24 answers

Looking for Suggestions on Things to Do for and How to Help My Mom Thru Chemo

Hi,
My mom is starting chemo for breast cancer tomorrow.. for those of you who have been personally affected by something like this, what can I do to help her? She doesnt want anyone to go with her to the chemo treatments, I have thought about making meals for her, but not sure how hungry shell be. I am going to go rent her some movies, buy magazines etc.. what else can I do?? I know this is going to be hard on her and want to make sure she knows Im here to help in any way possible.. shes so strong of a person, she would never ask for help... Any suggestions are helpful!

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Featured Answers

Just being there is sometimes enough...my grandmother went through chemo for breast cancer and her hair fell out and her skin was really dry and cracked. I do not think it was as hard on her as it was for all of us. She slept a lot and sometimes it seemed like it was all day every day. The chemo just wore her out. Just be there and that if you notice she needs anything just get it for her. Keep her company an spend time with her. You only get one mom.

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There is a national foundation called Cleaning for a Reason, they provide free cleaning service to women undergoing cancer treatment. Their website is www.cleaningforareason.org and their phone number is 8-###-###-####. Please contact me if you have any questions, I will keep you and your mother in my prayers. God bless you.

J. L

i had a friend who recently had a long fight with cancer. I cooked a lot for him and his wife , like cupcakes and such. Also they loved doing puzzles. They have a mat that you can roll the puzzle up and take it with you and they loved that. Maybe by some older classic DVD's like Princess Bride and such. Anything that is easy for them to do during the recovery times of chemo.

L.,

Hey, I know how hard it is seeing your mom go through this. My mom went through it about 7 years ago. You know,she really did appreciate the home cooked meals. I have to admit it was my husband; he's the amazing cook. Just being there for her to listen and joke around. I felt that just by hanging out and doing things together to help keep her mind off of the treatment was the best thing I could do for her.(That is how we ended up here in New Mexico in the first place!) I also tried to give her massages and fix her scarves.

I think whatever you do with love & sincerity will be so appreciated. It's just so amazing to have family nearby to help ease teh discomfort in whatever form need be. Even if that means giving her privacy and space in dealing with the treatment. My prayers are with your family. S.

Hey L.,

First, I just want to say how sorry I am that your mom has to go through this again. I'll be thinking all good things for her. My husband had a different kind of cancer, and so I don't know if your mom will experience the same kind of responses, but here's what we learned:

1)Different chemotherapy drugs have different side effects. Your mother's oncologist will probably have handouts about each drug, and the internet is great for gathering information about side-effects specific to each drug.

2)Each person's body chemistry is different, so each person experiences chemotherapy differently. My husband was young and strong and we were told his treatment regimen was not one of the harder ones to tolerate, but in his case, unfortunately, this proved to be untrue. He had a hard time, especially with nausea. There are usually several drugs the oncologist can give to combat every side-effect. If the one your mother's doctor prescribes doesn't work, advocate for her immediately to get one that does. There is no reason for your mother to suffer unnecessarily.

3)Dehydration can be a real problem. If your mother doesn't feel like drinking anything, encourage her to take at least a sip of something every 10 minutes or so. My husband's favorite thing at this time was watered down orange Gatorade. If your mother doesn't feel like eating, don't push it. If she doesn't feel like drinking, stay on top of her. If you can't get her to drink enough, take her to the hospital for an IV. If your mother doesn't want to go to the hospital and you feel like she needs to, don't defer to her, take her in. A cancer patient isn't always the best determiner of what he or she needs in the moment. That being said, give her her dignity at all times.

4)Handle any insurance issues for her. The last thing a person who is fighting for her life needs to be doing is arguing with her insurance company, and it does happen, believe me. If her insurance company says no to a drug that is going to make your mother's treatment easier in any way, get on the horn, sister. I once made someone call a supervisor at home after hours to get my husband his anti-nausea medication.

5)Strong odors and flavors can really be hard for a person undergoing chemo to take. Also, ask your mom's doctor before you give her any over-the counter stuff. My husband was told not to take anti-oxidant vitamins because they interfered with his chemo drugs.

6)Ask your mom's chemo nurses anything and everything. The doctor prescribes, but the nurses tend to know the real nitty-gritty stuff. They are fountains of practical information.

