That the carers of people with cancer are profoundly affected by their caring role is well established, yet the needs of one particular cohort, i.e. the parents of young adults with cancer, have not been well understood. The majority of carers in this situation are mothers, and it is the impact of the emotional and physical labour entailed by the care of young adults that is the focus of the present paper. Through the analysis of qualitative narrative data contributed by the mothers of young adults with cancer, the aim of this paper is to examine the health effects for women of caring for a young adult son or daughter with a life-threatening illness. The results suggest that there is an impact on the mother's health that results in unspecific, low-grade and chronic psychological and somatic symptoms which the mothers rank as a low priority. The mothers’ attempts to appear to be managing may serve to mask their own health needs from health professionals whose primary concern is the health of the son or daughter. Where psychological distress is admitted, the resulting use of prescribed antidepressants may not be experienced as helpful. The conclusions are that, because of the particular circumstances of caring for a young adult son or daughter with cancer, health professionals’ attention to the mothers’ health throughout the cancer journey may act as a preventative measure for later and more serious ill health.