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How to manage emotions

How to manage emotions

Posted by Beatcancer27 on Nov 7, 2019 5:57 am

I am having an emotional roller coaster whenever my mom describes symptoms that seem to indicate things are getting worse. On days when she seems okay, I feel okay. On days that she suffers, I suffer. How do I be strong and be able to provide support instead of feeling depressed whenever things don't look so good? 

A little bit about myself: I'm pregnant with my first baby, first grandchild for my mom. I live about one hour away from my parents. Parents need a lot of assistance with navigating health care system due to language barriers. My mom's diagnosis of metastasized ovarian cancer came as shock because she seemed healthy with no serious symptoms. 

Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by Brighty on Nov 7, 2019 7:24 am

Beatcancer27‍  welcome.    One of most challenging  things in life is to watch a loved one go through  pain and feeling helpless.      Being a caregiver  is a balance between caring for the person and for yourself.    You are human and don't have to be strong at all times.     You are allowed  to have have bad days and to have a good cry.    there are many ways you can support your mom.    Take things day by day.. there is no use in forging too far ahead and jumping to conclusions.    Cancer treatment has come a long way and  research is always coming up with new things.    You can do simple things like give your mom a hug a kiss or just hold her hand.   And you can also help with the practical  .. preparing meals, helping to drive to treatments,  and things like that.    If you can'...see if you can find others who are able to help.   The more support you have the better.   Please get support for yourself too.    Being a caregiver  is no easy feat, I can tell you from experience.     A social  worker at the cancer  clinic may have some wonderful  suggtions for you.   I highly recommend it.   We also have a group on the forum called ' coping with a parents diagnoses.     You will find others there going through  the same thing.    In the meantime  I'm going to tag @cynthia mac.  (Sorry my tag isn't working) cynthia  I hope you see this post.    She cares for her dad and will gave many suggestions.   Practical as well as emotional  support. 
Help is out there. All you have to do is reach out.

Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by Cynthia Mac on Nov 8, 2019 8:30 am

Hi, Beatcancer27‍ , I believe I responded to one of your other posts (thanks for the tag, Brighty‍ ).

Congratulations on becoming a parent for the first time. I suspect your new addition will help you answer some of those questions you have about dealing with your mom and your emotions!

My best advice for dealing with emotional matters is to look into mindfulness techniques - deep breathing, meditation, that sort of thing - and exercise. I find that on days I’m able to get out for a long walk, I get a better sleep and I fall asleep better, too. I can provide recommendations to that end if you need.

For your parents’ language barrier, are you able to interpret? Perhaps if you can be on speaker phone and can interpret for your mom and her doctor when they are meeting it will do several things: help the doctor communicate with your mom, give your parents better information in “real time,” and give YOU a more compete picture of what is going on with your mom. (I’ll warn you, though, as a caregiver myself, you don’t always want to hear what the doctor has to say. But, I also know that sometimes it’s better to know than not know.)

Write in any time. You’ve found a good place to be.
“When the root is deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.” - Japanese saying

Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by Lacey_adminCCS on Nov 8, 2019 11:05 am


What you described makes perfect sense. I can relate. When my Dad was sick how he was feeling on a given day definitely impacted how I felt that day. I can't imagine the added barrier your family faces around language. Our Cancer Information Service has interpreters available to join the call so our team can give information and support to your parents. They can be reached toll free at 1-888-939-3333. I encourage you to give it a try and talk to your parents about it. They may be interested in the chance to call and ask some questions and speak in their first language.

Are interpreters providing support at he hospital at appointments? This would take some stress off of you. It would be tough as their daughter to have to be the one giving challenging news or direction I imagine. Contact the Social Worker at the hospital to see if this would be possible.

Who is supporting you right now? I hope you will add us to the list.

Take Care,

Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by Beatcancer27 on Nov 14, 2019 11:44 am

Thank you BrightyCynthia Mac, and Lacey_adminCCS.

