Am I being mean?

My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer last July. She has had lumpectomy and rads. She is due to have her 1st mammogram post treatment today. I am a sister at the hospital she has been having her treatment at. The problem I have is not related to this really but whenever my mum has an appointment or when she was going through her rads, I could not bring myself to go with her. I am absolutely terrified of listening to the medical/surgical staff as they speak to her. I am shying away from any information. I cling onto every positive thing she tells me they have said to her. Am I being mean to my mum by not supporting her at her appointments? I cant even go with her today as I would probably be more of a nuisance to her and sit there trembling like a wreck! Please someone tell me this is normal for a daughter to feel. Do you think its because I am a nurse?

i don’t know if it’s because you’re a nurse-my husband hasn’t come with me and doesn’t want to know anything except the positives.has it upset your mum ? has she got someone to go with her ? i’m sure she knows you well and understands-hope she gets on ok x

Hi Cardains,
Everyone and every family is different; what is right for one may not be for another. A lot of people with cancer discover that people they are close to find it very difficult to cope with.

I wonder, does your Mum know how you feel? Have you explained that being a nurse makes it feel worse for you (I assume part of that is because you know how to interpret the insider language of medical professionals; also what you may have said to relatives in your own area of expertise)? Do you know if your Mum would want you with her? She might want to protect you too. Sometimes we are all so busy not saying how we feel and tying ourselves in knots that we don’t relaise that people pick up the clues anyway.

I can’t speak for your Mum, but I know I found it hard that no-one in my family coped at all well with my diagnosis, and most wouldn’t talk about it all, so I got all my support elsewhere. I have had fabulous support and everything is fine with my family now. For me it would have been more helpful had they said, “I’m really sorry, but I’m afraid” rather than some of what they did or did not say.

Being afraid is not being mean, but please do whatever you are able to do to let your Mum know you are there for her. Could you maybe meet her afterwards for coffee and talk about what was said as a half-way house?

Thank you all for your replies. My mum understands where I am coming from and my dad accompanies her . I am very close to my parents but I just freak out at the thought of hearing something I dont want to hear. Usually my mum will call me straight after an appointment with outcome (positive so far) and I’ll sob down the phone with relief. I think my mum is prob happy that I’m not present as I’d be a pain, fretting and wanting to throw up!! I have no decorum or rational thinking where my loved ones are concerned in health matters.

Well she had her mammogram today. The radiographer said that she will hear from them in 4 weeks but may get called back in two weeks as she has ‘thickening’ at the lumpectomy site. Im terrified. I was hoping they would tell her today. Last year they said that they removed all of the tumour. It was ER/PR Pos Her neg. I know that its probably highly unlikely that they will find anything but scar tissue but I’m so scared. She is being very positive and I am too in front of her but I’m scared. I just want to bury my head.

That’s a long wait for both of you, and a worrying one.

Please feel free to call back here for support and a place to ‘dump’ or ‘rant’ at any time. There are lots of relatives who use this site as well as people who have experienced bc themselves.

For some people the “Ancient and Noble Order of the Ostrich” as my family term it, is actually an effective coping strategy… just so long as if something does come along that doesn’t mean you can’t deal with it.

We each have to find our own ways through, and you will get through in supporting your Mum as best you can.

Cardains, I think if you have sobbed down the phone with relief then your Mum knows you care, and you are not leaving her on her own as your Dad is there. Can you tell your Dad how you feel so he can talk to your Mum about it if she is upset?

im not sure that it has anything to do with you being a nurse more just that your a concerned daughter… if you put your nursey head on then im sure you would be able to look at it more rationally in that ir hormone pos and her2 neg which is the most common kind and would know that prognosis for breast cancer survival is excellent with the an average of about 90% survival to 10 years… but shes your mum and you know that if you are at the wrong end of the statistics then it doesnt matter what the numbers are as its 100% of your mum.

we all deal with things differently regardless of what your medical background is… but it could be that if you had any dealing with breast cancer it could potentially have been a number of years ago when prognosis was much more limited… it may also be influenced by the areas you have worked and if you have cared for people dying from cancer this can give you a more negative view.

as for length of wait… its around 3-4 weeks here… if we dont hear then that is usually better news than if they are asking you to come in sooner or calling you up… i have been recalled following mammo/mri 3 times and i have had a phone call with the week each time.

have you spoken to mum about how you feel? and its not like you are abandoning her your dad is supporting her and she maybe wouldnt want you to accompany her anyway… my mum also had bc and she has never asked me to go with her even though im a nurse she only ever wants my dad to go.

its natural to be scared so try not to be so hard on yourself its good you are able a chat to mum and you maybe could read up on breast cancer general information but not in relation to mum as it tends not to be as scary as you might think.

love and hugs xx

Thank you for your replies. Lulu, I think you are spot on. I work with mainly cancer patients with poor prognosis and have a very distorted view of cancer survival rates. I know deep down that its highly likely they will find nothing but I cant seem to get these negative thoughts out of my head whilst we are waiting for test results. Its so nerve wracking. I know that my mum understands really, she knows that i can be a bit of a drama queen at times when it comes to my family’s health. My sister is a lot more laid back than me, and doesnt tend to worry unless there is something to worry about, gosh how I envy her!! I know that we will just have to sit and wait for her results but I just felt that because of my angiush, and being unable to go and actually sit with her in a consultation room and hear things that may or may not tear my insides out, this may upset my mum, but I know in my heart that she understands me (more than anyone).

just a thought but after mums appointment when she will hopefully get good news would it be possible to speak to her BCN or consultant and discuss yours fears with them… there is support for families too… not sure if you have a maggies centre where you are but they are really good and have one to one counselling for patients and families… and of course the helpful nurses on the helpline here on BCC.

fingers crossed for mums results and hope you can find some inner strength to help your through…

PS have you thought about speaking to your GP or even occy health at work?

love Lulu xx