Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend Has Cancer and His Mother Won’t Let Me Visit”

My boyfriend and I have been together for about a year and a half now. We have been talking very seriously about moving in together and getting married. Within the last month, he was diagnosed with Stage 2b Ewing’s Sarcoma. The week after the diagnoses I drove him two hours every day to visit doctors and have tests done. We discussed him moving in with me and I would be his primary caregiver. His mom, who before has never had an issue with me, got in contact with me and demanded that he move in with her. There was no discussion about it and he moved in, an hour away from me.

At his first chemo treatment, I was five minutes late and couldn’t meet him before he went in. I then found out I wasn’t on the list to visit and would have to wait until he was released to see him. I waited five hours in the waiting room until his mom came out and told me to go home because he had too many people. I tried to come down and visit a few days later and bring him some gifts. I spoke with him and he knew I was coming, but, when I got there, I was turned away at the door by his mother and told to make sure with her before I come.

I can’t even begin to understand how a parent feels when this happens to his or her child. My boyfriend has no strength to argue or even put up a fight for me to see him. I don’t know what to do or how to address the situation. It’s so hard going from planning our future to not even having a present. Thank you in advance for any positive help. — No Visiting Hours

First, I’m very sorry to hear about your boyfriend’s cancer diagnosis. I can only imagine the fear and sadness and disbelief you must be feeling just as you can only imagine how your boyfriend’s parents must be feeling. And I’m sure in your mind and certainly in your world, you and your boyfriend are each other’s most important person. But the truth is, you aren’t married, you aren’t living together (TALKING about these things, even seriously, doesn’t count) and you’ve only been together a year and a half. That’s nothing compared to the years his mother has loved him and cared for him. And the week that you drove your boyfriend to doctors’ appointments I’m sure was appreciated and, on some level, meaningful for you. But a week is still nothing compared to every illness your boyfriend’s mother has tended to, every sleepless night she’s endured as his mother, and the nightmare every mother has at some point now being realized as her son faces a life-threatening disease. It’s just different for her than it is for you. And I don’t mean to downplay your feelings about this, which I’m sure are intense. But it’s different for a mother, and you need to respect that, and you need to respect that it IS her place to be caregiver now.

You weren’t living with your boyfriend. And despite the week you spent driving him to appointments, you were late to his first chemo appointment. I bet his mother was there early. I bet she had been up all night worrying and praying and worrying some more and that she made damn sure to be there with him through every second she could help share and ease any of his concern and fear and suffering. You right now are barely consequential to her as she imagines the months ahead. If you want to be considered with more understanding and compassion, you have to give her the respect she deserves and seems to be asking for. Call her before you show up to her home (and don’t expect your very sick boyfriend to relay messages to her). Tell her how sorry you are for what is happening. Ask her if there’s anything you can do. Tell her how much her son means to you and how grateful you have been for the time you’ve had together and how grateful you will continue to be for whatever time you can have with him now. Tell her how much you would appreciate it if she would keep you abreast of good times to visit and anything you might do to ease everyone’s burdens, even if that thing is just giving a little bit of space right now.

And, please, mention NONE of this to your boyfriend. Don’t let him know you are upset or that you feel slighted. All his limited strength and concern right now need to go to his health and not to smoothing tensions between his mother and girlfriend. I know it feels like your present has put on hold, and that’s because, where your boyfriend is concerned, it HAS been put on hold. Cancer will do that. You need to wait it out and seek comfort and solace in your extended support system — people who are NOT related to your boyfriend and who can be there for YOU. Because you definitely deserve and need support. You just can’t expect to get it right now from your boyfriend or his immediate family. They have bigger things to worry about at the moment than your feelings.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

71 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Laura Hope December 22, 2014, 3:22 pm

    How awful! So sorry to hear this.
    Wendy is right. I would back off–give him and his family as much space as they need. I would consider sending him cute cards that will make him smile, books or magazines that you think he might enjoy and little gifts that might temporarily take his mind off his discomfort. It will make you feel connected and he’ll know you’re thinking of him.

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  • dizziej

    dizziej December 22, 2014, 3:25 pm

    I’m sorry, I don’t agree with Wendy on this one. This mother is being a Class A Bitch. I have been through cancer with close family members twice, My Dad (who we lost) and my now Husband (who thankfully has been cancer free for 5 years).
    .
    I don’t know this mother or this situation, but it sounds to me like the mother never liked the LW and has decided to take this opportunity to remove the LW from her son’s life. My dad welcomed any and all visitors and my mom was very thankful to have all the help and support she could get. With my Husband, we were lucky enough that he did not require chemo. MY mom is the one who attended his Dr’s appointments with him as I had just started a new job and his parents lived 5 hours away. They were more than happy to have someone who loved and cared about their son there with him during such a trying time.
    .
    LW, I have nothing to suggest to you to make this situation better. Yes, his mother is likely under a significant amount of stress, and yes she is worried about her son, but that is absolutely NO EXCUSE to treat you the way she has treated you. Do you have an open dialogue with her (or another member of his family)? If you do, I would try and see if there is some perceived slight she is holding against you. If you have an open dialogue with her, try and see where her head is at. If that fails, or you do not have anyone close you can turn to, I guess you need to ask yourself if this is the kind of woman you want to tie yourself to. When you marry someone you marry their family too.

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    • avatar

      rngaredead December 22, 2014, 4:08 pm

      I agree with you. She should still talk to the mother. Why wouldn’t the mother want the extra help that the gf is offering, even if it’s just to sit and hang out with the bf while Mom takes a breather? And what message does backing away give to her boyfriend? Underneath all his suffering, his love for her still exists and vice versa. To me, simply sending cards and stuff looks like she’s giving up.

      Cancer is obviously serious but I know from seeing family friends and family members that life still goes on, eventually her boyfriend is going to have a good day and will wonder why his gf hasn’t been around lately, and why his friends haven’t visited him, why the only people he sees are his mom and doctors. to me, space isn’t the answer.

      if you are going to be nice about it, which you should be, i would still follow the portion of wendy’s advice about telling the mom how much her son means to you, how much you love him and want to be there for him and for her, offer to go to the grocery store, etc etc.

