My mom has a scary medical diagnosis | Advice columns

I’m 19 and recently started my second year of college. Last week my mom told me she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am completely devastated and I don’t know what to do. Since hearing the news, I haven’t been able to sleep or concentrate on my classwork.

I go to school outside of the state where I grew up, and nothing seems to matter to me right now except coming home to help my beloved mother.

I immediately decided that I would take a semester off and go home when she told me she had cancer, but she begged me to stay at my college. My mom said the best thing I can do for her is continue to enjoy my time in college and take care of my own responsibilities, but I don’t know how I can do it when I’m so worried for her and devastated that she is sick. All I want to do is help my mom and make sure she’s fine as quickly as possible.

– Concerned sophomore, via email

Dear worried sophomore student: I am so sorry to hear of your mother’s diagnosis. Finding out that someone we love very much is suffering from a very serious illness is one of the worst case scenarios life can throw at us.

I can only imagine how desperately you must want to be by your mother’s side during this difficult time, but she is right that your return home will not be of any specific medical help to her at this time. While rushing home would alleviate your current panic, take a moment to think about the additional distress it would add to your mother’s already complicated situation. Aside from carrying the burden of her recent diagnosis, she should also be concerned that you might be absent from school on her behalf.

A difficult truth that I offer you is that sometimes the best way to help someone in crisis is to do what you may consider to be ‘nothing’. There is nothing you can do to change your mother’s prognosis and make her predicament go away. What you can do, however, is control what you can control, almost anything of which is likely to be directly related to you and your life. Find a counselor or therapist in your area who can walk by your side during this troubled time and who will help you hold yourself accountable for caring for yourself during this time of family crisis. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle in the areas of school, sleep and health, and dedicate your will to achieve this goal to your mother. It will be one of the best gifts you can give her right now.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can do for your mom while you’re in school. I am sure that sending her letters and care packages, contacting her periodically via social media and texts, and having genuine conversations with her on the phone are ways in which you can give her great emotional support. In truth, however, it’s likely that nothing could be more useful for your mother right now than keeping your own life intact.

Focus on yourself during this process, and in doing so, you will be helping him immensely as well. Our staff, our readers and I wish your dear mom the best possible medical results and a return to good health as soon as possible.

Dr. Wallace: Do you think it’s okay for a parent to put a monitoring app on a 15 year old son’s phone? My husband thinks we would “spy” on our son, but I think it would be a safe way to monitor his communications and protect him from predators.

Parent concerned: If you have a reason to not trust your son, then yes, it might be necessary. But if you ultimately decide to do it, let your son know.

As a parent, I’m assuming you’ve paid for your kid’s phone and are also paying their ongoing monthly phone bill, so yes is the short answer to your question. Your son, at the age of 18 and when he can then afford his own phone and pay his own bill, can then expect complete privacy as a full adult. Until then, you have the right to monitor its activity if you choose to do so.