Coping With Cancer: The Diagnosis

Guest contributor Margaret Nyman takes us step by step through her husband Nate’s 42 days of pancreatic cancer. She’ll describe the shock of discovery, the gathering of their seven children, the unstoppable disease and the emotional days leading up to the moment when he passed away.

Cancer! (9/27/09)

It’s been five days since we heard the dreadful news, and we are just beginning to come up for air.

During that first conversation with several doctors at Rush, in just a few excruciating minutes, Nate and I found ourselves tangled in a web of horrifying words we didn’t expect: pancreatic cancer, inoperable, metastasized, stage four, terminal. And every word was referring to my husband’s body.

“Stunned” doesn’t explain our response. “Crushed” is better. “Devastated” is accurate.

The doctor was backed by six others in the room, all eyes fixed on us. When he paused to let us respond, I spoke first. Trying to banish their words from the room, I said, “But we only came for surgery on his back! He doesn’t have any other symptoms! We don’t know anything about any of this!” As my voice got louder and began to crack, Nate reached for my hand.

We had known about his back pain and the stenosis, bulging disks, arthritis and spurs causing it. Having made the rounds to several doctors, we’d settled on “the best in the country” at Rush University Medical Center and signed up for spine surgery to take place on September 28. In Nate’s routine pre-op physical, multiple red flags popped up. Two short weeks after that, we were sitting in a hospital conference room surrounded by learned doctors, being assaulted with unwanted words.

Today, five days later, we are still reeling but are no longer screaming inside. Our family is gathering. We all agree on how we want to spend our time. Love and support is pouring in from all directions, some quite unexpected and each effort precious to us.

I plan to use this blog to keep interested parties informed about Nate while the clock ticks and the days pass. As we begin putting one foot in front of the other to plod into this foreign land, we’ll let you know how things are going. We believe God has traveled ahead of us and now stretches out his hand to say, “Over here now. Follow me. It’s all going to utterly amaze you, and I can’t wait to show you.”

And so with tears streaming down our faces making it hard to see, we follow.

Margaret Nyman’s personal blog is at

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