If You’ve Been Diagnosed With Cancer

Recently people reeling from the “You have cancer” diagnosis have called me. If I could, I would sit down with them “in human” by the fireplace at my Starbucks and listen to their stories. I wouldn’t give them advice unless they asked me. If they asked me, I would share with them a few of thoughts for those newly diagnosed with cancer from the perspective of a cancer survivor:


Dear Bewildered Friend,

I am so sorry you are replaying in your mind the cancer phone call from your doctor. Everyone around you is living life just as always, and here you sit with news so heavy, so derailing.

If you are like me, nights are the hardest. After the house quiets down, you lay there alone with your thoughts and fears. And each morning you wake, wondering if all of this is a bad dream. Once you regain your bearings, you’re faced with the challenge of how to get out of bed to face another day. Physically everything looks the same; but now with this devastating diagnosis, nothing is the same.

If you’ve started sharing the news, I imagine your phone is ringing and your e-mail inbox is filling with well-meaning friends and family offering advice on diets, doctors, and blog links and books. If you are like me, you will probably try to read everything, and then hit a wall of information overload. You’ve been abruptly thrust into a new world filled with unfamiliar terms and options, appointments, decisions, all with varying outcomes. It’s hard to sort through all the information to know which steps to take.

These are just a few nuggets of advice from me looking back on my cancer battle. Feel free to apply what you like or disregard them altogether.

  • There is no right way to do cancer. Everyone’s cancer journey is different. Yours won’t look like anyone else’s. So give yourself freedom to be on your own path.
  • Let other’s in. Chances are those who love you feel incredibly helpless and scared and want to help you in any way they can. Giving them the opportunity to bring a meal, drive you to a chemo appointment, clean your bathroom, or pick up your kids is a way for them to lessen the load for you, and it can be a blessing for them. Let others help so you can have space to heal and physically and emotionally tackle each portion of active treatment. You’ll probably be surprised, though. Some people you thought would be there for you may disappear, and people you didn’t expect may come along to help.
  • Find an information hub person. If you’re married, your spouse won’t be able to go anywhere for the next two years without being asked how you are doing. Family and friends will want updates. We stopped answering our home phone. Rather than saying the same thing over and over, consider using an online site like CaringBridge for updates and prayer requests. If you enjoy writing, writing updates on the blog may be a good place to process your journey. If you don’t, ask someone to write updates for you.
  • Try to be generous in the grace department. Grace is unmerited, undeserved favor. Give yourself grace. You’ve never battled cancer before. You are entering uncharted waters with how you will respond physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally. Don’t be hard on yourself. Give those around you grace. They want to help, even though their unsolicited advice, like the latest cancer-killing vegetable discovered in the rain forest, may not be helpful. Your cancer diagnosis may trigger unresolved grief in those around you, so sometimes their response may not be what you need or want.
  • Lean into God. Wherever you are in your spiritual journey, my encouragement is to move towards God. He can take your anger, your confusion, your sadness, your fear. Be honest with Him. He wants your whole heart. Let Him help you, comfort you, provide for you. And let others pray for you. God is able to bring good out of something as awful as cancer.

I hate cancer. I hate thinking about another person having to battle cancer. I hate that you will walk the painful treatment road. As much as I hate cancer, I want you to know from my  experience that God used cancer to expand my heart. I have met some of the most remarkable people on this journey. I have been blessed in thousands of ways by the thoughtfulness and generosity of so many. I am not the same woman today because of cancer.

Cancer has marked my life, but it does not define my life.

I am praying for God’s blessing on your life in unexpected ways.

Love from a fellow warrior in pink,




23 thoughts on “If You’ve Been Diagnosed With Cancer

  1. Thank you, Caringbridge save me and my husband too.
    You are so right about the grace it is very important and took me a while to accept it.

    • You are welcome. :) Thanks for taking time to comment. I’m so glad to hear you were able to give and receive God’s grace. I agree. So important, but also so hard to accept. Blessings to you as continue on the path God has for you.

  2. thank you! for this. I was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer July 12,2013. I am so grateful for a God who is in the details. Half a year earlier I my surgeon put me on a high risk program, and that resulted in an early diagnosis. Cancer is removed and no chemo or radiation was needed. While my oncologist tells me, “if one was to get cancer, mine was the kind you want… meaning early detection and spared of treatment…” Her words are true, but they don’t change the diagnosis or what it does emotionally to one. I am going to look for your book! I love and am encouraged by what you have shared here. I too hate cancer and what it does, but I also have found the Goodness of God in the pain – and that is worth this journey. My mom is a breast cancer survivor as well and that has been huge in my journey. I pray today you will find joy and an unexpected blessing and peace you need as you too continue your journey. some things don’t end just because our blood work comes back clear…. Psalm 121 was a daily for me, along with 2Tim. 4:17. Thank you, so glad I found you!! Love from (snowy -yes, a new “dusting” – inches…. ) Minnesota ~ karla

    • Thank you, Karla, for reading and taking time to comment. The scriptures you shared are some of my favorite, too. Blessings to you and yours!! :)

  3. Thank you for sharing this letter. Ione week and two days ago, I was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Cancer. I was told yesterday it is stage 3 due to size of tumor. I know already I am facing bilateral mastectomy surgery then possibly radiation and/or chemo. Waiting for gene testing results now to say if I’m positive or negative for the gene mutation. I’m scared nervous angry and more.but I know God is there and here with me through all of this. .