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      • avatar

        bcamber December 22, 2014, 4:45 pm

        YES, exactly. How does this help the boyfriend to be basically cut off from his girlfriend? The mom is not acting in the realm of what is reasonable under these circumstances. And the whole “well she’s been looking after him since he was a baby| so that relationship automatically trumps the girlfriends thing bothered me.

        As well, they are not married – so what? Are relationships only to be taken seriously when you are married? Seems a bit backward in this supposed age of non traditional relationships, making your own rules, etc…

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      • avatar

        snow.angel December 22, 2014, 5:50 pm

        I agree 100%. Unless something happened where the bf asked the mother to keep the gf away, I think it’s very cruel of the mother to deny him the comfort of his gf’s presence.

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    • Miss MJ

      Miss MJ December 22, 2014, 4:41 pm

      I disagree, too. And this is why:

      “Cancer is obviously serious but I know from seeing family friends and family members that life still goes on, eventually her boyfriend is going to have a good day and will wonder why his gf hasn’t been around lately…”

      The BF is sick, not dead and not mentally incapacitated. He knows what is going on around him. He and the LW have been together for over a year and presumably love each other very much and, frankly, not seeing her is going to feel like rejection of him and his disease on her part. Who knows what might have happened (no one knows the future), but, my god, up until his diagnosis, the LW is the woman the BF was very seriously discussing spending the rest of his life with. It is insane and, in my opinion, absolutely cruel of his mother, to deny him the peace and reassurance the presence of someone he loves would give him.

      The LW needs to talk to Mom, and tell her very firmly that while she appreciates that BF is her son, BF and LW are in love and they were talking about spending their lives together. And, because LW was serious about those talks, she’s not going to bow out now when the going gets tough. Mom should appreciate that LW loves her son enough to stand by him during a very difficult time. And if she doesn’t, well, Mom doesn’t get to keep LW away from the BF. It’s not Mom’s call to make; she needs to accept that she may not be the only person her son needs right now. If Mom is still being difficult after the talk, then LW needs to tell BF in as non-accusatory way as possible that she wants to be there for him, but Mom is making that difficult and that it would be helpful if BF would express to Mom how much LW being there helps him.

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    • avatar

      LS December 22, 2014, 4:44 pm

      I think it’s pre-mature to say that the mom is acting like a bitch. Everyone handles stress and grief and trauma differently–and in this mom’s case, she may be trying to control certain aspects of the situation since she feels helpless/out of control in the face of the cancer.
      .
      Rather than blaming the mom for that or trying to dig around to find some reason the mom does not like her (which just smacks of being self-absorbed, since it coul very well have nothing to do with her!)–I think the LW should try to meet the mom’s expectations, like Wendy suggests.
      ,
      If the mom continues to push her out, even after the LW tries to be accommodating, maybe she can be more blunt to try to get to the bottom of the mom’s treatment of her. But to just go in assuming that it is an issue with her… and without even trying to compromise and accommodate the mom is probably just going to make things worse and cause an even bigger rift.

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    • avatar

      HmC December 22, 2014, 5:27 pm

      Maybe she is being a Class A Bitch. But if that’s how I thought I had to be to make sure my young son had the best chance at survival from an aggressive form of cancer, you can bet your ass I’d be the biggest bitch you ever met. Some things are just outside the realm of young dating relationships. And that’s ok.

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      • avatar

        lindsaybob December 23, 2014, 6:50 am

        Okay, fine, I totally agree with you about being a bitch if it improves your kid’s chances of survival. But how on earth does not allowing his girlfriend, who we can reasonable assume he loves, to visit him do anything at all to improve his chances of survival? Mom wants to be the most important person to her son right now. Okay, maybe she is the most important. But that doesn’t make her the ONLY person in his life or the only person her son wants to see. Unless her son has asked her to keep his girlfriend away, I can see any way to account for this behavior other than the mother being controlling and selfish. She’s harming her son by allowing him to believe his girlfriend doesn’t care enough to visit him.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy December 23, 2014, 7:34 am

        It’s been one week! The mother is not NOT allowing the gf to see her son. She’s asking that she give her some notice first before she shows up. Her son is VERY sick. Chemo is no joke, especially chemo treating an aggressive cancer. It’s more than likely when the gf showed up — both at the hospital and at the house (unexpected, at least to the mom), the boyfriend was throwing his guts up and the mother made a judgment call to turn away any visitor in order to allow him to just be sick in peace. I really don’t think this is about the mother wanting to be the most important person. Or about the mother not liking the gf. This is about a guy who has a very serious illness and his loved ones adapting to that new diagnosis and figuring out the best way to care for him. It’s been one week. Let things settle a bit before labeling anyone controlling and selfish and bitchy. Jesus, especially when that someone is a mother who has just learned her young son has a serious and very life-threatening illness.

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      • avatar

        Eve December 23, 2014, 9:36 am

        ‘I spoke with him and he knew I was coming, but, when I got there, I was TURNED AWAY AT THE DOOR by his mother and told to make sure with her before I come.”
        It seems like she is not allowing the girlfriend to see him.
        If all the mother wanted was advance notice (and then let the girlfriend visit) I doubt the gf would be writing this letter, as there would be an easy solution to the problem – call the mum to arrange when she can come see him, mum will be content with this, easy.
        For the record, I don’t think the mum is either a bitch or anything like that, she is understandably very traumatised, people handle crises differently and we really don’t have all that information to label anyone anything. I think time will tell how things will go from now, but I just don’t agree with totally dismissing the girlfriend’s role in her boyfriend’s treatment and well being.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy December 23, 2014, 12:55 pm

        The bf may have known she was coming, but it doesn’t sound like the mother did. I think the solution IS an easy one — the gf needs to start communicating directly with the mother since the son/boyfriend is so sick, and let HER know when she’d like to stop by.

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    • Lyra

      Lyra December 22, 2014, 7:52 pm

      I agree with you too. It’s not ok that she is treating the LW that way.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra December 22, 2014, 7:57 pm

        For the record, I don’t think she’s being a b*tch, I just think she could be more inclusive with the LW.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom December 22, 2014, 4:33 pm

    I think your boyfriend is going to feel abandoned and wonder where you are or when all of this happened he decided that he doesn’t want to see you and told his mom to keep you out. Maybe that first week made him feel that the relationship wouldn’t work?

