Let’s be honest, a breast cancer diagnosis is a scary thing. This may also be the first time that you or your family or your friends and colleagues have ever been up close and personal with cancer. It is a difficult time for you – but it is also a difficult time for those who are close to you.
Ever since your children were born it has been your job to look after them. That is no longer your job. It is your job to get better. Every waking minute of your day must be focussed on returning to health. You need to get selfish!! Think of yourself for a change! You are the one with the cancer and you are the one who has to concentrate on getting better – no one else can do that for you! You are the survivor!
Husbands, children, family and friends: your loved one has breast cancer. This does not mean that she is going to die. It means that she is sick – and is going to receive treatment for it. She is a breast cancer survivor.
She has not suddenly turned into some fragile ornament that is going to shatter if you raise your voice and she has not turned into a six year-old child who is incapable of looking after herself or speaking for herself.
However, there will be times during her treatment when mum will need some extra tender, loving, care and it is important for you to be there for her when she needs it. Most of the rest of the time you can carry on as you did before the diagnosis.
When to help
The first few treatments are scary. Not only are they scary but the doctors and nurses will give your mum a lot of information and there is no way that she will remember it all – as she is probably suffering from emotional shock. Go with mum and take a pen, a notebook (or diary) and a folder or plastic bag to put notes and information booklets into. Also take along a book for you to read!
When the doctor or nurse is speaking with your mother make notes. Just write down whatever they say – you can go through it later and cross out anything that is unimportant or underline important things that need to be done.
Chemotherapy is boring! Mum will sit (or lie) with a drip in her arm for at least an hour, sometimes even longer. She will most likely be in a treatment room with a number of other cancer survivors – some of whom are quite far along in their treatment. If your mum is a chatty type then leave her to make friends, if you are the chatty one then make the introductions.
Chemo affects everybody differently. When you get your mum back home she may just want to sleep. Let her sleep, but remember – if she sleeps too much during the day she may struggle to sleep that night. Does she have sleeping tablets? Make her a nice light soup. Chemo changes your taste so she may want no salt or she may want lots of salt. Make it with no salt and let her keep adding salt until she is happy.
New anti-nausea medications are excellent so the chances are that mum will not puke, but she may still feel queasy. If that happens ask her if she would like to lie on her side while you gently rub her back, or if she would like a hot water bottle. When she is feeling nauseous she will probably not be in a chatty mood – so just sit and watch television or read your book.
Do not assume anything. If she wanted you to rub her back last time she may not want you to do it next time – so always ask before rushing to help!
Love her – don’t smother her!