Cate: That was my exact situation. I lived in Washington, D.C. and my mom lived in Chapel Hill, NC, so I was physically apart from her most of the time. But you can be a really good caregiver from afar. I called my mother to check in on her on a regular basis. We even coordinated that we’d watch certain TV programs, so that we could call each other afterward and talk about them. Think of little things that allow you to feel connected when you’re not together. I also planned a lot of mother-daughter trips. In 2009, we went to Detroit for the NCAA Final Four. There was a lot of intense basketball watching, which both of us really liked, so we weren’t thinking about her disease. When she started to feel sicker, I took her to Lake Placid for a more relaxed outing—we went to dinner, watched the fall leaves change and got massages. You don’t always have to be aggressively attacking life. Being normal together and spending quality time are just as valuable as anything else. We didn’t know how much time we had left, so making every day count was important to both of us.
More: What’s the best way to give back to the advanced breast cancer community?
Cate: Start by signing up to be counted as a patient, caregiver, family member, friend, or supporter. [Editors’ note: The organization does not accept donations.] Simply acknowledging who you are and your connection to advanced breast cancer can help.