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Q. My mother and father are 79 and 82, respectively. My mother has had lung cancer for five years and they removed part of her right lung. Now, they've found cancer in her lymph nodes and she has started IV chemo. After three treatments there has been no change in the size of her cancer and her recovery from the treatment is getting worse (more fatigue, more nausea, more hair loss, greater duration of recovery, etc.). They are not receiving any mental or emotional counseling and I suspect will soon be facing difficult decisions about treatment. How can I counsel them to get counseling or join a support group? Where can I point them?


Recognizing the importance of addressing the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis and treatment is crucial. Here are some steps you can take to support your parents in seeking counseling or joining a support group:

  1. Normalize the Need for Support: Approach the topic gently with your parents, reassuring them that experiencing a range of emotions when dealing with cancer is entirely natural. Emphasize that seeking support is a proactive step towards coping with the challenges they’re facing.

  2. Educate Them About the Benefits: Help your parents understand the potential benefits of counseling and support groups. These resources offer a safe environment to express feelings, share experiences with others in similar situations, and learn effective coping strategies for managing stress and anxiety.

  3. Offer Resources: Provide information about reputable counseling services and support groups specializing in cancer care. This could include local hospitals, community organizations, or online platforms like Psychology Today, where they can find licensed therapists and counselors who specialize in supporting individuals and families affected by cancer. These resources can provide valuable support and guidance during this difficult time.

  4. Encourage Open Communication: Advocate for open communication between your parents and their healthcare team regarding any concerns about the impact of treatment on their mental and emotional well-being. Healthcare professionals can often provide valuable referrals to support services or make accommodations to address their needs.

Remember to approach the topic with sensitivity, respect, and patience, recognizing that each individual may have their own unique response to seeking support. Ultimately, the decision to engage in support is up to your parents. Additionally, it’s important to prioritize your own well-being as a caregiver. Seeking support for yourself can provide a valuable outlet for processing your own emotions and navigating difficult conversations, ultimately helping you better support your parents through their cancer journey.

CancerCare offers a wide range of support services, including counseling, support groups, financial assistance, educational workshops, all provided free of charge. Your parents can reach out to CancerCare’s toll-free Helpline at 800-813-HOPE (4673) to speak with an oncology social worker who can offer personalized support and guidance. This resource is available to help individuals and families affected by cancer cope with the emotional, practical and financial challenges they may face. You can also take a look at our lung cancer resources and services.

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