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My mum is just not coping with my diagnosis

Nadi Member Posts: 619
edited October 2016 in Newly diagnosed

Hi everyone

My 72 yr old mum is just not coping with the news I have breast cancer. She has had an incredibly difficult life and now having to cope with my dad with dementia her outlook on things is generally negative. Even before I knew I had BC whenever I spoke to her and asked how she was she would always say 'terrible'. Everything is a catastrophe.

Since I told her about my diagnosis she rings me everyday to see how I am, I know she loves me and worries. But the phone calls always make me feel bad, like when she tells me how my siblings are in tears about me (they're always ok when I speak to them). She rings my sons and tells them how good they have to be and that life for all of us is forever changed, and I am not going to be here forever, which only freaks them out. She rings me to tell me about breast cancer stories on the news and that I have to 'switch to channel 9 RIGHT NOW".  

She feels helpless and wants to come to all my appointments but I have told her that I just need space to deal with all that is happening and I keep asking her to be positive for me (I am a really positive person when I am not around my mum). I showed her the tips in the My Journey kit that talk about how to support a loved one with breast cancer. So far, no change. I love my mum. I am the only family that lives near her. She has no social circle so it's just me and I could never cut her out of my life (even for a short while).

But I am struggling with the negativity and the pressure I feel when she says she wants to have some role in my treatment plan. I feel like such a bad daughter because my situation is making her feel bad, but I don't think I can do anything that would ease her worries. I love her heaps, but please, does anyone have any advice? Nadine



  • iserbrown
    iserbrown Member Posts: 5,375
    edited October 2015

    Hi Nadi - I can relate to your dilemma.

    When I was diagnosed at Breastscreen Victoria the Counsellor had explained to both my husband and I about dealing with the diagnosis and the positive and negative people and how to calm yourself when you start to feel overwhelmed.

    I had a girlfriend hound me about whether I was going to the right surgeon and was totally obsessed by my diagnosis; I found myself saying what do you want me to do get the yellow pages out? 

    My Mum passed away 7 years ago from lung and bladder cancer.  We were team family; always accompanied Dad to all appointments with Mum and hospital visits. My Dad took on the mantle of worry wart, wanting to come to all appointments and visit constantly at hospital.  I have never mentioned Oncology to him as I know that will send him over the edge with the worrying.  I had to say no this is a very personal journey and I need space.  He wasn't happy initially but I got my sisters to speak with him and settle him down. 

    When I woke from surgery and returned to the ward I asked for the phone to ring my husband and then I rang my Dad. 

    Once I had got through a couple of days in hospital I was happy for him to come and visit.  He was content then as he could see I was fine and being well looked after. 

    I guess I haven't offered any real advice but shared my story to let you know it is the overwhelming love of our parents that sometimes gets in the way of trying to cope.

    Take care and I wish you all the positive thoughts I can as you head off on this journey.

    Christine xx





  • Mira
    Mira Member Posts: 678
    edited October 2015

    Hi Nadi,

    My Mum is about the same age and was an absolute horror with her anxiety over my diagnosis and treatment.   I had to keep reminding myself its because she cares but seriously, dealing with her was worse than dealing with the cancer!  She fought with me over everything, right down to what pyjamas I should wear in the hospital.

    Eventually she made some friends in the radiation waiting room and settled down.  Do you think your Mum would join a support group so that she can talk about her feelings with people other than you? That gives you some space and her an outlet for her worries, and she will be able to see things from other perspectives.



  • Janiot
    Janiot Member Posts: 35
    edited October 2015

    I don't know if I can offer any advise.

    My parents live in the UK - I was diagnosed the 27 July and my mother turned 90 on 6 August- my greatest concern was how to tell them (Dad has manic depression), thankfully my brother (who lives in France) was going over to visit them for Mums birthday and he told them a couple of days after her birthday and then rang me in Australia so I could  reassure them??

    Since then I have to keep reassuring them all is well - I have had a mastectomy and I'm in my third week of 8 weeks of radiotherapy -my brother has shared with me that Dad is dwelling on the diagnosis mainly because of his depression  but I keep sending photos to show I am OK??

    At their age and  being so far away it is all I can do??


  • Scared Mum
    Scared Mum Member Posts: 169
    edited October 2015

    Gee this is a hard one for me to read because I am the mum !!!

    My daughter lives with me and I do go to every appointment with her the thought of her having to call me with the news would devastate me, I was devastated when she got the news.

    I felt useless because I couldn't fix this with a cuddle or a bandaid like I have always done this was out of my hands, I cried a lot because I was scared and worried I was going to loose my daughter, just like your mum would naturally be, you are her baby doesn't matter how old you are! 

