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Both my parents have cancer
Sherri23
13 Posts

Hi,

I first came on this site not having known anyone with cancer before. Within the span of 1.5 months, both my parents were diagnosed with cancer. My dad stage 4 lung cancer and my mom breast cancer (two tumors) invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive ductal carcinoma with lobular features (stage not known at this time).

To say that my entire world feels like it is falling apart would be an understatement. I am very close with my parents and have taken on the support role for both my parents and have become the one who attends and keeps track of all doctors appointments. I do have 2 brothers who are very hands on as well but when it comes to the emotional aspect of dealing with all of this, my parents have always come to me.

With that said, I also am the mother of 3 little ones and am finding life exhausting at the moment. The sandwich generation is no joke. But here’s to hoping for brighter days ahead!

xo


13 Replies
brittanyc
52 Posts

Hi @Sherri23,

Thank you for sharing with us. I’m so sorry to hear that both of your parents have been diagnosed with cancer. This community is a great place to find support, ask questions and be in the presence of people who truly ‘get it’. I’m glad that you reached out.

Taking care of one person is a big commitment but caring for two people with three children as well? It is understandable that you are finding life exhausting right now. While you have your brothers’ help in caring for your parents, is there anyone you can lean on for support? Or do you have a self-care regimen? The Canadian Cancer Society has helpful tips on how to care for yourself as you provide care for your loved ones. Here’s the link if you wanted to check it out. We also have a forum dedicated to caregiving, located here.

Allow me to tag @Brighty, @Mtlcity1969, and @Cynthia Mac who all have experience with giving care to loved ones. If you would be so kind as to connect with Sherri23 and share experiences? Thank you all in advance 🤗

Take great care, Sherri23.

Brittany

Cynthia Mac
3575 Posts

Oh, @Sherri23 , I’ve got half an idea of what you’re going through: I’m missing the kids part.

My Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer in October, 2017, two short months after my Mom passed away suddenly. My siblings were anything but hands-on, with the possible exception of one.

You need some organization, stat. For Dad, I set him up with a “health book” and I would suggest you make one up for each of your parents. I used the 6 x 9” Five Star with multiple sections and pockets. It worked out great: I used one section for contacts and medications, the next for appointment dates and times, the next for questions to ask and have answered at appointments, and another for him to note any symptoms. If I were you, I’d set one up for each parent. This little book was so useful because everyone knew where it was, and to take it with them if they were taking him to an appointment, or if they needed to know anything about doctors or medication.

The hospital provided us with a very handy leaflet to record other things (temperature, blood pressure, hydration intake, etc.) when he was in chemotherapy, which saved me having to do yet another section, and they gave us a little accordion file with information brochures, contraindication sheets, etc.

Google calendar also came to my rescue: Dad’s appointments etcetera were all coloured red, and my own stuff was the default blue. You might want to choose another colour for your kids’ stuff.

I’m tagging @ashcon and @Skye2 and @Runner Girl, who can hopefully assist you with information about your mom’s BC.

I’m sorry you’ve had all this land in on you at once, but I’m sure you’ll find this site as helpful as so many others have. Ask any questions you have, and someone will try and get you what you need.

Brighty
8197 Posts

@Sherri23 i cant even imagine what you must be going through. Both parents with cancer plus taking care of 3 little ones! . Cancer takes a toll on everyone in the family. It can change the entire family dynamic. I cared for my fiance who had stage 4 cancer, but I don't have any kids. Sounds like you are doing an amazing job caring for your parents, going to appointments with them and learning all the information you can . Try to get as much information as possible about both their cancers. The good news is that cancer is no longer always a death sentence. The treatments, even for stage 4 lung cancer have come such a long way. We have folks on the site living well with stage 4 lung cancer for a while. @WestCoastSailor is even running marathons!!!! I'm glad you have two brothers who are also taking an active role, but it sounds like you are taking on the brunt of it.