As for parents' language barrier, my brother and I have been accompanying them to their appointments to interpret for them. Our phone numbers are also given to the hospital to contact us so we can relay messages to parents. We know the hospital may provide an interpreter rather than children interpreting for parents but we worry that having to schedule a third party may delay mom's appointments. I also prefer to know first hand what my mom's treatment will be and how she will be taken care of.

Lacey_adminCCS, is the toll free number for requesting interpreters at the hospital? or can parents call to just discuss about resources available to them? Are they counsellors?

My parents experienced difficulties when they wanted to reach a pharmacist at the hospital. My dad called the nursing line and asked for so and so but the person must not have understood what my dad was saying and kept transferring him to other people. It was a rough day for them. They were frustrated that they couldn't communicate a simple "May I speak to so and so." The pharmacist eventually called them so it was okay. They try hard not to be a burden but they are helpless when there is language barrier. Hospital language can be more medical and technical as well. A lot of helpful information, pamphlets, guides and other resources are not available in their native language so I try to translate these materials for them. 


Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by Cynthia Mac on Nov 15, 2019 7:39 am

Beatcancer27‍ , your parents are very fortunate to have you and your brother available for their appointments, and you are very fortunate to have your brother’s help. 💛
“When the root is deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.” - Japanese saying

Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by Majorqt75 on Dec 6, 2019 9:52 am

I have posted before, and I have been MIA for a bit, my mom has stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.  She barely eats or drink and all she talks about is the pain and death, and even last night revealed that she hopes some days that treatments don’t work and she can get on with accepting this, be because she can’t accept what she has as long as the doctors are trying....she sitsshe can’t understand why my emotions are going crazy, and on top of it doctors found a large cyst of some kind next to my right ovary, and my dr and the gyno won’t deal with it, (couldn’t even get in to see gyno) have made a referral for me to see a cancer specialist..,I just found that out yesterday(they found cyst beginning of October!). I’m scared, my right side abdomen has been in pain  since Tuesday, with low grade fever, and my moms telling me I’m being ridiculous and all i need is a hysterectomy!!!! Am I wrong to be worried about my own health when I should be only worrying about her.... 

Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by ACH2015 on Dec 6, 2019 10:03 am

Hi Majorqt75‍ 

The answer is simple. You are not wrong to be worried about your own health. How can anyone be a caregiver if you're not looking after yourself? You can't my friend.

Its a tough place to be, first dealing with your mothers needs, and now trying to get yourself assessed to determine what's going on with yourself.

Taking Care of Yourself is an excellent resource from the Canadian Cancer Society. It offers (like many of us here will) ways and means to cope with being a caregiver, and reinforces the need to look after yourself, This is especially important given your own medical assessment needs.

Find others here and elsewhere to talk with (I call it Communotherapy), seek out and use diversions, to help find and maintain the balance you need to keep everything from building up to a breaking point.

I hope this helps.


Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by Cynthia Mac on Dec 7, 2019 8:15 am

Hi, Majorqt75‍ , I’m sorry to hear about your mom, and now you.

First, you are not wrong to be concerned about your own health over your mother’s. The most important responsibility a caregiver has is to look after yourself, because if you “fall into disrepair,” you can’t give care. It’s like they say on planes, “put on your oxygen mask before you help another person put on theirs.” 

Your emotions seem to be running very high, and with some reasonable cause. However, as you’ve discovered, that emotional distress can work against you - your mom is coming out with some “snappy comebacks,” and I’ve no doubt you’re having trouble focussing on much of anything right now.

You say your “dr and gyno won’t deal with it,” and you “couldn’t even get in to see the gyno.” But you also say you’ve been referred to a cancer specialist, so how did you get the referral? There are three truths here: 1. Your GP isn’t qualified to “deal with it.” Once he knows it’s a, b, or c, his job is to refer you to another doctor. 2. If your gyno is so busy you couldn’t get an appointment in that amount of time, there’s a probability that things will move faster for you with the referral to the other specialist. 3. By referring you to the cancer specialist, you’re by-passing “the middle man” (your gynaecologist).

