Wanna Help

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My mother just found out she has breast cancer. Actually, I just found
out. She’s known for more than a month. Now it is post-biopsy and
she’s decided to have a mastectomy followed by chemo. Naturally I
want to be there for her and my father, and said I wanted to come. My
parents have a very close, almost exclusive, relationship. Both my
sister and I grew up feeling more tolerated than loved. But this is a
time when it’s important to be there to support them. I want to help
with everything from errands to relieving my father in the hospital,
cooking healthy food for them, and being on point to make sure there
are no mistakes in hospital care. When I asked when was the best
time to come both my parents said “Later. Much later.” They simply
refuse to let either my sister or me be there for the surgery. Not only
do I think they are very wrong but selfishly so. I am also hurt. I tried
to say so but cannot make a dent in their wall of resistance. Do I keep
trying or give up?

Wanna Help

Dear Wanna Help:

You can’t make them want to have you there any more than you can
make someone love you, be that a parent, a partner, or a friend. And
yes I am sure it hurts. You would almost certainly be useful to them in
ways too numerous to count. But you’re going to have to accede to
their wishes in the short-run because this is going to be a much longer
process than they or you might imagine. You’ll need to have built up a
core supply of patience and goodwill rather and a feeling that you
intruded after they told you not to come. I know that’s not what you
want you want to hear but it’s true.

Write them an email saying you respect their wishes even if you don’t
agree with them. Give them all the advice you want to tell them, what
you think they need to hear, neatly organized under categories like
hospital care, nutrition tips, etc. Assume that they will neither read nor
appreciate this even if they do. But you’ll feel better getting it all off
your chest and out of your head. Call the night before to wish her luck.
Make sure your father has his cell with him and on to let you know
when she gets out of surgery and how it went, what they found, etc.
Plan to visit after her chemo or radiation begins. When you do, cook
lots of healthy food and put some simple meals in the freezer. She
may not eat them but your father will. Remember that sometimes
being a good daughter means doing less not more. Hard but true.