    • Laura, I imagine life has been turned upside down and the past week and two days has felt like a month. I will pray for you. Would love to hear how you are doing during your treatment. You are beautiful and fierce. I’m cheering you on, fellow “Warrior In Pink.” blessings, viv

      • Thank you. A friend loaned me your book and it touched me so much. Thank you for writing your journey down for others like me. Thank you for your prayers too. Laura

        • I hope you win one of the giveaways so you can have your own copy. Prayer continuing for you as you walk this unexpected road. And big hugs.

  4. I was diagnosed with breast cancer that is already in the lymph nodes just this past week. My first appointment with the surgeon is two days from now.

    My sister was listening to WayRadio 550 AM Discover the Word and heard your program yesterday (10/12/15). She sent the link to me. God’s timing is always perfect, even in regards to the cancer. I know God will use this for His glory and my good. I am truly excited to see even a glimpse of how God will use this in my life, in the lives of my family and friends, and in those He brings in my path along the journey. God has given me a great peace about my situation and I am trusting Him in all things.

    I look forward to reading your book and I am thankful for you. God bless you.

    Proverbs 3:5-6

    • Dorinda,
      You are now a fellow “Warrior In Pink,” joining a sorority you never intended on pledging. Thank you for taking time to comment here. Encouraged with you by the tender ways the Lord has gone before you and the blessing of your sister. I will be lifting you up to the Lord as you begin this cancer marathon. Cheering you on, vivian

  5. Vivian:
    Hello! I listened to your testimony through an archived radio broadcast through Family Life’s website. Your honest and open account then touches my heart now. Thank You for sharing your soulful experience. Your words of wisdom are timely for my husband and me. I recently received the diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma and underwent surgery last week. We return on Monday for results and the next steps of treatment. We face this as a team. My husband is my Heart’s Hero! Prayers are very appreciated as we seek God for His leading. Praise be to God that He goes before us! Take Care!
    Hebrews 6:19-20
    Lori Dawn

    • Sending prayers your way. Any news regarding treatment next steps? Cheering you on, Lori Dawn. Please keep me posted <3

      • Vivian:
        Hello! Your continued intercessory prayers are appreciated. We are grateful to Christ for being our forerunner. He made it clear through the physicians that my husband and I face the next step, chemotherapy. The port has been implanted and next weeK we press forward with treatment. Take Care!

        • Oh Lori,
          I remember the port and I remember not liking it very well. It sat right where my seatbelt would hit when I would drive. Praying for you as you run this cancer marathon. Will keep you in my prayers. Please keep the updates coming. Cheering you on, Warrior! love, vivian

  6. Thank you for taking the time to share this. My sister was at a conference this weekend and learned of you. I’m newly diagnosed with lymphoma. Praise God mine is CURABLE! I want more than anything to travel this road with dignity and grace. Thank you

    • Hello Marcia,
      Thanks for taking time to write me here. Was your sister at the IF:Gathering in Austin? Praying the Lord is meeting you in tender ways, Marcia. Blessings, vivian

  7. Hey Vivian! Went through another surgery and awaiting test results. We meet with team next Monday. We are at Peace in the waiting. Your prayers are appreciated!

  8. Hi Vivian! I want to thank you for being an encourager during the twirl of the breast cancer diagnosis! My husband and I have been blessed to be on a great team! He’s been my quarterback of love and support! Christ knows every move in the playbook on cancer and has gone before us each step of the way forward! He leads our team, coaching us to make first downs and gain yardage one play at a time. We have tackled through chemo and radiation. Now we are close to the End Zone with a final surgery! Our team verse has been Hebrews 6:19-20. We are very grateful for what God has been doing in our lives and marriage! My husband would remind me through the challenging moments…Cancer is not in control, God Is! We Praise God! Take Care!

    • Lori,
      I am cheering you on!! Thanks for letting me know. Praying for you as you near the end of active treatment. You are beautiful and fierce, my fellow Warrior In Pink!

  9. Hi Vivian,
    I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma Her 2 Triple positive stage 2 in my right breast and fortunately in Siri in my left breast. My diagnosis was August 20th 2016, so I’ve been battling. I just finished my last chemo treatment and last week, days before the IF Gathering, I had another diagnostic mammogram & Breast MRI. I will speak with my surgeon & receive those results this coming Wednesday. I was reading the bios from the IF Gathering local handout that I received when I read yours! I’m so excited to get your book & start reading! I am also a young mom with three kids 8, 4,& 2. I have an amazing husband who has been enduring this trial with me. We trust & love God & know he’s going to do awesome things & that everything He does is for our good. I just wanted to say hi, thank you for writing a book about your journey, & I would appreciate your prayers!!

    • Jillian
      My apologies for taking so long to write back. How did you appointment go w/ your surgeon? And your MRI? Would love to pray for you as you continue on your journey. How was the IF:Gathering for you? I’m cheering you on, my fellow Warrior In Pink!

  10. Hi Vivian, the MRI & appointment with my surgeon went very well! The chemo did it’s job & I will have a bilateral mastectomy with possible lymphnodes dissection on Tuesday! I’m very anxious to get this bad stuff out of my body, but I am trusting in the skies and asking Him for His peace! I loved IF Gathering! We had a huge room and lots of couches, so it was super comfortable! I really enjoyed listening to all the speakers! Thank you so much for praying for me!

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