Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Amanda Lamb: Cancer is a full-time job

Posted May 13, 2012

Since my mother was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, her care, and everything that goes along with that care, has consumed my family.

It is a journey we have chosen to undertake, but one we were pitifully unqualified for. As a result, we have had to learn to navigate the health care system and all that it entails in just a few short weeks.

When a loved one receives a diagnosis like this, you have to become a quick study in everything from filling out mountains of medical paperwork to how to navigate the complicated world of health insurance. This is not something a person facing this diagnosis can deal with.

My husband and I have had to research what Medicare, Blue Cross Blue Shield and longterm care insurance will pay for. We have navigated the complicated process of getting home health care resources like a hospital bed, and home health care providers, like a physical therapist.

In addition, as a caregiver to someone with a terminal illness, one has to manage the complex and ever-changing list of medications that must be given in specific doses and at specific times throughout the day.

This is in addition to the basic care you must provide - feeding, bathing, dressing, and transporting to doctors' appointments.

Throughout the process, I have wondered how people who don't have a family member to do all of this can make it through. It makes me so sad to think of someone going through this all alone. It is unimaginable, frankly.

My mother took care of me for 45 years. Now it is my turn to care for her. It is not a job I applied for, but it is one I do with my whole heart. Prior to this I was training for a marathon, a friend told me that now, instead, this journey is my marathon.

I haven't trained for it, but I am determined to make it to the finish line.

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.


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  • jpittard2 May 17, 2012

    My mother has Alzheimers and cancer and has been in an assisted living facility for almost 2 years. My dad was her main caregiver until she was placed and he did a fantastic job. It was a hard decision that was not made lightly. What we were not ready for was my father being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer everywhere and we lost him in 2 months in February. My heart is so heavy but I know we did the best for him that we could and continue to do what we can for Mom. We wish you the best in your journey.

  • trublondmom715 May 14, 2012


    I lost my mother when I was 24 to a malignant brain tumor and our family pulled together to take care of her and make sure she did not live her last days in a nursing facility. I was actually in college at the time and during her illness, my father suddenly passed away from a heart attack, leaving just myself and two older sisters to care for my mom. Even though one of my sister's is a nurse and I was in school studying to be a social worker, nothing in life prepared me for that journey. It's been 22 years since I lost my mom and I can tell you that even though this is a tough time for you and your family, you will never have regrets for being her caregiver. I encourage you to take one day at a time and not let the details rob you of precious time you have left with your mother. Learn about caregiver burnout so it doesn't happen to you and focus on this time with your mother and not let the details of navigating the system, rob you of this precious time you have left with her

  • pjnoobie2 May 14, 2012 prayers are with you through this tragic time. I like so many have lost someone to cancer. My mom died in 1999 of colon cancer..praying for you sweetie..its a hard road...God WILL give you strength..pray often..xoxoxoxoxoxo

  • wenfromwake May 14, 2012

    So sorry Amanda. Thankful for your heart to help. It is a blessing to your mom and family. Praying for you and your mom. Be thankful you trained for the marathon b/c I'm sure you will run this race with endurance. Prayers for guidance, wisdom, strength and comfort.

  • coachsneighbor May 14, 2012

    Dear Amanda,
    Every word you've said (well, except about how your mom cared for you) has come out of my mouth in one version or another since my husband was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma in mid-February. We discovered he was sick because the cancer had metastasized to his brain; his brain was riddled with little tumors, and two large ones. The large ones were removed by his college roomate who is a brain surgeon at Wake Forest, thank God. He drove to my husband's bedside the night he was diagnosed and has shepherded us through this process from the first day, locating excellent medical and radiology oncologists for us at Duke and then doing the brain procedures himself. Like you, I wonder how on earth people with no resources or family manage this disease. I see them sitting in the waiting room at the Duke Cancer Center every time we go there. Bless you and your family, and good luck.

  • apricotmom May 14, 2012

    So sorry to hear of your Mother's illness. She is so blessed to have a family that will take the journey with her. I recently took that journey with my Mother dealing with the horrible disease of Alzheimer's. It was really hard emotionally but I was honored to be her caregiver and now since she lost her battle I am so thankful she is now at peace and I have no regrets.

  • littleteacher May 14, 2012

    Amanda, my prayers are with you, your mom, your family and everyone involved. I can not begin to imagine. I hope your co-workers & friends will help with meals -- at least at first so that's one less thing you have to think about.

  • jsnipes May 14, 2012

    Amanda, There will be days when you think you are not going to make it to the finish, but trust me, with God's guidance and your family, you will make it. Hang in there.

  • alphametrics May 14, 2012

    Amanda, you represent the best in us - for dealing with aging parents is hard enough. Dealing with cancer is hard enough. Dealing with both takes skill and patience and love! Godspeed on your journey!

  • lynne0312 May 14, 2012

    Sometimes mainstream medicine is not the best and only way to go. Please consider alternative/natural treatments for your mother. I recommend reading this book: