What is a word/idiom for worse news on top of bad news?

Like when someone tells you bad news (a doctor) then tells you even worse news?

Here is an example (I’m sorry it is so long! I don’t know if this is okay to post here, but this is the piece I looking for the word/idiom for):

“Your daughter’s symptoms of vomiting and headaches were cause for concern. The E.R. doctors gave her fluids and ran an MRI, then called me in.” Dr. Ulestig sits across the small table from me, his serious eyes searching my face for a sign that I am following his words. I look down at the styrofoam cup I clutch in my hands. The coffee in the hospital brought to mind the cheap motor oil I put in my college car. During that time I didn’t have money to splurge on expensive things that were unnecessary, considering my car was a piece of sh*! back then.


“Hmmm?” I look up to see the worried face staring at me.

“Did you hear me? I was telling you the results of the MRI. It showed a small mass within her thalamus.” He pauses, waiting for a response. “In her brain.”

“Brain?” My own brain seems to be repeating the sequence ‘does not compute, does not compute’.

“A tumor.” He simplifies. At that word a strangled sob breaks out of my betrayer of a mouth. “It is fairly small for this type of tumor. The next step is a biopsy. We need to see if it is malignant or benign. And that will tell us how aggressive it is.”

“Cancer? How? Katie is barely 6.”

“Unfortunately, this type of tumor is specific to children and young adults.”

“And if it is the bad kind? What does that mean? How will you fix her?” I demand. A part of me knows it isn't fair to put the responsibility of Katie’s life on this kind, gentle doctor who I just met, but I need something to focus my anger and blame on. Dr. Ulestig’s eyes soften and he tilts his head.

“We don't know yet if it even is malignant. It could be benign. But I will give it to you straight. It won’t be good if it turns out to be malignant. This type of tumor is called Thalamic Glioma. There are several Grades. The one we really don't want is Grade III. That is malignant, and nasty. I will not lie to you. If she has a Grade III tumor then we need it to be a juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma. If it isn't then the prognosis isn't good. Karen? Are you with me?” He reaches out to touch my wrist. I look down at his hand. My cup in being crushes from my shaking hands and my lungs can’t find oxygen.

“What do you think it is? Cant you tell anything?”

“I don't like to guess before I have all the information, Karen. If I tell a patient that their test looks fine but the next one shows they have a fatal cancer then what would happen? Or the opposite?”

“Please. I need to know. It is worse not knowing.” I beg him.

He sighs, rubbing the back of his neck. I didn’t notice before, but he is very young to be a doctor. He can’t be more than 24 years old. How can this kid save my own child’s life?

“On the MRI, we can tell the from the way the tumor is growing, if it is malignant then it would most likely not be a JPA. The tumor would be inoperable an incurable.” The pain in his eyes threatens to break free and flood out, but I suspect for my sake he keeps it in.

“She is going to die? No. No!” The few people spread around the cafeteria turn to stare, but I don't care. Not only am I told that my baby girl has a tumor, but it is most likely one of the only tumors that attacks only children and cannot be removed or helped with medicine. I press the heels of palms over my eyes. What I wouldn’t give to turn back time to when he told me she had a tumor. Then I thought I would break at the bad news. Now I know that I will shatter at the even worse news.

  • 1
    "When it rains, it pours."
    – Gnawme
    Jan 10, 2017 at 5:29

3 Answers 3


Probably "Double Whammy" is the phrase you are looking for.

Definition of double whammy (as per Merriam Webster Dictionary)

"A situation that is bad in two different ways"


"A situation in which two bad conditions exist at the same time or two bad things happen one after the other"

The latter part of the second definition seems to suit this context


Figuratively, the person giving the bad news is probably rubbing salt in her wounds (first bad news is the wound and the second one is the salt) or twisting the knife (the second bad news is the twisting).


Verb rub salt into someone's wounds

(idiomatic) To make a painful situation even worse (even with the best of intentions).

Verb twist the knife

(idiomatic) To deliberately do or say something to worsen a difficult situation or increase a person's distress, irritation, or anger.

  • Twisting the knife! That fits perfectly! Thank you so much. Jan 11, 2017 at 5:42

Now I know that I will shatter at...

  • news worse still
  • the final nail in the coffin
  • the fell stroke
  • the last straw

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