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Grieving Son Recounts Mom’s Battle with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

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“We coped with it the only way we could.”
“It was devastating. It was torture to see her go through that pain and not be able to do anything. From losing her hair, to having trouble walking, swollen joints, and every other side-effect that occurred, it was the ultimate feeling of helplessness.

“We coped with it the only we could — being strong and having faith that everything would be okay. We had as much support as we could have asked for from family, friends, medical staff, etc. Within six months it took her from us.”

A Profound Change in Perspective
I asked Joseph if his experiences with triple-negative breast cancer changed his philosophy of life at all.

“Absolutely — it changed everything. It took my Mom away. It was a life-changing experience. You always hear ‘life is short’ and ‘appreciate what you have,’ but losing my Mom in this way really put all of that in perspective. Things that before appeared so urgent and important, either professionally or personally, now were just petty … to worry about all of these little things that at the end of day don’t matter. It made me stop and re-evaluate everything. I changed professions because of it — left the corporate world for the nonprofit sector.

“There is also a ‘loss of innocence’ that I cannot explain and is only truly understood by those who have suffered similar tragedies. I always believed in life that ‘things will work out in the end’ or things will always ‘turn out for the best.’ This was my first time learning that it’s not always the case. The worst possible outcome that you fear most can come true. Bad things do happen to good people.”

Reliving his mother’s struggle and sharing his feelings on the subject has not been easy. “Even saying it out loud now, it sounds so negative and cynical, but those who know me know I am a positive and fun-loving person. That will not change, and my Mom would not want that to change. But I do have a different reality now than before. Going through this type of pain changes you.”

photo courtesy of Joseph P

“Capture more memories.”
Joseph has some advice for families dealing with cancer right now. “Take pictures. Shoot video. Capture more memories. I wish I took more pictures and video, but I didn’t, because doing so felt like I would be admitting there was a chance she would not beat it. Why take more pictures and video than normal? Why act as if you will never see her again, when you KNOW you will see her again?”

Next: Heartfelt Advice / A Generous Offer of Support

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11:58PM PDT on Jul 3, 2013

Remember to get your mammograms

7:20AM PDT on Oct 4, 2011

Thank you for this post. I really needed to read it. I have found myself in a similar situation as Joseph and his mother's blog provided me with a sense of support I had not felt before in these awful last 2,5 years. I was under the impression that everything worked out in the end, I'm genuinely sorry that was not the case. May she rests in peace...

I too have a family member battling cancer. The horrible feeling that I'm not doing enough to help is eating me from the inside... But I am about to change it.

12:28AM PDT on Aug 8, 2011

Here I am at midnight re-reading Joseph's story of losing his mother to breast cancer and a statement he made hit me between the eyes!

" . . . I always believed in life that ‘things will work out in the end’ or things will always ‘turn out for the best.’ This was my first time learning that it’s not always the case. . . . "

In my original comments I said "It is this other side of cancer, the effect it has on others, that we often don't see, or at least don't recognise early enough . . . " and I truly believe this. In Joseph's case, this other side of cancer has produced what I believe is a passionate young man just hitting his stride. And that is something to celebrate.

Joseph, I believe things have worked out in the end. The world has a passionate advocate for people and their families who struggle daily with disease. Your mother will always be with you in your heart, influencing you and urging you on. And she is no longer in pain.

You are in my praters.

5:46PM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

Thank you to Ann and Joseph.

9:33PM PDT on Jul 30, 2011

Dear Joseph, I am so sorry for your tremendous loss, and thank you for both sharing part of your journey with us and extending your support for those in need. What a great way to honor your mother!

4:28PM PDT on Jul 29, 2011


. . . and she has been put in care.

As Ann P has said before, and Joseph has now said, early detection is very important. As Christa L has noted below, there are natural ways to treat cancer. I wonder about her suggestions as a preventative path so I am going to look at that, not that I have cancer, but I've seen enough of it in my father's side of the family. I also try to keep mentally active as my mother is the 3rd generation with Alzeimer's on her side of the family.

Ultimately, the decision on chemo, radiation, surgery, or all natural is a personal one and belongs to no person but the patient, in consultation with their family and medical team.

Thank you Joseph for sharing your feelings and story. And thank you Ann for continuing to share your journey.

4:26PM PDT on Jul 29, 2011

I can feel Joseph's pain and have great sympathy and empathy for him, and all others who travel this rutted, stoney dirt road.

My stepfather died in March 2004 after a 3 year battle with colon cancer. He wanted to die at home and he did. Unfortunately, his cancer is still affecting the family. My mother, who looked after him faithfully the entire time, developed Alzheimer's. Nobody suspected what was happening to her. The stress of dealing with his cancer accelerated her own problems. She remarried several years later but her 3rd husband went into hospital and died on their 7 month wedding anniversary after 3 months in hospital. She spent every day, a minimum of 10 hours a day, at his bedside. This stress accelerated the Alzheimer's even more and put her totally over the edge. While she is now in care and very happy at least, I am her sole caregiver (outside the care centre) and I am taking particular care not to let her disease stress me out but it is hard sometimes.

It is this other side of cancer, the effect it has on others, that we often don't see, or at least don't recognise early enough because we chalk it up to stress and grief.

In 2007, two days after being diagnosed with cancer, my father passed away. He told me he just couldn't cope with it. I think he knew he had cancer as he was in a lot of pain, but he was so caught up in looking after his wife who also has Alzheimer's, that he ignored his own pain. Now he can't look after her and she has be

12:41PM PDT on Jul 29, 2011

very sad! my heart goes out to him

12:33PM PDT on Jul 29, 2011

Thank you for being such a loving and supportive son. My mom has Lupus and Graves disease and I have watched it reak havoc on her life and body for many years. I hope we can bring awareness, much needed awareness to these diseases and hopefully help in getting more scientist on the job to find some cures!!

8:10AM PDT on Jul 29, 2011

Thoughts and prayers going to the family.

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