26AM Annson wrote:
***I thnk I may have overdone the writing; if you just want some quick tips from folks see the link all the day on the bottom. I went through the same think a few years back; mom is fine now :)
Short answer is: tough road, others have also done it [therefore, you're not alone], and lastly you, your mom and family can get through this.
My mother, Anne, was diagnosed twice in 5 months [12/2009 right breast DCIS and 05/2010 left breast 7 cm invasive ductal]. Needless to say that was a bit of a doozy. She is going on 3 years out from her initial diagnosis. She is fine, no lymphadema, no side effects from her antihormone pills she still on and she is more than able to pester me about giving her grandkids.
You are where I was three years ago. Put another way, I am where you will likely be in three years.
Here's my cliche/sage advice:
1. Stay calm, breast cancer, even at its most aggressive, takes a while to do its damage [think many months]. 5 year survival rates can be found here: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-survival-by-stage
2. Be there for your mom and TAKE A BREAK FOR YOURSELF. It's good you are being mindful about being overbearing because I began micromanage her psyche rather than let her play out the normal emotions: sadness, shock, depression denial, etc because of my own need to stay in control.
I actually went away for a weekend shortly after her second diagnosis for my own mental health. When I came back, no surprise, she was still alive, on this earth and had no problem scolding me for not doing laundry. She was in a better place having the time alone to find a new "normal" while I was able to interact with her on a human level rather than on a "we have to fix this now" level.
3. Stay on this site and other legit sites like susan komen, dr. love, ajcc, NIH, etc, etc. If you are a natural cynic like I am it's very easy to find the doom and gloomers and the unfortunate folks that fell between the cracks of the medical system. It is unforunate, it does happen and my heart goes out to them but it's best to be an optimist in your shoes.
4. Don't overdose on information from my post or anywhere else. There is not ultimately no right choice as no treatment option brings you down to zero risk. There is only what's right for your mom, i.e., how aggressive is she willing to go for 1% or 2% reduction in risk. Put another way, somepeople think having 10% is way too high of a risk while others think it's totally fine. Really depends on her personal tolerance for risk of the cancer coming back after treatment. [Don't assume you know, I was very surpised by my mother's threshold for risk]
5. There's a LOT of research on breast cancer with all sorts of possible wonder drugs. If the study has less than 200 patients and the drug hasn't been through a randomized clinical trial it's just wishful thinking until more data is out. Keep your eye on the current technology and options rather than hoping a miracle pill -- such ungrounded hopes gave me horrible escapism dreams and it got my really moody at one point.
6. See the link at the very bottom; when I asked for help there were many posters who had GREAT suggestions and practical tips.
Short timeline and options: Once diagnosed with DCIS or invasive disease, surgery is pretty much a gaurantee -- I hate that this is the current reality but it's where our current technology is. There are physicial and emotional side effects but in the end very survivable.
The surgeon may recommend taking both breasts, one breast or just a small section of one breast depending on tumor size and some other factors. The subsequent staging [tumor size and number of neighboring lymph nodes involved with cancer] will determine how much more you need to do after surgery, i.e., perhaps radiation, anti-hormone pills or chemo is needed.
There is a 20% chance of being pre-cancerous DCIS in which case surgery and with or without radiation are the usual options. Anything more is pointless overtreatment in the vast majority of cases.
66% chance she is stage I or II [http://ww5.komen.org/Diagnosis/DistributionOfCancerStagesPopulation.html]. The main distinction between stage I and II is nodal involvement with the former having no or only microscopic amounts of cancer in the node. While not 100% the survival rates in these stages are relatively high; again it's not 100% but we have to stay optimistic when we deal with stats lest you go over the emotional deepend.
Stage III and IV (~7% of cases) will require aggressive treatment [i.e. chemo and radiation if appropriate]. To be honest, the higher the stage the lower the number of people that make it to year five. That said, these are statistics not guarantees so take it for what it is -- they put you on a very large spectrum of risk and at least you know where you stand compared to other breast cancer patients.
Kudos for wanting to be there for your mom!! More than a few of my family members went into a full emotional shutdown when she told them.
PM me if you want to chat more; if nothing else it helps to vent.
I work in breast cancer for a biotech firm. Though I have a science background I won't pretend to have all the answers [nor am I an MD or PhD]. Hopefully I can at least provide some of the same support the wonderful ladies on this board gave me during my darker times.
I have personally gone through this whole ordeal with my mother [http://community.breastcancer.org/forum/69/topic/752837?page=1#post_1843342].
All the best,
Dec 3, 2012 01:15PM, edited Dec 3, 2012 01:17PM by SelenaWolf
I have both supported a mother with breast cancer, as well as had breast cancer myself. She was 74 when diagnosed and was just finishing up her five-years' follow-up when I was diagnosed at 50. My mother and I have talked about this issue quite alot - about how to support someone with cancer- and have come up with the following.
1) Listen. That's it. Just listen. In the beginning, we're not sure what we need from those we love and, since it's a confusing time filled with TONS of information coming at you really quickly, sometimes we are not looking for your opinion, comments or insight... we just want you to listen for now. When we're ready to hear what you think, we will ask.
2) Embrace- and accept the negative emotions. This is a period of shock, fear, anxiety, and anger, and having someone keep reminding you - with the best of intentions - that you need to stay positive makes you feel like - on top of everything else - your feelings aren't valid and you're going about it all wrong. Acknowledging negative emotions and their power doesn't have any impact on whether- or not you're going to survive this, but it does have an impact on how you are going to work through these emotions and resolve them as treatment progresses.
3) "Volatility" is our new middle name. We can- and do bounce emotionally all-over-the-map, sometimes dozens of times a day. We will go from calm and laughing, to weeping in a nano-second. Please do not take it personally. Just grab on and come for the ride. At some point, we'll come 'round.
4) Please, please, please, never say "... I understand what you are going through..." without using some sort of qualifier. Unless you've had cancer, you will never really understand, no matter how hard you try. But saying "... I understand that you are feeling frightened and struggling with feeling angry..." acknowledges feelings that we know you DO understand.
5) Ask before you "pink". Some of us really, really, really begin to hate anything pink or connected to the "Pink Ribbon", so - before you shower us with pink ribbons, pink t-shirts, pink socks, etc... - ask how we feel about it first.
"... good girls never made history ..."
Dec 4, 2012 11:25PM hydro wrote:
My wife was diagnosed in early June of this year. We don't have any relatives real close by, and we have relied on one another for pretty much everything, so not a lot of support, it has pretty much just been me in a lot of ways. I decided early on that I would go to every doctor appointment with her, no matter what it was for...oncologist/plastic surgeon/surgeon. An extra set of ears can help when you are facing something like this. You can be very helpful in this way. I found other ways to help too. But this can be draining. I am not super man by any means, and I have fallen apart many times. But you pick yourself up and try to be strong. And you will be - you get better at it. Pray. Pray some more. Pray again. Believe.
I decided early on to start writing about the whole experience - what my wife has gone through, and this did help me cope. I have had essentially no one to talk to, or lean on through this time, so expressing my thoughts about it was helpful, whether anyone happens upon it and reads it or not.
Share with others, and lean on them as you can, but be prepared for the times when you have no one to talk to, and know that at those times, you may cry harder than you have ever known. I think this is okay.
I left my blog address in another post on here, if you want to read it. I think my bracelet idea was a good idea for my wife. She got a new charm to put on her bracelet each time she went to chemo. Each charm represented something she likes/loves in her life. She just finished her last chemo infusion yesterday, and she made it through all of it pretty well. Next comes radiation.
Be strong. God bless you.