A mother hugging her adult daughter close

Being a Caregiver from A Mom & Grandmother’s Perspective: Part 2

My name is Melissa Berry, Founder of CancerFashionista.com and I couldn’t have gotten through my treatment without my amazing mother, Barbara. She’s also the Grandma to my two teenage daughters, Maya and Erica.

Caregiving as a mother and grandmother

Being a parent of a breast cancer patient, as well as the grandmother to their children can become challenging once treatment begins on many levels. I had the opportunity to speak to my Mom about being a caregiver to a cancer patient through the eyes of a Grandma. Check out our conversation below, and I hope you find this helpful:

Q: You were already a Grandma when Melissa was diagnosed. What advice do you have for women who are caring for their adult daughters to have children of their own? Were you able to help care for them? What kind of advice can you offer here?

A: I felt an equal responsibility to care for my daughter as well as her two young daughters but not at the same time. As far as I can remember when she needed to be with my husband and me, her daughters were cared for by their father and possibly some friends. When Melissa preferred to be resting at home, we would take care of our granddaughters. Every situation is different.

Q: Melissa is a BRCA gene carrier, and her daughters may be too. Describe your feelings about this and the importance of knowing your family history.

A: Knowledge is power and our stories (Melissa’s, mine, and other family members) might not have hadpositive outcomes if we didn’t get tested and comply with the recommendations based on testing positive for the BRCA gene.  As a result, the benefits of genetic testing and knowing family history are so much more clear-cut for Melissa’s daughters.

Discussing cancer with children

Q: If a child were to ask their Grandma about their Mom’s breast cancer, how would you best explain it to a child who is under 10? Over 12/13 years old?

A:For under 10 I think I would keep it simple and say that Mom has a sickness called breast cancer but the doctors are taking good care of her and will help her to get well. As surgery and treatment progress, I would deal with the current situation and not give them more than they could process. They would know they could ask anything at any time.

For 12/13 I would give more details perhaps based on their questions. Depending on what they ask, I would talk a bit about the surgery and treatment, especially chemo and the side effects. It would depend on how much they would seem to need to know. Again, they would know that they should feel comfortable about continuing the conversation with me at any point.

Spoiling a loved one undergoing chemo

Q: We all know that Grandmas are great shoppers and love to spoil their daughters. What items should be purchased before breast cancer treatment (including chemotherapy and surgery?)

A: I now know from Melissa’s experience that there are items that should be bought before surgery and chemo. AnaOno Intimates has a great robe that should be an essential item with its “drain belt” to conceal drains. Satin pillowcases are important for when the hair falls out, the cotton ones can pull on the hair and be painful. A flattering wig purchased prior to hair loss is key, as well as an alternative such as a baseball cap with hair extensions or ponytail attached. 

Cater to what the patient feels like eating (but think healthy and maybe family favorite comfort foods) and check out special recipes recommended for patients undergoing chemo such as magic mineral broth which takes some preparation with special ingredients but was more like miracle broth for Melissa. Ginger tea and foods containing ginger may be soothing.

Cancer caregivers: What would you add for a must-have item?

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