Mum starting chemo on Wednesday

Hi, my name is Ben, my mum starts chemotherapy on Wednesday and I have a few questions that I’d be very greatful for anyone to answer, I apologise in advance if the information is readily available elsewhere, I have looked and for the most part been confused. She is 43 and found a lump in her breast about a month ago and on Christmas eve got the result that it was breast cancer. She’s being treated at the Royal Marsden. My first question is basically just asking for an explanation of what these 4 terms from a diagnosis letter she recieved today are:

Grade 2
ER Neg
PR Neg
HER-2 3+

Since I found out the result I’ve been completely torn to bits over it but have tried my best to be strong for her and my younger brothers (10 &11), and tried to make her life as stress free as possible for the last couple of weeks and going to scans etc with her. She starts Chemotherapy on Wednesday but I have to go back to University tomorrow, she has my stepdad here but he seems to be dealing with the whole thing by avoiding it and generally being completely unhelpful, I think honestly he’s just scared. He lost his Mum to cancer a few years back, and his dad died earlier this year, on top of that he also had a heart attack 2 months ago and is still in recovery, but my Mum emotionally feels completely unsupported by him.

So my other question is, how will the Chemo affect her? How tired will she be etc?

My last question is a pretty bleak one but I need to know, they’ve said they’ve caught the Cancer early and that they doubt it has spread (We’re awaiting scan results on Tuesday), what’s the survival rate generally like for breast Cancer she has in a woman of her age?

Thank you very much for reading this long post, I hope someone can answer my questions.

Hi Ben and welcome to the BCC forums,

I am sorry to hear of your Mum’s recent diagnosis, I am sure you will find lots of support and information here. Whilst you await replies from your fellow users you and your Mum may find our resource pack helpful, it has been designed for those newly diagnosed. If you would like a copy just follow the link below:

breastcancercare.org.uk//content.php?page_id=7514

We also have a booklet designed to help you to make sense of a diagnosis/results, this can be viewed via the following link:

breastcancercare.org.uk/docs/pathology___feb_08_0.pdf

In addition to the support you will both recieve here, if either of you feel it would help to talk to someone in confidence about the concerns and queries you have, then please give the helpline a call, the staff here are all either breast care nurses or people who have personal experience of breast care issues. They can offer you a listening ear, support and information about other services we can offer you to help you through this difficult time. The number to call is 0808 800 6000 the lines open Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm and Saturdays 9am - 2pm.

I hope this is of some help to you.

Best wishes
Lucy

Hi Ben!

It’s great that you are so caring and supportive of your Mum and I’m sure lots of other people will come on here to help you. Grade 2 is the middle grade, Grade 1 is the slowest growing, 2 is the middle and Grade 3 is the fastest growing tumours. ER & PR negative means its not hormone receptive ( ER is for eostrogen and PR stands for Progesterone) that means your Mum will not eventually be given Tamoxifen tablets because they just won’t do any good. Her2 positive means it IS receptive to Herceptin a drug given with or after chemotherapy and which seems to have very good results for those who can have it. Your Mum will get some side effects from the chemo but will have some good days mixed in with some not so good. Everyone seems to react very differently to chemo. Her oncologist will be able to give her some statistics on future prognosis from a computer programme called Adjuvant Online - mine gave me the actual printout with the graphs etc etc. Just keep on trying to support her even though you are at Uni and you will all see some light at the end of the tunnel eventually. Best wishes to you.

Just bumping this up…

HI Ben it looks like Redders has answered most of your questions - this is just to let you know that you are not on your own. It is very scary when your mum gets cancer, I know how I felt when mine got it. The thing is that I and my sister also have it and I can say from personal experience that the chemo in my case wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be and you will find that she is very well looked after and given drugs to counteract any side effects she may have. I dare say it will be bad for you not being able to see her on a daily basis but keep in contact with her and I am sure she will be able to reassure you. Is your stepdad going with her to the appointments? It sounds to me like he is in denial at the minute. Your mum will need some help around the house as she will have some ‘tired’ days so hopefully he will help. Try not to worry too and just keep letting her know you care.

Thanks alot Lucy, Redders, Holly. I’m heading back on Thursday evening for a few days, I just know it’s gonna be hard leaving again after that.

Hi Ben,

Just wanted to wish your mum good luck for the chemo (and the rest of you for coping with it as well). Like Holly, I’ve been on both sides of it and found it easier having the treatment myself than I did seeing my mum go through it. The chemo and everything else was nowhere near as bad as I expected and I took all the help and advice they gave me at the hospital where all the doctors and nurses were fab. I wore seabands on my wrists to help combat feelings of sickness and I wasn’t sick once - don’t know whether it was psychological but didn’t really care as long as I didn’t feel sick. I also found that people doing practical things like a bit of cooking and cleaning helped me most. I’d done some for mum when she was ill and she did it in return for me 5 years later !

Anyway good luck to you all,

Liz

Thanks Liz, I’ll let her know about the Seabands. Had some good news today, the scan results came back and the Cancer hasn’t spread anywhere else.

