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Member asks: How do you help someone who may have cancer?

By HERWriter Guide April 15, 2010 - 5:45pm
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EmpowHER members - We've received the following "Ask" and I'd appreciate your help in supporting this daughter as she supports her mom.

We think that my mom is possibly sick with ovarian cancer, she just told me today. She has known that there was a cyst on her ovary about five years ago, she kept up with it, until she could not afford health insurance any longer. She has all the common symptoms and actually has a dr appt, May 12....I guess my question is, how do you deal with something like this? I am only 26 my mom is 52, and frankly she is my best friend....I cant wrap my fingers around any of it, how do you deal with someone whom you love so much and watch them suffer? We are not sure if that is what she has, but I feel it in my heart...

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EmpowHER Guest

Annette Leal Mattern and Pat Elliot, Thank you for your kind words and reassurance . My mother has started Chemo on the 27/07/2010, feeling a sore, but powering on. I'll endevour to read the articles written by Annette, thank you very much.


August 5, 2010 - 6:47pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

You're welcome Alex, let us know if we can help further. I'm glad your mom has your support, and we're happy to help too. Take good care of yourself- being a caregiver is both rewarding and stressful and you're going to need some time for yourself too. We wish you both the best. Pat

August 5, 2010 - 6:52pm
HERWriter Guide

Thanks Annette for your insight and assistance. Pat

August 5, 2010 - 5:21pm

I've worked with ovarian cancer patients, as a patient advocate and coach, for several years. The reason they aren't more specific is that every woman is different. Staging statistics are only numbers and represent patients with any level of support, medical access, life conditions, and a thousand other variables that can affect her outcome. Prognosis is very unspecific for this disease.

I've lived with the disease a long, long time. I know women who were diagnosed Stage IIIc over 10 yrs ago and are in perfect health today. Many new treatment options are available that improve the quality of our lives. So my suggestion to you is to look for the best practices of survivors who are living with it and incorporate everything you can into helping her thrive. I've written several ovarian cancer articles for EmpowHer on helpful nutrition, survival tools, managing chemo, etc. These are proven methods that help women with ovarian cancer live longer, better lives. (search my name on this site).

You can get more info on survival of ovarian cancer at www.ovariancancer.org. Mostly, know that you are not alone. We will help you.

Please message me if you want more specific help.

August 4, 2010 - 11:50am
HERWriter Guide

Anon - I'm sorry you're not getting the information that you want as that makes a difficult situation harder for the family. Doctors often take such a scientific approach to the data involved with cancer that they forget that a family member just really wants to know how their loved one is doing and if they're going to survive.

Based on what you've said you've been told, here's some information about staging. This may help you in getting the doctor to clarify exactly how he's determined the stage and grade he gave you. It's not 100% clear cut as to exactly how this pertains to your mom, but it is more information than you currently have.

Stage IIIC: The cancer is in one or both ovaries, and one or both of the following are present:
* Cancer has spread to lymph nodes (any T, N1, M0)
* Deposits of cancer larger than 2 cm (about 3/4 inch) across are seen in the abdomen (T3c, N0, M0).

Grade categories

(The higher the grade, the more likely it is that the cancer will spread.)

Grade 1: Well differentiated -- looks similar to normal ovarian tissue.

Grade 2: Not as well differentiated -- looks less like ovarian tissue.

Grade 3: Poorly differentiated – does not look like ovarian tissue.

You can find more information about staging and grades here: http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/OvarianCancer/DetailedGuide/ovarian-cancer-staging

Your mom is going to need a lot of support in the weeks ahead. You can learn more about ovarian cancer from the articles and support organizations listed above. You will also find articles in our Cancer Community about dealing with the effects for chemotherapy and other treatments. This may sound strange right now, but please also think about how to take care of yourself so you stay strong and healthy as you go through this with your mom. A cancer diagnosis can be utterly overwhelming for caregivers, as well as patients, and it helps to recognize this ahead of time and try to build in some breaks from dealing with cancer 24/7 so it doesn't consume you and deplete your energy, emotions and compassion.

I'm sure this isn't easy for you, and am glad you found EmpowHER, Let me know if you have additional questions and how we can help you.
Take care,

July 12, 2010 - 6:55pm
EmpowHER Guest

On the 29th of July my mum went into surgery for a hysterectomy, as they found cancer in her right ovary and pelvic wall lining. The doctor told us it was important that she have surgery as they were not able to tell if it was malignant or not through CT scans and Ultrasound. Anyways, she is now recovering from her surgery and will be meeting up with a chemo doctor soon. Basically the only information we have from the doctors is that it's stageIIIC and grade 3, however that's all the information we have. I would like to know what kind of questions i should be asking. I've asked her doctor what her prognosis is, however i haven't had a straight answer yet, just giving me percentages and so forth, does that mean that we don't have any idea until she starts chemo...? Please assist, thanks

July 12, 2010 - 6:25pm
EmpowHER Guest

Annette and Pat, both of you are great people. I am glad that there's someone out there to share and to help people. I am sure that everything that is shared would help lots of people.

April 17, 2010 - 8:51am

Pat is right on with her suggestions. I'm on the board of directors of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and we work with a network of survivor volunteers across the country. We talk to hundreds of women about the very same concerns you have about your mother's condition, as well as how you will be able to handle what's ahead.

First, most ovarian cysts are benign, not cancer. And they can cause symptoms similar to ovarian cancer. Fortunately, your mom is meeting with the doctor soon. This way, you and she will have answers quickly.

If it is cancer, please know that you do not need to go through this alone. There are resources all across the country that can help prepare you and your mom, teach you tools and give you ways to cope with the situation, regardless of what comes next.

If you want to communicate with me privately, you can contact me through EmpowHer (I'm a contributing writer on ovarian cancer). Or, feel free to contact our national organization (www.ovariancancer.org) and they can connect you with someone in your area to work with you. You can also look on the website for local partner members. I'm president of the one in Arizona, www.ocaz.org.

Above all, take one thing at a time.

p.s. I"m a 23-year survivor of ovarian cancer. You were 3 yrs old when I was first diagnosed.

Annette Leal Mattern

April 15, 2010 - 7:12pm
HERWriter Guide

Anon - I'm glad to know your mom has such a strong, loving daughter. Together the two of you are going to pull through this. One of the first things to do is to learn more about ovarian cancer so that you and your mom are fully prepared to ask the right questions when she meets with the doctor on May 12. If you can go to the appointment with her, and take notes, it will be very helpful. If she does have cancer you will likely find that things will move very quickly right away, so you may want to do some preparations in advance or at least think about what would need to be done to help your mom if she needed to be hospitalized and have surgery and then follow up treatment. Right now it's hard to say how she would be treated, but when you have more information about her exact diagnosis it will be easier to get more information on what to expect. Make sense? There are many wonderful support organizations for ovarian cancer patients whose members are available to help you and your mom through this.

I'm going to put some links to information below. Please read these for yourself and for your mom. Feel free to come back with questions as you need to. We will be here for you.

How do you deal with something like this? With love, support and great big ears. The worst thing to do for someone with cancer is to focus on yourself, or to tell them you know how they feel. By helping your mom deal with this - though being her researcher, advocate, listening ear, and more, you'll do a world of good.

Take care of yourself, and keep in touch. Pat

EmpowHER reference page: Ovarian cancer http://www.empowher.com/media/reference/ovarian-cancer#definition


April 15, 2010 - 6:06pm
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