September 19, 2012 at 04:21 AM EDT

Warning: Do not read this if you have not watched tonight’s episode of Parenthood.

Prior to the final act of Tuesday night’s Parenthood, life was a mix of the typical drama we see in the Braverman household — Kristina (Monica Potter) missed Haddie (Sarah Ramos), Max (Max Burkholder) became consumed with getting a puppy, and Adam (Peter Kraus) wondered if the family could handle a new furry addition. Then, as if an empty mention, Kristina said she’d be late to the family’s puppy-buying appointment because she had an appointment of her own at the doctor’s office. Minutes later, she found out she had breast cancer.

In the upcoming weeks, as Parenthood continues its fourth season, creator Jason Katims says Kristina and Adam will find themselves navigating one of life’s greatest hardships. “Breast cancer is such a prevalent thing and many people have gone through it,” says Katims, whose wife is a breast cancer survivor and has been cancer-free for two years. “It’s something that’s very personal to me, and I thought it was a story that we could tell because of what the show is and because of these wonderful actors involved in doing the show.”

And it’s a challenge Monica Potter was more than ready to tackle, as well. In fact, she coincidentally pitched the story at the same time he and the writers were fleshing it out themselves. “That emboldened me because I felt like this was the type of story she was excited to take on and eager to take on. And, so far, in watching the first few episodes in which we have been dealing with this storyline, her work has been amazing, which doesn’t surprise me at all,” he says. “So I’m very excited about the possibilities for this story.”

So what’s next? For one, Adam and Kristina will find out next week that they have different approaches to the disease and to treatment. And a few episodes down the road, the pair must deal with the extremely difficult task of breaking the news to their children, one of which is away at college. “They have a plan about when they’re going to tell the rest of the family and best laid plans,” he says. “But it happens a little differently than they imagine it to be. I mean, that’s part of it. When you go through something like this you try to control everything — how many people know and when you tell people. I think it’s one of the things you have to deal with is how out there you’re going to be with this information and that’s one of the things we’re dealing with on the show.”

But there’s also some unexpected humor that comes from this storyline, he adds. “We do a storyline down the road about Adam having to get [Kristina] medical marijuana and needing to do it in a very urgent manner, so he’s not doing it by getting the medical marijuana card. So, to me, the idea of Adam Braverman trying to score pot is funny,” he says with a laugh. “I think over the course of the season we’ll find many, many layers in [this storyline].”


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