    Is his mom letting his friends in? As an adult he can have his own list of who is allowed so this may be what he wants. Does he call you from the hospital? He probably has his phone. If all contact is from you to him I think that speaks volumes. If he is calling you then he would probably like to see you.

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  • avatar

    bcamber December 22, 2014, 4:40 pm

    I feel completely different than Wendy about this one.

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  • call-me-hobo

    call-me-hobo December 22, 2014, 4:56 pm

    I’m sorry your boyfriend is sick, LW. Since he has Ewing’s sarcoma (generally a childhood/young person’s cancer) I’m going to assume that you’re, at the very latest, in your early 20s.
    .
    Ewing’s is a bone cancer, which is often the most painful type of cancer. His chemo is probably really aggressive, which is often hell itself. Maybe your boyfriend’s mom is trying to get him to rest, which is hard when you feel sick, and your bones feel on fire. Maybe your boyfriend is maybe ASKING his mother to turn you away- everyone deals with their diagnosis differently, maybe he doesn’t want you to see him when he’s at his weakest.
    .
    I think that right now you need to cut out some of the introspection. A lot of times when dealing with a loved one with cancer the best thing you can do is repeat the phrase “This is not about me. This is not about me”. What may be perceived as lashing out (by either the the bf or the mom) is probably not about you. It’s probably at the unfairness of a cruel and painful disease. Everyone, including you, is trying to come to grips with this.
    .
    Please cut her some slack. Her son just got a very serious diagnosis. I don’t think this is some petty thing between you and her. I think that she’s just not thinking about you right now, because all her thoughts are preoccupied with how to get her son into remission.
    .

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    • avatar

      HmC December 22, 2014, 5:24 pm

      You guys always say what I am trying to say, but better!

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    • Moneypenny

      Moneypenny December 22, 2014, 5:52 pm

      You basically sum up what I would say!
      It’s entirely possible that the mom is intentionally pushing her out or whatever, but frankly I think that possibility is slim. She’s probably so focused on her son’s health (rightfully so) and not actually intending any malice towards you (LW).

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  • avatar

    HmC December 22, 2014, 5:22 pm

    LW, I am very sorry your boyfriend is sick, that must feel so devastating I can’t imagine. And I’m sure you two love each other very much. But I agree with Wendy here. I feel like you are kind of making this about how serious she views your relationship and you are probably right that she doesn’t consider it to be that serious, but I don’t think it helps anyone to be defensive or fighting that battle right now. And I definitely don’t think you’re going to change her mind. She is probably just inclined to believe it isn’t serious because you are young and haven’t been together that long, so don’t take it personally. If she is wrong, she will be proven wrong with time when you two do eventually marry.

    Dealing with cancer is a test to even a long term, healthy marriage. It is a seriously debilitating, draining, overwhelming ordeal to be someone’s full time care take. Your boyfriend had no strength to argue with her and that’s how he wound up living with her. Or maybe some part of him really wanted to live with her, to let her care for him? I think you should let her, and you should let him make whatever decisions he has the energy for in order to become better.

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  • avatar

    Eve December 22, 2014, 5:22 pm

    I have been fortunate enough not to know anyone who’s had cancer (apart from my grandmother who has died when I was 2 and loved me with all her heart) so I don’t think I am capable of giving good quality advice on this one.
    However, the thing which strikes me is .. what must the boyfriend be feeling in all of this ?! Moved in or not, married or not, he still loves his girlfriend, he has future plans with her and I am sure he expects her be caring and supportive of him. I am sure he is looking forward to seeing him. What is he thinking every day she doesn’t come and visit him ? That she gave up on him? And what is the mother telling her son every time I am sure he asks where his girlfriend is? I doubt she is saying the truth… which is that she has banned her from coming to visit him.
    Just putting myself in his situation, it would really pain me the person I love not coming to see me and me having no clue as to why she suddenly seemingly stopped caring.. I have heard cancer has so much to do with your mental health and attitude as well, I think he needs all the positivity he can get, and this includes the woman he loves.

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  • avatar

    snow.angel December 22, 2014, 5:37 pm

    I think it’s kind of dismissive to say that since they don’t live together, the girlfriend isn’t serious enough to be involved and present while the boyfriend goes through treatment. My boyfriend and I don’t live together, but we are certainly serious about one another and I would want him by my side whenever possible if I was going through cancer treatment. I would be horrified if my parents kept him away from me, since a significant other can provide a form of comfort that parents really can’t once you reach adulthood. At a year and a half the LW and her bf were right in line with a mature timeline for discussing their future steps that ended up being derailed by the boyfriend’s tragic diagnosis. Up until the cancer was discovered the girlfriend probably was his primary support system, and I think the fact that the boyfriend was originally planning on having her be his caregiver indicates just how serious they are. He’s going to be very physically debilitated, and honestly I don’t think you would want a significant other to be your primary caregiver in a situation like this unless you were truly on the road to being married and taking the vows of “in sickness and in health.” Like, it’s unlikely you would want someone you weren’t truly serious about seeing you in that state, if that makes sense?

    My feeling is that being late for the first chemo appointment made a really bad impression on the mother, I would have felt the same way if I were her. But who really knows. I agree with the others above you said it’s really not about you when something this huge is going on. I would try to pave things over with the mother, be respectful, and call before going to visit and all that. Hopefully if she sees that you are able to provide support and comfort to her son during this time, she will be more welcoming of your presence moving forward.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark December 22, 2014, 5:45 pm

    I think its AMAZING that the LW has found a way to make HIS cancer somehow all about her. That so many of you agree with her… well, speaks volumes.

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    • avatar

      Eve December 22, 2014, 5:49 pm

      I seem to be missing the part where she has made it “all about her”. Her boyfriend has cancer. They’d been planning a future together. She loves him and wants to be there for him (like any vaguely decent partner would). Mom doesn’t allow her to. That’s that.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark December 22, 2014, 5:56 pm

        Um… Hello! The whole damned letter is ALL about her. Hell, she couldn’t even fucking be on time to his first Chemo appointment which is probably — gee, I would assume — a terrifying thing for him to go through. Yeah, talk about caring. She’s one committed girlfriend. Moreover, she apparently puts absolutely ZERO thought into what her boyfriend might actually want… Trust me. Nothing kills a romance quicker than going from lover to nurse… A fact he is probably painfully aware of.

