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when your mom has breast cancer

When Your Mom Has Breast Cancer – A Guest Post

I am pleased and excited to share a guest post by dear daughter. This guest post was actually a lovely and unexpected Christmas gift. (Thanks again, Lindsay!).Yes, she’s very thoughtful and yes, she’s also a blogger like me. Or rather I’m a blogger like her. She started way before I did and is my go-to-person when I have blogging issues. Check out her useful and information-packed blog, That Mutt, when you get a chance.

I know it can be hard to talk about what it’s like to have a member of your immediate family diagnosed with cancer. I know it wasn’t easy for Lindsay to witness her grandma’s experience with breast cancer and shortly there-after begin to witness mine as well. So thank you, Lindsay, for sharing a bit about what it was like for you “when your mom has breast cancer”.

When Your Mom Has Breast Cancer

by Lindsay Stordahl

My mom Nancy was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2010. That month is a bit of a blur to me, but I definitely remember feeling terrified I could lose her. In case it might be helpful to others who have a parent diagnosed with cancer, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts about that time. Everyone will react differently when a parent is diagnosed with cancer. These are simply my own thoughts and experiences. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

I believe in positive thinking.

I know my mom gets a little (okay, more than a little!) sick of all the talk about how people should maintain a positive attitude if diagnosed with cancer. This thinking implies that if someone dies from cancer, she wasn’t positive enough. This is, of course, not true. People do not die from cancer because of a poor attitude or because they lost the battle. People die from cancer because cancer kills people. It’s still a deadly disease.

But as the daughter of someone diagnosed with cancer, I’d like to say that positive thoughts and prayers from others made a difference for me. It helped to talk with each of my close friends individually. I told them what was going on and if they could please keep my mom in their thoughts. It helped me to know friends were thinking of her and I believed their energy could help her in some small way.

I actually became a little obsessed with the idea, thinking that the more positive thoughts and prayers I asked for, the more positive energy the universe would send my mom. I’m not at all religious, but when she was diagnosed with cancer, I needed to turn outward for help. It made me feel less alone.

Family members will all react differently.

Unless your family has been through something similar before, you won’t know how each person will react to a cancer diagnosis until it happens. This is difficult for families because each person handles and processes the information differently. There is no right or wrong way to deal with cancer. There is just the right way for each person.

For me, it was frustrating when my parents would temporarily withhold information from my brothers and me. They were most likely doing so to protect us, but not knowing the answers that they already knew was more frustrating, hurtful and distracting to me than hearing the truth. I like people to be upfront and honest right away, but that’s not always how parents or other family members choose to respond.

Looking back, I now realize my parents had every right to tell my brothers and me whatever information they wanted at whatever time they wanted to. I’m sure they had to process certain information as a couple first, and that’s something I understand a little better now that I’m also married.

Friends will say the wrong things. Count on it.

I received comments like:

“At least she’ll get a boob job out of the ‘deal’.” And, “Will she go bigger?” And, “At least she’ll get a new ‘set.’”

No one was trying to be rude, but these types of comments were/are obviously insensitive and not well thought out. So think before you speak!

I never reacted defensively to these comments because I could see my friends were truly trying to help. I generally chose to simply respond with, “Well, that’s not really what she’s concerned about at the moment.”

“How’s your mom?” typically means “How’s your mom, considering she had cancer?”

I like it when people ask me how my mom is doing today, however, it’s sort of a strange question because they don’t really just mean, How’s your mom? No, they really mean, How’s your mom, considering she had cancer?

This isn’t necessarily good or bad. It just is. And I do appreciate it when my friends ask about my mom. It’s just one of the things cancer has changed.

Keeping this in mind, here’s some advice on how to show a friend you care.

Obviously, cancer is an uncomfortable topic to bring up, so most people did not ask me how my mom was doing while she was going through treatment. I understood why they didn’t ask, but it was still disappointing at times.

So if you have a friend whose parent recently received a cancer diagnosis (or even not so recently), I recommend you do go ahead and ask that friend how his or her parent is doing. Who cares if it’s awkward? Life is full of awkward moments. At least you’re showing you care.

Perhaps the easiest way to show you care is simply to make a statement rather than ask a question.

For example, instead of asking, how’s your mom doing? you could say, I’ve sure been thinking about your mom. And leave it at that.

This way, your friend does not have to think of a response and she won’t feel pressured to say something positive, or even anything at all. She can just say, thank you. Then it would be up to her whether she wants to elaborate or not. She may even choose to change the subject and that’s her choice too.

Sometimes the answer to the question, how’s your mom doing? is difficult to answer, especially if the mom is not doing well. So avoiding the question and simply making a statement takes away some of the pressure.

Hearing from others helps.