7)Be flexible. Cancer doesn't have a schedule, and there are times when you think you're gonna be somewhere for an hour and you end up staying the night. Since you have small children, make sure you have someone you can count on to help in these situations.

8)Respect that this is a delicate balance, here. You'll have to really tune in to your mom to know what the right thing to do is sometimes. If you are ever in doubt, call the Dr. Don't hesitate to call because you're afraid to be a nuisance-call whenever you feel you need to.

9)If you are her primary caregiver, you'll be encouraged to "take care of yourself." It's almost impossible to do. Be patient with yourself and ask for help from your friends and husband without hesitation. Do the best you can, understanding that you are a human being with needs, too, even if it seems hard to meet your needs during this process. You will feel angry and helpless and hopeless and frightened and less-than, but you will still be a champion for your mother. You can do what you must do because you must do it.

There are probably about 10,000 other things I could write to you, but I am going to stop now. If you should feel like you would like to contact me for any reason, please don't hesitate. Oh, and get in touch with the Wellness Center. They are fantastic support for patients and caregivers.

All the best to you and your mother,

A.

I recently had a friend go thru chemo for breast cancer.. we bought her an IPOD and put music and books on CD on them so she would have something to listen to... bought her some nice scarves to wear since she was losing her hair.. its always hard.. best of luck, my prayers are with you...

Hi L.,

I have gone thru this with my own mom, but she had a different kind of cancer. All that I can really suggest is let her know that you'll always be there for her and even though she may not ask for help, but still pick up the house for her, do little things around her home so that it will be easier on her during those rough bouts that she will have. Even though she's saying now that she doesn't want anyone to take her to her chemo treatments, please be prepared that there will be some days that she won't feel up to driving herself and that you may have to take her. Always let her know how much you love her too. With the 3 yr old twin boys, please let them know that they can't "catch" the cancer from her if they ask questions and help them understand as well that there will be some days that grandma won't be feeling well. Letting them know about this now and being up front about it, will help them not be so afraid when they see grandma. Take your kids to see your mom on the days that are good for her. If you would like to email me for more support you can at ____@____.com.
I hope that this helps!

I. K.

Your situation is probably way different but this is what we did :)
-tell her I love you often
-have patience :) It took a long time for us to understand what we could do to take care of her and we work at it everyday. This is her 2nd bout of cancer and its been completely different from the first. As she goes through treatment, you'll figure things out along the way. Stay with her after the first treatment, just in case.
- after chemo, she sleeps alot and has to drink a lot of water (sometimes she has the runs then has accidents)
- try a bedside bell. my MIL laughed at me but it came in super handy. As matter of fact, she may even have gotten too comfortable with it!
- moved in with her. its been a huge change to the way we were living but shes more comfortable in her own house with her stuff
- opened the windows and brought the paper to her everyday
- change her gown everyday
- didnt let her stay in her room all the time. Even just pushing her to watch tv in another room
- encourage family/friends to write or call and visit-visit-vist. sometimes she turned people away when she felt really bad and they understood.
-we bought different hats as she started to loose her hair and finally a wig. this has actually perked her up and she actually goes for walks outside twice a day!
- we bought her a magazine subscription
- she was always nauseous so cooking meals was never an issue. (also,she was on a feeding tube)
- her first grandbaby was born right before she got sick and we would go in her room for 1 hr before bed each night

I hope this helps, email with other ?s

One of our MOPS mentors has been through chemo 3 times now. The ladies all got together and made her a love quilt. That way when she was alone or cold or just needed a hug she could pull it close to her.

You could get family and friends to bring you a scrap of 8" x 8" material and piece together a love quilt. If you are unable to make one buy a nice one that everyone can sign.

Is your dad and mom together? Is your dad alive? Just asking cause if it were me in the situation I would make sure dad had visits and food too. That would make my mom feel good.

Small freezer meals would be good. That way if she is hungry she can heat it up easy and not have to do too much prep work. Also a small scrapbook of your family with photos and well wishes maybe even cute stories about your kids. That way even though you are not there you are still with her when she needs you.

