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5 Ways to Care for Mom with Cancer

A cancer diagnosis is a devastating blow for anyone to experience, but when you find out your mom has cancer, your whole world turns upside down. 

After a lifetime of Mom nursing your wounds and taking care of you when you’re sick, suddenly you may have to be the caretaker.  You have to be the cheerleader.  You have to be the support system.  

And in those days following her cancer diagnosis, you probably never appreciated her more. 

This role reversal probably has you asking yourself, “How can I best care for my mom with cancer?”  So here are five items we compiled based on our conversations with cancer survivors and caretakers.

1. Ask her what she needs – specifically.

Mom probably knows exactly what she needs in this difficult time, but she may not want to ask for it.  Asking for help can be really uncomfortable even when we’re sick, so let Mom know that she can ask for help, and she can be specific about it.  She may find it helpful for you to mop the floor, but because of her cancer diagnosis, she may need it cleaned in a specific way with special cleaning supplies.  Make sure Mom knows that there is no request too specific.  You want to make her comfortable.

2. Bring a positive outlook.

A cancer diagnosis can bring depression right along with it.  When you’re visiting your mom, try to stay positive and hopeful, and don’t feel guilty about telling her wonderful news about your life.  She wants you to be happy, and she will share in your joy.

3. Make her feel special – but also normal.

You appreciate Mom more than ever right now, so don’t be afraid to show her that.  Get her the special gift that you may not have splurged on in the past.  Say the things you always wanted to say.  — But also, don’t be weird.  Talk to her about normal events, share your life’s little stressors, and confide in her the way you always have.  In other words, still let Mom feel like Mom.

4. Take care of yourself.

Your mom can’t stop worrying about you.  It’s never going to happen.  You can tell her not to worry about you and to just focus on getting better, but she’s not going to stop worrying.  So, the biggest gift you can give Mom is to take care of yourself.  Take care of your health, get your rest, live a healthy lifestyle, and prioritize what’s important.  Only when your mom knows that you’re taking care of you, will she be able to focus on taking care of herself.

5. Respect her journey.

One of the most difficult things about supporting another person through cancer treatment, is respecting their choices.  Whether it’s choosing to undergo an experimental treatment or choosing not to engage in cancer-preventing lifestyle choices, we don’t always agree with the path that our loved one takes.  Whether or not you agree with the path that Mom chooses, respect her.  That will provide her with what she needs most of all right now: your unconditional love.

Do you have a suggestion of how to best care for Mom with cancer?  Did we miss something important from the list?  Please comment below!

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Comments(10)

  1. REPLY
    R f says

    My mum died from stomach cancer. Test showed no tumours but they were there just hidden on scans. They operated but cancer had spread to point of no return and operation is when they said her cancer has spread dramatically. She got told the bad news but didn’t except the news. She said no I don’t have terminal cancer I just don’t I’ll be fine …..

  2. REPLY
    R f says

    Mum didn’t tell me her terminal cancer diognosis she told me she’d be fine and make a full recovery . Mum lied to protect me I guess. ANGRY YES I didn’t know . I kinda had a feeling it was bad news but didn’t wanna believe that… I was told how bad it was just before the end and couldn’t believe what I was told. I BELIVED she’d be ok they’d sort her out but nope nothing could be done it was to late.

  3. REPLY
    Crystal Hampton says

    Im worrying so much…
    My mental stability is weighing on my shoulders as she is also….im mad. Sad. Confused and denying this whole thing!

  4. REPLY
    Katrina says

    Crystal, my mum has been diagnosed in the last two weeks and i can certainly understand and relate to your denial of the situation. I am also not fully accepting of this, and i can’t fathom that my mum may not recover from this. She has been my rock always, and i dont know what i would do without her. But then, its not really about me, I do need to accept that things may be hard for me but they will be even harder for mum, and the best thing i can do for her is be positive and do the things this article says (great advice, and I realised that up until now I’ve actually been doing the opposite of these, with my denial of the reality) so she can have the best possible chance of fighting it, and for as long as she possibly can. And also, for your own health, i would maybe suggest seeing your GP as you can’t support your mum unless you are well. Best wishes to you and your mum on your journey xx

  5. REPLY
    Juliana says

    My mom was diagnosed with a rare cancer today. I am helpless, heartbroken, not very hopeful, super afraid. But Eventhough, I Am still im disbelief I want to be there for her. I really hope that she pull through but if she doesn’t I will be by her side.

    • REPLY
      Lena says

      My mom got diagnosed with stage four cancer three weeks ago and I’m devastated and completely heartbroken. I go through moments of constant crying to anger to just feeling numb like I want to hide under a rock . My mom is the person I speak to every day and the person closest to my kids . I can’t imagine her not being around I’m trying to stay positive when I talk to her but I have this black cloud following me around , it’s so draining .

  6. REPLY
    Harish says

    My mom also diagnosed with stage 4 cancer recently. I don’t know what to do.. Want to cry but I couldn’t. Totally helpless. Just feel that she don’t deserve it. I love her so much. Knowing I can’t help her in any way is really difficult to grasp. I am so angry at everything.

  7. REPLY
    Sara says

    I found out about my mom’s cancer just about two weeks. Ever since, I just feel completely broken, the first days I was just crying and crying and now I have so much pain in my chest and in my left breast. I haven’t seen my mom for three years and now with the covid-19 pandemic, I’m not sure when I can travel to see her. I live in Canada and my mom is in the Middle East. I still can’t believe she has cancer, this is the most difficult time of my life. I am super scared and stressful. Don’t know what to do and how to go through this…

    • REPLY
      Syl says

      I’m so sorry to hear of all your pain, last 2 weeks have been the same. My family are are trying to cope but I know we will fall apart. Life without mum is useless. I can’t breathe and it feels as if someone’s standing on my chest. I feel ur pain and god bless you and help us.

      • REPLY
        Jane says

        Sara and Syl, I feel the same. Falling apart whilst I know I need to be strong for my mum. We are also in different countries, I am in the UK and she is in Russia, and I can’t fly home at the moment. Desperately clinging to hope she will get better, but at the same time can’t breath from pain. Whole world collapsed. But I know it’s not about me and feel so guilty about not able to pick up self up on from the floor. Strength to us all in this difficult time xx

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