Fuck Cancer.

My mother in law was diagnosed with cancer about a month ago. I didn’t post about it before, and probably won’t much in the future, because it feels like a private thing. And probably even more so because it is B’s family we’re talking about here.

I will say, to avoid being too overly cryptic (which I hate when reading others’ blog posts) that it was a total surprise. She is 50 years old and in fantastic shape. She eats right and exercises every day. She had no symptoms, it was found via preventative screening. So to say it has been a shock is an understatement. When we found out yesterday that it was more advanced than we thought, and that she would actually need chemo, we were more shocked. She was devastated.

But still. This is the kind of thing she CAN beat. It is the kind of thing she will beat. As cancers go, this one at least gives you a good fighting chance.

I have some experience with cancer because three of my four grandparents died from it. Both grandfathers had lung cancer and my grandmother had lymphoma. But the thing is, I was too young to be very involved or aware. They died when I was 8, 10, and 13. So I wasn’t very aware of the emotional toll it all took on them and the family.

This feels different. This feels… personal. She is my husband’s mother. Next to me, she is the person he loves most in this world. It hurts to see him hurt and scared. And it hurts him to see her going through this.

Which brings me to a question. What do we do? We live a plane ride away. We just spent a week with her and were with her through her surgery… but now that we are home and she is about to start chemo… I am feeling so useless.

I want to DO something to make her feel better. Not that anything we could do would really make her forget about the cancer and the chemo and all that bullshit… but… there must be something?

I feel like I want to send her a gift of some kind, but what kind of gift says: “I’m so sorry you have cancer I hope this makes you feel a little better today”?

We can’t do food baskets because we don’t know how she’ll be eating. I just bought her a bunch of makeup for Christmas so that probably wouldn’t work either. When we saw her last week we got her a gift card for her Kindle so she’d have lots to read during recovery.

I just don’t know. Maybe there is nothing?

If you have any ideas though, let me know. Maybe you know someone with cancer who got a really perfect gift? Any thoughts appreciated.


7 thoughts on “Fuck Cancer.

  1. OMG, I am so sorry.
    I really don’t have any ideas either. I had an aunt who was recently diagnosed and it just sucks. I lost my grandmother from lymphoma when I was 19 and I still do not think I was old enough to understand completely what was going on, also she had been sick a long time. This time everything just hurts and I feel for her and my cousins (the youngest is 14 I just cannot imagine). I’m six hours away and I feel the same way I wish there was something I could do but I just cannot think of anything. 😦

  2. I’m sorry to hear about your mother in law. I would suggest a maid service if she doesn’t already have one. Or a lawn service. Something she won’t feel up to doing when she is going through the treatments.

  3. Sorry to hear about your MIL. My partner is about to start chemo this Monday (I’m nervous for him!). I would say a good gift might be fun things to do during treatment. Depending on the kind she could be sitting around for 2-4 hrs at a time. Books, games, music? Maid service was a great idea. We’re doing that & yard service while he’s in treatment.

  4. I’m sorry to read that your family has to go through this. I can only imagine how much harder it has to be for you both since you are so far away.

    What I learned when my late husband went through his battle with leukemia, is that every patient is different in what they want and need during (and after!) active treatment.

    Depending on her treatment, she may have limitations placed on her for food and acitivity. If she can have food from a restaraunt, gift cards are great for when she is hungry and doesn’t want to cook.

    If she has a yard or garden, could you find a yard service company that could take care of it until she is able?

    Many hospitals charge for parking. I would have loved it if someone had given me $10 to help with parking – that would have been 5 days of parking! My co-workers gave us a gas gift card and it was a huge help as I had to drive so much for his appointments and visiting him when admitted.

    If she is going to spend a lot of time away from home, a more personal gift could be putting together an “away from home” bag where you include unscented lotion (many patients taking chemo end up being really sensitive to smell, so try to avoid it), a suduku/wordcross book, cards, note pad, gum/mints. Soft fuzzy socks with grips on the bottom are always more comfy than the provided hospital socks. If she likes crafting or reading, that could help her pass the time. This website has great ideas: http://www.thepamperedpatient.com/Cancer_Gift_Ideas_s/4.htm

    A soft lap blanket is nice as hospital waiting rooms are COLD!

    If she has a laptop, many hospitals have free wi-fi for patients. A subscripition to NetFlix could be a nice distraction if she doesn’t want to watch communal tv.

    Is there a treat that she likes that she won’t normally splurge on? That could be a good starting point. 🙂 Also, if she likes flowers (and is allowed to be around them; some hospitals are very particular about patients being around fresh flowers and plants), those will always be welcome.

    One last thing, if she has a consistent caregiver – don’t forget about them, they need support too – something as simple as a small gift card for gas or food is great appreciated.

    Also, have you asked her what she needs or wants? It’s a silly question, but something I myself forget to do. 🙂 I’ve been told not to say “Let me know what you need” but “Can I do x,y,z” and give them ideas as to things you are able to do. I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to write so much. I hope something sparks an idea for you!

  5. @sunny – thank you

    @valerie- she lives in a community that takes care of her lawn, but maid is definitely a good idea!

    @angela- I’m so sorry to hear that your partner is going through this (and you too). I’ll keep him in my thoughts, hoping for a speedy recovery for him.

    @nicole- thank you for all of the wonderful ideas! I’m so, so sorry about your husband. I just spent the better part of an hour reading through your blog archives and I really can’t imagine what you’ve been through. Cancer just… sucks.

  6. Hi, I had my chemotherapy on the other side the ocean, but here is how my family (who couldn’t be with me during treatment) helped.

    – High Quality Frozen Food orders or Email Rota for bringing food (This takes some research, but if you can make sure her meals are covered whether by a company or family rota, that helps immensely. Plus, with chemo the first few days = bad reaction to kitchen smells, so food cooked outside of the house is a good thing.)
    -Skype calls. That visual company is a good thing.
    – Housekeeping. If you can hire or arrange someone to go scrub the toilets, vaccume, etc – that would be a big relief in terms of her obligations (plus makes it easier on everyone caring for her, as it’s one less job off the plate).
    -Send flowers, greeting cards & letters in the mail. Okay, this sounds stupid, but they are thoughtful and when will bring joy to her day. Be sure to do this throughout treatment and not just at the beginning. Many people forget (though I’m positive you & your husband, obviously, won’t) that chemo lasts for months.

    And apart from moving over there for a month at the start to offer support, I think the above ideas are a great start. There are ways you can help, and these little things have deep impacts.

    Good luck to your mother in law. She sounds like a strong & proactive woman who is going to make it through and kick this cancer’s ass.


  7. Oh! I’m so sorry to hear that! My mom was diagnosed with cancer last January and went through radiation and chemo. (She’s just being monitored every few months to make sure things stay clear now.)

    I’m sure every person reacts differently but one thing she’s mentioned a few times is that it was impossible to feel warm. She’ll still heat up a rice bag for her feet when she goes to bed.

    She also bought an iPad and logged a lot of time on it even though she’s not normally a techie person.

    Random cards just saying you’re thinking of her are of course hugely appreciated. They don’t have to say much but my mom kept her collection front and center to keep her going. She also “blogged” on Caringbridge and the comments there were super supportive.

    The maid idea is also a great one.

    For us it worked out that we did give her the perfect present, if I do say so myself. Her first grandbaby is due in November. We got super lucky that our timeline ended up aligning with hers so well but ecstatic doesn’t even begin to describe her reaction. That one’s a little trickier to pull off though.

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