How to deal with unsupportive family

1t1twonder Member Posts: 2 Member
edited March 2023 in Emotional Support #1

I have never posted anything and not sure what I am doing. Please forgive me if I am posting in wrong place. I did a search for unsupportive family and message appear to be from 5 years ago or older.

16 months ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am 52, single and my family live on the other side of the huge state of Montana. My family relations have always been strained but I didn’t think it would be this bad. I feel abandoned and incredibly hurt. Probably the worst has been my mom who throughout my life I have taken care of when she had a brain tumor, cancer (twice), heart failure, and depression.

when my mom agreed to “help” me by staying with me, I thought she would actually help. Unfortunately, I think she thought of herself as being a guest. The day after my mastectomy, I was supposed to take care of HER by cooking, cleaning, and entertaining. When I asked her to help clean she said no. I did not ask her to cook. Two weeks after my mastectomy, I had my first chemo treatment. She left the next day while I was scared and puking my guts out.

I could go on forever but I want to know if anyone knows how to communicate how hurt you are without belittling what someone has done and making them defensive . I believe cancer is partially caused by anger and stuffing feelings down so I am trying to avoid, well, avoidance.

I am still going thru chemo treatments and my friends are taking vacation days to drive me to chemo. Meanwhile my mother who has no job, no husband (my stepdad died 2 years ago), and is “bored” won’t come to help. I don’t know how to ask and let her know she really needs to help because I can’t do it all by myself right now. I’ve asked for help from the local support groups and have not gotten anywhere. Any ideas would be great.


  • StonedCamaro
    StonedCamaro Member Posts: 38 Member

    Sometimes writing it in a letter comes across better.

    I'm sorry I can't offer more advice or be helpful. Coming on this site to vent and complain is a great start!!!

    I pray you get better days ahead and that care is sent your way!!!

  • vivgrl
    vivgrl Member Posts: 34 Member

    I want to be respectful but also try to be helpful to the extent I can be.

    I understand that it is very frustrating to have someone who is available but will not help. It sounds like your mother has issues that prevent her from taking on a caretaking role. It sounds like she is able to focus only on her needs. It does not seem like she is motivated in any way to change. If your cancer has not motivated her, I do not think that anything will.

    While I don't agree that anger or stuffing feelings down causes cancer, I do think that stress is very hard on the body. You need to be as stress free as possible to give your body the best chance of fighting the disease. You are number one and you have to take care of yourself - surrounding yourself with people who are fully supportive and loving and disengaging from those who are not.

    I have cancer too and have had a very difficult time with chemo. For the first year, I usually drove myself to/from chemo (it was a multi-hour drive and I sometimes had to stop and rest or threw up in the car on the way home - I always kept a throw up bag on hand). You may want to keep toast or canned soup or frozen meals on-hand so you don't have to cook and wait until the side effects of the chemo ease up to do laundry, etc. These are just a few ideas - they may not work for you but you may think of other things you can do to make your life easier without your mother's help.

    I agree with the other poster that writing may help - you can get your thoughts and feelings out of your system and she may be able to "hear" you better. However, your energy must be focused on you, not her.

    I hope this is helpful and apologize in advance if for whatever reason it is not.

  • Peace_C_KR
    Peace_C_KR Member Posts: 4 Member

    Hi—I am new to this scene, but can relate on some level. My husband has advance esophageal cancer. His family , who would describe themselves as close knit, have been virtually AWOL thus far. They only live an hour away. In Have made it very easy and very clear, that their help and support is welcomed, needed, and appreciated. All I can say is that they are mostly pretty narcissistic individuals and it starts with mom. No excuses. Not even a visit to him/us, never a mention of my efforts to keep them informed, never a question or concern for me as caregiver and supporter of all. Never words to encourage hubby or be present. I too come from a pretty narcissistic family. Mostly, all in my family but 1 have called and visited him and me—-more than I expected. I guess my expectations were so low to begin with that even a small investment of care and concern is something worth appreciating. Less disappointing with low or no expectations. So, I don’t have any great wisdom, other than you can’t get apples from an orange tree. You may reap something , but an orange is still an orange and an apple an apple….will always be . A counselor used that analogy with ,me to help me process the hurt and frustrations I felt dealing with my own selfish family members. Some just don’t have the skills, some just want to remain apple trees even if you need an orange. It’s sort of like, “ what’s your problem? I am fine producing apples. Get your oranges some place else.” I am fortunate to have friends who have filled in the gaps at times. In the end, it is they , our family members who are broken in such a way…. You are perfectly you! Thankfully, you have chosen to be different in life. Peace is a gift worth seeking:)🍊🍊🍊

  • HydrangeaBlue
    HydrangeaBlue Member Posts: 8 Member

    I had limited family to begin with, so other than my husband, there was really no one near enough to provide any help. I found Hope House to be the BEST thing that ever happened to me in my cancer treatments. During radiation, I had to be at the facility (50+ miles away) every day of the week for a period of 6 months. I lived far enough that I was able to get a spot at the Hope House. Staying with other cancer patients over a prolonged period of time was the best therapy ever. It took a couple of weeks to feel comfortable, and people would come and go as everyone starts at their own timing. But I can tell you that the help and support of others who have cancer and are going through the same treatments was the best thing ever. You might want to see if something like Hope House is available at your cancer center (Hope House was through ACS; other areas have similar facilities that may be unaffiliated but still helpful). Asking a social worker at your cancer center is a really good place to start as they often know how to find help for people who have limited family members available. HTH.

