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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.

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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(30)

  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!

    • REPLY
      DBri says

      I feel the same

  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 .

      • REPLY
        sue tunnicliffe says

        I know exactly what you mean – My Mum was diagnosed in February with cancer and nothing further got done due to the pandemic. In May Mum wasn’t feeling well so they did see her although the wrong department in the hospital. On June 12th we went to see the consultant who told Mum she was a difficult one and that they didn’t know where it was. . Two weeks ago now she was rushed into hospital with an infection and then last Tuesday, 14th July I called to say we are not having her home until we get some results. Within 2.5 hours they called to say they knew what it was it was Melanoma and I asked at what stage, it’s stage 4 – I know this is not good and am now waiting to see a consultant to see what treatment she will be given but the appointment is not until next week, 30th July. I am so angry that it’s taken s long and upset as I get the feeling that there is just no rush? I have heard today Mum is coming home but she lives on her own, obviously when I am not at work I can be there but the OT spoke today and they don’t access the home until Mum is settled back in – a bit late I think and they already accessed this before Mum went into hospital so surely they can do some of the needed things before

      • REPLY
        Lissa says

        Hi Lena,
        You sound like me. I am devastated.
        Not sure how to cope …..

      • REPLY
        Maria says

        I completely understand where you’re coming from. I also have my mom who has cancer, she has leiomyomasarcoma stage 4. She’s the one I talk to all the time about everything, she’s very close to my kids, I can’t imagine my world without her. I sometimes feel lost, so stressed and overwhelmed I’m the one who has to take her to her doctors appointments , I do it all for her. And I have to balance my job in between and kids. It’s all so hard , it breaks my heart to see her sad at times. But she’s very strong, she’s even working still, but I wish I could just see her super happy and excited like before. I see her and it’s like she doesn’t even have anything. She’s a very strong little lady I love her so much . I have my moments when I just break down in tears and I still can’t accept that she has this cancer, it feels like a bad dream like it’s a lie…

        • REPLY
          Alena Alves says

          I can totally relate. You described my thoughts and feelings. My Mommy has stage for cancer as well. She soldiered through radiation and chemo simultaneously. It burned her so bad, the screams every time she needed to use the restroom I can still hear in my head and it jolts me out my sleep. That was two months ago. Now she has decided to quit treatment and go the holistic way. She’s much stronger than she was two months. She went to a holistic retreat in Colorado and came back with a new way of eating to fight cancer, a renewed spiritual journey and a new exercise regimen. She came home so excited to start new, but I’m still in a dark place. This rain cloud won’t go away. Running a start up company and I’m the only employee. If I fall apart so does the business. Trying my best to stay sane.. I am sending warm hugs to your mommy and you.

        • REPLY
          J says

          Hi Maria and so many others. Mom my best friend like all of you was diagnosed May 2020 with lung cancer. Height of pandemic so we could not see her. in Dec 2019 she was told she had bronchitis; then March 2020 she was told she had pneumonia. Well..May 2020 we got the news. She stopped smoking 15 years ago, no preexisting conditions. just retired August 2019. 68 years young. Chemo helped a lot but toll was to much so she only gets immunotherapy now. Today mothers day, she is not doing well after many months thst looked so promising.Im grateful but I’m sad for her. I hate too see her suffer. I know Jesus suffered as well. Today for the first time in many months she admitted she was not doing well after this last round of immunotherapy. Based off her comments today she might go in. My mom does not complain or ” go in” or even call doctor unless its bad. God knows I hope and pray this is from the treatment and will subside but she’s having a very difficult time bouncing back from this latest. On this day I recall how I fell to my knees in front of my 19 year old son when first getting news. Today I also know this is not about me. Its about her. It sucks, I hate seeing her suffer but so many of you have walked or are walking this journey now. Cancer blows. I love you mama.
          * Random thoughts yes, not crazy and have never posted about this. Im private but broken today. im and im grateful as I know others don’t get this time. Prayers to all fighting this or whatever ails you mentally or physically.

    • REPLY
      Alyssa cobb says

      I am going through the same with my mom. I’m praying for you!! I am so sorry this is going on. Please stay strong and y’all with both get through this❤️❤️❤️

  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.

