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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.