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Supporting from a distance
Knitter24
3 Posts
Fifteen weeks ago, my 24 year old son was diagnosed with melanoma, eventually confirmed stage 3D. He was nearly halfway through a grad school program in the US, and returning to Canada with closed border wasn’t what he was willing to do;
Later that first week, my husband and I literally begged US border officers for entry so that we could support and help navigate (we were turned back on first attempt driving, so my husband flew and I was successful driving on second attempt the next day).
Recalling those first 6 weeks is a fog, getting sorted out in a new city, new health care system, understanding the diagnosis, options, supporting decisions. Things got easier after his surgery. He healed well, finished his school term, his exams, he started a summer internship, he has had two immunotherapy treatments, so far so good, these will continue every 3 weeks for a year. We cannot imagine not having been here in person to support through all of this. But he has a routine now. He is doing really well. His next scans will be in July. He has a very supportive girlfriend, and she has a large supportive family nearby. It is time for my husband and I to drive home next week.
But as our departure nears, my anxiety is rising. Quarantine planning is an irritant (we are both fully vaccinated). Thinking about returning to work is exhausting. But the thought of not being there to support my son in person is making me feel sad. He has so much on his plate. But he does not need us here day-to-day now. I didn’t have this kind of separation anxiety before his cancer diagnosis. Lots of families facing medical challenges have dealt with restricted visiting options during Covid times. This site has provided much encouragement, reading stories about resilience, courage and hope.
Do others have recommendations for supporting a loved one from afar?
8 Replies
Brighty
6765 Posts
Knitter24‍ I'm so sorry for what you are going through. It's so hard having your son diagnosed and not even being able to be with him because of covid restrictions. I'm so glad to hear he is doing well on immunotherapy and he has a supportive girlfriend. I hope that brings you a bit of comfort. I have read a few posts here on people supporting loved ones from a distance. Although not the same, There are ways to do it..and no less meaningful. You can have daily phone calls,texts, and set up zoom meetings. You can eat together on zoom,have card games, and watch shows together. You can send care packages of things you know your son will like, groceries or meal deliveries. Things like that. He will appreciate it. If you feel sad or anxious which is understandable it might help you to talk to the oncology social worker or someone else. Your family doctor can refer you if need be. He is so lucky to have you. Keep us updated on how your son us doing and how you are coping.
supersu
197 Posts
Knitter24

WOW! I am impressed with your persistence - even a closed border couldn't keep mamma bear away from her cub!
sounds like your son has inherited you & your husbands fortitude.

being away will be hard after all you have been through together, but as Brighty‍ has listed there are so many ways to stay connected. thank you for sharing your story so far.

good luck with re-entry to the Canadian COVID reality - I hear it is much different in the states.

cheers
su

#cancerinthefamily #caregivingfromafar #melanoma
Essjay
1484 Posts
Knitter24‍ I am sure your son appreciated you supporting him, but at some point you have to step away and let him go on with life, as do you…

My family is on a different continent and COVID has been hard (I had flights booked to visit for my first trip home post cancer treatment, but COVID stopped that trip)…

Video chats make all the difference. I bought my parents, who don’t have smartphones, an Amazon Echo Show which is like a portal in their home. They can answer it by voice, or tell it to call me or my sisters and we have either the Alexa app or device and can respond straight away. It has really helped us to keep connected. We also do a family zoom chat every weekend - my sisters and I, my mum, an aunt call regularly and others join in from time to time. And daily messaging…

Your son won’t tell you everything…Post cancer, anything and everything gets checked out, and I don’t tell my parents or siblings about scans and tests because I don’t want them worrying about nothing. If a test shows something, I will tell them, but I don’t feel I need to share the worry and the scanxiety I feel. My parents do exactly the same to us, not telling us about stuff they don’t want us worrying about - we all like to protect our loved ones…

When do you make the trip back home?
Trillium
1228 Posts
Knitter24‍ - It’s wonderful that you were able to go and support your son in person. I also had to go through the worry that comes with a cancer diagnosis in my adult son and know how hard it is to let him go on with his life now that he is doing better. I was lucky that I had moved closer to my son before he developed cancer so I was here with him. He is 40 but because he has a disability he requires lots of support, however I also have to let him live his life as independent as possible.