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      • avatar

        Eve December 22, 2014, 6:05 pm

        Yeah but she did say she spoke to him on the phone before coming to visit him, didn’t mention anything about him not wanting her to visit :/ Surely if he doesn’t want her to “be a nurse” for him he’d mention it himself.. I’m sure the gf would understand a lot better this way as opposed to the mom banning her from visiting him which is just confusing.

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  • kare

    kare December 22, 2014, 6:13 pm

    I had a friend who was dating a guy diagnosed with testicular cancer. She complained to me that he didn’t spend enough time with her and always expected her to go visit him because he wanted to stay close to home and be around his family. She ended up breaking up with him since he didn’t make enough of an effort. I’m obviously not friends with her because I can’t fathom acting like that when someone you love is sick.

    Obviously this LW isn’t like her, but just tread very carefully. If invited to an appointment, show up early. Maybe pick up some food for the mom and drop it off with a nice card and don’t even try to stay. Maybe the mom is afraid you aren’t in it for the long run or aren’t taking it as seriously. Or maybe the boyfriend feels extremely vulnerable and doesn’t want to be around you. Maybe the mom is a bitch. Who knows, but just do small nice things and continue to be supportive.

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  • avatar

    BreezyAM December 22, 2014, 6:38 pm

    Grrr… this is why it drives me Up A Wall when people get on some philosophical/political opposition to the legal institution of marriage. Our homo brethern did not fight for same sex marriage rights to have tuxes and cake; they had that shit locked down already. I am not saying “silly LW, you shoulda gotten hitched!” They weren’t there yet and that is FINE! But if they were unmarried, and even living together, in say, 3 years? Yeah the situation would be no different. I’ve seen this happen to couples who were all into “not registering their lover with the state” and had lived together 10+ years and referred to one another as husband and wife. State gives zero fucks without that paper. It’s not just paper. Not in cases like this.

    That said, LW, I am so sorry, and I cannot imagine how your BF must feel (I too bet his mother never liked you, or has Lost Her Shit and is circling the wagons to protect her baby, and has not told him why you are not there… I’ll also present the sinister possibility he asked her to do this, as I have actually seen that I swear to god). I sugges appealing to her mercy. Even if she is being a class A bitch, which is entirely possible, that has nothing to do with the fact the only way you’ll get anywhere or accomplish anything is through her mercy. Also, photograph and document every single card, letter, email, etc you send him, because you may need to prove it to him in the future.

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    • bittergaymark

      bittergaymark December 22, 2014, 6:45 pm

      Damn. I love how a mother taking in her ailing son to nurse him through his cancer crisis has got her repeatedly labeled a “bitch.”

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      • avatar

        snow.angel December 22, 2014, 7:30 pm

        I don’t think the mother is a “bitch,” but I do think it would be very cruel if she is using her son’s cancer diagnosis as an excuse to cut out a gf she never liked. Especially if the bf is asking for the gf and wondering why she hasn’t come to visit him. I mean how heartbreaking for this very sick young man if he is feeling rejected and thinking his gf doesn’t care about him, meanwhile the gf was at his doorstep and the mother turned her away. The poor guy is going through enough already, if his girlfriend is a source of positive energy and comfort for him you would think his mother would want him surrounded by people who love and care for him.

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      • avatar

        BreezyAM December 23, 2014, 9:00 am

        I don’t think THAT makes her a bitch.
        I think that IF she is using this opportunity to dismiss the GF entirely against either of their wishes, that’s some bitchy behaviour. I’m not convinced this is the case. And in either case it doesn’t matter. The fact is because she is precisely nothing to this man legally (yup, sorry, unmarried relationships are in fact less valuable under the law, no matter how much we try to think otherwise!) she has no recourse other than to beg upon mother’s mercy. So she needs to suck it up and get to it.
        .
        I find it extremely unlikely someone together in a serious relationship and seriously discussing future plans would have some problem about their loved one being there for chemo or cancer treatments. I’ve been with my boyfriend all of six months-ish and he went grey at the idea of his mother throwing me out and taking over, or my family doing the opposite. In fact, despite loving them, our parents are the LAST people we’d want there running the show due to some serious philosophical differences (think of that poor transgender woman whose family took over after her death and was buried as a man under her birth name in Idaho last month — despite having a will and gone through legal name change procedures, and having not spoken to her family in years). We’d prefer our ex-spouses to our parents. Seriously. And we both know our parents WOULD come in and take charge (ironically, we both perceived THAT behaviour as making it all about THEM, since it’s certainly not what we’d want nor be able to fight with in that state).

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  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray December 22, 2014, 6:54 pm

    Got to agree wholeheartedly with Wendy and hobo and BGM on this (and others I’m sure but I only just skimmed the comments). LW, I think you can still be there and help – ask the mom what you can do for her to help out while she cares for her son. Don’t pit yourself against her. See how you can help her – which will help him!

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  • kaluu

    kaluu December 22, 2014, 7:16 pm

    I’m confused, have you not had any contact for a while, no email or texts? If you can contact him I think it would be good to ask him if he would like you to visit him and if so, when.

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    • avatar

      MissDre December 22, 2014, 8:48 pm

      Yeah that’s what I was thinking…. aren’t they at least in touch by text? If she’s showing up at the door and the mother is literally turning her away, she could send him a text later in the evening, something like “Hey baby, I stopped by today but your mom said you weren’t feeling well. I love you lots and whenever you’re ready for a visit or if you need anything at all just let me know!” Wouldn’t that get the point across without being passive aggressive?

