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Cancer - what can I do to help?

(10 Posts)
Xiaoxiong Thu 30-Jun-11 16:07:13

I am one of those ridiculously lucky people who has the best MIL in the entire world. We get on so well, so much better than I do with my own mother. She has often said that I'm like another daughter to her and I feel like I can tell her anything, she is so wonderful to me. I'm currently 18 weeks pregnant with her first grandchild and always just took it for granted that at 50 she would be around to be the best nana ever.

Anyway DH just called me to say that his mum has cancer - no more info than that, they are doing a biopsy and I don't think they know the prognosis yet. I think it must be of the bowel as I think they found some cancerous cells in the process of removing polyps (??)

She still has the youngest teenage son living at home and they are 5 hours drive away from us. Her partner is whisking her to some beautiful mountains in Wales for the weekend to take her mind off things and give her a break before the results come back.

I just need to help out in some way but have no idea how. The irony is that of anyone, she would know exactly what to do because she is legendary in her community as being the absolute rock-solid reliable support that helps everyone when they are ill or otherwise in need. If she wasn't 5 hours away I would rush straight over with supper and do some housework for her. Maybe I could pay for a cleaner?

Apparently she said to DH on the phone that it's too early to do anything. Please help me MNers - what can I do to help? If you were my amazing, wonderful, brilliant MIL, what would make you feel better at what must be a terrifying time? Money no object (within reason, can't buy her a private island...could pay for private care if necessary but don't know if she would accept it).

And separately, how can I support DH (and his siblings) - we've been together for five years and married for 18 months but we have never been through anything like this before. I want to be the best wife I can for him but don't want to be pushy. At a time like this I know many families might see a SIL trying to insert herself into their lives as interfering and possibly offensive.

oldenoughtowearpurple Thu 30-Jun-11 16:19:59

Calm down. Of course it's worrying but she may be absolutely fine. Wait and see what the prognosis is. Make sure she knows you are thinking about her but don't be hysterical. A nice phone call and bunch of flowers should do it at this stage, or similar.

Xiaoxiong Thu 30-Jun-11 16:49:33

Ok - phone call, arrange delivery of bunch of flowers. Then sit tight and wait.

Thanks for the virtual shake oldenough, reading my OP again I definitely needed that, I was rather hysterical. (Am I allowed to blame pregnancy hormones...)

smee Thu 30-Jun-11 18:28:45

It's that 'C' word - makes everyone panic, but it's quite often curable these days. I have. I've a friend who has been treated for Bowel Cancer and she's doing well, in remission/ cured or whatever the term is and living life to the full. I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2010 and am through to the other side too. So don't think the worst. No use being all Pollyanna about it as Cancer's a sod, but it doesn't have to be the end. Hope she gets some good news soon. Honestly though, just try and be there for her without the panic! smile

IntotheNittyGritty Thu 30-Jun-11 20:29:10

I have recently been diagnosed with cancer and it is not good news for me. I have been in a state of shock and denial for a few weeks and whilst everyone is offering their help and support but at the moment it is too much for me to cope with.

I have needed to come to terms with it myself, and dont want to listen to other people telling me what to do. Everyone's experience with cancer is different because no two bodies follow the same protocol and what works for one doesnt always work for another. So far I have had so much incorrect advice from people because my specific cancer is a rare and difficult one to treat.

The best thing I have found so far is to be able to use people as a sounding off board - being allowed to talk without the blank wall appearing when people doint really want to hear. A lot of my family dont want to hear what will happen and wont let me start sorting out things for the future.

With your MIL being so close, you need to let her know you want to support her, help her whatever, but that you want to do it on her terms and let her guide you. You will know her well enough on how to support her. Do allow her talk about her fears and concerns if she wants to, without getting emotional. It will be hard on you especially with young children.

The majority of cancers are very treatable. You will go through hell and come out the other side and I have spoken to lots of successful sufferers. I am surprised at how many people do have cancer and you wouldnt know.

The other thing I have found is that everyone says they want to help, when I have asked, they have been too busy because everyone has their own lives to lead, so I am really finding out who are true friends who will be there for me all the way and those that talk the talk.

Stay positive for her but for me I dont want people telling me things will be ok because of what the doctors have told me.

It will take a few weeks for all the information to come out from the doctors, they seem to have been drip feeding to me, allowing me to digest it a bit at a time.

The best thing is to let your MIL know you want to help, even if it means offloading your children onto other friends for a while.

smee Thu 30-Jun-11 23:38:23

NittyGritty, just want to say how sorry I was to read your post. I think what you're saying about honesty and being there is all others can do really, whatever the future. I hope you've got some strong people around you who can do give you all the love and care you deserve. Am sending you a useless but heartfelt virtual hug. sad

IntotheNittyGritty Fri 01-Jul-11 00:01:34

Thank you so much Smee. I appreciate it.

IntotheNittyGritty Fri 01-Jul-11 00:21:12

Smee, just read that you have also had cancer. How did you react? what helped you? what support did you find was the best.

Can you offer any more guidance?

smee Fri 01-Jul-11 10:38:16

I'll give it a go, Gritty. Everyone's different, so I think a lot depends on who you are and what you're facing.

What I really appreciated, were the friends and family who were honest about how shocked and frightened they were for me, but who also then calmed down and made damn sure they were there. Probably just me, but Black humour was a real boon and the friends who could laugh with me dragged me through. I also relied hugely on my BF, who came to chemo with me when DH couldn't, and all manner of other appointments. I will never forget at my biopsy, her sitting holding my foot and us both giggling hysterically because she couldn't get close enough to hold my hand. But the friends who dropped by with meals, or those who took my son off for fun days when I was low on chemo, those who remembered where I was in terms of hospital appointments and just texted that they were thinking of me. That sort of thing made a huge difference.

What also got me through, was finding others in the same boat. With me it's the women on the MN Tamoxifen thread. They've all been through some version of Breast cancer, so they totally understood and normalised it all somehow. So maybe you can help your MIL find some others in the same position as her OP? You can help her a lot, but finding others who have been through it will be a real plus.

And Gritty, I know I'm lucky to be where I am now, so can't imagine how hard it must be for you. Really hope there's some light somewhere for you. Are you having any treatment?

crazycarol Fri 01-Jul-11 17:04:22

The best thing you can do is to be there for her and for the other members of the family. My brother in law was diagnosed with cancer last year and unfortunately died 11 weeks later. I say this not to put fear into you, but to let you know that I have a good idea how you may be feeling. While my BIL had lots of professionals etc looking after him, I found that my energies were better directed towards my sister, making sure she had lifts to and from the hospital, food to eat, company when she needed it, etc etc. They had no children.
My sister had BUPA health care through her work and asked if he would get better care going private. In our area the nhs cancer facilities are pretty good and she was advised that nhs was the best in his case.
I understand that you are a good distance from her and that certainly can't help, but as has already been said, it is just to early to tell what is happening. Once they know what the plans are you can support your dh and visit when you can. I am sure she will love updates on your pregnancy etc. Could you offer for dh's sibling to come visit?

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