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Topic: College Student Trying to Cope With Mothers New Diagnosis

Forum: Caring for Someone with Breast cancer —

A place to share your struggles and concerns about supporting and caring for a person you love diagnosed with breast cancer with others who understand.

Posted on: Oct 5, 2018 02:50AM

Mallory35201 wrote:

I am a 24 year old college student trying to cope with my mothers new diagnosis. Being a only child, I have a extremely close bond to my mother. A couple months back she started complaining about a lump in her breast with pain. We recently got her test results back and she had stage three breast cancer. Being that I am away at school I now find myself feeling extremely guilty because I am not physically there. Of course upon her telling me the news I've been a nervous wreck and my first thought was a life without her. I'm not a crier, but i found myself just breaking down in the shower or when I'm alone. I can't even remember a time when my mom was sick, shes always been a strong woman. So to now have to imagine her in a different state just tears me up. But at the same time I feel guilty for feeling the way I do because she is the one who needs me right now more than anything. I'm trying to go back home to visit as soon as possible, but I dont want to go home and stress her out because im emotional.

I'm open to anyone who can just give me advice on how to cope with the diagnosis but also in being a support system for my mom.

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Oct 5, 2018 06:42AM GreenHarbor wrote:

Mallory, I'm so sorry you and your mom are going though this. I was diagnosed this summer, and my emotions are all along the spectrum. Some days it's “this is just a small bump in the road, I can do this", some days I'm sad and weepy, some days I'm angry. A range of emotions for both of you is totally normal. I think you're wise to be trying to take care of yourself. The health center at your college probably has counselors you could talk to, or maybe an aunt, or one of your mom's good friends? I have found it really helpful to walk (almost) every day, and I have a yoga class that I love; is there a sport or activity you enjoy?It sounds like you and your mom are already a good support for each other! My advice to you both is to try and take things day by day and don't be afraid to ask the doctors lots of questions (that's what they're there for). When your mom is ready, she may find support here on BCO or at a support group in her town. You'll both be in my thoughts!

Dx 7/5/2018, IDC, Left, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 1, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (FISH) Surgery 8/23/2018 Lumpectomy: Left Hormonal Therapy 9/15/2018 Radiation Therapy 10/1/2018
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Oct 5, 2018 08:57AM - edited Oct 5, 2018 08:58AM by Runrcrb

mallory, as the mother in your situation please know that your mother is just as worried about you as you are about her. I highly recommend counseling to help you process this. Your mom's diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence; if it's a recent diagnosis, the next few months will be full of doctors, tests, waiting and planning treatments. It will feel awful because every interaction drives more questions. Hopefully if your relationship with your mom is as you describe, you can ask her the scary questions. If you are worried about her, tell her. You don't have to fake it for her and honestly it'll harder for her if you do. When you go home to visit, lean in and help around the house-dishes, food,straightening up. I know my kids always reverted to teenage years when they came back from college but not so much now. Notice the little things that need to be done and do them.

Dx 6/27/2016, IDC, Right, 1cm, Stage IIB, Grade 1, 4/10 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Dx 6/27/2016, ILC/IDC, Right, 2cm, Stage IIB, Grade 1, 4/10 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 9/21/2016 Lymph node removal: Right; Mastectomy: Right; Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Chemotherapy 10/31/2016 Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel) Radiation Therapy 2/8/2017 Whole-breast: Breast, Lymph nodes, Chest wall Hormonal Therapy 4/22/2017 Aromasin (exemestane) Surgery 12/12/2017 Reconstruction (right): DIEP flap
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Oct 5, 2018 09:23AM ksusan wrote:

The mix of feelings you're having in normal and understandable. Does your school have a student counseling center? You may be able to receive free or low-cost counseling to help support you and help you determine how best to help your mother.

Mutant uprising quashed. Dx 1/2015, IDC, Right, Stage IIA, 1/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Dx 1/2015, DCIS, Left, Stage 0, Grade 3, 0/2 nodes Hormonal Therapy Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) Surgery Lymph node removal: Sentinel; Mastectomy: Left, Right Radiation Therapy Whole-breast Chemotherapy Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel)
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Oct 5, 2018 09:24AM Leidy wrote:


I'm a Mom with stage 3C breast cancer. I was diagnosed in Feb 2015 and I'm still here, doing just fine, and there are lots of others who are stage 3 and doing fine, too. There is no doubt that your Mom is in for a crappy year, but she'll do whatever she has to do. Here are some things my daughter did that helped me so much: She sent me silly slippers (that I wore every day that year). She sent me love notes. She made me laugh. (It's okay to cry, too. It's hard for you.)