    • REPLY
      Lissa says

      This is devastating. I don’t know how I can cope.

  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

    • REPLY
      Pearl says

      Today was the day I was dreading my mum is 84 years old and has just being diagnosed with lung cancer after infection after infection bad falls she spent a night at hospital when they diagnosed her , she has been so lucky never to be sick her whole life and I can’t take in the news she means the world to me !
      she has had dimension for a number of years and I am hoping she forgets what the consultant has told her but she keeps saying ( I have had a good life and when your day comes am ready ) she has no fear of dying and it’s so selfish to want to keep her here for my own good but am in bits can’t imagine what am going to do only thing I can wish for is she suffers no pain .
      I see her everyday am lucky to live only a few minutes away and phone every night to make sure she is in bed although she has careres 4 times a day I put the phone down and cry every night cause I know the day is coming when she won’t be there to answer the phone love and treasure her you only ever get one mum x

  8. REPLY
    Louise says

    After 8 weeks of tests and phone calls mom had her first face to face appointment. She had to go into the appointment room on her own and was told she had cancer. I am numb. I knew she was poorly but we are still waiting for next steps. She has to be put to sleep for the biopsy as it is complex. I am so scared, I know it’s going to be a long journey but frightened she won’t get through it. Where can I find more help? I want to make sure she has the best possible chance. Love to all those who are suffering x

  9. REPLY
    Will says

    I just found out today my mother has anal cancer. Waiting on more information so perhaps it’s too soon to be posting here but it’s hitting me like a ton of bricks, to the point that I googled “what do you do when your mom tells you she has cancer” and was led here. This is scary because I nearly lost her as a child to AIDS, which my father died of when I was 7. My mom somehow shielded me and my much younger sister from contracting the virus which was pretty miraculous (esp in the late 80’s when she was diagnosed during her pregnancy with me). I just can’t believe I’m reliving this and feel like I’m 10 again despite being 32 and can’t stop crying, and then feeling like I have to stop making this about myself and just be supportive. I am sober so I don’t like to ever go to long without checking in with family so they don’t get nervous, but I also don’t want them to see how upset I am and worry that this could cause a relapse.

    In terms of the confusion, panic, nearly throwing up from hyperventilating, numbness and wtf do I do now, I’m sure I’m echoing what a lot of people are feeling (and said) and I think it just helps to write it somewhere safe. Thanks everyone, and best wishes to you and your families.

    • REPLY
      Shannon says

      My mom was too, in late August. She finished treatment 2 weeks ago, but not the entire process. She had complications with the chemo port and only went through 1 round of chemo, due to a blood clot in her jugular. She can not have the port removed until the clot is absorbed, which could take up to 4 months. I was so angry after she told me and of course devastated. I cried daily, then just be mad as hell. Mostly because she didn’t do anything for 9 months after she found the mass. I wasn’t told until 1 week before she went in for surgery. Because she didn’t have it removed right away, the margins were extremely close, and hence treatment. She had stage 2A. She is so damn stubborn, the worst patient and just does not take care of herself. She has always been the rock of our family, taking care of everyone else. I have begged her for years to take care of herself. And to complicate things a bit more, my sister is special needs. We of course, told her, as she needed to know. But, I will never forget the look on her face when my mom told her. Amanda knows what cancer is. She asks her daily, “mommy, are you going to die?”. It pains me to love someone so much and want the best for them, but to know they don’t want that for themselves. I have been as supportive as I possibly can, as I know anything but that, will just cause upset with my mom. I’m happy to have found this, even if it’s just to vent and read other’s stories. We’re not alone.

  10. REPLY
    Rosana Maria Nedelciu says

    When my mother was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, my life changed completely. The doctors said she would only live for 3 more months. I didn’t want to accept that, so I started a journey with her, trying to prove them wrong. One year and a half after she “should have been dead”, I wrote a book about our journey. The book is called “Fighting Cancer for Mom (Literary Hugs for Loving Daughters in Search of Healing)”. Maybe it helps you.

