There’s No Right Way to Receive Bad News About Cancer

Everyone who receives bad news about cancer has a different reaction. That’s ok. There is no right way to respond. #cancer #diagnosis #grief #mourn #godisgood #godisincontrol #prostatecancer #cancertreatment #selfcare #oneword2023 #fmfparty

When you receive bad news about cancer, your reaction might differ from another person’s. That’s ok. There is no right way to respond.

Everyone who receives bad news about cancer has a different reaction. That’s ok. There is no right way to respond. #cancer #diagnosis #grief #mourn #godisgood #godisincontrol #prostatecancer #cancertreatment #selfcare #oneword2023 #fmfparty

Is There a Right Way to Receive Bad News?

“I’m sorry, but your biopsy results show cancer in every core we collected.”

I gripped Pedro’s hand tighter and watched him receive the bad news. He seemed stoic. The doctor continued, but I didn’t hear him as my mind leaped into full-on cancer caregiver mode.

Pedro turned to me and said, “Are YOU ok?”

“I’m fine, but not surprised,” I said. I pulled out my phone to take notes as the doctor discussed treatment plans and survival rates.

“Fortunately, prostate cancer has high survival rates, and it’s a very treatable cancer,” he said.

Right. I thought to myself. That’s what they said about his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, too.

We left the office feeling numb but calm. There’s no right way to respond.

“What did you mean when you said you weren’t surprised,” Pedro asked as we drove home.

“Didn’t your doctor say you would probably get some other form of cancer within ten years of having your stem-cell transplant?” I asked. “Well, it’s been 20 years. God has given you ten years of life and health beyond what the doctor expected.”

“And I’ve tried to treat every day as a gift,” Pedro said.

We fell silent. Each processing the bad news in our own way.

What I Learned from Our First Rodeo

  1. God is in control. While I’d like to have our story plotted and my happy ending arranged, I must remember it’s not my story. We know from experience how God can use our pain and our journey to manifest his glory.
  2. As a caregiver, I must remember I can’t cure anything, and my job is to come alongside and offer practical help. Pedro’s wishes and preferences come before mine.
  3. We waited to tell everyone until we knew who would treat Pedro and where. This helps cut down on questions and random advice. Friends and strangers offered all sorts of solutions the first time—carrot juice enemas and a raw garlic diet topped the list of strange things.
  4. FaceTime helps. We told our daughters together via a FaceTime conference call. It made it easier to break bad news when we could see each other.
  5. Go ahead and mourn. It took me a few days to cry. God and I have had some serious conversations filled with tears, snot, anger, and brutal honesty. Each day he sends me comfort, just as Jesus promised in Matthew 5:4.
  6. God is good. All the time. When we receive bad news or when we receive good news. He is good. It’s not his fault cancer exists (that’s on satan and sin). God didn’t give Pedro cancer (again). He hurts when we hurt because he is our good, good Father. God will come alongside us, sustain us, comfort us, and show us how to glorify him even if we don’t like the journey.

Notes on the Second Rodeo

If you’re a praying person, please pray for our students and the school community. We’ve had a rough year, and we worry about the kids.

Pedro’s doctors advised surgery vs. radiation because of his age. They call him ‘young’—we’ll take it! He will need to take three to six weeks off work for recovery. We’re in the process of scheduling scans and the surgery. It takes several weeks after surgery to get the pathology reports back.

We aren’t the author of our stories and can’t know the plot ahead of time. But like those choose-your-own-adventure books for kids, we choose to adventure with God.

Everyone who receives bad news about cancer has a different reaction. That’s ok. There is no right way to respond. #cancer #diagnosis #grief #mourn #godisgood #godisincontrol #prostatecancer #cancertreatment #selfcare #oneword2023 #fmfparty

21 Comments

  1. Anita, my God, I have no words.

    I’ve followed your and Pedro’s story down the years. Can I say, I love you guys, and that right now my heart is hurting, and that I would gladly take Pedro’s cancer atop my own, to spare you the pain?

    DAMMMIT.

    Cancer is as cancer does,
    even if you don’t have the app,
    but that mean nuthin’, well, because
    I really do not give a crap.
    I have to get through night to dawn,
    and make it then to bright-sun noon,
    and after need to get skates on
    for the rising of the moon.
    Dreams are wraiths, who damn well cares,
    and hopes are fairyland.
    Dignity is put-on airs,
    and we just need to stand,
    maybe thrive, just maybe linger
    with an upraised middle finger.

  2. Anita, my heart overflows but I have no words. I have added your family to my prayer journal and you will remain in my thoughts and prayers as you travel this unwanted journey.
    PS I’m sorry I bothered you about 28 days.

  3. Anita, I am so stunned and surprised to hear this news. I’m sure all you learned the first time will help on this leg of the journey, but it’s still not an easy road. I’m praying for wisdom, grace, and healing–and especially that God will manifest himself in all of this both to you and Pedro and to those who know you.
    Barbara Harper recently posted…Seasons of SorrowMy Profile

  4. Oh Anita, I’m so sorry about this bad news. You and Pedro are in my prayers. Cancer is so bad, I hate it so much, but God is good. Praying he holds all of you close and gives you strength and comfort as needed in the days ahead! Visiting from FMF#12
    Kym recently posted…Moving UpdatesMy Profile

  5. I’m so sorry you had to receive bad news yet again. Prayers for you both and for your family.
    Thank you for encouraging all of us through your personal testimony.

  6. My heart aches for you and I agree there is no right or wrong way to receive such news. My heartfelt prayers for your caregiving journey and the grief that accompanies this journey, lots of love, and prayers for you all. God is with you and sees you and cares for your family

  7. Sweet friend, I saw you post this on social media and I began praying right away! SO MUCH WISDOM in this post! Praying in agreement for all the things! Grace, wisdom, timing, healing, provision, quick and full recovery, peace, calm, no fear, –all the things!

  8. Anita, I’m so sorry to read this news. Praying for healing for Pedro, and for all the family to you know God’s peace and presence as you walk through this.

  9. So sorry to hear this tough news, Anita. Praying for peace, comfort, strength, and complete healing for Pedro, and also that the Lord would provide whatever help you need during Pedro’s recovery (for you personally, and at the school).

  10. I’m sorry you guys are having to face this – again. Thank you for your honest sharing about the tough stuff and the lessons you’ve learned along the way. None of it is wasted when placed in His hands. Praying. Your FMF neighbour at #11 this week.
    kath recently posted…HALF EMPTY, HALF FULL?My Profile

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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