I'm so sorry you and she find yourselves in this situation, but you can appreciate each other even more than you might have, and say your love out loud every day. Breast cancer sucks, but it has made me and my daughter even closer than we were.

Hugs to you and your Mom,


Dx 2/6/2015, IDC, Right, 6cm+, Grade 2, 12/29 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2- Chemotherapy 3/2/2015 AC + T (Taxol) Surgery 8/18/2015 Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Left, Right; Prophylactic mastectomy: Left Radiation Therapy 9/26/2015 Whole-breast: Breast, Lymph nodes, Chest wall
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Oct 5, 2018 10:30AM Mallory35201 wrote:

Thank you, Tosca. I appreciate the kind words. I think once I get over the shock value of the news it’ll be okay. I was in panic mode but it’s refreshing to know there’s places like here you can get ins

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Oct 5, 2018 10:55AM TarheelMichelle wrote:

Hi Mallory, I’m Stage IV with a college age son. He is my only, and he’s lived with me since I divorced his father. My son and I are close. One thing that my son told me was hard for him to understand at first was that I wasn’t going to die right away. He literally didn’t know how treatment worked, and worried that one day I would just die suddenly. We both learned as we went along.

Some kids your age take the role of caregiver. They learn everything they can about the disease, go with their mom to doctor visits, help communicate health status to family and friends. Other kids focus on enjoying time with their mom, setting aside extra time for outings such as manicures/shopping/movies — whatever mom needs to take her mind off treatment. Because you are close to your mom, I believe you can easily talk about how you can best show your love.

Don’t feel guilty about being away at school, or being upset right now. Totally understandable. Your mom no doubt wants you to complete your education. Facetime helps bridge the distance. :-)

Best wishes to you and your mom.

Ronda - Extensive mets to lungs & bones. My life is Stage IV precious. Celebrating 8 years with Stage IV 12/2019 Dx 2/14/2008, IDC, Left, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 3/11/2008 Lumpectomy: Left; Lymph node removal: Left, Sentinel Radiation Therapy 4/17/2008 Dx 12/19/2011, Stage IV, metastasized to bone/lungs, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2- Hormonal Therapy 1/31/2012 Aromasin (exemestane) Hormonal Therapy 12/19/2012 Faslodex (fulvestrant) Hormonal Therapy 7/16/2013 Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) Surgery 4/24/2014 Reconstruction (left) Radiation Therapy 11/21/2014 External: Bone Targeted Therapy 11/17/2015 Afinitor (everolimus) Targeted Therapy 5/20/2016 Hormonal Therapy 6/1/2016 Femara (letrozole) Targeted Therapy Ibrance (palbociclib) Hormonal Therapy Faslodex (fulvestrant)
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Oct 5, 2018 01:15PM mlc96 wrote:

I'm also a mom of a college freshman who goes to school 3 hours away. I'm stage 4 and was on maintenance treatment, so when he left in August I was "fine" My Pet scan in September showed some new tumors growing and I just started chemotherapy again. I told him that he does not have to worry about me, I'm strong, have been through chemo before, and the best way he can help me is to do well in school. I've also told him he can visit the college health center as they can provide counseling. I'm sure your mother would say the same thing to you. Send her funny cards and regular email/texts.

Dx 4/26/2012, IDC, Right, 6cm+, Stage IIIC, metastasized to bone, Grade 3, 0/8 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2+ Targeted Therapy 7/10/2012 Herceptin (trastuzumab) Surgery 11/1/2012 Mastectomy: Right; Prophylactic mastectomy: Left; Reconstruction (left): Tissue expander placement; Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Radiation Therapy 1/26/2013 Whole-breast: Chest wall Dx 12/22/2016, IDC, Right, 6cm+, Stage IV, metastasized to bone, Grade 3, ER+/PR+, HER2+ Chemotherapy 1/4/2017 Taxol (paclitaxel) Targeted Therapy 1/5/2017 Herceptin (trastuzumab) Hormonal Therapy 4/30/2017 Femara (letrozole) Chemotherapy 11/18/2018 Navelbine (vinorelbine)
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Oct 5, 2018 02:15PM Spookiesmom wrote:

My daughter is older than you and working. Lives about 20 min from me, but is a teacher with 2 young kids. So not a lot of free time.