When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer,there are so many both emotional but also practical things to consider. @Cynthia Mac gave you some wonderful organizational tips in her post. There are also the practicalities of the every day things your parents need. Meals, groceries, household chores, …..and that is when you rally up the troups. Get as many close friends and family as involved as possible to help you out with those type of things. Write a list of who can do what . And not only do you have to do that for your parents, you need some help in your own household. You have so much on your plate, you might need family, friends,or neighbors to do those very same things for you. Meal drop offs, a grocery run, etc. So you can have some down time, or time with the kids. Now let's talk about the kids. Are they aware of what is happening? How are they coping with everything going on? They might benefit from some play dates with their peers, or an aunt or uncle who can take them out somewhere fun like tobaggaining, or help them with their homework. Someone who can be with them so you can take care of your parents, or just have time for self care. Your kids might find it helpful to talk to a guidance counselor in school, a CYW or a school social worker if they are having trouble dealing. Do you have open honest family conversations? Or are they too young yet.

Even with all of this going on,you do need to find time for yourself, and your self care. If someone can stay with your parents, perhaps a family member, or respite care for a few hours a week just to give you a break. Self care can just be a walk or a treat, but you need to do something for yourself too.

One thing cancer does is give loved ones a chance to spend more quality time together. Having conversations, even the tough ones. I know its painful and not something anyone wants to think of , but have you spoken to them at all about their wishes? Being prepared ahead of time will give you peace of mind. Once you find a good time you get that difficult conversation out of the way, spend lots of quality time with your parents. Do some fun things with them if they are up for it. Have some laughs with them on their good days, or try a new recipe together. The quality time does not always have to be cancer related.

I know I threw a lot at you. There may be groups for people going through the diagnosis of both parents. The cancer info line may be aware of a support group you can join.1888 939 3333. As well, the social worker at the cancer center can point you in the direction of anything you may need. Or if you just want to cry and unburden. We understand and will be here to answer any more questions you have…or just need a listening ear. Thanks for tagging @brittanyc !

Runner Girl
2449 Posts

Hello @Sherri23 Thank you for the tag @Cynthia Mac

I am so sorry that your parents have both been diagnosed with cancer. As mentioned, we have several folks here with stage 4 lung cancer who are living their best lives years after their diagnosis - @WestCoastSailor and @Kuching

I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, estrogen positive and HER2+ in 2018 at 52 years of age. I had 2 visible tumors and they found a third tiny one off to one side. I had the 3 Amigos! Because I am HER2+ my cancer was labelled aggressive. Fortunately there are lots of treatments available for breast cancer. Your mom's doctors will provide her the plan that is best for her type of cancer. I had a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy - my nodes were clear. My plan was 6 rounds of chemo, 17 rounds of herceptin, 16 rounds of whole breast radiation and 5 rounds of targeted radiation focused on the tumor bed - my radiation doctor didn't like my margins so gave me the extra 5 treatments. I'm going to tag @Mammabear who had a similar cancer to me but had a recurrence after 4.5 years, she is stage 4 but is living her best life with continued treatment. Breast cancer is not the death sentence it used to be. We've come a long way.

You're definitely going to have your hands full over the next probably year so be sure to take time for yourself when you can. You cannot look after others if you don't look after yourself first.

Has your mom met the surgeon yet? I have several list of questions for the different stages of breast cancer so if you can let me know where she is at I will provide the appropriate info - don't want to overwhelm you.

Runner Girl

Sherri23
13 Posts

@Cynthia Mac Thank you for your reply. I am sorry you had to do everything alone without the help of your siblings, especially after you had just lost your mom.

A health book is such a good idea. I keep notes on my phone for each parent but am feeling overwhelmed by all of the notes and do not like the idea of everyone else in the family not knowing each detail of my parents. Thank you for this idea!

Sherri23
13 Posts

@Brighty Thank you for your thoughtful message. I have not spoken to my parents about their wishes, but you are right, it’s probably best to get that conversation over with and move on.

Adding kids to the mix is difficult but it also provides a much needed distraction for both myself and parents I find.

Cancer has definitely changed our family. For starters- I haven’t physically lived in BC in a very very long time. Before all this I’ve always flown back and forth a lot pre Covid. And my kids and I come every summer to spend the summer with my parents (even during the pandemic). But those carefree days seem to be over for us…

And so I find myself again trying to re-learn the Canadian health care referral system. And just when I felt okay knowing that there was a treatment plan in action for my dad (chemo and immunotherapy every 3 weeks until March for now and virtual DR visits) we were met with my mom’s diagnosis.

