Five things you can do for your mom fighting cancer

Last week, I covered ten things you can do for yourself when your mom has cancer.

This week, I’ll be shifting the focus and discussing things you can do for them.

As I mentioned in my first post, cancer is a battle you fight together. When someone in your life has cancer, they need your love and support to help them fight – and win.

From a daughter’s perspective, here are five things you can do for your mom (or loved one) fighting cancer:

1. Spend time with them

I cannot stress enough how important it is to spend quality time with your loved one when they have cancer. Cancer is so unpredictable; anything can happen, so you need to make the most out of the time you have together. They also don’t want to be thinking about their cancer 24/7, so it’s important to help them take their mind off it. These are some things my mom and I do together:

  • Watch a movie
  • Take our dog for a walk
  • Go shopping
  • Go out for breakfast

Pro-tip: when your mom has cancer, all the little things count.

2. Lend a hand around the house

You know how you get symptoms when you have a cold? Imagine having cancer symptoms – they’re a million times worse (will discuss this further in future posts). There’s going to be days where they’re in substantial pain or have low energy, and that’s where you can step in to help around the house. You can help by:

  • Washing/drying the dishes
  • Taking the dog for a walk
  • Setting the table
  • Assisting with dinner/baking (especially around holidays)
  • Doing the laundry

The list continues. But it’s also important to ask them if they need any help first. Sometimes they’ll say no and that’s okay. Remember, they don’t want to feel like a cancer patient 24/7, so they may want to do housework themselves without any help.

3. Keep them in the loop with your life
  • This is especially important if you’re away at school like I am. I’m living an hour away from my family and I come home at least once a month. Letting my mom know that I’m doing okay has really helped ease the stress and made her feel better. I tell her about my week at school, what I had for dinner, what my weekend plans are, etc. It doesn’t have to be much, just make an effort to talk. Like I said, the little things count.
4. Buy them a pet
  • I’m serious. My mom has told me several times how owning a dog has brought so much joy to her life. If your loved one with cancer currently doesn’t have a pet, consider getting them one.
5. Don’t overwhelm them with questions
  • Specifically, the question, “how are you doing?”
  • I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask them how they’re doing but be cautious about how often you’re asking. They’re probably already feeling overwhelmed, so constantly bombarding them with questions and asking how they’re feeling could stress them out even more. As I’ve mentioned, they don’t want to constantly be reminded of their cancer, so while it’s perfectly okay to check in, just limit the number of times you ask.

My mom has cancer…now what?

When I found out my mom was diagnosed with cancer ten years ago, I was scared.

I was only 11-years-old.

Other girls in my class were afraid of puberty and seeing their bodies change; afraid of getting their first period and not knowing how to insert a tampon. Or watching their breasts develop and having no idea where to get a bra or what size would fit.

But I was afraid of my mom dying.

I was scared; confused. sad. angry even. I needed answers. And I needed them now.

When my mom was re-diagnosed in 2016, all those feelings came rushing back.

Suddenly I was 11-years-old again. Only now I can say I’ve successfully learned how to insert a tampon and pick out my bra size, but those feelings of fear, confusion, sadness, and anger…

The exact same.

Learning that your parent, sibling, relative or friend has cancer is terrifying. You feel overwhelmed, sad, confused, and you really have no idea what to do next.

Based on my personal experience, these are five things I’ve learned to consider when hearing the news for the first time:

1. Remember that many people survive cancer
  • The moment I found out that my mom has cancer, I instantly thought of her dying. But just because someone has cancer, does not mean they are going to die. Especially when you’re just finding out for the first time, it’s too soon to tell what’s going to happen. So, in the meantime, just remember that cancer does not always mean death. Patience is key.
2. Do not make an appointment with Dr. Google
  • When you first find out that your loved one has cancer, you want all the answers. But I can guarantee that using Google to answer your questions is not an accurate source – you’ll often find false information or information that you don’t want to hear. If you have questions, ask a doctor. Google is not a doctor.
3. Do not blame anyone, especially yourself
  • It’s easy to try and put the blame on someone when we feel sad or confused and need answers. But cancer is a disease with various causes, many of which doctors don’t fully understand. It’s no one’s fault – not the patient’s, the doctor’s, or your own. Don’t feel like the world is punishing you because someone you love has cancer. You can’t blame anyone, especially yourself.
4. Try to maintain a balance
  • I used to find my mom’s cancer always on my mind, but it’s important to strike a balance; you can worry about your parent’s cancer while having a normal life. And don’t feel guilty if you’re not sad all the time – trust me, they want you to have fun and not think about their cancer 24/7.
5. Most importantly, remember you are not alone
  • When you find out your parent has cancer, you feel like no one else in the world knows how you feel. But there are people like you going through the same thing – or at least something similar. You just have to find them and know it’s okay to talk to others about your feelings.

Remember to stay positive and keep smiling.

Our cancer journey; not once, but twice.

In 2008, when I was 11-years-old, my mom was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer for the first time.

I remember this day like it was yesterday. It seemed like any regular day for a sixth grader: woke up, went to school, came home from school, waited for mom and dad to come home and make dinner (always hoping they would order pizza instead) – you get the picture.

But this was no ordinary day.

When my mom came home from work, I knew something was wrong.

She would usually come home with a smile on her face asking how her baby girl’s day at school was. But instead, she fought back tears and went straight to her room. And I had no idea why.

Bad day at work? Probably. I’m sure it’s nothing, I thought.

But when my dad came home from work, my mom asked me, my dad, and my sister to join her in the living room. That’s where she gave us the news.

 “The doctors found a lump in my breast. I have breast cancer. And I’m going to start chemotherapy soon.”

Fast-forward a year, my mom finished chemotherapy and radiation, becoming cancer free.

Happy-ending, right?

Wrong.

Fast-forward eight years to 2016…

Hello again, cancer.

My mom’s breast cancer returned, and it spread to her lung, liver, spine, and bones. She is currently diagnosed with stage four metastatic cancer, about to start her seventh treatment.

But we’re going to be okay.

I say we because cancer is a journey you fight together. Whether it’s your mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend, or simply a loved one in your life battling cancer, they need to know they are not alone, and that they have your support.

As someone who has watched their mother battle cancer twice now, I’ve learned ways to support and cope with it, and my hope is to help others who have a loved one battling cancer who feel completely lost.

I tend to do so by covering these topics in future posts:

This blog is a daughter’s perspective on coping with mom’s cancer.

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