The best thing she did, hands down, was a daily text. How ya doing? How ya feeling? Today I’m going to........

I miss the daily contact

Reoccurrence 3-19. Dx IDC, Stage IIIA, Grade 3
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Oct 6, 2018 01:08PM - edited Dec 17, 2018 06:16AM by WC3


Having been a college student, and going through chemotherapy now, I can tell you, if I had a kid in college, I would want them to focus on their classes and not stress about me. I would worry a lot about my kid not being able to get on their feet in life, particularly if they were an only child, and my priority would be my child's success.

But if your mother is different or has stage IV cancer and has been given a short life expectancy and you want to maximize your time with her or are so wracked with worry you just can't concentrate, then it might be better to drop your classes or take incompletes in them to take a leave of abscence to visit your mother rather than continue along poorly in them.

You can speak with your academic counselor about the academic aspects.

After my diagnosis I spent about a month just having consultations and additional testing before starting chemo, and personally if I had a kid in college, I wouldn't want them to interrupt their studies or come home for either.

Pathologic complete response (pCR) to chemotherapy. Dx 2018, IDC, Left, 3cm, Grade 3, ER+/PR+, HER2+ (FISH) Chemotherapy 5/31/2018 Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxotere (docetaxel) Surgery 11/14/2018 Lymph node removal: Left, Sentinel; Mastectomy: Left, Right; Reconstruction (left): Tissue expander placement; Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Hormonal Therapy Arimidex (anastrozole), Zoladex (goserelin) Targeted Therapy Perjeta (pertuzumab) Targeted Therapy Herceptin (trastuzumab) Hormonal Therapy Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) Surgery Reconstruction (left): Silicone implant; Reconstruction (right): Silicone implant
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Oct 6, 2018 01:33PM Peregrinelady wrote:

When I was diagnosed, my daughters were 18 and 19 and my main concern was how this diagnosis affected them. I wanted them to continue their lives as normal and be happy even though my world was falling apart.
Dx 4/24/2015, IDC, Left, 2cm, Stage IIB, Grade 2, 1/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 5/18/2015 Mastectomy: Left Hormonal Therapy 6/1/2015 Liquid tamoxifen (Soltamox) Surgery 4/18/2016 Mastectomy: Right; Prophylactic ovary removal; Reconstruction (left): DIEP flap; Reconstruction (right): DIEP flap Hormonal Therapy 7/31/2016 Arimidex (anastrozole) Hormonal Therapy 7/20/2020 Femara (letrozole)
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Oct 6, 2018 06:57PM edwards750 wrote:

So sorry Mallory for you and your Mom. I was a Mom of a college student when I was DX 7 years ago. He was my only child at home. I echo what the other Moms have advised about staying in school. I wanted that for my son too. He was extremely emotional and scared. He had friends who lost their mothers to cancer. I kept my game face on as best I could despite being scared myself.

Fast forwarding to now he has graduated from college and I am 7 years out.

Just remember your Mom loves you and wants what’s best for you. Some of the suggestions about texts, phone calls and special gifts are great ideas.

However, if you don’t think you can handle school right now it’s understandable. Do whatever you need to do. You are a very loving daughter.

Keep us posted and keep the faith.

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Oct 8, 2018 05:20AM lacrimosa wrote:


I understand you completely. When my mother diagnosed with breast cancer 3 months ago I was losing my mind. You can see my panic on the old posts I had in here. Believe it or not, you get used to everything. Looking back to those 3 months, I realize how much I changed my perspective on mum's diagnoses. It's not easy. It has ups and downs but it does get better. Everybody focus on patient's needs but as caregivers and families, we feel that burden as much as they do. In some cases even more because we feel like we need to keep them happy. My suggestion is very simple. Let the pain happen. Cry if you feel like it. Embrace the journey you guys gonna experience. Support your mother as much as you can. Share your fears with your friends or share with us. You don't have to be strong all the time. But I assure you, it will pass and soon you feel better about it. Love all the way from

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Oct 25, 2018 10:01AM Mallory35201 wrote:

Sorry for the late reply. Thanks you guys for all the support. I utilized the counseling services at my university and it has been a breath of fresh air. Today I went to my first chemo session with my mom and the tumor has already gotten smaller. I thought I would be emotional but I’m just taking things day by day. Ive found that going to the gym helps with keeping me occupied. I appreciate all of you guys kind words and I probably would have never thought to go to the therapy sessions without you

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Oct 25, 2018 11:21AM - edited Oct 25, 2018 11:25AM by santabarbarian


In a way it may be great for your Mom that you are in school, heading toward your dreams, and having fun... not steeped in "cancer!" but enjoying your life!! During treatment some of us really like to hunker down and sleep and it can feel relieving to be alone when sick... you can support her from afar, and it will feel very meaningful to her!

