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Someone I love was diagnosed with cancer, now what?

Updated: Apr 3

By: Dean Fulks, Lifepoint Church

You or someone you love has heard the words, “You have cancer.” In years of ministry, I have found that our incredible doctors, PAs, and nurses are scientifically skilled. However, the soft skills required to deliver this news do not always accompany medical expertise. I heard one of my uncles say on one occasion, “I’d rather have a great doctor than a nice one.” Certainly, we hope for both!

Once you receive this news, most of us immediately begin to project and predict. It’s natural…we want to KNOW what is coming. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending upon how you look at it), we have a world of medical opinions at our fingertips. That can be both helpful and hurtful to our mental and spiritual states. According to the National Cancer Institute, the odds are more than double that a cancer diagnosis will not be fatal generally speaking. So, you heard the words, “You have cancer.” What’s next? What should you expect? While I certainly don’t understand medicine and the human body, I would offer some spiritual help from the life of Jesus towards a family who experienced a medical crisis. The story begins in John 11. 

John 11:25-26; 35 – I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this…Jesus wept.


When Lazarus dies, Jesus shows up late to the funeral. Lazarus’ two sisters make virtually identical statements to Jesus, but He responds differently, almost schizophrenically, to the pair of sisters. The first sister, Martha, says, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. " And Jesus responds, “I’m the resurrection and the life.” Martha is suffering, and the Son of God is going to teach her a Sunday School lesson. It's literally, “Can’t you see that as long as I’m here, I trump death. Can you handle this teaching?” 


Then Mary, the second sister, says the exact same words, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. " And what is Jesus' response? He just cries with her…the shortest verse in the Bible – “Jesus wept.” Wait! How is that fair? One sister gets a sermon, and the other gets sympathy. It’s an incredible reminder that ONLY God knows exactly what we need and when we need it. 


The reality is that in times of crisis (and times of cancer) we don’t merely need a sermon or sympathy—we need both. God uses people to minister both to us at just the right time. I refer to them as boot people and pillow people. 


Sometimes, you need someone who is softer like a pillow. And sometimes, you need someone who kicks you in the rear end (not literally) like a boot. I will offer ahead of time, you will enjoy one more than the other. I HAVE ENJOYED one more than the other. But in retrospect, I needed both. Boot people. Pillow people. And Jesus, full of grace and truth, sends the right person at just the right time.

If I could, I would offer you two pieces of practical advice:

  1. Schedule time now to talk both with God through prayer and with others. Don’t wait to schedule time when you need it. You NEED it before you know you need it. I have found that way more is going on in my soul than I typically know in a crisis. I would suggest weekly conversations early on, if possible.

  2. Take the pressure off of yourself to feel a certain way. You will experience some “new normals.” I takes a year to get through birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries for the first time. You may feel sad or mad at times…that’s human. It gives you another reason to lean into prayer and those conversations with others, as well. 


Prayer: Father, help me to see right now that You are bringing people into my life to make me a better disciple. Help me to look for and receive them today for your sake. Give us grace to endure more physically, emotionally, and spiritually than we ever dreamed possible. Thank you that none of this will be wasted eternally. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


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