I know you feel the sense of urgency right now with regard to the cyst, however, it takes time to process referrals. You mentioned that you found out “in October” and we’re still in the first week of December. Did your doctor’s office say when your appointment with the specialist is?

There are things you CAN do right now. Contact your GP regarding the pain and the fever. If you have a fever, you could have a viral infection, and in that case, you should not be around your mom when she is in active treatment, so I encourage you to get that checked out right away.

You can take some steps to try to stop the negative thoughts that are swirling around about yourself and your mom. In all seriousness, when you feel your emotions starting to escalate, put your hand over your heart, close your eyes, and take 10 deep breaths. Every time your mind starts to worry about the pain in your abdomen, or “what’s going on inside my belly,” pause and ask yourself, “what do I know for sure?” Some days, this doesn’t work, but for every time it does, you’ve scored an emotional win. Another thing you can do is to look into mindfulness techniques - deep breathing, meditation, that sort of thing - and exercise. I find that on days I’m able to get out for a long walk, I get a better sleep and I fall asleep better, too. 

Now. About your Mom:

Is your Mom not eating or drinking again, or still? You said back in September that she wasn’t eating or drinking much, so if this is an ongoing issue, she will have lost a fair bit of weight by now, I would think.

Was she able to get on Ibrance? 

How are you managing with the level of care she requires? Has your brother come to see your mom?

Is her medical team aware of the level of her depression? Since we last spoke, my Dad had some issues crop up in that regard, and it reached a point where he had a bad fall and injured himself before I learned how bad it was. After the fall, we made an appointment with his GP, and made some adjustments to two of his medications. Within the first week, I could see an improvement in his mood, slight, but definitely detectable. He also had a long talk at his next oncology appointment, and was offered counselling services. Your Mom showed signs of depression back in late September, when you first posted, as well, so you might want to advocate for her with her doctors.

To sum up, you are not being ridiculous, you are right to be concerned about your own health, and there are things you can do to try and keep those concerns from overtaking your day-to-day activities.
“When the root is deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.” - Japanese saying

Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by AC2019 on Dec 11, 2019 6:12 pm

Hi everyone, 
my mom just got diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic cancer. We are still waiting on the biopsy results but already the prognosis is really poor. Her pain is so bad even with a lot of morphine. She barely eats and lies on the couch all day. Since this happened two weeks ago I have so much anxiety. I can barely eat or sleep. I have two young kids as well so it’s been very stressful. I have no siblings or other family here except my husband and his elderly parents. I feel so exhausted and overwhelmed. Everyone is telling me I have to be strong for her but all I want to do is cry. I feel like the worst caregiver. The waiting is killing me. The doctor mentioned that even if we see an oncologist we probably won’t have any treatment until the new year. I feel like she is just wasting away and I can’t do anything to help her 😞 They are suspecting ovarian primary but it’s alrady all over her liver, adrenal glands and lungs. I just feel hopeless 😞

Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by Essjay on Dec 11, 2019 10:42 pm

AC2019‍ sorry to hear your news about your Mom. It’s so hard to watch someone you love suffering and in pain.

please take care of yourself. To be a good carer you need to take care of yourself first. Your Moms team will have access to counsellors for her, as well as you, your wife and your children if they need some help processing what is going on.Taking Care of Yourself is an excellent resource from the Canadian Cancer Society. It offers (like many of us here will) ways and means to cope with being a caregiver, and reinforces the need to look after yourself.

There are a few folks here experienced in caring for those dying of cancer BrightyCynthia MacWestCoastSailor‍ who will be able to give advice from their experiences.

Please don’t feel you have to be ‘strong’. All you need to do is be there. Be with her, listen, talk, and make memories. 

Any time you need to talk there’s likely someone who will respond on here - we are here for you.