    So yes I read everything I could and some I shouldn't have (I have stopped that now lol )  There has to be something I could do? but I couldn't That made me stress and worry more ugggg I had so many unanswered questions,  I tried to put on my cheery face every day (everyone kept telling me to think positive thoughts mmm ) some days you just cant.

    I looked for a support group for mothers of daughters with BC sadly there is not one in Aus and the ones os have not been talked on in a few years. I needed support, I needed answers, I need to tell someone how I was feeling and not one to that say something stupid things to me "like you should feel lucky its her not you" gggrrr I wanted to hit them. 

    So I decided to post on here even though I felt it was just for ladies diagnosed with  bc  (they could only delete my post if I wasn't allowed) and the lovely ladies have made me feel welcome and supported, I feel I can now see the light at the end of a foggy scary tunnel.

    Maybe get your mum to post on here she cant get her feelings out (she will have a lot!! even ones she is not telling you ) and we all can help her feel better. 

    So anyway my long winded story is to say remember you are your mums baby and we will always stress over our children.(even when told not to ) it's our job....... (and most of you are mums so you know the feeling about your own children) 

    Cheers Sue xxx

  • gilliegirl4
    gilliegirl4 Member Posts: 18
    edited October 2015

    Hi Nadi

    I feel for you.  Your diagnosis, your journey, dealing with your Mum, your Dad and your children.  As if not dealing with Breast Cancer and all that goes along with it ISN'T enough for one person to handle.
    I was diagnosed May 2015, had surgery, 4 more chemo left and then Herceptin for 9 more months.  I don't have living parents to worry about, i don't have children to console, even friends who have been helpful have got on with their lives.    BUT what i wanted to say was that all the replies seem thoughtful and a good idea to try.  Especially Sues comment.  

    Your Mum at 72 may like to write things down.  I have for many years had a journal, and i find it helps SO MUCH to write it down; thoughts, feelings, happenings.  Your Mum could write down in a book as if writing a letter to you, and in time you may read it.  I am sure this would help her.   Your poor Mum sounds like she has been overwhelmed with life, and terrible things happening around her, especially where she has Little OR NO control over.   I hope this idea helps in some small way.  And good luck to you.  In the end it is YOUR JOURNEY and YOU are the one who has to face it.    


  • Doll
    Doll Member Posts: 57
    edited October 2015

    Hi Nadine,

    I try and remember what a huge shock it is, and how everyone deals with the news differently.  If someone already has certain behaviours then it is unlikely that they will change.  You want to keep your Mum in your life so you might have to find a way to cope with her negativity.  

    You have acknowledged that your Mum feels helpless.  I think sometimes it can be harder for partners and loved ones because they don't know what to do.  I try to involve the negative people in my life in my care.  I ask for help - it works sometimes:)  I accept offers of help- my Mum (in her 70's as well) comes to some appointments with me and has surprised me with her composure and level headedness.   Sometimes just asking for a hug can diffuse a tense situation for me and my Mum.  The people around us might not always behave as we would like them to but if we want to keep them close (and not distress ourselves too much) then we have to develop strategies to accept them as they are.  Would you feel comfortable working on strategies with a psychologist?  Your GP can create a Mental Health Plan that gives you a Medicare rebate for up to 10 sessions with a psychologist. Best of luck with this one.


  • HIT
    HIT Member Posts: 261
    edited October 2015

    Hi Nadine  Does she have anything to do with disability services as a carer?  My daughter is disabled, now lives with another disabled young man.  She has a mild mental retardation.  I have allways been there for her and was very worried about my cancer diagnosis and treatment.  I rang her local area coordinator and had a talk to her.  It was great my daughter could get counselling, did get a "friend" visiting her weekly, the coordinator kept in contact and visited even more often.  Turned out that I didn't need to worry, shes like a teenager, life only concerns her.  All I got was a "great, now I could get BC too" and off she went to annoy her GP to discuss getting herself checked!!!  Gotta love her.

    My mother is 91.  She sounds a bit like your mother - the guilt of not being there for her daughter, not being able to help was consuming her. Shes in the country so twice she hassled my brother to bring her down to have lunch with me, but shes 91, she wants to go home after -so a 5hr trip for her and another couple of hours for my brother.  She did settle down quickly - and I rang constantly to give her slightly watered down updates from treatment.  The worse day was when they had hercepton on the news (June/July last year).  I had told her exaggerated figures as to my risk %, and this news report was saying that it only helped even less woman than I was told.  My phone bill went up, but she did settle down.  

    And god sorry I've been raving.  But see if disability services can help.  If they are not registered her doctor should be able to do it.  There are a lot of services available for carers.


  • maryroset1
    maryroset1 Member Posts: 240
    edited October 2015

    Hi Nadine. When i was first diagnosed i had to set my mother in law straight. She was treating me like i was sick all the time and being negative   To her generation the big c means death. She would cry around me and my daughter all the time. I basically told her she had get a grip of herself. I am strong and she needed to be too.  Maybe have a chat to your mum and explain how she makes you feel.



