Recently my mum has been diagnosed with breast cancer and will be undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy in the upcoming months (I will be her primary carer during this time). It's great to see the amount of support she is receiving from family and friends.
She has a friend who is repeatedly trying to persuade her to not have chemotherapy and to rely on alternative medicine like magnesium supplements, epsom baths and using Himalayan rock salt, claiming that these can "cure cancer". She is not a qualified professional and gets her information from "Dr Google", continuously tagging us in Facebook groups we don't want to be in. We try to avoid these discussions by changing the subject when she brings it up but she will always return to it. She asks my mum if she trusts her and that she should do alternate medicine. At first I put it down to her meaning well, but now it is really irritating for me.
I'm not worried about my mum taking her friend's "advice" over her medical team, however I feel like Mum needs to be surrounded by people that will respect her and support her during treatment. I don't want to hurt this lady's feelings but don't want her to keep harassing my mum during this time.
How best to approach this?
Hi, I don't really have much advice, but I just wanted you to know that this really, really irritates me too. How much time does your Mum spend with this person? If they interact mainly on the internet it's relatively easy to deal with, but harder if they spend time face to face. Would it be possible for you or your Mum to gently ask her to respect your Mum's treatment choices? Otherwise it might be necessary for your Mum to limit the amount of time she spends with this friend. Unfortunately a lot of relationships change after a cancer diagnosis- some for the worse (and some for the better, remember that, too.)
I wish you and your Mum many good things. Love and hugs, Emily
In my opinion, a friend respects your viewpoints, and your boundaries.
If for some reason they fail to do that, you educate them.
If they continue to fail to do that .. they are not a friend.
That goes both ways - you shouldn't dismiss well-meant advice, even if it's unwanted, but you should be able to say, "thanks for that viewpoint, I've decided to focus on orthodox therapies and I need to keep my head balanced and focussed, so please stop trying to persuade me - my decision is made and you continuing to bombard me with information is just distracting me and making me feel awkward and uncomfortable. Please respect my preference."
That may sound harsh - but it's actually simple, direct & neutral. A real friend would receive that, accept it, and do their very best to comply with it.
Someone who is not a real friend may toddle off in a hissy fit (and, in that scenario, good riddance).
Just my opinion - I'd respectfully tell her to stop, and I wouldn't get too bothered if she were upset by that.
Hi, when I was going through my chemo I had one particular friend who had had bowel cancer and thought she knew it all even if mine was ovarian. She would at times call me or just drop in always upsetting me, so in the end if she rang and one of my family answered they would just say, mum can't talk to you, she soon got the message. I don't know how close a friend this woman is to your Mum if not that close I'd be having a word with her, your Mum sounds smart enough not to take any notice however she will have enough on her plate without this persons supposive alternative claims of what will help her..I hope this helps sometimes you have to be stronger.
Your question is really topical actually. Only last week ABC Radio National ran a podcast about trying alternative therapies instead of or prior to medical treatment. It profiled 2 couples' experience:
A follow up article is also published.
I hope that helps with informing you and helping your relative. It's difficult, however, to sit with the decisions of others when you don't agree.
If you wanted to also talk to one of our Information & Support consultants, you can call 131120.
Online Community Team Member
I would like to start by saying that I wish nothing but the best to you and your mum. I have been in a similar predicament before, so I know how frustrating it can be to deal with people who wholeheartedly believe that they have your best interests at heart. Many of them do not see the stress that they are placing on people and their families, its almost a type of selfless selfishness. I do think that you should step in and politely tell your mums friend that undermining her decisions to listen to her medical team is not beneficial in the long run, even though she might mean well. Make it clear that you want nothing but a completely positive outlook around your mum and I think this should help the situation a bit.
There are some strange thoughts out there. I once had a woman tell me that if I spent some time in nature, hugging trees & foraging for my food, that it would cure my cancer! That & having some guru gaze at me through a computer screen.
Whilst I do believe in eating well & I love nature I don’t believe that people should go around saying it’s going to cure you.
At the end of the day, I think if you’re going to use alternative therapies it should be done in conjunction with recognised treatments & with the supervision of your oncologist.
Be part of this supportive community