6 hours into learning about BC

Hi all
Just a quick note to say thank you for the supportive words already on this site! I’m on a steep learning curve learning about BC as my wonderful mother (aged 72) was diagnosed this morning after a biopsy last week. Just want to be as supportive as I possibly can to her. From what I understood this morning (I saw the surgeon with her) her tumour has not spread but is HER2 positive and she will need surgery followed by radiotherapy and possibly chemo combined with Herceptin.
So far my mum is very positive, calm and upbeat so I’m trying to mirror her tone and make myself available to talk (I took the day off work to stay with her and my dad today). But would really appreciate others’ advice on how to be as helpful and supportive as possible in negotiating the first days leading into surgery (prob in the next 2-4 weeks)…and what to expect.
Also would be interested to know if any of you found any differences in outlook (maybe generational) when it came to deciding who to tell/how much to talk about BC? My dad (in his 80s) is obviously very shaken as he sees it as a death sentence, and he doesn’t want to tell anyone outside immediate family; but for me (31, got a one year old of my own) it seems easier to be open and positive and focus on good survival rates.
Really appreciate your advice and experiences if you have a moment. Thanks everyone and take care. Ax

Hi ani

You are so doing the right thing being with your mum & dad through all this. I had early non-invasive DCIS which was sorted by surgery (twice) & radiotherapy my mum similar age to yours had the supporting role & was brilliant along with hubby & dad.

It depends on what surgery your mum has scheduled; there is a lot of info on here & I found the Macmillan site very good. I ordered a few booklets relevant to my DCIS. This helped me understand what I had what I needed to know and what likely treatment would be.

I got myself a book in which I wrote all questions I had, what treatments I needed etc. I made sure I wrote all the answers & went back to Breast Care Nurse normally for clarification. It may be your hospital policy but not always; I made sure I was copied in to all letters sent to my GP. Each time you have an appointment/treatment the hospital would normally update your GP.

My advice is do exactly as you are; avoid “googling” as you may get linked to some scary sites & cause yourself anxiety.

I found out yesterday my Aunt (mum’s older sister) who is 83 & housbound probably has BC. Bless her she thought her pacemaker had “worked loose” & started floating about causing the lump on her chest! GP has referred her; but pretty sure it’s BC, also has a lump in her underarm. She’s a fiesty lady & already demanding they whipp it off.

Lots of hugs

Hello Ani,
Your parents must be so proud of you supporting them at this time. I am so sorry to hear of your Mum’s diagnosis, but she has done the right thing and the treatments they can offer these days are amazing.

SimplesL is absolutely right to caution you about Google - some dangerous twaddle out there - but some great stuff in lealfets here, on MacMillan and on Cancer Research UK. Also a notebook is a great idea - I got a friend to scribe for me at all my consultant’s appointments because it is just too much to take in at once or to remember. There are no silly questions - just questions you need answers to, and I found the medics and nurses to be very helpful.

You might not realise this, but a lot of the ladies being treated for breast cancer are around your Mum’s age, so I am sure she will find some ‘peers’ to share the ‘journey’ with. I was nearly always the youngest in the breast clinic, chemo suite etc but I met some amazing older ladies who combined stiocsim, feistyness (don’t know how to spell that) and common sense.

I think a lot of men, epsecially of your Dad’s generation have the ‘stiff upper lip’ kind of approach, which often masks their fear. It is hard for him and he probably feels quite helpless - but you and your Mum are already showing him another way of facing this.

Very often more mature ladies have slower growing cancers than younger women and the results of treatment can be truly amazing.

It sounds to me like you are already doing a great job. There are a fair few family members and friends of pepole with breast cancer who post on here, so it’s almost certain someone will be along soon who understands far better than I do how it is for you.

Make sure you get the support you need too.

Take care and abig hug from me too.

who to tell?? well Its your mums news, and you have to respect her wishes I suppose. she might have a different slant on it to your dad

But it is your news that your are devastated by hearing that your mum has had this diagnosis, and there must be people who you want to share that with, you need support too.

You might want to mention to your dad that when she starts treatment it is going to become known what is going on, and freinds and family can be a great help and support at times like this.

It must be such a comfort for your parents to have you around. Help before surgery? you could print off the exercises on this site and get your mum to learn them and start doing them so that she is ready to start them straight after surgery and get use of her arm back.

If its a lumpectomy she will need a good sports bra with room in the back for swelling and seperate cups to wear in bed to keep her comfortable. but a mastectomy would be different.

And your dad is going to need suppport too, so as you get feedback and posative stories from this site you can use them to explain to your dad tht there is no way this is a death sentance. If they say only possibly chemo than it sounds to have been caught very early.

so pop back on here to ask questions and to keep us posted about how you are all getting on.