Hi Ben

So pleased to read your post. That’s really the best news possible about your Mum, and should give you all a boost as she starts her chemo treatment.

Hi,

Great news about scan - good start to chemo with something positive.

The Seabands can be bought at Superdrug, Boots etc and come as pairs. You have to wear both all the time for them to be effective but that wasn’t a problem.

Hey everyone, Mums a couple of weeks into her first dose of Chemo now, shes had her bad days and shed a few tears but we’re all really surprised at how well she is generally coping with it, shes a little more tired but hasnt really stopped doing anything she was doing before.

Thanks again for all your support

Ben

and Lizcat, I bought her some seabands and she says they have worked really well, thanks.

Ben,
If I am not mistaken, your mum should now have had her second dose of chemo. I hope she is coping well. Chemo is a bit like boxing. One blow you get up quickly, the next it takes more time to get up. She will have to accept that life will be at a much slower pace. I do wish her well.
It looks to me that you are carrying this worry on your own. You may want to contact your university counsellor and get help for yourself as well. You have already done the right thing by coming here and opening up to this group; you may find it helpful to talk about yourself to someone.
Take care

hi ben i am new to this sit e and have a 17 year old son and 10 year old daughter and had bc last sept had a op and under cemo till end of feb. your mum will on days feel very tired but sleeping does not stop this but does help she will feel very aggitated and some side effects include funny taste buds she may feel off her food this is norm . drumstick lollys help this to have a sweet taste . is she having cold cap when having cemo ? wearing swimming headbands help the uncomfortable feeling this has . My cemo is 2 morrow your mum would benifit from chatting on here I did we are all in the same boat . well done for helping your mum. my son gives me a lovely foot rub each night really comforting also a back rub for a few mins. How old are you now ? keep up the good work and I am so sure your mum will be ok keep in touch if you feel you need to talk there are so many of us out there always ready to talk
best wishes
jayne

Hi Ben,
well done for being so supportive to your Mum .I have four sons and their support was very important to me especially when going through chemo.Make sure you don’t neglect your own needs through worry about your mum,there are people who can help and it makes the world of difference when you know you are not alone in a stressful situation
best wishes

Hey Ben, what a star, which Uni are you at I might want to set up a blind date with one of my godaughters! You sound like a catch!
Hope mum is doing ok. I’ve got my 2nd chemo on fri, the 1st one wiped me out for the 1st few days but apart from the horrible taste in my mouth I’ve been fine.
Have you spoken to your tutors at Uni about your situation? I used to work as a nurse too and have in the past done letters to Uni’s to make sure students get good support, your mum’s breast care nurse might write one for you and this might mean you can make a claim to a hardship fund which might get you some more cash so you could get home more often or not have to work in the hols and the Uni should take account of your situation with course work etc.
I’m sure you are right about your stepdad, it sounds like it is hard for him to cope with what going on given his past problems, you may not be able to help him but offering support to mu will, I’m sure help her. Don’t forget she will try to protect you from the crap stuff because that;s what mums do! But do try to keep talking and do the boring stuff like cleaning the loos when you are home!
Hope it goes ok for you all

G x

Hi Ben,

I hope the treatment’s going well. I would be confident about three things - your mum caught the tumour early, there are so many specific treatments for the moderate cancers, and youre mum is in the hands of the best oncologists in the world.

I’ve only come on the forum now because my mother is nearing the end of a very long battle with cancer, having been treated at RMH for the last couple of years. BUT hers was caught much later than your mum’s because her initial self-diagnosis was waved away by her callous GP. However this was 18 years ago - when I was 15, so I can feel for what you and your brothers are going through; but even my mum had many, many years of complete remission and normal life.

Make sure you get the support you need, both for you yourself and for your brothers if your stepdad isn’t in a position to do as much as they need.

I’m happy to chat off-forum if that would help.

Yours,

Alex

Hey everyone, Haven’t been on for ages so only just seen all the messages, just like to say thank you so much to everyone for your advice, kind words and blind date offers haha.

Well, as far as her progress, it was found that the first 2 cycles of the chemo had not shrunk the tumour, but it was stable at its size so I suppose that is good in a way. They switched the chemo and she is also starting on Herceptin this week. She was getting some pretty serious headaches so had a CT scan and also an MRI scan, she was told however that they were 99% sure the brain was fine after the CT scan but she had the MRI anyway as she was booked in lol. The results from that I think she gets tomorrow. If this new batch of chemo turns out to have no effect also, she will be referred back to the surgery team.

Gill I think I will try and get a letter to give to Uni, the travels back and forth have deinfetly effected my work, only slightly though, but due to the crappy scheduling I have 5 essays to do in the next 3 weeks, not good.

Once again, thank you everyone.

Ben,
don’t know if this will help, but my daughter is at uni, 2nd yr, and came home the weekend of my surgery and therefore missed lectures. She went to see her tutor and explained the situation they were very sopportive and offered her a concession on her exam that was that week. Talk to them I’m sure they will understand and it can take some pressure of you! love Debs xx