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Boundary Enforcement?


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Hello All,

I haven't been around much since my May 2016 surgery, which went well. Oncologist ordered some more rounds of chemo, which for some reason, is making me sicker than the pre-surgery chemo did. I've also got another brain MRI this week, and I have no idea if that's routine or if they have reason to check for something more sinister (I'll ask ARNP on Tuesday). As usual, even with my prepping, it can be tough to keep up with this cancer stuff. 

Boundaries Question

Bluntly phrased, how did you survive treatment AND cancer AND all of the *helpful* people violating boundaries without permanently destroying relationships? 

I'm a pretty sunshine-y person who enjoys her alone time. Cancer has taken a lot of control out of my life. My mother-in-law has insisted on being present for large portions of my chemo, and my husband endorses this. I find it exhausting, because I can't just be myself. I feel like I'm expected to play alternating roles of *grateful cancer patient* and *daughter-in-law hostess*, when really I would just like to take a nap when I'm not feeling well, and maybe see a friend when I have a chance (and not be obligated to take my MIL).

Our son came home sick from Boy Scout camp this week, and although he's 15, he spreads germs like a 3-year old. My husband and I had repeated conversations with him about hand washing, cough protocol, etc., but he was being super dense, and I snapped at him. Long story short, my MIL and I had words (she felt I was being too hard on him, and then became upset when we wouldn't cancel his BS backpack trip so she could spontaneously take him home with her). She left in tears, telling my husband "she would not stay where she is not wanted". Haven't heard from her since that time, although I'm sure she got home safely, or my FIL would have called. 

Thank you for the vent. 


Edited by Meloni
Minor words adjustment. No comments at time of edit.
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Welcome back Meloni.

Great news about your surgery completion.  Sorry about the post surgical chemo side-effect.  I've read about folks with pre and post surgery chemo and many report the same condition as you.  Unfortunately, I did not get post surgical chemo because of surgery complications so I have no first hand experience.

Why a brain MRI?  I had one also after surgery when tumors appeared in my left lung.  My doctor told me that lung cancer has an unfortunate tendency of spreading to the brain.  My result for brain mets was negative and I hope yours is also.  

As to your boundary questions, I don't have a clue.  My family lived hundreds of miles distant from me so I didn't experience your problems.  I did however get a severe chest infection from contact with a sick child.  That landed me a two week stay in the hospital after my pneumonectomy.  So you are correct in being concerned and vigilant to exposure to those displaying symptoms.  

I hope you are well.  Vent away if you care.  This is the place for that!

Stay the course.


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Hi Meloni,

I'm pretty new here myself, but as a caregiver, I know that if my dad asked to do chemo alone, I wouldn't be offended.  If he asked my mom to let him go alone, she would have a hysterical fit.  So, everybody's different....

If you can talk to your MIL and she's not an overly sensitive person, maybe you can tell her that you want to go alone so that you can meditate or listen to meditation CD's.  Maybe if you bring such a CD and close your eyes (basically ignoring her), then she will understand.  I would say that you should tell her, not ask your husband to do it - so that you don't cause any issues between them.  If she's overly sensitive, then, my advice would be the same! :-)

You must take care of yourself and your own wellbeing- if your family doesn't understand, it's OK.  They'll get there or they won't.  


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Sorry to give my opinion - or even better, ask for advice -, but maybe I can help, even if it is just a little bit. I understand both parts, Meloni. My mum has lung cancer and I really live far from her. We literally have an ocean between us, as she lives in Brazil and I live in Spain.

As I knew what was going on, I left everything to be with her (my husband, my job, my house). My first thought was to help and take care of her, being a support for her and my father... I'm seriously thinking to stay with her until she is well again, no matter how long it lasts. She is not only my mum, she is my best friend. It is really hard to feel that I have no control on this situation, that there's nothing I can do to really stop this cancer. My heart only wants to return all love and confidence she gave me. But many times all I can do is be by her side in silence with my daughter in my arms. 

By the other hand, I understand that sometimes she is overflowed, tired, sad, angry; wanting to be alone. Despite respecting her space and the right to be alone, my heart cries "run to her and hold her hand". 

I don't know your family, but I think that they, as me, only want to help and don't know how. Whatever it is, love forgive all. 


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First of all, congrats on the completion of your surgery!  I wanted to address to "boundaries" issue with you. It sounds as if you are one of those people who puts others needs before your own, which can be a beautiful thing, but I feel that there are times when you and your wishes should come first & in my opinion, this is one of those times.

I hope you can get through to your MIL that, although you appreciate her offer, that chemo is easier for you to get through when you're alone. I was that way...I always had a great nap & didn't want anyone there who I felt I had to "entertain"! Perhaps you could suggest that your MIL help in a different way (grocery shop, cook dinner, clean your bathroom), to be helpful, although, forgive me for being blunt, it sounds as if she wants to make herself feel better first & you come in second. By all means, tell your husband that you would rather not have MIL with you during chemo; he needs to back you up on this. 

You have a big enough battle against cancer without also having to battle "helpful" family members also. If MIL gets mad, she'll get over it. Please don't take on her problem & feel any guilt whatsoever...if one of you has to feel upset right now, bettter it be her than you!

As far as the teenager; good luck! I know they can be pretty self-absorbed.If no one else is putting Meloni first right now, then you need to. Please take care of yourself and hang in there! I hope I've not offended you with my bluntness, I tried to be diplomatic, lol!




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