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  • Dear Wendy

    Dear Wendy December 22, 2014, 7:28 pm

    I can’t believe so many people are calling this mother a both (a Class A Bitch, no less). Her young son (ages weren’t shared, but based on context clues, I’m guessing very early 20s) was just diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Her main thoughts right now — maybe her ONLY thoughts — revolve around his health and his comfort. The girlfriend has been with her son for a year and a half and lives an hour away. Chances are she doesn’t know her very well and isn’t privy to the seriousness of the relationship between her and her son. Right now, the girlfriend is pretty inconsequential to the mother, except for the idea that was thrown out that the boyfriend would move in with the gf and she would be his full-time care-giver.

    I’m sorry, but if it were MY son who was aggressively sick talking about moving in with a woman who had most likely never cared for another person longterm and was probably pretty naive about the commitment involved in such a task, not to mention inexperienced with living with my son and being with him in such an intimate way — and at a time when he is especially vulnerable — i would be VERY mama bear-protective. I would want to protect his heart yes, but more than anything, I’d be protective of his health, and to me, that would mean sending some clear messages to the well-meaning, but ultimately naive, girlfriend about who’s in charge of the care-giving. Hell, maybe that IS bitchy, but god damn, if my son were diagnosed with aggressive and rare cancer, being nice wouldn’t really be MY top concern either.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray December 22, 2014, 7:36 pm

      And the fact that the LW can’t see it that way speaks volumes about her maturity. LW, be there anyway you can for the mom. Offer to drive her and drop her off at the door while you find parking and wait in the lobby if she prefers that. And while they’re talking to the doc or about his options and making decisions, offer to go pick up dinner. This isn’t about you.

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    • avatar

      Eve December 22, 2014, 9:02 pm

      I think no one is against the mum taking care of him as opposed to the girlfriend, this seems logical because she IS his mum and she would know how to take best care of him. I agree the girlfriend wouldn’t be up for being the main caregiver.
      However, what I personally don’t get is what is the big deal with the girlfriend at least visiting him? I mean I’m sure the mum has her own reasons behind this and only she knows what they are. Still, it’s not like the gf will harm him or anything (physically or emotionally), I think her presence can only make him that bit happier, more positive, if he is in truly love, love is a pretty powerful tool just to make a person happy. If he doesn’t know why his girlfriend isn’t coming over to see him, this just might make his condition worse. Just like someone said, he is not dead, he is very ill, but he still has feelings and the mental state has been proven to affect how well the person copes with the disease…
      And if he indeed does have a reason for not wanting to see his girlfriend, why would he tell the mum to ban her instead of just saying it to the girlfriend himself. If this is the case, it doesn’t make any sense talking to her on the phone and not telling her he doesn’t want her there..
      I just feel all of this is unfair on the boyfriend more than anything, on an emotional level. I mean because he is fighting cancer doesn’t mean people should say “f*ck his feelings, they aren’t important”.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy December 22, 2014, 9:26 pm

        The mom didn’t say the gf couldn’t visit. She said to check with her first before coming over. I think that’s a fair request. Who knows what’s going on behind closed doors with a young man in the middle of chemo and a family trying to adjust to a new diagnosis and caring for him.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark December 22, 2014, 10:20 pm

        Also, NEWSFLASH! People going through intensely aggressive chemo often feel like utter crap and are often — surprise, surprise — in no mood for visitors…

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      • avatar

        BreezyAM December 23, 2014, 9:09 am

        yes… including their mothers more often than not 😉

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      • avatar

        snow.angel December 23, 2014, 11:57 am

        I think a serious significant other is different than a “visitor.” I don’t care how sick I am, I’d want my boyfriend there by my side. In fact I’d probably rather be puking my guts out in front of him rather than anyone else (my mother included)…

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      • avatar

        BreezyAM December 23, 2014, 9:08 am

        I get the ides of taking over but the GF and the boyfriend had spoken and arranged for her to come and mother says she needs to be checked with first. I’m sorry but no. He’s a grown man and the hospital has visiting hours and if she is there during visiting hours, not being disruptive, mom needs to sit down a bit. That’s extremely not cool. She is not a doctor nor his secretary and he may be sick but he is a grown man. It’s understandable, but grossly inappropriate overstep of boundaries and the mom making his cancer all about HER role as super care provider.
        .
        If you’ve never dealt with a controlling narcissistic parent, this may be hard to see.

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      • avatar

        Eve December 23, 2014, 9:23 am

        ‘I spoke with him and he knew I was coming, but, when I got there, I was TURNED AWAY AT THE DOOR by his mother and told to make sure with her before I come.”
        It seems like she is not allowing the girlfriend to see him.

        To be honest, I had these thoughts of a controlling narcissistic parent too, but we really don’t have enough info to go with and the situation IS seen only from the gf’s point of view. Also, it is a time of traumatic crisis and I hadn’t realised it had been just 1 week since chemo has started, maybe after a week or two or three, when the mother is slightly out of the initial shock, she may start realising that keeping the girlfriend away isn’t really helping him in any way.
        Plus, the mum has said there were “too many people” with him the first time she turned away the gf, so it appears she does allow other people to visit.. To me this does seem slightly personal.
        For I think it’s important to see how the next couple of weeks will go, it is very very early in the treatment and the emotional trauma for the family.
        However, I don’t think the girlfriend’s feelings and desire to be there for her boyfriend should be dismissed like this.

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      • mandalee

        mandalee December 23, 2014, 1:34 pm

        I don’t see how it’s the mother’s place to set the visitors her son has, even if she is a caregiver or not. He’s mostly likely as you said in his 20s, and is by law a grown adult and if he knew LW was coming over or it was planned, it’s really not up to his mother to decide. That’s where the overstep of boundary is. I love my parents and all and if they stepped up to care for me when I was sick, I’d appreciate it, but i they were the gatekeeper to visitors when I was sick and needed some, I wouldn’t appreciate it.