Hi Ani

Your query about the generational differences struck a note with me (age 50). After I told my parents about my BC diagnosis last year, my Dad (age 80) referred to it as “I hear you’ve got a little problem”, to which I snapped back, “no Dad, I’ve got breast cancer” and only realised afterwards that that’s how that generation probably referred to it, if indeed they referred to it at all.

My Mum was quite straightforward about it, as I expected because she’s that sort of person, plus she’s had BC herself (in her mid-sixties). When she was diagnosed she was quite open about it, and the treatment she was having.

My grandmother (my Mum’s mother) also had BC in her late 70’s and was also open about it within the family but I remember that when my grandfather went to see her in hospital after her surgery he got terribly upset so I don’t think he had understood what state she would be in (after a mastectomy). My best memory is how amused my grandmother was when my aunt cleaned the bath with her false boob thinking it was the bath cleaning sponge! She told all her friends about that.

I think each generation in turn has learnt to be more open about cancer, of whatever type, and more able to talk about it.

When I was diagnosed I told my (male) colleagues what was going on, what was likely to happen, etc. Times change.

Sarah x

Ani, what a lovely offspring (daughter?) you are!

I would add that you might want to call the helpline for a chat. They’ve been very helpful for a number of people on here, and they’re here for everyone affected by this stupid disease, and that includes friends and family.

I suggest you take your lead from your mum. She might not ]
to talk a great deal about it, but then again she might. If you have the sort of relationship where you chat often, please do keep that up, and not just about cancer. I have to say, 8 months after diagnosis the big thing for me is that I’M BORED OF CANCER, so if you can do some normal things that you would usually do too, during your mum’s treatment, she’ll find that a great relief. Always depending on whether she’s up for it, of course, and again take your lead from her.

I found that my biggest worry in all of this was that my family needed support, so you might reassure her that you’ll be there for your dad. Be someone he can off-load to, if he needs to, as he probably won’t want to worry your mum by expressing his own concerns. If your mum knows that you’re supporting him, I suspect that’ll be a further comfort to her. And of course you could do with having some support for yourself too. Do you have a good friend you can confide in and offload on?

And of course you are VERY welcome on the forums. They, like the helpline, are for anyone affected by the disease, and that means family and friends just as much as the person with the cancer. Make use of them as much as you find helpful.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SILLY QUESTION. If you have something you’re wondering about, then ask it. We’ve had questions about nail varnish in surgery, where to get decent underwear, all sorts of things that might seem silly but are just as valid as the dead serious ones.


Thank you all, so nice to log on and get so much warmth and advice. Really appreciated.

These are all brilliant suggestions. Oldandlumpy - I will definitely print out the exercises for my mum - where exactly on the site are they? Will also get her thinking about new bras and the right time to get hold of them.

SimplesL - Also excuse my still terrible ignorance, but what does DCIS stand for? (Sorry, I’m sure it’s really obvious!).

Found all your advice so helpful especially CM’s point about boredom with cancer coming after a point - my mum said yesterday she thought one of the things she needed to work hardest to prepare for would be the inevitable waiting around and uncertainty, however good her care team are. She’s a massive reader so I’ve bought her a Kindle and will have to train her up on it! Going to think about if I can take her away for a weekend at some point and also about how to ensure she sees plenty of her granddaughter (my 14 month old who she dotes on). I’m lucky to have lots of amazing friends plus a brilliantly supportive husband and inlaws all of whom have been stressing how happy they’ll be to have my little girl so I can go to appointments etc with my mum - plus my boss has been great saying days off work no problem (I work four days a week) - but actually one of my mum’s biggest worries is that she’ll see less of her granddaughter, not being able to babysit etc when she can’t lift things for a while after the op, so I want to make sure we have lots of relaxed time together with the baby as well as without (plus ironically, or appropriately depending on how you look at it, I’m still breastfeeding so long periods away from my daughter not really possible at the moment!).

Anyway thanks again for your support and reassurance and I’m sure I’ll be back with lots more questions soon! Take care everyone.


PS. Chocciemuffin - thank you for not assuming I am a daughter rather than a son but you guessed right!

you can download the pdf file from the link on the left of this page, or if you ring the helpline they can send you a booklet and cd


Ani, I think I might have worked it out with you admitting to breastfeeding, there aren’t many blokes who do that!


Forgot to say, quite a few of us on here now have a Kindle and I have to say I’m pretty pleased with it. You can even put music on it and listen while you read if you’re into that sort of thing, I found it a godsend before my little op as I plugged the headphones in and had my music on, and had a book to read. I have no idea what it was, none of it went in! but it was good to have. And great if she’ needs chemo, there’s an awful lot of hanging around waiting for treatment goes on.

Thanks for the pointer O&L, have ordered two copies!

And yes CM I guess the breastfeeding does give me away as a DD as they say on the messageboards! :o)

Heard from my mum, she’s still waiting on her date for the op but has had a call from a lovely cancer care nurse from the hospital who was able to talk her through a lot in more detail so she seems to be feeling quite positive. Which is great!

Thanks again all.