Best wishes Essjay xx

Triple Negative Breast Cancer survivor since July 2018

Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by Brighty on Dec 12, 2019 7:23 am

Thank you for the tag Essjay‍ .     AC2019‍   I will be in touch with you a little later today and we can talk.     
Help is out there. All you have to do is reach out.

Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by Cynthia Mac on Dec 12, 2019 10:58 am

Hi, AC2019‍ , Thank you for reaching out. Clearly you are overwhelmed and anxious, and those are normal emotions under the circumstances. I’m caregiver for my Dad, who has metastatic lung cancer (the Mets are to his liver.) I assure you, you are not the worst caregiver. That is evidenced already by your willingness to seek help.

I want to offer you Caregiver tip # 1: take care of yourself. We use a couple of analogies to illustrate this - you can’t give someone water when your own glass is empty, and the airlines remind us on every flight to put on our own oxygen mask before we help another person put on theirs. Already, you’ve learned that when you don’t eat or sleep, your effectiveness deteriorates.

Caregiver tip # 2 is it’s ok to cry. Crying can help us shed some of the anxiety, and it can tire us out so we can get the rest we need to recharge for the next day. I suggest that you find a place of isolation, and let some of that frustration out. It might be in the car, or the bathroom after the kids are asleep, but I encourage you to allow yourself that.

The waiting can perhaps be the hardest part of this whole process. Things tend to speed up a lot once a treatment plan is in place, and we have a sense that something proactive is happening.

I have a few questions, if I may:

Is your mom not eating or sleeping because of the pain or because of the news? The two could be inter-related.
Do you have a good daycare/ after school care support for your kids?
Are your husband’s parents able to help you with your children, or even coming to sit with your mom for a few moments while you step out for a cry, or groceries?
Is your husband being supportive through this?
You mention you have no siblings or family here, but do you have them elsewhere, and are they able to come help?
Do you have a regular “me time” event in your life like a yoga class or book club? If so, try to keep those dates - they’ll go a long way to your self-care.
Do you have access to an employee assistance program, through your own or your husband’s work? They can get you counselling for your anxiety, as can your local cancer centre.

Please contact your mom’s doctor about the pain issue. Pain management can go a long way to the well-being of your “patient.” 

Your mom’s case sounds serious, so I have no doubt that her case will be referred as quickly as possible. Things get a little crazy in the scheduling of treatments around Christmas - my Dad’s next chemo has been pushed out a week, because his next regular treatment would have been on Christmas Day, and in order to avoid having him placed in “overflow,” the doctor moved his next treatment to Jan. 2.

For your own anxiety, try to calm it down by telling yourself only what you know for sure. It might also help for you to put a hand over your heart, close your eyes and take ten deep, cleansing breaths - sounds silly, but it can be effective, and every time it is, you’ve scored an emotional win.

Thank you again for reaching out. Please be kind to yourself as you go through this.

“When the root is deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.” - Japanese saying

Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by Brighty on Dec 12, 2019 4:08 pm

AC2019‍   I'm so sorry for what you are going through.    Watching the person you love suffer is the worst pain imaginable.      Cynthia Mac‍  gave you some great coping tips.      I kind of learned as I went along what to do and what not to do.     I fell apart immediately  after my fiance was diagnosed and went straight to my family doctor for help.    He referred me to a hospital  day program  where I had group therapy  and one on one daily with a social  worker.     The social worker taught me a lot.   First that self care is not selfish.      Second was to set boundaries  and ask for help.    Do not try to do this alone.    Ask for help,  seek support wherever possible.     Be specific about   what you need from others.    If you say you need help, write down a list of exactly  what  you need help with and delegate tasks... who does what and when.       Set boundaries  with others... meaning what you are and not going to put up with.     Ill explain all that in a private message... there was so much behind the scenes stuff and so much family drama.     When I had the help I was able to get stuff done for myself, go to work and get my own appointments taken care of.     Are you affiliated with a religious  organization?  Many churches  or other religious  institutions  will have volunteers who can bring meals, drive your mom to treatments or babysit, or do other tasks.      Try and take some time for yourself and treat yourself  to small things.   I call them 'pick me ups'  get that vanilla latte,  get your nails done.     Most of all I lived minute by minute, hour by hour.    I couldn't jump too far ahead of myself.. all you have is the here and now and what's happening  now.   It does no good to jump to conclusions or imagine scenarios in your head.     But you also do need to prepare  for the practical  stuff when you are ready.     Do you know  your mom's wishes or what she would like? Does she have a will?  You can sit down with  the oncology social worker to discuss practical  matters such as these.      They have experience with all of this and will advise you on the best way to approach  it.    Last of all, the other thing that helped me get through the toughest  days of my life was getting  a pet.     If that is not practical  for you, there is pet therapy at most hospitals now where you can pet a dog and play with it.      Make memories  with your mom now if you can and continue  to lean on us here.   We have your back.
Help is out there. All you have to do is reach out.

Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by WestCoastSailor on Dec 13, 2019 12:56 am


Feel the feels.  

I'm a guy.  So all my life I'm told "Don't cry." But you know what? Crying cleanses the soul and strengthens us for what lies ahead. Crying acknowledges all the pain and hurt. It gives physical outlet to pent up emotion.

Somewhere we have gotten emotion and feelings mixed up with something we can control. And we can't manage emotions. You feel what you feel. Pick up the feelings, examine them, look at the underlying thoughts. Now those thoughts you can do something about. Is there fear? Is there anger, resentment? Is there disbelief?

I told the story of my meltdown with my wife over here. We got past that and if a death can be described as beautiful she had it. Hope comes from where you create it. Cynthia Mac‍  and Brighty‍  have given some good advice.

I suspect that when the oncologist and palliative team get together, the pain will be managed and hope will be restored.

Stay in touch.

My story: http://journey.anguspratt.ca

Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by Sipsi on Dec 16, 2019 11:35 am

justDwilldo‍ , Cynthia Mac‍ , Brighty‍ 
I just read a thread of notes over on ‘It’s been a while - checking in for lung cancer patients’
I really feel for justDwilldo and appreciate every word of the support written up by Cynthia Mac and Brighty.
What  it did for me was being a whole lot of emotions to the surface, and I just teared up.

I am so frightened that this will happen to me......
Those two black spots that Dr watch could suddenly make that happen anytime......
Do I carry on as normal? Do I hurry up and be more insistent to do the thing I want to rather than acquiesce to others - and live compromising all the time.... 
I am a strong personality for sure, but am compliant where I see things work to the greater good. 
So I stuff all those thoughts in a box and ignore them and carry on as usual.....


Re: How to manage emotions

Posted by Cynthia Mac on Dec 16, 2019 1:45 pm

Sipsi‍ , aye, but.

Those two black spots your doctor is watching could also turn out to be scarring from an old bout of bronchitis. It is so very easy for our mind to go directly to the “dark place” instead of a “light place.”

I think the best thing to do (since I have yet to figure out what “normal” is) is to live our best life. That will look different for different people. For some, it will be taking a course on hospice care and volunteering. For others, it could be taking as many “bucket list” trips as one can cram into one’s remaining days, and for another, it might be just spending as much time as possible with the grandkids.

Sure, compromise is going to be part of that. I had a friend text me today about a dinner I had forgotten to put into my calendar. My cold is at the “snorty” stage, and I really don’t feel like having company tonight, but I’m making the compromise. I enjoy her company, and we’ll have a good chat, but I’m “sucking up” my feelings in favour of a visit I don’t feel up for.

If you CAN move things ahead, like a significant trip, it might be the thing to do, but if not, it can stay as something you have to look forward to.

It’s uncommon for me to advocate for stuffing “thoughts in a box and ignor[ing] them” - to me, we are better off when we deal with them, process them, and then “stuff them away.” Processing them and dealing with them tends to make them smaller, and less likely to come back and bite us down the road! Ymmv (your mileage may vary!)
“When the root is deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.” - Japanese saying