Everyone will handle a family member’s cancer diagnosis differently. There is no right or wrong way to deal with the information and all of the emotions that come with it, but it does help to hear from others who have gone through something similar.

Like my mom always says, there’s no need to do any part of this cancer thing alone.

When your mom has breast cancer, a guest post

And this goes for family members too.

If you have had a parent or other family member diagnosed with cancer, what advice or thoughts would you like to share? 

Who, or what, supported you? 

Lindsay authors the popular blog ThatMutt, your best destination to find cute dog photos and videos, dog product reviews and useful info on dog training and adoption. Check it out!

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25 thoughts to “When Your Mom Has Breast Cancer – A Guest Post”

  1. Hi Nancy,
    Your daughter is wonderful! All of her suggestions are just what I think anyone with breast cancer would also suggest. A very wise young woman, you raised her well 🙂 You must be so proud of her. She must be so proud of you. xo

  2. Very well written. Nancy, your daughter has covered this so well. I am the third generation to have breast cancer, so I have seen breast cancer from differing perspectives.
    I have been the teenage granddaughter, put in the position of being an assistant caregiver, old enough to understand, but young enough adults tried to “protect” me from what I would inevitably know anyway.
    I have been the adult daughter. Fortunately, my mother never had a recurrence and lived and enjoyed many more years.
    And now I am the mother. Like my grandmother, my breast cancer metastasized. Unlike her, there are treatments for me that will hopefully add years. I find myself occasionally protecting my young adult children, such as not telling them about scans until after I get the results. It also bothers me when I realize my cancer is sometimes a factor in their decisions.
    I think the whole family now shares a very real fear that someday breast cancer may reach out to attack yet a fourth generation.

    1. Elizabeth, Yes, unfortunately you are all too familiar with this disease, as is the rest of your family. I am sorry about that. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  3. dear Nancy,

    what a wonderful post by Lindsay! what she wrote shows a fine honed sensitivity and empathy both for you and your husband, as well as for her peers and their sometimes awkward comments. I was very touched and impressed with how she talked about what it meant to her to think in a positive way. you must be very, very proud of your daughter! thank you for allowing us read about Lindsay’s thoughts and feelings about what it is like to have a Mom with BC.

    much love and light to you and to Lindsay,

    Karen xoxo

  4. It’s so nice to read you, Lindsay. Even for those of us who know cancer too well, it’s good to read your words of advice, and it makes me think of my friends who parents have cancer. So, thank you for your insight. What a wonderful gift for your mom and for us. ~Catherine

  5. Nancy your daughter Lindsay is such a treasure. This is so well written and can help so many others. There really is no right or wrong way when it comes to a cancer diagnosis, but Lindsay brings great insight to ways people can speak about this. I can see why you both are so proud of each other!

  6. Lindsay, thank you for such lovely thoughts. You reminded me of my own daughter’s reaction. She’s probably about your age and also recently married. She used to put status updates on her Facebook page, like right before my first chemo, “Everyone join me in sending so much love to my wonderful mother!” and then her friends would comment below along the same lines. I’d read it and cry because I was so moved by my daughter and her friends’ love and support. Thanks for bringing back that great memory. Your mom and I are both so lucky to have such loving and wonderful daughters.

  7. Lindsay, you are an incredible, insightful young lady. I loved this post, which is chock-full of useful information. I particularly like your advice about making a statement instead of a question: I’ve been thinking about your mom lately instead of How’s your mom?

    Nancy, you raised such a wise, loving daughter. It’s wonderful to see such a connection between mother and daughter.

  8. I am printing this out to keep filed! So well written. Acknowledging that this is her
    (Lindsay’s ) experience and everyone’s is different and that it evolves with time and experiences, so smart and insightful! The part about being honest has been a big topic with my family. As my kids have grown they are very clear they know when something is going on and being honest and open is easier for them. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Leslie, I’m glad you liked the post. I think most kids want honesty. Don’t we all? Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing.

  9. Nancy..your daughter is amazing and so thoughtful…your blog is so real and so honest! You touch my soul. Everything your sweet wrote is exactly how it is in real life. I try not to talk about it to my family. I just say I m ok now when I am not. My breast cancer has spreadto vatous parts of my body. I tried jormonal therapy Ibrance faslodex xgeva. I broke out in a horrible rash and was hospitalized for 8 days. I have spots on my spine. Next step Radiation. Thank uou forcaring

    1. Diana, I agree about my daughter, she’s amazing, as are my two sons. I am sorry to hear your cancer has spread. Perhaps talking with your family about things might be a good idea, but of course, I don’t know your situation. The rash sounds horrible, too. Good luck with radiation. I do care. Very much. Thank you for taking time to comment.

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