A mother whose daughter is suffering from brain cancer wrote me recently asking how her daughter could relieve the stress of repaying student loans. There is no easy answer, but if her loans are federal student loans - such as Stafford and Grad Plus loans - she could be eligible for what is known as a total and permanent disability discharge, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors Network. To qualify for this discharge, a doctor must certify that she is unable to engage in "substantial gainful activity" because of a physical or mental impairment that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least five years, or is expected to result in death, he says. If she had remained employed by a nonprofit or government agency, she might have been able to qualify for public-service loan forgiveness after 10 years of full-time employment, while repaying her federal student loans in the income-based repayment or pay-as-you-earn repayment plans in the Direct Loan program. The economic hardship deferment and forbearances can provide her with temporary financial relief, but her debt might grow larger while she's in a deferment or forbearance, Kantrowitz says. Kantrowitz adds that if the daughter was dismissed from her job and believes it was because of her medical condition, she may wish to file a lawsuit against her former employer for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.