  • Nadi
    Nadi Member Posts: 619
    edited October 2015

    Thanks everyone for the advice

    My mum tracked down a support group near her that is available for mothers of daughters with breast cancer. This is really good. I know she wasn't happy with my decision to have a partial rather than full mastectomy but she will now be able to talk to this group about her feelings about that. I appreciate all the different perspectives you offered as well as the advice. It helps a lot.

    Surgery now on 12 November. 

    All the best, Nadine

  • Brenda5
    Brenda5 Member Posts: 2,423
    edited October 2015

    We're nearly the same day surgery Nadine, mine is on the 16th of November. I have opted for the mastectomy as my personal choice. Yeah mums. One part of me likes the attention but the other part wants to say get a grip mum!

    Arriving in her car straight behind ours just as hubby and I get home from every appointment, tired from stress and not having even put the groceries away yet (shopping is sort of therapy that we survived each appointment), is doing my head in.

    The tears and almost collapsing with her grief is also pretty hard to handle. Flaming heck mum its me with the bc, where's your strength woman? I never say anything but boy would I like to sometimes.

    Phone call is fine. I can handle that and we can talk about all sorts of different things for ages and it helps me to take my mind off things. Maybe I should tell her how helpful that aspect is?

    I don't know if its true or not but mum said a friend of hers was not allowed to see her for 10 days after the operation. Her husband said risk of infection or catching a cold from someone would be bad so mum stayed away for 10 days.

    Since she cried over the phone today that I had gotten my foot long hair cut short I don't think I want to see her for 10 days after the op. She will have time to come to terms with the fact I am going to live and I might not feel so down by then either. Its a thought. :)


  • Nadi
    Nadi Member Posts: 619
    edited October 2015

    HI Brenda

    I think your mum will understand if you ask her to hold off from seeing you after your op on 16 Nov. Since my mum went to the support group she is better. She's also started a journal which another bcna member recommended, which I think is going to be good for her.

    Here I am wishing my mother wouldn't worry about me when last night I was texting my adult son at 3.45 am asking where he was and whether he was safe!!! ARRRGGGHH  It's tough being a mum, so I am learning to cut my own mum some slack - amy not always get it right but if she tries and I try we just might get there.

    Good luck for 16 Nov!!!

  • Kim R
    Kim R Member Posts: 146
    edited November 2015

    Hi Nadine,

    you have received a great response from your story it touches a cord with us all. I was very worried how my mum would take my diagnoses, she is also 72 and puts on the poor old woman persona a lot. But she is made of strong stuff! After the intial shock, I gave her good info to read which worried her more but knowledge is power. She has moved in when I have chemo than goes home for a rest week. So she copes and helps me cope by looking after the family. I wear her out! And she is great when everyone is at work we watch a lot of day time TV together and save the world, plan trips, any thing to divert me, makes the time pass quickly. Maybe you just need to put your mum to work. Everyone needs cake and casseroles.

    all the best


  • Nadi
    Nadi Member Posts: 619
    edited November 2015

    Hi Kim

    Your mum sounds like a real trooper!!

    That's a great suggestion. I am going to think of something my mum can do so she feels needed - after all that's what she needs right now. Unfortunately, she is quite incapacitated - barely walks, cannot get up out of a chair without assistance, can no longer cook or make a cup of tea, and she has never driven a car. I think this makes things worse because she is very housebound, has too much time on her hands and she starts thinking - which turns into thinking about the worst things that can happen. Mum is the brains while dad (who has dementia) is the legs.  But I really like your suggestion and I am going to put my mind to finding an activity which she can do which might occupy her. If you have any suggestions let me know!!!

    Thanx for your reply, Nadine

  • iserbrown
    iserbrown Member Posts: 5,375
    edited November 2015

    Hi Nadine

    Does your Mum hand knit?

    There is an organisation called Knitted Knockers Australia - perhaps she become a knitter for them - it would give her a sense of purpose as well as

  • Kim R
    Kim R Member Posts: 146
    edited November 2015

    Hi Nadine,

    I didn't realise how incapacitated your mother was, what an extra burden on you when you need to concentrate on treatment and getting well. You seem like the carer in the family, I am sending you a hug. What can she do? sew or knitting was a great idea from Iserbrown. I was thinking at our local cancer council a wonderful lady makes light little caps to wear under wigs. Simple to make but very necessary and the CC make a little bit of money from the sale.

    What I need help with is remembering, no short term memory at all, I even forget to check my list of things to remember! Mum's job is to remind me, especially with my medications.

    And to think I usually run a business.

    All the best, remember to laugh sometimes.