My kids live far from home and the youngest is in college. Here is what my young adult children have done that is very helpful and comforting. They have kept track of my chemo days and I get little texts of love emojis and words of encouragement on chemo days. Little letters in the mail. One of my son's ex girlfriends sent me an author signed book (which secondarily told me that my son had talked to her about my diagnosis and that made me feel loved). My youngest offered to shave his head w me. (I said hell no!) My 27 year old came out to help me for one chemo week, and stayed a second week just to hang out, and it was beautiful to see him in a paternal, nurturer role. They have sent me poems, books, and links to things I might want to watch or read. They have expressed how much they love me and admire my resilience. My daughter sent me scarf head wrap ideas. They (and their nonexistent unborn children) are my major reason for living -- and having a reason for living is a huge, huge boost. I love seeing their instagram fun, and knowing their lives are full! I love that they keep on living their lives but are paying attention to me and my situation too.

Speaking for myself, it has not bothered me at all when my kids have cried, been sad, or felt scared in my presence. I have had friends go through cancer-- and I was scared to lose them, sad for them, sad for me.... those are very normal feelings when anyone you love is ill or suffering. So you do not have to be a mask of iron strength to be a very firm and meaningful support. Your main support is "I love you Mom." Tears can be part of love, and hugely comforting. Show your Mom that the love and the connection between you is deep and strong. You sound like a very caring daughter and that is absolutely the best thing you can be for your mom.

pCR after neoadjuvant chemo w/ integrative practices; Proton rads. Dx 7/13/2018, IDC, Left, 3cm, Stage IIB, Grade 3, ER-/PR-, HER2- (FISH) Chemotherapy 8/13/2018 Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxotere (docetaxel) Surgery 12/27/2018 Lumpectomy: Left Radiation Therapy 2/11/2019 Whole-breast: Breast, Lymph nodes
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Dec 15, 2018 11:04PM Stephvirginia wrote:

Hi Mallory,

I am also a 24 year old college student that never thought I would be seeking for advice in consoling myself after finding out my Mom and best friend has breast cancer. I found out last week, and it's been pretty hard to function ever since that call. I am right with you when you say you feel guilty for being away, it's horrible. As I know we're both suffering from confusion, shock, anger and so much more, I've tried to stay positive; for myself, my family and my mom, especially. As bad as I don't want to get up in the morning, rather lay in bed and sulk, you can't. When you explain what's going on to your friends/boyfriend/girlfriend, it's hard to convey to others how you're feeling. I totally don’t know how to feel, I am in the same boat as you are right now.

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Dec 16, 2018 09:43AM Janetanned wrote:

Hi Mallory and Steph,

I have experience from both sides of the mom/daughter cancer situation. As a young college student (1975), I watched my mom battle cancer. It was a different time then and the C word was never talked about. My mom thought she was sheltering me and my sister by never mentioning her disease. We watched her go through treatment, loose her hair, and care for her radiation wounds. We were terrified and never knew what to say. Nobody wanted to talk about it and we never knew how she was doing or what her prognoses was until we were told that she had months to live. I'll never forget that fear and sadness. Fast forward 30+ years and I found myself in the same situation. My children were in their 20's when I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. I decided to be very honest with them and promised them that I would keep them informed along the way with any new issues or concerns. If I said I was okay, then they should relax and believe me. It has been very helpful to keep the communication flowing. For my daughter especially I encouraged her to talk freely about my experience and her feelings. I know she has her own fears about her future health, so I was tested for all of the known mutations. None were found so she has less to fear.