My prayers go out to your MOM & Your family.. We have been through this 2x's now I lost my sister to cancer in 2007 & My kids great grandma just went through it (clean bill right now) her appetite is gonna get strange she may want to eat then again she may not she also may get a craving & want to eat the same thing for days (thats ok)I think the most important thing to remember is to stop asking them all the time if they are ok because it makes them feel worse(thats what my sister told me)Visit when she feels up to it go to appts even tho she says she doesn't want you there in the long run I think she will be happy you were there. (with treatment sometimes they forget what the Dr. tells them so it's best to have some one else there to remember(get notebooks & write it all down)Be patient with them even when they are grumpy they might be able to control there emotions becasue they have so many running through them at the time.. Just give lots of love & spend alot of timwe together..God Bless

I recently went through radiation in Sept-Oct. Although it is not chemo, I am still in the same group of having breast cancer. You deal with fatigue and burning skin. My favorite gifts were from my sisters that got together and got me a Merry Maids gift certificate. That was the best! Also a girlfriend from work gave me a basket full of pink stuff. It was just little stuff, too, like pens, gum, m&m's, socks, etc. It also made a world of difference just getting messages from friends saying they were thinking of me. That's all it took. The little things meant so much. Good luck to you and your mom.

Hi L.! My Mom died from pancreatic cancer last May 19th, my firstborn baby's due date. Although times have been incredibly difficult, my situation is a little different because my Mom knew she was dying.

Your Mom will definitely be very tired and not very hungry at all. My advice would be to comfort her in any way possible without focusing on the fact that she even has cancer and that she is going through chemo. Get her food from her favorite restaurant. Give her a nice foot massage. The movie idea sounds great if she is up for it. Look through old pictures and have good laughs. Talk a lot about your kids and let them visit when she is having a "good" day.

She knows how much you love her and that you will do anything under the sun to help her. She will ask if she needs help. I hope this helps a little.

be available because although she wants to go to chemo alone she will not be able to do it somedays. depending on the chemo she may have a lot of symptoms or not. some of them are severe nausea vomiting and possible dehydrations. get her a water bottle bring over some juices etc. when you are on chemo itis hard to eat. you may crave somethign and by the time you go to eat it it will taste awful. it is important that she get proper nutrition so cooking something she loves now may not be the right thing but jsut have a lot of stuff available that she may want to eat. dry skin is common get her some nice lotions and such. ask her if she would like a back rub or foot rub. sometimes the dont even want to be touched but the offer is good. is she going to lose her hair? ask her how she feels about this and start preparing. there are several places where she can get a wig, i not get her some really cool head pieces. i always wore do rags that bikers use or i went topless butnot everyone felt as comfortable as i was with my bald head. but them i do have a sick sense ofhumor. the thing that bothered memost was losing my eyelashes. i hate wearing sunglasses but i had to and eventually i got a pretty good collection of them to match my do rags. i also got permanent make up, eyebrows and eyeliner before i had the chemo so i didnt totally look blank. sometimes just putting on lip gloss was a chore. let her know how angry this makes your feel. one of my boys had a really hard time with it and he was always so condescending. we finally had a heart to heart and cried our eyes out and then everything was much better. sometimes it hurts your eyes to read but offer the books and magazines but offer books on tape instead, get her an i pod. that was my life saver for wheni was sitting there for hours getting my " goods". ask her if she wants you to clean her house. i loved nothaving to do housework but maybe she needs to say its ok because at first ididnt want anyone to treat me like an invalid. keep in mind that she may not want you to do it and its ok. dont try to make her do things when she is tired. my husband always wanted to take me out to eat after dr appts but i jsut wanted to go home . i went anyway and i ended up resenting that. give her her independence if thats what she want but be there for her when she needs you. educate yourself on everything cancer and everything chemo. jsut knowing stuff makes it easier on her and you.

Hi L.,

I’m sorry that your mom and family are having to endure this. I suggest putting together a tote ‘care’ package for her to take with her to her chemo appointments. Get a medium sized tote and include things like: a magazine, crossword puzzle, hard candies, lip balm, water bottle, unscented lotion (chemo patients tend to negatively associate smells and tastes with certain feelings while they are going through chemo so as to keep her from associating something negative with a fragrance she likes, keep it unscented), You can include pictures or anything that is inspirational (family notes, pictures) for her to look at, a note pad, pens/pencils, or hand sanitizer, etc. The tote will give her something to do while she goes through chemo.

Best of Luck!