I am grateful for my husband, who has been on this journey with me picking up my slack when it comes to my kids. He’s been working from home since the beginning of the pandemic and in an odd way, I feel that the pandemic prepared my family for what was to come for us - a lot of isolation and worry.


My kids (7, 5 and 2) do not really know what is going on with my parents. They can hear papa coughing so we have told them that he has a chronic cough and is getting treatment to get better. My mom fortunately doesn’t have any symptoms.

Self-care has unfortunately not been a priority but you‘re right it needs to be. I keep telling myself that once my mom has surgery, a good therapist should be able to do the trick but a walk outdoors is a good suggestion.

@WestCoastSailor was kind enough to respond to my post about Mucinous Adenocarcinoma in the lung cancer chat awhile back before my dad started treatment. Running marathons- you are an inspiration @WestCoastSailor

@Brighty Thank you again for your message and support. It is very much appreciated.

Cynthia Mac
3575 Posts

@Sherri23 wow, that’s quite the rest of the story!

My Dad also ended up in immunotherapy, after his cancer came back in metastatic form. I just want to share that his tumours responded well to treatment - he had a different type of cancer than your dad, but I hope your Dad will have a similar response.

You’ve already met @WestCoastSailor , and he’ll be better able to help you navigate the BC health care system, as I’m in ON.

I wish the best possible outcomes for all of you.

Sherri23
13 Posts

@Runner Girl thank you for your message and for sharing your experience.

We did meet with the surgeon who recommended a partial mastectomy for my mom followed by radiation. Unfortunately my mom isn’t a good candidate for a total mastectomy so she will proceed with the recommended route. I understand that she will qualify for hormonal therapy due to her hormone receptors being positive. Her two tumors are 1cm and 0.7 mm in size, and she is HER -.

It feels so good to hear that there are many treatment options available for breast cancer. Thank you for sharing that!

Mammabear
253 Posts

As runner girl said, I have stage 4 breast cancer, work full-time and have been stable on my current protocol for 2 years.

Don't get ahead of yourself until you know treatment plans. Chemo is hard, not gonna lie. Risk of infection and managing side effects is tough.

While you say you are primary emotional support please do suggest counseling for both them and you and your siblings. This is hard.

And don't let those brothers off the hook. They should be taking some of the responsibility for dr Apts. Labs etc. They can record oncologist Apts or put you on speaker phone. Write all questions down.

Your parents can also find support here and other places such as wellspring.

Stay in touch.

@Sherri23

Wow that's a rough ride. But I'm glad to hear that your father has a treatment plan. That's good stuff. And your mother will be there soon. BC Cancer has some great social workers that can help navigate through all the complexities. They are the undersung heroes of the cancer center I think.

Make sure that you take time for yourself. If you are a podcast listener I highly recommend The Waiting Room Revolution. Focused on helping to manage serious illness, it just gives a good framework for approaching the challenges that you are facing. I reviewed it over here - https://cancerconnection.ca/discussions/viewtopic/68/69232

Angus

Sherri23
13 Posts

As always @WestCoastSailor thank you for your guidance. I will definitely be listening to the podcast you recommended.

Shilo
1 Posts

Hi @Sherri23. I was diagnosed with the exact same breast cancer as your Mom. Original biopsy was invasive lobular carcinoma, but afTer my first surgery, pathology report said invasive ductular with lobular features. All very scary for sure. I was required to have a 2nd surgery as I wasn’t fortunate enough to have clear margin, after the original surgery. 4 months of chemo and 30 treatments of radiation. This all happened during Covid, and surgery was cancelled 4 times. Starting to get back to my old self, but the endocrine therapy has been the worst. Trying to find a med, that you can endure, is not easy. She will typically have to be on a hormone blocker, for 10 years, to increase chances of a full recovery. Long process, so just be really patient with your Mom. 🙏🙏

Sherri23
13 Posts

@Shilo thank you for sharing your experience and for your advice.

Having your surgery cancelled so many times could not have been easy for you. I’m glad are beginning to feel like yourself again and hope you are able to find a hormone therapy that you can tolerate soon. 🙏🏼

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