How to support someone going through chemotherapy - My Ovacome

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How to support someone going through chemotherapy

BadDog53 profile image
22 Replies

Hi everyone

I really hope that I’m okay to ask this question.

I’m after some advice on how best to support my mum who is 78. She has recurrent endometrial cancer that has spread to three sites. First diagnosed in 2017, had hysterectomy, recurred in 2019 and had a hormone treatment followed by chemotherapy in 2020. She’s now been told the tumours are growing again and will have to have chemotherapy again. She has taken this very badly and has really struggled to cope mentally all the way through in spite of having lots of family support and in spite of being relatively symptom free throughout (apart from hair loss with the chemotherapy there have been no signs to say she has cancer). She refuses to join a support group and won’t ask for help from either her support nurse or from her gp. She is now threatening suicide daily and my poor dad is beside himself as he doesn’t know how to help. Everything we suggest to try and help is rejected. I don’t really know where else to turn to. All of the posts that I’ve read here seem so positive in spite of what you are going through and I wonder how you achieve that. Any help at all would be so appreciated.

22 Replies
Saintgermain profile image

Hi Baddog53Such a hard place for your Mom and your Family to be in I’m a new survivor but it’s a tough journey at 78 I get it. Could you possibly talk to her Oncologist or a Social worker counseling or perhaps an antidepressant to help her thru. Hugs from the US

BadDog53 profile image
BadDog53 in reply to Saintgermain

Hi Saintgermain, thank you for replying, it really helps to see other people’s perspectives. I have suggested that she tries counselling and /or antidepressants but unfortunately she has refused both. I think I will have to go behind her back and talk to her support nurse to see if they can prescribe something for her. She sees antidepressants as a failure.I hope you have a great day 😊

Rankij11 profile image
Rankij11 in reply to BadDog53

This is a Bit off our cancer problem but still illness related . Just to say that my sister, when diagnosed with Parkinson’s was unbelievably awful to her nearest (and dearest ) so angry , but also very scared, which is horrible. Depression being part of the illness. Eventually after a lot of persuasion she gave in and took antidepressants. It’s been life changing . She now sees it as part of treatment, maybe your mum could get there . It sounds as though you need the help ! Best wishes


BadDog53 profile image
BadDog53 in reply to Rankij11

Thank you so much for your reply. I’m sorry to hear that your sister struggled in this way and it’s very good to know that the medication helped her. It’s so hard to know how to help when someone is angry and seems to refuse help. I will try again to suggest anti depressants. I’m hoping that if I talk to the nurse about it, she might talk to my mother and suggest them. Perhaps if it’s a suggestion coming from a nurse, she might be more receptive. I don’t like the idea of talking to the nurse without my mum’s knowledge but I know that if I asked her she would just say no and right now I need to take all the help we can.

Saintgermain profile image
Saintgermain in reply to Saintgermain

Hi BaddogI’m glad you have gotten a lot of support here great blog! I know it’s an extremely difficult situation I hope you have an outlet to balance the stress it can be overwhelming and takes a toll even when your not aware of it time away for yourself that’s an option hugs!

27-359 profile image

Have you shown her this site? I felt so alone when I was diagnosed and didn't know anyone else in the same situation. I don't have a husband for support so trawled the internet looking for something, anything.I am so glad that I found Ovacome as now I feel I belong to this huge, supporting OC family.

Read her my letter. It might help.


BadDog53 profile image
BadDog53 in reply to 27-359

Hi JennyThank you so much for replying and thank you, I will show her what you wrote. I haven’t shown her this site in particular as I only found you yesterday. I’ve shown her other ones though and she wouldn’t read anything as she said it was just a lot of people talking about their problems which was no help. She’s quite a stubborn lady my mother but I will persist.

Have a lovely day and thank you for your help

Lizzieanne profile image

Have you spoken to someone at Ovacome or Macmillans for their advice. I am 77 and totally understand your mum's struggle as will everyone on here. Feel for you, your dad and family. Please talk to the above they will have had experience of this and just maybe able to give some help. Thinking of you all, xxx

BadDog53 profile image
BadDog53 in reply to Lizzieanne

Hi LizzieanneNo, I’ve not spoken to the Macmillan nurse directly, it feels a little as though I’m being dishonest and going behind mum’s back if I call her without mum knowing but I think I’m going to have to do that as this situation is beyond anything we can deal with as a family.

Thank you so much for your reply and I really hope your day is good

Lizzieanne profile image
Lizzieanne in reply to BadDog53

Yes I can understand that. Perhaps speak to someone from Macmillans main help line and not to your mum's Macmillan nurse or Ovacome. A very difficult situation for you do hope you find some help. X

Tillymint61 profile image
Tillymint61 in reply to BadDog53

You would be calling Mcmillan for yourself darling. Xx

mizpurple profile image

It's really hard to face your own mortality. Really hard. Sometimes the fears of your family add to the difficulty. What I would say is, even if she is saying things that are hard to hear, keep listening. What exactly are her concerns? Pain? Expense? Loss of autonomy? Missing milestones with family members? What does she want to do, within the reality that she has? If you can get her thinking and talking about these things, listening to her viewpoint and her priorities, you might ultimately be able to suggest that help from a counselor or other expert would be useful and worth seeking out. A local spiritual leader may also be helpful if faith is important to her. The most supportive thing is to really be heard.