First of all, the affects will be cumulative. She will, hopefully, be pretty good for the first few treatments. After that, it can start to get bad. There are other drugs she can take to offset the negative side affects. GET THEM! Think about getting her an easter basket with lotions and make-up etc. esp for women undergoing this treatment. If you want to bring a meal, try soup. My Aunt loved chicken soup. Make sure she does not get dehydrated. I had a few hats in my closet that I didn't wear anymore that my mother in law looked great in. What kind of person is she? Will a messy house drive her crazy, go over and clean it for her. Bring her some groceries anyway. Do a load of laundry for her. Love her. bring the kids to visit, short visits but more often. Enjoy every minute you get. God Bless.

My mom went through chemo treatments for ovarian cancer a little over a year ago. It was hard for me to be there for her because she lives in PA and I live in NY. I was there for her hysterectomy, and the start of her treatments. It affects everyone in such different ways. My mom had a pretty hard time and was on a really strong course of treatment. We had difficulty getting her to eat and drink or to get up and move around. Encouragement and having her favorite things on hand might help. Things that would be easy on her stomach. Brighten up the house as much as possible - open the curtains, bring in flowers. Get her to sit outside if its nice out...I really think my mom started to get a little depressed because she stay couped up in the house so much. Helping to clean, do laundry and cooking so she doesn't have to worry about it would be good. My sister lived with my mom, so she and my dad shared all of those responsibilities. The other advice I would give you is to be prepared for a change in her personality and to have patience. I know it is different for everyone and hopefully your mom will go through this fairly easily. My mom's personality changed a lot during that time. She had what she called "chemo brain." She didn't have the same quick wit or cheery demeanor and it was often difficult for her to keep focus on a conversation. After the chemo was finished, the effects faded and she became herself again. It was a long 6 months for her but she came through cancer free. Also, just an FYI. My husband works for a company called Abraxis Bioscience. He manufactures a drug called Abraxane which is used for breast cancer treatment and does not have the brutal side effects which go along with Taxol. My mom couldn't use it because it is not approved for ovarian cancer yet. Here's the info if you are interested: www.abraxane.com.

Hope this helps a little.
Kris

Hi L.. I have never been through this with anyone so I really don't know what adivice to give you but the first thing I thought was that you should have a mamogram if you have not already. Most insurances don't cover them until you are 40 but many of them will cover what they call a baseline mamogram before the age of 40. With your mother's history you really should keep an eye on yourself as well. I will keep you an your mother in my prayers.

Hi L.,
So sorry to hear about your mom - I am a 1 year survivor and I thought I would share a few things that helped me during chemo. Food was not a big favorite - many smells made me nauseous but I craved water. I didn't want anyone with me either, and really didn't want anyone around when I was not feeling great - you spend a lot of energy just getting through chemo and don't necessarily want to bother with what anyone else is feeling or doing. I did enjoy little cards or notes from people when I felt well enough to read - and I usually had the tv or a movie on most of the time for distraction - but sometimes even that was too much.
Listen to your mom and watch her body language - everyone is different and every chemo mixture is different. She will let you know what works for her and what she needs. Don't be hurt if she gets angry without cause - being sick isn't easy and being out of control of your own body is scary. Remember she is fighting and sometimes that spills over into other lives. Love her. Good luck.
dusty

Just being there is sometimes enough...my grandmother went through chemo for breast cancer and her hair fell out and her skin was really dry and cracked. I do not think it was as hard on her as it was for all of us. She slept a lot and sometimes it seemed like it was all day every day. The chemo just wore her out. Just be there and that if you notice she needs anything just get it for her. Keep her company an spend time with her. You only get one mom.

Your Mom will most likely get sores in her mouth because the chemotherapy hinders the immune system.
The thing that my Mom found, worked the best was Kanka.
Vitamin C is also very helpful for someone who is taking chemotherapy. Depending on how good the Oncologist is, they'll recommend alternative therapy along side conventional medicine.

Diet is important when someone has cancer... the main things she should try to stay away from are Pork, Beef, Alcohol, Sugar and Fried foods... but like Jen said, appetite isn't exactly something to be taken for granted, so help make several things that your Mom likes easily available.

Mostly, you just have to try to read her... when she's angry that this is happening, she might not say the best things... but keep things in perspective for her(and you).

My Mom often told me that she didn't want to see me at all... only to find out later that she just wanted me to give her short breaks and not ask questions like, "Are you ok", often.

