Between a rock and hard place

It will be a year ago Sunday that my son was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. He completed his freshman year of high school and then took a summer course from an online cyber school. He liked the course selection and didn’t enjoy the experience at the high school he attended. He started his sophomore year and was doing very well until his grades started slipping, he was tired, losing weight. Took him to his pediatric group 3 times and blew off the symptoms. Finally, we did a telemedicine consult and the blood literally drained from the doctor’s face. My husband took him to the ER, where they did a chest X-ray. It took them a long time to get back the results. A CT scan revealed a softball sized tumor between his heart and lungs. He was admitted to our local children’s hospital where he stayed for 11 days while the hospital diagnosed the type of tumor and started chemotherapy. He’s in remission but needs to stay there for 5 years until they declare him cured.

I don’t know whether to push him to continue his studies (he has had multiple complications) or just be glad he’s alive. The beautiful hair he had is gone, as is his self-confidence. He cries a lot because he is lonely. Sadly, he’s limited on what he can do.

Any thoughts? God bless and thank you.


Yeah, be there for him. Prayers for you and your family.


I’m so sorry your son and your family have to go through this. Is he receiving treatment from a mental health professional or therapist?


Some argue that cancer feeds on stress. Whether or not that’s valid, stress certainly can’t help. A leave of absence from academics may do him a world of good so that he can focus all of his strength on recovery. When he’s ready to hit the books again, is homeschooling an option, at least for the short-term?

I’ll pray for his healing, with an intercession from St. Peregrine. Be sure to post a prayer request because these prayer warriors do amazing work!


Yes. He is established with a psychiatrist for anxiety and a Catholic Marriage and Family Counselor for talk therapy. He has overcome developmental delays (autism—high functioning) and then he gets the cancer diagnosis. I do wonder what God has in store for him.


I have heard that too. He’s discerning the religious life, but I think all bets are off.

I’d say if he’s trying to discern the religious life that he definitely should take a break from academics and focus more on the spiritual. Encourage him to up his prayer game ( pray the rosary not just for himself but for others things like that, and of course pray the rosary multiple times a day with litinies at the end ) give him books to read so he doesn’t get bored watching the TV that I assume they have in the hospital room. A mixture of fiction and nonfiction ought to keep him entertained.

I hope he gets well soon and joins the clergy.


Praying with you for your son,


Thank you. He is not much of a TY watcher and tends to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. If he takes a break from HS, will he be able to return to finish after age 18?

I would think that there are all kinds of possibilities nowadays with online schooling. Are you in touch with your local school district, they may have info / resources to help?
I would think that the best thing would be to follow his lead, does he want to take a complete break from school, or just do “light” homeschooling? Is there harm if it takes longer for him to do homeschooling?
Your situation does sound tough – saying a prayer for your family! Thank God your son is healing though!


I will pray for you, your son, and your family tonight.

There are lots of options to finish high school, there are online schools that will offer a high school diploma after completion of a competency exam. There is a GED program which is also just one exam, this isn’t a high school diploma but is usually considered equivalent.

I don’t have any advice as to what you should do, take it one day at a time, and if in 5 years he hasn’t progressed towards his degree, cross that bridge when you come to it.


Former high school teacher here. I’ve had cancer patient students over the years. Two in particular that will never leave my memory - a pancreatic tumor almost too big to believe and a glioblastoma (just like John McCain).

First, let me say you’re in my prayers. These kids weren’t mine, but yet as a teacher, they were mine, and it was a challenging road to walk even at my more removed role with these families.

In one case, I went to the home weekly to help the student keep up with school work while the treatments were winding down and remission was in sight. There was a brief “relapse” requiring more chemo, but everything turned out well in the end. Some days we had great progress; some days I went home as soon as I arrived because the student was feeling too poorly to do anything.

In other cases, we’ve worked out a series of at-home/online things to do. The important thing is to be patient. There’s no one-size-fits-all with these things. Some days, maintaining as “normal” a life as possible is best; other days, you need to throw that out the window and just be. Trust your gut.

If it comes down to it, there are always catch-up plans for school … much easier than a catch-up plan for health (where there really isn’t such a thing). Even the GED these days in many places has been replaced with the HSE, which is an actual diploma. So, as others have said, pray on it, take it one day at a time, and do what’s best for your family during this time. There’s not a specifically objective right or wrong here.


Besides the comments on prayer etc, which are all warranted, have you asked your son what he wants to do?

You say he is lonely, home schooling won’t fix that unless there are groups in your area that get together for field trips and such.

Does he participate in the youth group at Church, or other forms of socialization away from home. Having a 16 year old myself, I know that socialization is very important to that age group.

My only direct comments are health first, physical and mental, then schooling.

God Bless.


Comer, so sorry to hear about your son. If you haven’t already, you may want to make a prayer thread for him.

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Are you saying he has to stay in the hospital for 5 years? Or is he now at home?

If he is not in the hospital, ask him what his complete ideal would be for now, or the elements of ideal-ness. You may not be able to fill all of them, but you may be able to fill some.

A few thoughts: public schools are required to educate all; they used to have teachers for the home-bound, but they will have some way for him to learn.

Homeschoolers are responsible for their own educations, but lots (not all) of school systems have ways for homeschoolers to be included in after-school activities.

He may also benefit by joining in a group for cancer patients. It is hard to go through something that is that different and knowing others who have had similar experiences can be helpful. If there is such a group whose focus is not entirely on the disease (as a therapy or support group would be), that might be even more beneficial in that it would bridge the gap between being a patient (and therefore different) and having those normal, less-serious experiences that high-schoolers have.


Find a support group!

My sister was recently diagnosed with a form of leukemia. She got with a support group and it is tremendously helpful.


Are both you as parents and your son involved with local cancer support groups? Speaking as someone with a chronic condition, and a husband who spent the last years of his life with a debilitating heart condition, NOTHING helps like real humans who have been/are going down the same road.

Online support groups are good, real life is even better.


Prayers for you and your son


Sadly, he asks friends to do things with or join in and he is excluded. He has no friends to do things with. He joined youth group, went and attended, but called because he was short of breath and light-headed. We took him to the ER where we found out he had a pulmonary embolism. Our district wasn’t the greatest when he was more affected by autism. They were not nice to any of the special needs kids that were in a regular classroom with pull outs for therapy.

Sadly, no, because the support groups are in the city. There are none local. Because of traffic, it can take up anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours to get there.

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