        On a side note, my husband had a heart attack when we only had our fifth date. he was pretty weak and sick in the ICU for a week after and I was at the top of his visitor list. His parents didn’t know me but they weren’t the patient, he was, and it was important to him that i was there. His mom is as overbearing as they come, and even she understood that it was up to him. Therefore, if it was the boyfriend’s wish to not have LW come over and his mom was doing the talking, then that’s fine. If the mother is deciding what is best for her adult child, especially when it comes to a serious, long-term girlfriend, then yeah, I think she’s way overstepping here.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy December 23, 2014, 1:41 pm

        You probably hadn’t decided that your now-husband should move in with you and let you be his primary caregiver either. It’s that kind of action that will put a mother — a distraught mother, at that — on the defense. Furthermore, a parent DOES get to decide what is best for a child — even an adult child — if that child is incapacitated and the parent has power of attorney. That parent also gets to decide whom she allows in his or her own home, especially if there’s someone inside who is violently ill. Setting some boundaries early on — and we’re talking a week into this thing — letting the girlfriend know she needs to communicate with the mother and not just through the boyfriend is not overstepping boundaries. If it’s a month later and she’s truly not letting the gf come over to see the boyfriend, then yeah, that would be insane.

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      • mandalee

        mandalee December 23, 2014, 2:56 pm

        A parent of a grown adult actually doesn’t get decide who is/isn’t allowed to visit them in the hospital if they are of “right mind”. I think what you’re referring to in this case, is a health care proxy, who acts in the best interest of the patient if the patient is medically unable to, meaning in a coma or near death or in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. A young man receiving chemo is not someone who would have a proxy. I was on a bone cancer floor this semester and I didn’t have one patient who had handed power over to someone else. That kind of thing comes into play much much later in the stage of someone’s prognosis that I hope the LW’s boyfriend does not progress to.

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      • mandalee

        mandalee December 23, 2014, 3:43 pm

        Also, judging from some of the comments, I hope people do some research on power of attorneys and health care proxy. As a grown adult, you can designate whoever you want as a proxy. If you don’t, it will be next of kin by default but there is no law that states they must be. Once you hit 18 you can have anyone you chose to speak for you when it comes to medical directives. Therefore, even when you’re married, it can be a parent, or when you are not, it can be a significant other, friend, etc. and you can change it as often as you want.

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      • avatar

        kali December 23, 2014, 8:35 pm

        I’m doing chemo right now — have been for a year. You do not need a power of attorney to keep someone out of the treatment room. Those rooms are small and honestly, just one visitor in my room or cubicle at the infusion center makes it claustrophobic. It is NOT like TV, it’s a factory of sorts. I had a treatment today and I was there for over 5 hours. Different cancer than this boyfriend but I don’d want anyone there because I feel like I need to talk to them and entertain them. In the beginning, I had a few family members and my boyfriend with me during chemo but it was for their peace of mind and so they understood the process. Also in the beginning, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to drive myself home. Now I drive to chemo, work on my quilt while listening to audio books and nap. Then I drive myself home, often stopping to pick up some soup or a salad for dinner.
        .
        Chemo patients are not incapacitated in most cases; even the very ancient patients at my infusion center are lucid and able to determine their own level of care and who visits.

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      • mandalee

        mandalee December 24, 2014, 11:58 am

        Yeah, I agree you don’t need a power of attorney to limit visitors in a treatment center, just that that decision is left to the patient if visitors are allowed at all, not another family member. I was just trying to say that I didn’t think the mom was in charge of visitors and that cancer patients are very able of mind still and that power of attorney doesn’t play in here. Working in healthcare it’s always very surprising that people have little understanding what a health care proxy is and how its used.

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  • avatar

    Jane63 December 22, 2014, 7:58 pm

    Great response, Wendy. Both of them.

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle December 22, 2014, 8:49 pm

    I understand why the mother swooped into the role of primary caregiver–Wendy’s right that the LW has no idea what she’d be getting into with that, even of she *thinks* she does, but I don’t like the idea of unmarried relationships being less serious. No, you’re not bound legally, but every other bond is there & it’s patronizing to me diminish lw’s relationship because they’re” not married” (the other stuff I can get behind….only been dating a year, okay, sure, but who cares whether or not they’re married? Less people are getting married nowadays, and probably even less would if there wasn’t the societal idea still floating around that an unmarried relationship was somehow not legitimate….BUT ANYWAY)
    .
    What was I saying? Oh, so yeah, it’s reasonable right now for his mother to be the caretaker. But it’s not reasonable for her to turn visitors away who want to spend time with & provide extra love to her sick son. Unless the lw has some sort of crazy overbearing personality (which is not coming through in the letter, if she does) then the mother is, in my opinion, acting in a negative, harmful manner.
    .
    Ultimately, I do think Lw should shift gears and open herself to the mother, but it’s kind of heartbreaking that she wouldnt let someone who cares about her son even see him. I’ve not been in quite this tragic of a situation, but while my ex and I were very young, he was hospitalized for something scary (that the doctors couldn’t figure out at first what it was) & I can’t imagine if I had been restricted from seeing him. We were young and not dating very long, but a mother who sees a girl her son cares about as “inconsequential” is being selfish.

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    • call-me-hobo

      call-me-hobo December 22, 2014, 8:58 pm

      But nobody knows if she thinks the LW is “inconsequential” all the LW has done is drawn that conclusion from what has happened. Honestly, she probably got turned away from the door because a few days after your first chemo treatment, you’re sick as a dog.
      .
      He probably had FINALLY just getting to the point where he was resting. Or it could be that he is still very fatigued after his first treatment and had fallen asleep. I think the LW needs to get out of her own head because all of this seems normal for first time treatment. They are still learning how his chemotherapy is affecting him

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      • avatar

        snow.angel December 22, 2014, 9:12 pm

        I guess I just don’t understand why the gf can’t be part of that? I can see turning away some acquaintances by saying “now’s not a good time, he just fell asleep,” but his gf of a year and a half who he’s thinking of marrying?!? If anything the bf probably would have appreciated waking up to the gf by his side.

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      • call-me-hobo

        call-me-hobo December 22, 2014, 9:22 pm

        I mean, there is a reason why there are visiting hours at a hospital. People need to rest without feeling like they have to be “on” for anybody. Chemotherapy isn’t medicine, you guys. It’s poison. It’s literally a combination of drugs that are toxic to both cancerous and non-cancerous cells. It’s hell on a person’s body, and it’s imperative to get as much rest as you can before you have to start it all over again
        .
        Her timeline of this is basically a week. I don’t think this is anyone banning her from seeing him, I think this is just them trying to get him as much rest as he can before he starts his next round of chemo.
        .

