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Mother-in-law diagnosed with breast cancer

Mother-in-law diagnosed with breast cancer

Posted by jlacey on Apr 11, 2019 1:05 am

Hi everyone,

My mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer today. She'll be going in for surgery in the next few weeks, which will give them an idea of how much it has progressed. My partner and I moved across the country a year ago - a move that has been great, but she carried a lot of guilt for living so far away from her mother before the diagnosis. My partner lives with depression and anxiety, and was just beginning the first steps of managing her mental health when this news came. She's back visiting her family, but will be flying home in the next couple days. I'm so scared of saying the wrong thing - I want to be supportive, but I don't know how. I'm scared that the progress she's made with her mental health will be lost, I know she is struggling with feelings of guilt for having to fly back home so soon after the diagnosis. I'm scared to say anything to my partner until I feel like I know what the "right" thing to say is. I'm struggling with my own feelings about the diagnosis. As a gay person, it's not always a guarantee that your partner's family will accept you, and her mom has welcomed me and loved me like one of her own since the beginning. I'm scared to talk to my partner about my own feelings about it - maybe I don't have a right to be upset, she's not my mother.

My head is swimming. I feel like I have to have my mind sorted out before my partner gets back. I want to be strong and brave and have a plan for how we're going to get through this before she arrives, but I just feel lost.

Re: Mother-in-law diagnosed with breast cancer

Posted by Cynthia Mac on Apr 11, 2019 9:03 am

Breathe. Deeply. 

You sound so anxious, and that’s a very natural emotion, but it’s one that’s important to feel, acknowledge, then let go.

You know that your partner’s mom has accepted you. Clearly this means that you have formed a relationship, and that you care for one another at some level, so of course you can have feelings, and be upset, too! Expressing those feelings to your partner does not necessarily mean you are adding them to hers. In fact, expressing them could help her to feel that she is not alone in this. It depends on how they’re expressed.

Example: if you go on about how sad this makes you and how awful you feel, and how you’re not sure what to do, that won’t be productive. But, if you say things like ”I feel sad, too, but we can get through this together,” it’s much more inclusive and supportive of the thoughts your partner is experiencing.

What is causing the guilt about flying back home so soon? Is it about leaving you to deal with something big in your new town? Is it because you really can’t afford to spend the money? Is it because the money came out of your savings for something big like a car or house? You can allay a lot of those feelings to help them go away. If it’s a case of dipping into savings for a car, you can say something like, “Look, the money for the plan ticket was only the value of one or two car payments. That’s not a huge setback.” If it’s about flying back home so soon after the move, assure her, “It’s your mom, and it’s important - especially now - for you to be with her as often as you can. My goal will be to help you be there as often as we can while she’s going through this.”

It sounds to me as though you are both quite young, and that you both suffer from anxiety. Hopefully, some of these strategies will help you deal with helping her with some of her anxieties. Let us know how you cope with the next couple days.

And, in all seriousness, I encourage both of you to find some source that will help you become in tune more with your breath, and less with what’s racing through your minds. It might be yoga or meditation, or a deep breathing app on your phone.
“When the root is deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.” - Japanese saying

Re: Mother-in-law diagnosed with breast cancer

Posted by Lacey_adminCCS on Apr 11, 2019 10:34 am


Welcome to our community, although I wish you didn't have to find yourself here. Caregivers and carers of caregivers are very welcome here. You are absolutely allowed to be upset it's your mother-in law and your partner and your love and concern for them shines through in your post. They are lucky to have you.

I totally understand wanting to say the right thing. Remember sometimes you don't have to say anything. Being there and listening is enough. It's tough when you can't do anything to "fix it". It's okay to say "I don't know what to say". 

I thought you might find this helpful- check out the full brochure at the link below:
Listen First


Keep reaching out for support and try and take it one day at a time.


P.s. (nice username)

Re: Mother-in-law diagnosed with breast cancer

Posted by cancertakesflight on Apr 14, 2019 7:59 am

jlacey‍ I'm sorry to hear about your mother-in-law and the stress you are feeling about both your mother-in-law and your partner. Cynthia Mac‍ and Lacey_adminCCS‍ have given you some great advice. Here are a few pieces from me as well. You are worrying about what may happen. I liked to tell myself, "Everything will be okay until proven otherwise." You have to believe that your partner will be fine, especially with your support. Even if she isn't initially fine, she may just need a period to adjust. As Lacey said, it's okay to say that you don't know what to say. Sometimes people say the wrong thing, because they feel like they have to say something when just sitting there in silence is a method of showing support. As Cynthia Mac commented, sometimes it's not what you say but how you say it. If you don't do some deep breathing to find some inner peace, you will share your tension and not the love and support that you really want to share. 

cancertakesflight (Debbie)
Laughter is a lifestyle choice. www.laughterandcancer.com/blog