Worried Mum-in-law.

Hello everyone, just to share my worries really, hope you don’t mind ! Our lovely daughter in law will get her “hot spot” scan results tomorrow, has lymph node involvement, and i am so worried. She has a lovely baby of 10 months, born in her early 40’s, so a joy to us all. My son is being great, and ths Macmillan nurses are fantastic. I want to support, and not interfere, what can I do which is practical ? Advice gratefully received.

dear glamgran
I’m sorry to hear about your DIL, and wish you the best for the results. Remember that breast cancer is very treatable these days - I was diagnosed with lymph node involvement aged 45, and following treatment have been fine ever since (now nearly 7 years).
The best way to help is just to offer lots of practical help with everyday things like shopping etc, so that she has less to worry about. Also go with her to appointments if she wants and take notes of what they say. Try to stay calm (not too despondent, but also not too hyper-cheerful) - both extremes can be upsetting, also people who panic are really no help.
You will get loads of support here on the forum.

Dear Glamgram

Sorry to hear about your DIL and wish your whole family the very best.

As mentioned by Sarah it’s the practical things that help. Her and your son may also want someone to act as the communicator with other people so you can inform and field off the unwanted comments. At the beginning I found lots of people saying - stay positive, fight it, you will win the battle etc. These are standard stock phases that really aren’t helpful. You’re not in a battle you have to have the strength to cope with the treatment. BC is frightening and at times it takes you into very dark places, at times you look and feel terrible so telling someone to stay positive is something of a joke (not haha). Depending on your DIL’s treatment plan it can go on for a long time even after the initial treament she might need to takes drugs for the next 5 years this is something people not affected aren’t usually aware of and almost assume a few months and everything will be fine.

There may also be times when maybe you could look after your grandchild so that your son and DIL can have some time to themselves as these ‘normal treats’ are heartening. Also remember your DIL is more than just BC and sometimes it’s great to have conversations or outings where BC doesn’t dominate.

At the beginning it also seems as if the only thing you get is bad news. This is inevitable as the medics find out the extent of the BC and work out the best plan but it can be emotional tough. Hugs are great at this time.

It changes your life, and it takes time to readjust, but we are lucky to live in a time when treatment and success rates are so advanced.

All the very best to you all

Reeb x

Hi glamgran,

When I was diagnosed four years at 44 ago my three children were all secondary school age, so a lot older. We had no-one helping us, it really felt like it was the five of us against the world, and it was hard going. I was very envious of friends who had family rallying around. They had help with childcare, laundry, cooking. So I think anything you can do on the practical side will be very welcome. You know their situation, so try to decide what would lighten their burden the most. Help with childcare? Providing a cooked meal? Doing the washing/ironing/cleaning. I don’t know what sort of treatment regime your DIL will be on, but often the hardest thing to deal with is the length of time it all goes on - when you are having chemo for months on end, you can get very run down, it all seems never ending, and friends get compassion fatigue so you get less sympathy as time goes on. So sustained help throughout all the treatment will be very welcome.

Hi Glamgran

Your DIL is very lucky to have a MIL like you! I was diagnosed last October and I am 41. My parents do not live close by and have been fantastic, they’ve been to stay for a week or so to help with school runs, cooking, cleaning etc and this was a massive help for me and my husband. (My mum has now been diagnosed with BC so she’s coping with all that now as well). I love it when she rings and quickly asks how I am, then chats for ages about other mundane stuff.

I agree with others who have replied - the practical stuff is really helpful. The most helpful have been friends who have popped in for a cup of tea with a chicken casserole tucked under their arm knowing I would never ask for it!

All the very best


I’m 43 with a 9 month old baby and was diagnosed end november, mastectomy and lymph nodes removed in December and now due for second round of chemo. from personal experience the shock was the greatest thing to deal with initially and i needed time for myself to deal with this, so initially practical things like offering to take care of the baby may help, or providing cooked meals.

on the other hand my baby daughter has been the one thing that has given me ‘normality’ in all this as everyone else has either only talked about the cancer or have avoided me completely as they don’t know what to say. Behaving normally and treating her as the person she was before is something i wish people would do with me. i sometimes think the person i was before has been forgotten about.

Joanne xx

Rather than a vague “ask me if there’s anything I can do to help”, which might not be taken up even though it should be, make specific suggestions. Like “I’ve got to go to Tesco tomorrow, can I get you anything while I’m there, or would you like to come too?” or “would you like me to put the washing machine on?” or “I’d be happy to look after [grandchild] for an hour or two if you want to catch up on your sleep. Please let me know if you want me to, or could I run the hoover round while you look after him/her?” If you ask permission before you get on and do things, your Dil will still be able to maintain a little bit of control while getting any help she needs.

You may find that she doesn’t need help right now but might when treatment gets a bit rough.

And thank you for being a very caring mum-in-law, I’m sure your son also is glad you’re there.