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      • avatar

        L.G.J December 23, 2014, 1:47 am

        the timeline on this is what got me too, this is all very early in the boyfriends treatment, the shock and fear of the diagnosis is definitely a huge part of the mothers actions not to mention the physical effects of chemo are probably the major reason the boyfriend himself is not really a player in this story at all.
        LW needs to call before visiting and play nice with his mother, as time goes on and everything settles down (as much as it can under the circumstances) hopefully her bf will feel better and be more inclined to have visitors and communicate with his friends and loved ones. as it is he’s probably just hoping he can keep food down today and he doesn’t need LW as a spectator to that battle

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      • avatar

        BreezyAM December 23, 2014, 9:13 am

        Yes… and I’m failing to see why people are assuming the guy wants his mother there any more than his gf. I rather like my father and my mother, and when I have experienced hospital worthy illness, they are the LAST persons I would would there. I’d choose my children’s best friends over them, because they are overbearing, freaking out, and OMG MAH BABY about everything. Drive me insane.
        ,
        It’s entirely possible he doesn’t want her all up in his butt either.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark December 29, 2014, 2:04 pm

        Probably because he — gee, I dunno — FUCKING moved in with her INSTEAD of his whiney girlfriend. Really? Are all of you THIS fucking dumb and THIS fucking dim? Many of your responses to this letter certainly suggests so. We get it! All of the mothers of your men must fucking loath and detest you, you’ve all made that ABUNDANTLY clear. But stop projecting all of your own shit onto everybody else.

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    • avatar

      Eve December 22, 2014, 9:08 pm

      That’s basically exactly what I replied to Wendy’s comment above and I totally agree with you. I think that such horribly difficult times are not the times to abandon the little, emotional things such as seeing the person you love. I think it’s just the opposite, that’s the time to provide your son with all the love he can get from friends, family, girlfriend because there probably won’t be a time in his life is will need it more than he does now.

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  • avatar

    bcamber December 22, 2014, 9:19 pm

    If the mother is preventing her son from seeing the woman he loves, then she is NOT acting in his best interests.

    That being said- are they able to communicate? Did the mom take away his phone? This part is very confusing. I assume the boyfriend can still call her and ask her to come over? Is the other going against his wishes? It’s very incomplete information.

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    • avatar

      snow.angel December 22, 2014, 9:31 pm

      My impression is that he is very weak and tired, so their communication is probably not consistent at all. I’ve never had cancer, but I did have a major surgery a few years ago and with all the meds I was on, I was definitely very out of it and not fully present for awhile. I can’t even imagine how much worse it would be for someone who had been given chemo. When I was awake and lucid, checking my phone definitely wasn’t a priority. From what the LW shared, it seems like she had reached him and he was on board with her visiting.

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      • avatar

        snow.angel December 22, 2014, 9:33 pm

        Sorry, forgot to say that even though I wasn’t strong enough to call my boyfriend and plan out visits, I was so grateful that he came to see me every evening after work to check on me.

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  • avatar

    SasLinna December 23, 2014, 7:40 am

    I kind of see this as an unfortunate outcome of all parties currently experiencing massive stress. I’m thinking the initial problem was that LW suggested that her bf move in with her. His mom understandably felt that LW was overstepping with that and went into protective mode. I don’t think that sending LW away when she was trying to visit (and had talked to her bf about it) was right, but the mom is obviously concerned. At the same time, LW is a person in her early 20ies dealing with a difficult situation, so we shouldn’t be too hard on her either. I would suggest that LW talk to the mom and tell her that she now understands that it wasn’t a good idea to propose that bf move in with her. She can tell her that all she wanted was to help him, but she understands why the family didn’t appreciate it. Then she can suggest a visiting schedule or ask the mom to put her on the visitor list at certain times. This would give the mom a certain amount of control over the situation, while still allowing the gf to visit. Maybe if the mom hears that LW is being reasonable about this now, then she’ll be more open to the visits in the future. I do think that if the mom still resists the gf’s visits after that, then she’s in the wrong. A young cancer patient should be able to receive visits from his gf, assuming he wants to see her.

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    • avatar

      SasLinna December 23, 2014, 7:59 am

      I also think there’s a conflict regarding social roles here, in that the mom obviously expected to take the coordinator role in all of this this (reasonable for the mother of a 20-year-old, assuming that’s his age), but then the gf sort of put herself in the driver’s seat. She suggested her bf move in with her without consulting with the mother, and she also arranged visits with her bf without informing the mother in advance. I’m pretty sure the mother feels like she’s not receiving enough respect from LW. LW needs to shift gears and understand she’s in a totally different situation now, one that may call for different communication patterns (like going through the mother to arrange visits).

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  • mylaray

    mylaray December 23, 2014, 9:05 am

    I agree with Wendy on this. I’ve been through this to a different degree; my husband has a serious genetic disorder and he lived with his mom until we were engaged so she could take care of him, help him with appointments, etc. Two months into us dating, he was in the hospital with a complication, and it changed the course of our relationship. And I realized early on that my now MIL is a very important part of his life who has been dealing with this way longer than I have. She is on my side; she loves him too, and I had to step back at times. And what I get from reading this is that you want and expect your relationship to be taken more seriously now. But you’ve still only been together a year and a half. We were also pretty young (which I suspect you are too) and separate from the health issues, we were dealing with the transition away from nuclear family anyways. Serious health issues can make a relationship feel closer, longer, more serious, but his mom has known your boyfriend a lot longer, and you don’t have any legal rights. In my case, my MIL had power of attorney over him until we were married. I think you are making this about you, and you don’t even realize it. It was jarring and emotional for me to love someone with serious health issues at first, and I think I made similar mistakes early on about making it about me. I had my own issues to deal with. Therapy helped, I needed someone to vent to because I couldn’t vent to him. It’s just not worth it to be getting angry with your boyfriend’s mom. Time is valuable. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable for his mom to want a heads up and to take the main role of taking care of him; communicating about you visiting and how you can help is important. I would get on her good side and do something nice for her, maybe bring or cook her some food, help her out with something.