Try as hard as you can to put yourself in her shoes.
Our society puts a lot of thought into the "superficial importance of a woman"... and losing hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, etc. can be a lot more difficult than it seems.

I think Jen had the best advice.

Good luck to you and your Mom
You'll be in my prayer tonight.

L.,

I work for a breast surgeon who deals with the breast cancer. From what I have learned from patients is that they become really tired after the chemo and are out of energy. Also they say when there kids make them food they make it so it can be put in the freezer so that when she does get hungry she will be able to cook it. SOmetimes our parents dont want to burden us with there problems, maybe thats why she is telling you not to do much. I just know that from our patients they say they forget things alot from chemo brain and to remember certain things helps them alot. So maybe using a whiteboard for her to remeber things is a good idea. Hopefully this helps you. Good luck to you and your mom through this difficult time.
D.

Hi L.. I am all to familiar with what you are going through. My mother passed away 9 years ago from inflammatory breast cancer. I have been a hairdresser for 15 yrs so was able to help her shave her head, go wig shopping with her, wax the extra facial hair she got from the steroids..... I teach classes at chandler regional hospital the first mon of every month called "Look Good Feel Better". It's a free 2 hour class thats offered at every hospital for women undergoing chemo and radiation. They get a kit full of makeup worth $500 and we go over skincare and makeup tips, scarf tieing and wig styling. I've been teaching it since my mom passed and find that it is a great way for women to socialize with other women who know what they are going through. It is a tough time when you want to help but you don't know how. Making meals and freezing them, having cold things like popsicles or smoothies/shakes help if she gets mouth sores. Hold a hat or scarf party and have friends and family donate things for her. And a neighbor sent my mom funny cards every week just to make her smile and she loved that.
Ilive in the east valley but work in scottsdale. I am married and a step mom of 2 boys 7 and 15 and am due with a boy in June. If there is ANYTHING else you have ?s about please feel free to contact me. I am so new to this site so I don't know how to give you my personal info but I'd be more than happy to offer further support and advice.

Hi,

I know what you are going through I had Leukima when I was 12 years old. I'm now 37. The best advice I can give to you is let you mom breath a little. We as cancer patient seem to be very independant and don't want help even if we need it. I'm not say don't help you mom because she will need it just don't smoother her. When she starts her chemo she will be very ill and have no energy. That will be the best time to cook some meals and freeze them she might not be to hungrey and will want to sleep alot. Also if you know how to crochet you might want to make he a blanket because she will be very cold and the home made blanket seems to brighten them right up. I had a friend I worked with who had breast cancer and we made blanket every 6 months for the chemo patients. They seem to enjoy them and were amazed that complete stranger would care enough to make them one. If you need help on making the blanket email me at ____@____.com remember there are groups to help you if you need it.

Yours Truly,

Heather Bohannon

I really good friend of my is a breast cancer surivor. We formed what we called the "the pink posse (sp?). We decorated hats for her wear, we made sure there was a basket full of cards by her bedside (this way whenever she needed a pickme up, she just had to pull out a card), we cooked meals that he husband just had to heat up. And even tho she was too weak to answer her phone (she did check msg when she was up to it), there was always a msg on her machine letting her know people were thinking about her.

Hi L.,

Sorry to hear about your mom. I am a 4 1/2 year survivor of breast cancer and when I was going through chemo there were a few things that friends and family did for me that helped. The day before chemo, a friend and I would go to Starbucks for coffee and then get pedicures together. It gave me something to look forward to and relaxed me before treatment. We enjoyed it so much that we continued the tradition even after I had completed chemo until she moved away recently. My sister, who lives in Texas, sent me a DVD (always a comedy) in the mail that arrived a day or two before treatment so that I would have something funny to watch while I was "recovering." She did that for all 12 of my treatments. Another friend made me a gift basket filled with 12 individually-wrapped gifts for me to unwrap the morning of each chemo treatment. She included a sweet note saying that by the time I unwrapped the last gift I'd be through with chemo and it would all be behind me. And, of course, fixing meals is always appreciated -- homemade soups were my favorite.

Hope this helps. I wish your mom all the best and you, too. I know how hard it is on the family to watch someone you love go through this. The good news is that, these days, the outcome is almost always a good one.

Take care,
R. E.

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