Mum starting chemo - what to expect?

My mum is going to be starting chemo within the next 3 weeks. She was diagnosed with grade II breast cancer about a month ago, and had a mastectomy 2 weeks ago. She was in hospital for a week as she has type 1 diabetes so they were worried about infection.

I understand that chemotherapy affects your immune system, and they said there was a chance she will have to stay in hospital for her chemotherapy. Has this happened to anyone else on here?

If she doesn’t have to stay in, how will she be affected, and how much help will she need from me? I wondered as my dad works abroad and my brother is away at uni so I will be the only one available to help her and I’m worried I won’t be much help (I’m 17, have health problem myself so spend a lot of time up and down the hospital, and I’m mid A-levels).

What support is available to people in our position?

Thankyou for your help


I’m sorry your mum has breast cancer, bonkerzbeth and I’m sorry you have this anxiety at your age and in the middle of your studies.

You will probably get a response from someone at BCC soon, but in any case I would strongly suggest that you phone the help line. Your mother should get in touch with her breast care nurse by phone, or you should go together to see the BCN.

It’s hard to predict how much she will be affected, partly because there are different types of chemotherapy and people react differently to them. But the time to get professional advice and to ask for support based on your family circumstances is NOW.

Hi bonkerzbeth

As suggested please do give the helpline here a ring, they’re here to support you and your mum. Calls to the helpline are free, 0808 800 6000 lines are open Mon-Fri 9-5 and Sat 9-2.

Take care,
Jo, Facilitator

Hi Bonkerzbeth
Arrgh re the situation you’ve found yourself in. I’m a mum with breast cancer with a teenage lad about your age who’s asking the same questions and doing the same A level ‘balancing act’ with his own health situations, so it’s a good question.
And there isn’t one answer, which is tricky.
Some people sail through chemotherapy and are able to carry on life much as normal.
Other are flattened by it.
If so, the medical teams can adjust it to make it more sensible for that person.
All depends how each person’s body chemistry responds.

Might be worth contacting your local social services dept and explaining the family circumstances to them and saying do they have any cunning plans for offering some practical suppor. Sometimes they can. Your mum’s breast care nurse might be able to help with this too. Don’t want you trying to handle all of this on your own, so a bit of backup is a nifty thing.

Also tell your school about all of this and see if they can apply for extra consideration for you re the A levels - you can apply for extra marks to take account of family illness/caring responsibilities. Might be worth a try if there’s a good tutor to talk to about it?

Ask anything. Keep talking with us. There’s plenty here who are lovely people and can tell you what’s coming up/how to get past the tricky bits.

And don’t be too concerned about the future if you can possibly manage it - breast cancer treatment is pretty advanced these days and most people have a good outcome. Just a tough set of treatments to go first, for many of us.

Ann x

Hi sweetie,

As Amber said - it’s very difficult to tell how your mum will react to the chemo. There’s a thread on this forum with lots of people saying they feel absolutely fine and are worried that the chemo’s not working as they feel so good!! I met a lady at the hospital who continued to commute an hour into London on the train and worked all through her chemotherapy. The majority of people are like me, feel a bit icky and need to rest alot more - but also have a great deal of time feeling better and being able to get on with stuff. But there are some people who’ve either had a bad reaction to the chemo (but that would usually be picked up when it is being administered in hospital) or get poorly because their immune system isn’t working properly (the chemo attacks healthy cells as well as cancer cells) BUT the hospitals do monitor us with blood tests etc to try and stop this from happening. Also, if the chemo makes your mum sick and ill during the first round, the hospital will adjust the drugs to make her feel better the second time round.

Does your mum have good friends around? Or brothers or sisters? I’m sure your mum will want to you to concentrate on your A-Levels and will not want you to worry without talking to her. If you have an open relationship, I would voice your worries and make her promise that she’ll ask you if she needs any help. Chances are she’ll just need lots of cuddles and someone to offer to do the washing up and maybe the cooking or food shopping every now and then.

As Amber said, I would definitely let your school know what’s going on. My mum had cancer through my GCSEs so I can understand on some level your worries - it’s a scary and horrible thing to have to go through. But fear of the unknown is worse, and when she starts her treatment, I’d just spoil her a little bit and it’ll be very clear pretty soon how bad the side effects are for your mum.

I really hope it all goes well and she’s not badly affected. Let us know how it goes and if you have any other questions at all.

At the risk of sounding like Jerry Springer - make sure you look after yourself as well as your mum.


Beth - tell your form tutor, your head of year (so you don’t get detentions for not doing homework one night when there is a ‘situation’ at home). and most importantly, the Examinations Officer so your A-levels are not compromised. The EO can sort stuff out with the exam boards for you.
Are you in year 12 or 13?
If in year 12, are you doing any AS exams now and is there any coursework this year that contributes towards the A2?

Hi. You can get up to 5% added on to your exams and coursework to enable you to get the grade you should’ve got!!! Talk to your shools exam officer. As a Mum, this was a weight off my mind, nd Im sure your mums too!!! YOU are her priority, if you are ok, she will be ok, but keep talking about your worries, fears, questions AND all the good stuff going on in your life. Dont feel guitly about having fun, just share it with her, its the best medicine!!!

Hugs to you both,

Sadie Xx Xx