By heatherericksonauthor.comThe Erickson Family

Joyful Despite Cancer


I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is J for Joyful Despite Cancer.

How can you feel joyful…

…when a loved one has cancer? When we first learned that Dan had cancer, we were stunned. How could this happen? How could my husband of 3 years, be given a death sentence? I felt devastated, even angry. We went through all those classic stages of grief. I was even disappointed in God. It seemed so unfair. Dan and I had a dream marriage. He had just adopted our 3 daughters. We went on annual mission trips and had our family routines. Why us? Why now? I felt many different emotions. Joyful wasn’t one of them.

In order to stage my husband’s cancer, the doctor ordered a PET scan. While Dan was having the scan, I spent a lot of time in prayer. Then, I decided to call a former pastor of ours. He and his wife moved out of state a year earlier, so we got caught up on what was happening in our lives. He could tell that I was really struggling with Dan’s diagnosis. So, he gave me the best advice that I may have ever gotten. He said,

“Don’t think about what you could lose. Think about what you have.”

Those words changed my outlook and helped me become joyful again, despite Dan’s cancer.

Summer loves it when Dan rubs her feet. Image by Jim Bovine

Our life as a family…

…has always had a beautiful rhythm to it. We have routines and traditions that define us:

  • books that we’ve read as a family
  • praying together
  • going to church together
  • watching a TV series as a family
  • family trips
  • walks/hiking
  • Dan making our coffee every morning and filling the gas tank so that I never need to.
  • get-togethers with Dan’s parents and siblings
  • quiet time in the living room

Those things help make this life joyful. When things are difficult, we hold even tighter to these things, remembering how precious they are. We live in awe of God’s grace. We soak it all in with gratitude.

July 2016

Dan had a scan result that pushed us back into reality. It looked like his cancer was progressing again. I remember being in the car, crying, as I thought of what could lie ahead; all the difficult things that Dan would go through. And, in the end, he would die.

I thought about that, about living without him. Then, I thought about what that would mean for him. He would be in the presence of Jesus. I pondered that for quite a while and it gave me such joy. Dan loves Jesus more than anyone and anything. As much as he loves me and the kids, he loves Jesus even more. To be in His presence would be the most wonderful experience he could have. That gave me the strength to face whatever would come our way.

The following month, for reasons that to this day, baffle Dan’s doctors, his cancer retreated and has stayed at bay ever since. He recently had metastases in his spine, but that too has been healing.

October 2012

When doctors told Dan, four and a half years ago, that he had stage IV lung cancer, we could have stopped living. We could have thrown in the towel, but instead, we chose to live a joyful life in spite of cancer.

If you are facing something that seems insurmountable, don’t give up hope. Instead, think about what you have and trust God with it. Then live your life with joy,


I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.


I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!


In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on

Also, check out Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer.

Also, put your memories into words with The Memory Maker’s Journal.

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker



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8 comments on “Joyful Despite Cancer

It does sound selfish, doesn’t it, to cry when someone might/does die? I’ve often thought that and accept it as part of my grieving but not for the person. As you say, they truly are in a better place.


Hi Jacqui, I think we often feel the tremendous loss for the world we live in, too. There is often a gaping hole that this person filled. Everything shifts in their absence. We had a friend die several years ago before my husband was diagnosed. It was sudden and shocking. There was a seismic shift in the wake of his death. We still feel his absence, and we weren’t even family. Selfish? Yes. But understandable, too. I think of the way Jesus wept for the pain Lazarus’s sisters felt, even though he was about to resurrect him. Grief is so complex. Have a wonderful day.

Focusing on the positive is definitely needed with a cancer diagnosis. You don’t know what will happen, so just focus on the now and being happy with the person.

~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
My A to Z’s of Dining with IC
Patricia Lynne, Indie Author


Hi Patricia, You are so right. It could be so easy to let things, whether it’s illness or finances or family issues, get you down. And it would be completely reasonable to feel that way. But it just steals your time and peace of mind, so if we are able to move beyond these things, it is a huge benefit to do so. Have a joyful day!

Heather, It is so great that you wrote about being joyful. I could feel your happiness in your previous posts and now the puzzle pieces are coming together. 🙂 You have such a wonderful attitude. Thank you and have a joyful day!
Emily Bloomquist recently posted…Javico, A Puerto Lopez Grocery Store #AtoZChallengeMy Profile


Thank you, Emily. You have a joyful day, too! 🙂

I am so happy that I have discovered your blog (through A – Z Challenge). I look forward to following further.


Thank you, Donna. I hope you’re getting rested up form your travels. Have a great day! 🙂

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