It might help to keep in mind that for him to go back to life as normal will help him heal too. This caregiver guide ( Link below) helps us to move forward when treatment is over. Brighty‍ has given you many ways to support from a distance I find supporting my daughter from a distance is most helpful if I just listen to her talk about everything she is going through. That seems to be what works for us as she is struggling with some health issues at this time.

https://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/living-with-cancer/caregiving/life-after-caregiving/?region=on

Thanks for sharing with us and I hope your son continues to be well.



Knitter24
3 Posts
Essjay‍ Thank you for reply, and such a practical touch down and reality that I need to embrace. Great suggestions. I hope you may visit your family off the continent soon, these ongoing travel restrictions are such a disappointment! What an understatement!
I do think our presence living temporarily nearby is making it hard for all of us to find “normal”, now that our son’s treatment is underway. If it were not for Covid border closure, we would not have stayed here for 3 months. But because of Covid, we couldn’t leave before we knew things were stable and he was coping ok on his own, supporting him to meet his goals, given the challenge for any of us to cross the border again. Reading about Melanoma stage 3D was terrifying as a parent of a young adult, but our son is presently the picture of health, and current treatment and research developments are encouraging, I am putting all my hope these days into Keytruda immunotherapy to permit my son to put this diagnosis behind him eventually. His scans next month will be informative, needless to say I am experiencing full scanxiety in advance of reports from the 2nd week in July. But meanwhile our son doesn’t need us here day to day and I need to keep letting go of ‘momma bear’ instincts! Thank you Brighty‍ for great suggestions for long distance support, and thank you supersu‍ for encouragement. And thank you Trillium‍ for being here for all of us scared parents.
Trillium
1228 Posts
Knitter24‍ - I can imagine how scared you all were with a stage 3D melanoma diagnosis. Your son is so young to have to deal with cancer. I just read about it too and learned that it is more common in men.
https://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/skin-melanoma/treatment/?region=on

Let us know about the scan results in July. It is hard waiting & hoping to find that things are improving. I can imagine dealing with the health system must have been stressful too.

What are you looking forward to when you return?

Good luck with your travel back home.
freebird
7 Posts

Knitter24
My sister lives in Australia and supporting her from "afar" has been by means of sending flowers prior to her chemo treatments, daily whatsapp video chats, sending clothes/hat for her new body image and simply "being there", being present when she wants to share. A big part has also been taking care of myself, so the usual crap in my life is dealt with, and she does not have to worry about me and my family. That goes a far way. We are all connected, just a prayer away. ;) Claudia
FunnyBunny
29 Posts

Knitter24

As a Mom I can't imagine not being there for my sons (they are tiny right now though). But I am also a daughter with a very very close relationship with my Mum who is end of life with cancer. I'm in Edmonton, she's in Abbotsford. It has been terrible at times, being away from Mum (and Dad). Some things Ive done to show my support and make myself feel better with the distance are: sending "sunshine" packages randomly filled with a theme of items. Mum is very patriotic so on Canada Day I send her a box of Made in Canada/Proud Canadian items. I've also sent her yellow/orange things in a box I painted like a sunshine. When she started a new round of chemo I made her a box of Rocky Balboa items/quotes "Our greatest glory is not in falling but rising every time we fall." She finds the boxes over the top and unnecessary but you should see the smile I get (with the eye roll) and I know she secretly loves them! I also make sure to talk to her about things unrelated to cancer at least once a week. No matter how much I want an update after a doc appointment etc, I let her bring it up in due time and I will call her to tell her about a yummy new recipe or what the kids got up to on the weekend. She's thanked me for that more than once. I also visit as much as I can. I am a frontline paramedic; double vaccinated (yet HIGH exposure risk obviously) so when I visit I wear a mask the entire time and I set myself up a donn/doff station (she's still getting chemo therapy). I think support from a distance wears many hats. Some people want you to ask how the appointment went and some people want to digest alone before the onslaught of questions. Some people dont want to be seen, in the flesh, until their hair grows back or they're finished their treatments/surgery etc and some people want the comfort of personal interaction. As his Mom, Im certain you and your family will find a few wonderful ways to support your son from a distance until you can be together again. Don't underestimate the tools in your Motherly toolbox. Don't over think it and get there when you can!
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