I highly recommend frequent honest communication. Let your mom know how much you want to know about her condition and let her know that you are available to talk (if you are) when she needs an ear to bend. My daughter was attending a college in the same city I received treatment in so she would meet me for each chemo session. She would pick up coffee and a bagel and spend the morning in the chemo suite. She really helped me get through each session. And it wasn't all doom and gloom. She told how school was going and kept me updated on the antics of her ridiculous roommate. The time was spent well and I think she felt better seeing that chemo wasn't that bad. Maybe you could help your mom with some treatment issues like choosing a wig or buying scarves. My daughter and I made the wig buying an outing. We actually had fun. She has all the fashion sense, so she choose the perfect wig for day to day work and a sassy wig for weekends. While we didn't talk every day, we did exchange texts fairly regularly. It helped me to know that she thought about me. I would suggest keeping some regular communication going.

I think the most important thing for your mom is that you are doing okay. She wants you to be successful and to enjoy college life. Tell her about your life and about the fun things you are doing. Take care of yourself. If you need to talk to a professional, by all means do it! I'm a strong believer in seeking professional help when needed (I did at the end of active treatment).

I am 7 years out from my diagnoses and am doing fine. My daughter and I have a fairly good relationship (she just moved home from NYC after a job change) and life has gotten back to normal. Life does go on and it can be pretty close to normal, even after a stage 3 diagnoses. Keep positive and take care of yourself!

Janet 11/10/11 BMX/DIEP reconstruction, 1/6/12- 4 AC DD followed by 4Taxol DD, followed by 33 rads, 10yrs hormone blocker Dx 10/11/2011, ILC, <1cm, Stage IIIA, 4/30 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Dec 16, 2018 06:24PM Mallory35201 wrote:

Hello Steph,

I’m so sorry you’re going through this, I completely know what you’re going through. If I can give you any advice I would say that counseling has helped me the most. I didn’t leave my room or eat for like three days and I was so out of it I didn’t realize I did until my roomate noticed none of my food had been touched in the fridge. It’s a process and I won’t even lie to you. 3 months in and I’m still trying to maneuver all these different emotions I get. I can’t watch certain movies anymore and some songs make me immediately cry, but my relationship with my mom is stronger than ever. Last night we literally stayed up till 1 watching funny church videos and she enjoyed it. Just the little things will mean the most to your mom right now. I promise you.

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Dec 18, 2018 03:31PM Stephvirginia wrote:

Hi Mallory!

I’m so happy you replied! I’m seeing my therapist this week, I’m hoping she can give me some good coping methods/advice. I hope you and your mom are able to enjoy each others company during the holidays!

I have found myself really being mad at the world lately, things that have never made me mad thave been making me so angry. I don’t know if it’s just my emotions or just stress. Have you felt this way?

Breaking down crying out of no where has become a very common occurance. I feel like I’m being so weak but I can’t help of thinking of the months to come. 😭.

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Jan 7, 2019 12:24PM santabarbarian wrote:

Hope you girls got some good Mom-time over break. Thinking of you.

pCR after neoadjuvant chemo w/ integrative practices; Proton rads. Dx 7/13/2018, IDC, Left, 3cm, Stage IIB, Grade 3, ER-/PR-, HER2- (FISH) Chemotherapy 8/13/2018 Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxotere (docetaxel) Surgery 12/27/2018 Lumpectomy: Left Radiation Therapy 2/11/2019 Whole-breast: Breast, Lymph nodes
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Feb 5, 2019 05:26PM longwinter wrote:

Hi Steph and Mallory, I was just wondering how you are both doing? My mother was just diagnosed last week. I'm 29 and her only daughter and only child living nearby. I feel really helpless right now on how exactly I can help her. 

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Feb 5, 2019 07:22PM Mallory35201 wrote:

First and foremost, I would like to say I'm sorry you're going through this situation. I know exactly how you feel and I won't lie it's gonna be tough. One thing my therapist told was to don't think to much about the future, because whenever I did I automatically started to envision a life without her simply because like so many when you hear something like that thats your first thought. Cherish these moments and trust me the simplest things will mean the most to your mom at this point. Phone calls and video chats can go a long way during this time period. But don't forget to take care of yourself. The last thing your mom wants is you getting sick. If you need to cry, CRY. Even if it's the ugliest cry. Nobody will judge you. And if you think they would go to the bathroom and let it out. This is tough. I still find myself getting overwhelmed sometimes around chemotherapy time or whenever she doesn't answer my phone calls right away.Therapy really helped me so much and even if you can't go having and surrounding yourself with people who care and genuinely care to listen can help.

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Feb 5, 2019 07:23PM Mallory35201 wrote:

Hey Stephanie

Just checking to see how therapy and everything is going. hope everything is going well

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