  • carolrichwrites
    carolrichwrites Member Posts: 25 Member

    Having gone through a year of non-support at home, I can relate!

    Without going into details of my own trials, I'd rather offer some suggestions that worked for me, and might ease your suffering somewhat...I hope.

    Instead of expecting help from the people closest to me, who seemed to have no heart or love for me at the time, I reached out by phone or online to friends from around the country--people I knew who loved me and would do anything for me in the ways that are so important. Five friends allowed me to call day or night, especially in the darkest times of suffering, before surgery, through months of excruciating pain. Most of my friends don't sleep anyway so that really helped. I remember times when I'd pull over and park by the water to cry over the phone with them. During radiation, one friend actually took time off from work to travel and stay with me for a week, where she made healthy meals, served them to me, and cleaned up! I cried almost constantly from gratitude. When we're not cared for, it really hurts, and feels so isolating and frustrating. What we need and want is to have the time during treatments to be one of healing and peace. Even though the treatments seem and are like just another form of torture, it's what we have to be able to take care of ourselves!

    Music. I'm a classical pianist and I relied heavily on listening to my favorite music to and from treatments (23 total, 45 minutes each way). It not only passed the time, but helped me keep connected to my emotions, whatever they may be. I didn't want to go through it detached and zombie-like. It felt great to cry and throw fits of anger and laugh with joy at being able to get the care I needed.

    Concerning your mother, without sounding cold, I'd lower the bar and stop expecting anything from her. She is obviously unable to give. It's sad really. I had a policy not to let any brown goo into my life anymore, since I too, experienced feelings that my uterine cancer was exacerbated, sped up, and worsened by my frustrations at home. I'd put myself last just when I needed to put myself first. Releasing expectations really helped.

    Lastly, remember that your care team is there entirely for you. They are angels in human form.

    Best of luck to you. I hope you find a way to receive some true help. This is a great site. I've only been part of it for a couple of weeks, but I've found a lot of supportive, caring women here.


  • tougherthan
    tougherthan Member Posts: 2 Member

    Wow I really found this post enlightening as I have a husband in treatment for SCLC stage 4

    year 5 of NSCLC We thought in clear scan showed small cell - there are kids who NEVER visit never ask to help CANT even visit on Father’s Day or Christmas, and live close!! pathetic but your post puts things in a perspective that helps me just move on

    prayers for you and your family to heal. God does work miracles and I do believe people change hopefully before it’s too late

  • drjengann
    drjengann Member Posts: 1 Member

    Hi there @1t1twonder,

    I can relate 100% and I am so glad you shared because I've never run across anyone else who's also experienced the burden caused by an unsupportive family. I've experienced the same range of emotions as you've described. It hurts. hurts beyond belief. Unless you're interested, I'll save the details. ... but I did want to mention that shortly after my diagnosis, I discovered a very hateful side of my husband. ... and the night before my mastectomy, I was served divorce papers.

    But back to my words of wisdom -- I finally got tired of the gut wrenching hurt of how distant my family has been, so ..... I've opted to let them go. I stopped updating them with anything new; I stopped asking for help, and I have learned the hard way to not let them know when I need some emotional support. I should have been prepared, but I also realized just how seldom I hear from them anymore.

    But you know what helps tremendously?

    ***Support groups like ours.

    ***Leaning into the power of positive thinking.

    ***An unwavering commitment to our faith.

    ***Full trust in our medical team.

    The results? Unsurmountable grace.

    PS I've realized such a blessing throughout all of this - real family isn't always biologically related.

  • 1t1twonder
    1t1twonder Member Posts: 2 Member

    Thank you all for your words of wisdom. I have finished all my treatments and have slowly been getting my life together.

    My mother wanted to “ring the bell” with me but I decided only two people deserved to be there so I wouldn’t tell my mother my final chemo. The friend who took vacation days and drove me 150 miles every 3 weeks for my treatments was there.

    My one oncologist said he would not have agreed to give me treatment if he would have known I didn’t have family support. While family support would be ideal, I am trying to be ok without it and survive in spite of my family. My support from friends has filled me with gratitude. I doubled my appointments with my counselor and she helped me tremendously. I concentrated on on my job and continued to work from home.

    I am thankful for everyone’s support and yet it saddens me others can relate. How can family do this to each other? Each one of you deserves so much better because you are obviously caring people.

    Being reliant on the kindness of friends and strangers is terrifying but has strengthened my resolve to be kind to everyone. I hope I can help others so no one has to feel alone.

  • P1CancerSurvivor
    P1CancerSurvivor Member Posts: 6 *

    You can also reach out to your local non-profits as well. There are centers that can assist with therapy and other recovery needs. Please keep up the counselor sessions and take it day by day. You are not responsible for the actions of others, don't take on that unnecessary burden. Keep moving forward and maintain your resolve and mental strength.