Sasha Answers: Supporting my mother-in-law
Dear Sasha, I have wonderful in-laws. The greatest, really (I'm biased, of course). My husband's father was recently diagnosed with cancer in his kidney. They plan to remove a large tumor along with one of his kidneys. He has a bad heart so cardiology is unsure of the surgery. They either remove the kidney or do a chemotherapy treatment. The former has a life expectancy of 5 years, the latter is 2 years. We have a very close knit family relationship that has always been very positive and nothing really has happened like this to either sides of our family. What advice can you give for support for my mother-in-law and keeping a positive outlook without having the too "nothing bad will happen" attitude? My husband is very trusting in doctors as am I, but I also want to be ready for bad news. Thanks! L
Without coming off trite, I think the best thing to do is just be there for her. The last thing you want her to feel is alone, so if you can be emotionally and physically present, well, that’s really the best gift you can give her.
I know that when my stepdad was sick, having friends just check in or simply ask how my family was doing was what really meant the most. And you know what, it didn’t always have to be SO serious ALL of the time; some of the best relief was when we could all just kick back and have some laughs about something totally unrelated.
And I think that’s key: when you’re going through something as draining as this, it’s hard to pull yourself out from all the what-ifs. So if you can offer up a little distraction from the heaviness every now and again, I know she’d appreciate it. Maybe it’s taking her out to get a pedicure in the middle of the day, maybe it’s bringing her favorite books or trash mags to the hospital, maybe it’s a daily text, or maybe it’s just sitting next to her quietly. All I know is that nothing trumps the feeling of being loved and supported, you know?
Another thing you can do is help around the house with some tasks, and seriously, the more mundane the better. The last thing she has time for is to do sh-t like unload the dishwasher or take out the garbage, so if I were you I’d roll up those sleeves and pitch in that way. People typically feel uncomfortable asking for help so if I were you I’d skip the whole asking “what can I do?” and instead just do it.
Hope this helps and of course all of us on the site are pulling for your father-in-law! xo