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  • avatar

    ele4phant December 23, 2014, 3:20 pm

    I’m not a parent, but I can imagine that watching your child fight a life threatening illness has got to be the most terrifying and gut wrenching thing a parent could go through. So I certainly understand how the mother may go into “mam bear” mode and behave or react in a way that in no way speaks to her general character.

    That said, I think she was wrong to turn the girlfriend away. Her son, while ill, is an adult. And a year and a half long relationship (even if they don’t live together) is not inconsequential. Even if the mother barely knew the girlfriend, she surely knew she’d been around a while and that if her son stuck with her for a year and a half, cared about her and would probably want her around.

    And even if it was a less serious relationship, her son still has the mental fortitude and right to decide who he wants to see. He allegedly wanted to see his girlfriend. So, the mother shouldn’t have turned the girlfriend away. If she didn’t know the girlfriend was going to show up, she should have asked if her son wanted her there before turning her away.

    It sounds like it’s still in the early days of the illness and treatment, so hopefully as the shock ebbs and everyone comes to terms with what’s going on, the mom will lighten up the reins and everything will work itself out naturally.

    But end of the day, if the son wants the girlfriend there, she should be there whether or not mom agrees.

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    • avatar

      Eve December 23, 2014, 5:39 pm

      Precisely. People seem to forget he isn’t 5, he’s likely in his early twenties. He isn’t in a comma or mentally incapacitated; he must feel absolutely exhausted but can still feel, think, miss, love, etc. Although I admit I can only imagine what it must be like going through this, I don’t see why he shouldn’t have the right to choose who he wants to be visited by, what will make him feel best/
      I hope the LW comes back to us after a month or so and says she’s managed to see her boyfriend and he’s doing fine, chemo is working and things are looking positive and he’s happy to see her. 🙂 They all deserve this!

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  • avatar

    Teri Anne December 23, 2014, 4:56 pm

    The LW and her boyfriend have a serious relationship, and they are seriously discussing a future together even though they are not yet engaged. Even though she may be the girl that her son will marry if he survives the cancer, the boyfriend’s mother is treating the LW as totally inconsequential. The mother is disregarding the LW’s need to see her boyfriend and her desire to help with his care as totally unimportant. We do not have enough information to understand why the mother is acting this way. Did the boyfriend ask the mother to keep his girlfriend away because he felt so awful? Was he really sick from the chemo when the girlfriend wanted to see him and unable to receive visitors, or was the mother being mean and controlling? Is the mother normally nice and is acting out of character because she is very upset by her son’s illness? All of these are possibilities.

    Regardless of the mother’s motives, her behavior is not acceptable although understandable. To be shown that her boyfriend’s family considers her totally unimportant was devastating to the LW, who was already in shock over the fact that the man she thought she was going to marry may have a terminal illness. Many readers are assuming that the LW is very young, and that she is immature because she is upset by how poorly she is being treated. But she is showing a lot of maturity with her efforts to see her boyfriend and help with his care, even though the mother may be better equipped to care for him. No she is not being selfish and making this all about her. Now to cope with his family, she needs to show even more maturity by following DearWendy’s advice which is very good. Whether her prospective mother-in-law is truly the wicked witch of the west or whether she is just acting out of character, Wendy’s advice to make nice with the mother is very good because unfair as it is, the mother has the power here. Difficult as it will be, the LW needs to act respectful and follow the mother’s protocol of calling first before visiting. And Wendy is right that she needs to seek support from her own family and friends because his family obviously does not care about her feelings.

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  • avatar

    acastil5 December 23, 2014, 5:22 pm

    I’m reminded of a part in Harry Potter when Ron gets poisoned. All his family gathers around him, along with Harry, Hagrid, and Hermione. Those 3 finally leave, giving the family some time alone. Harry was Ron’s best friend, lived with him, spent more time with him than his parents probably, but they implicitly understood that sometimes its appropriate just to have family around. Was Harry worried? Would he like to have stayed? Probably, but his needs were trumped by family, and so are yours. You need to have that kind of compassionate understanding, because his mom, and your boyfriend, may not have the energy to be the best people they can be, and definitely don’t have time to do anything but focus on beating his cancer.

    I do agree the Mom needs to be the caretaker, and the son probably came around once the Mom reasoned with him. Y’all sound young, and that kind of responsibility is a lot, you may not realize. I work in healthcare, and the paperwork alone is enough to take someone out, not to mention dealing with insurance, getting to appointments, and God forbid anything is denied. ON TOP of his dealing with chemo.

    So be patient. I hope he comes out of this healthy and well.

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  • avatar

    kali December 23, 2014, 8:28 pm

    I just had chemo today so I can offer a slightly different perspective on cancer and how people deal with it. Unless and until you’re in this position, you have no idea how you will react. I urge everyone not to judge too harshly because not everyone acts well under this stress.
    .
    That said, I personally believe every cancer patient needs the widest possible circle of support possible and it’s a shame that Mom seems to be banning LW. On the other hand, perhaps her boyfriend doesn’t want LW to see him in this position. I look like crap most of the time and feel worse. I’ve been doing chemo for over a year now (completely different cancer than the boyfriend and more advanced) and I don’t like company while receiving chemotherapy. Maybe boyfriend has asked to be left alone? We don’t know.
    .
    Someone here suggested working with Mom, creating a partnership with her and going through her. Excellent advice. Become part of the care team. Ask when Mom thinks a good time to visit would be and get there on time (or early!) Ask if you can prepare meals or do laundry or scrub toilets to help out. Mom, as any primary caregiver, needs to make sure she gives herself time to recharge and this may give LW a perfect opportunity to step in and spend time with boyfriend. LW could check in to see if Mom wants her to sit with bf while Mom shops, goes to church, has her own Dr. appointment or just heads out to a movie. This might be well-received, particularly if LW can frame it as helping Mom maintain her ability to care for bf.
    .
    Of course, there’s the possibility that bf is over it and really doesn’t want to see LW. That would be a shame but it happens. As I said, cancer changes people. It also brings out the best in others. I hope we get an update in a few months so we can learn how bf is doing (Ewing’s has a good survival rate) and also whether LW and bf have weathered this storm. I wish everyone involved in this situation the best of luck, and hope they are kind to one another because life and cancer are rough and we all need more gentleness in our lives.

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