  11. REPLY
    Beca says

    I relate to you 100% – my mum was also diagnosed with multiple melanoma and a tumour on her T10 spine which has result in her inability to walk fully….she spent 3.5 months in the hospital alone due to the pandemic with no visitors allowed….it’s been heartbreaking and extremely stressful. I too was upset as my mom had gone to ER early spring several times with them sending her back home with painkillers. Anyways, all this to say I am here and understand all the frustrations and on this journey together.

    My mum went home recently and since we don’t live in the same city, I flew and am currently quarantining so I can touch her and be here. The future is both daunting and hopeful.

  12. REPLY
    Kim says

    My mom was diagnosed w breast cancer after her regular mammogram. Either it wasn’t there last year or they didn’t see it. She’s terrified and that terrifies me. Looking forward to the bible promise at (Isaiah 33:24) where its says that no resident of Gods Kingdom will say “I am sick”. (Rev 21:3,4) tells us that tears, pain and death will all be gone. What a time to look forward to!

    • REPLY
      Dayle says

      Kim,
      I am so sorry to hear about your mom.
      I too am dealing with my mom having terminal cancer. We just found out a week ago.
      I also find those very same scriptures very comforting, as well as the resurrection hope (John 5:28,29)
      You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  13. REPLY
    renee says

    Love and best of health and recovery to all of us suffering this drastic frightening disease. I’m so glad I found you today
    at least I feel less alone. You are all out there and in here with me. I have had surgery and now chemo and will have more sessions. I hope I have strength to go on. I was full of sheer joy and travel and fun time plans. Some time to enjoy my life after working too hard for too long. So glad your stories and getting to know you just picked me up, I can be me here find peace.

  14. REPLY
    Mary says

    Mom passed away in January of 2020 after fighting stage IV colon cancer for 6 years. My advice — take each day as it comes. If Mom isn’t the most organized, make her a medication spreadsheet and help organize her medications for the week. Make sure she’s well fed and maybe experiment with a cookbook for cancer patients with her! Send her flowers randomly one day. Never pass up a 15 minute cuddle session. Tell her about the exciting things going on in your life! Ask her how her day was. Encourage her to totally pamper herself–sign her up for yoga classes, massages, etc. Always give forehead kisses. And when the end is near, tell her how proud you are to be her child, say sorry for the things that weigh on your heart, and make a list of questions to ask her that you know you’ll need answers to one day. Don’t be afraid to cry if you are sharing a moment with Mom–it legit releases toxins from your body! And always say I love you because you never know if you’ll get another chance.

  15. REPLY
    Ruby Alvarez says

    My mom just passed away on April12. She went into the hospital on March 12, 2021 with Chest, back pain and difficulty breathing, CT Scan showed mass in lung and metastasis. I kept praying, Lord please let it be something else. That CT Scan has to be wrong. Unfortunately she was gone 1 month after. Those of you that still have your mom, please tell them how much you love them. Spend time with them, take pictures together. I miss my mother so much, I’m thankful I was there to take care of her till her last day.

  16. REPLY
    Diamond Oliver says

    OMG Here I go looking for answer and I’m crying again. This is the most stressful, heart breaking thing I have ever been through . 2016 It was breast cancer. But I never let it get to me. She had been fine for 20 yrs no DR visit. Then all of a sudden cancer. Surgery. Chemo. She was OK. May 2021 a knot on her stomach. She ignored and didn’t say anything. June 15th the day after my son’s graduation she tells me her cancer spread to 3 places. I noticed her weight loss a month ago. Just thought it was from her life style. I went to the next visit June 18th and will be at them all from this point on. That day I asked the dr can IU talk gto him alone without her. I asked straight up what is going on. He said my moms at stage 4. And nithing can be done. How do you prepare for this? I cry daily ,y kids see me break down crying not understanding what I’m going through I have 2 other siblings but they are the one’s that stayed at a distance. I They expect me to just living and take care of mom. But I have the most kids least income. Credit and resources. My brother first idea was hospice. That made me block him. My mom wants to go to vegas so I’m spending my savings on this it’s the least I can do. This emotional roller coaster> Coming here made me cry but it also helped. Thank you all!!! My heart goes to you. #FUCKCANCER

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