A Family’s Job

Steve H | Administrator |

I remember when I was about 25 and my mom and dad told us that she was dying of breast cancer. They had known for a while, but didn’t want

to tell us kids (even though we were, sort of, adults) because they wanted to protect us from bad news. They thought that was their job. We, on the other hand, were pissed off because we (the collective kids) wanted to help. We were family and it was our job.

Years later, when my sister was dying of melanoma, she surrounded herself with us, her immediate family, but also a huge and loving collection of people from her church, her school … well, she picked up friends the way I might pick up a lucky penny on the sidewalk. There were lots. These friends were family to her: making a gigantic quilt, cooking dinners, sitting and talking and laughing. We were all her family and it was our job.

I suppose, in cancer, ‘family’ is that large or small community of people who get to see us at our best and at our worst; relationships fraught with our most intimate fears and hopes, laden with duty and love. It’s the people we feel responsible to … and, often, we get it entirely wrong. But, we keep trying because we are family.


  1. I’m 17 now and when I was in 8th grade, 13, I found out my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer stage 4 and it was too late to be cured. I watched the strongest man I knew, who I always depended on, become so weak and have to depend on me. Cancer is a scary thing, but truly does bring a family together. I have 7 brothers and I’m the only girl so my dad had the best helpers always by his side. It truly brought us all together. I saw a side of my dad I never saw. God works in the most mysterious ways, He restored the brokenness in my family and brought us together in such a hard time. Cancer is a horrible thing without a doubt, but it truly can change your perspective on life and your loved ones and realize they can be gone at any second and we can’t take them for granted.

    Annie | | 1:24pm

  2. Sorry to hear your sad story. You sound so grown up for 17. May GOD bless you in everyway! I too have been fighting Cancer for over 5 years. As of now I am Cancer free and pray to GOD everyday that I stay that way. Take care!!!!!

    Patti Wyatt | | 2:56pm

  3. I think it is important to talk to children about cancer diagnosis.
    When I was diagnosed 10 years ago my daughter was just 5 years old.
    No one really talked to her about it because the thought was that children shouldn’t have to worry – that’s for the adults to do. The drawback was everyone was being so careful to make sure she was happy, she thought that no one cared about me or cared that I was sick. Sometimes our best intentions just don’t fall into place the way we want them too.

    Jen P. | | 1:46pm

  4. Starting Monday I will be taking care of a client, that has stage 4 colon cancer. She is I think in her late 60’s, early 70’s. It’s kind of ironic how God lead me to her. And I do belive that, if God brings you to it. He will lead you through it. But I would like some advice on how to make Mis Judy comfortable in her last days. She has less then 6 mths to live. FYI, I also know that God can heal the worse of the worst. I am believing that to!

    Melanie | | 4:02pm

  5. I know how your parents felt. I am currently battling when I should tell my boys! They are in thier late 20’s and early 30’s. they lost thier father a year ago. My parents and sister and my husband. But I do not want to put this on them right now.
    I never realized how just saying cancer would make me feel.
    I do not want my boys to know til they need to know.
    Family has always been very important to me but right now I just feel better being anonymous!

    Lisa | | 8:02pm

  6. I am in cancer treatment and told my adult children when I went for my biopsy and let them know the results as soon as I could. We have no guarentee how long we have. If it were one of them surely you would want to know. I was grateful I was with my Dad when he got his dx 15 years ago. I told my siblings right away. I cannot imagine if Dad had to go through that alone. He survived and a lot of it is because he had the love of his children and siblings and that is why I am surviving as well. Just my humble opinion. Thanks Jean

    Jean | | 10:37pm

  7. Lisa,
    Please tell your kids. They need to know. They will be so hurt if they find out too late. I don’t know your family hut I’m sure they will want to be with you through your fight. May God bless you!

    Julie | | 7:31pm

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