BadDog53 profile image
BadDog53 in reply to mizpurple

Hi Mizpurple. Thank very much for your reply, it’s really. helpful. I’m not really sure what my mother’s concerns are. She doesn’t have any pain and hasn’t had any pain throughout. Loss of autonomy is unlikely in that she doesn’t go out or socialise in any way and hasn’t done for a good 20 years. She isn’t religious at all. Milestones with family members is also unlikely (she’s refused to go to her grandson’s wedding as she doesn’t like the girl he’s marrying and she has managed to alienate herself from everyone else apart from my sister and me). Expense comes into it a bit as I can’t always get her to her appointments as I have to work so sometimes she is relying on taxis as she won’t use the hospital transport because she doesn’t want to have to wait. She is a very fearful and angry lady, (has been for as long as I can remember) and I think that she’s facing something out of her control and, really I suppose, out off our control too, and as a result that fear and anger are coming out in spades.

I will try again to talk to her and listen to what she has to say and I will suggest some the things you’ve mentioned. It may help her to focus her thoughts a bit more because I think that at the moment she is experiencing blind panic a lot of the time.

Thank you so much again for your reply and I wish you a lovely evening.

Towgirl profile image

As the daughter of a 76 year old only diagnosed and treated since June last year, I will honestly say that you need support too, and by talking to the professionals about what's happening you are not going behind your mum's back so much as seeking the support that your whole family needs. Take care.xx

BadDog53 profile image
BadDog53 in reply to Towgirl

That’s a good point. thank you Towgirl, I will call the support nurse to see if she has some ideas. Thank you so much for your reply, it means a lot x

OvacomeSupport profile image

Dear BadDog53,

I am very sorry to hear that you and your family are having such a hard time at the moment and to hear that your mum is struggling. Please know that we are here to support you, your Mum and your family. Our support service is available Monday - Friday and you can contact us by calling 0800 008 7054 or by emailing Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you would like to talk things through.

Best wishes,


Ovacome Support Services

BadDog53 profile image
BadDog53 in reply to OvacomeSupport

Thank you so much Cathryn, this has been an amazing response for me, so many people taking the time to reply. I will try that number to see what is available.

Tillymint61 profile image

I can hear the desperation in your post. One of the problems I can hear in your post is that your Mum looks ok. This makes her suffering and desperation hard for her to get over to others in any other way than vocalising suicide threats. We all want our loved ones around for as long as possible and you may not want to explore the options of her not having more chemo but it may a supportive way to go and it will let Mum know you understand a little more than she realises at the moment. It also acknowledges her limited control over this dreadful disease. For myself in the initial stages of being told I needed 2nd lot of 6 more chemo treatments sent me into a temporary downward spiral.I did get over the shock and was able to get back on track. I have now started a maintenance regime so coming to terms with all that entails. I am 18 years younger than your Mum and that may have a influence on how I am able to cope.I don't mean to sound harsh but you can not do things behind her back. Medical staff have to hear from her before issuing antidepressants or any other meds.

As hard as it may sound the kindest most supportive thing to do is find out,if she chooses not to have further treatment what would be done fore her. and talk to her about it. She will not be cast aside because she wants to say enough is enough.

There are helplines available for you to get support too. You need to be supported through this too.


BadDog53 profile image
BadDog53 in reply to Tillymint61

Hello TillymintThank you for your reply and I really appreciate your advice.

I have spoken with mum about not continuing chemo and have tried to make it plain that we will fully accept what she wants to do but she seems to see it that she has no choice.

I wouldn’t dream of going behind her back to get medication prescribed, I don’t even feel comfortable with calling the support nurse to ask for help. I think I will have to though for my dad’s sake as he is really struggling to support her day to day. I will ask the nurse what would happen if mum doesn’t have chemotherapy. That’s something that we should consider and initially that seems a very scary option but perhaps knowing more detail of how things might progress will give us more to think about.

Once again, thank you for your advice, it’s much appreciated.

Tillymint61 profile image
Tillymint61 in reply to BadDog53

Good Luck and don't forget your own needs in all that you are trying to do for Mum and Dad. If you have a Maggie's centre they can be a great support for you and your Dad and Mum if she was open to popping in. But even without her you would get help and advice. 👍

delia2 profile image

Hi. I get how she feels except for not seeking help and support. If she refuses counseling I suggest that you sit with her and calmly let her talk at length about her feelings. Ask her why she wants to commit suicide and why. Let her tell you. She’s facing her third round of chemo. It may well be downhill from there. I would suggest to her that she try the chemo but if she really hates it she can choose to stop. The fact that you say you wouldn’t know she had cancer tells me she’s repressing or hiding everything to appear that way and it must be important to her. A book I recommend for you all is Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal-especially the last section. I’m 72 and have lived a rich life. I’m ned now on Olaparib but I’ve told myself l will only do one more round of chemo. I may change my mind when the time comes but I’m afraid of suffering rather than dying. This may have just st upset you further—I hope not. I truly hope your family can reach some understanding. Xx

BadDog53 profile image
BadDog53 in reply to delia2

Thank you for your reply Delia. That very helpful indeed..I will have a look for the book. I really hope your meds keep you going for as long as possible. Good luck on your journey and I wish you a lovely weekend x.

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