In the early stages of a terminal illness, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the challenges ahead.
But for a mother of two daughters battling breast cancer, a new study shows that even in the midst of those tough moments, there’s a chance they could lead to a whole new understanding of cancer.
The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, shows that after a woman has been diagnosed with breast cancer and begins a new phase of treatment, her daughters’ reactions to the cancer and her family’s own reactions to it can have an impact on how she looks and feels.
For the women who took part in the study, the results were not just a positive affirmation, but also an opportunity to reevaluate how they are able to live their lives.
“We had these really interesting and powerful observations,” said study author Dr. Jessica Bock, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
“This study really highlights the power of looking at a mother’s experience in the face of a disease as opposed to a disease’s symptoms, which are more easily measured.”
For the study participants, researchers also asked them to rate how happy they felt at various points in their lives, and then asked how well they understood their mother’s symptoms.
For instance, if a mother had been diagnosed in the late stages of breast cancer when she was pregnant with her first child, and the mother was already in the hospital for several weeks, her happiness rating would have dropped from a high of 11.5 to a low of 4.
“If she was at her lowest point of happiness before she was diagnosed, then her happiness dropped even further,” Bock said.
The data also showed that when the mother started taking a daily walk, her children’s happiness ratings were boosted, while her daughters overall happiness rating dropped.
And when they saw the children’s mothers at a park, their mothers’ happiness rating went up, while their daughters’ was lowered.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted by Dr. Matthew Schubert and Dr. Rachel Stapel in partnership with the Penn School of Medicine’s Cancer Center.