Note before reading:
I have received my mum’s permission to write this. She and I have agreed that if this can help others in similar situations regarding cancer, then it is worth it. This is an amazing act upon my mum’s part as she is an intensely private woman.
To the cancer that has taken up residence in my mum’s body,
I hereby refer to you as ‘Badness’, rather than ‘cancer’, although even that barely sums up a modicum of my feelings concerning you.
You don’t deserve to get away with masquerading under the medical term, ‘cancer’. Your effects go way beyond the clinical, not just in my family’s lives but in millions of others. Your name is now in my hands.
You callously ram your way into our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical areas of being. You can’t have it all.
You Are a Parasite
Since receiving the shattering news, nearly a month ago, that you have become a secondary mass that cannot be eradicated, you are reveling in your new-found role.
Oh, how you enjoy that you are now the main topic of conversation in my family’s households.
You are a tyrant and a bully, pushing your way in without an invitation, coming empty-handed as far as compassion is concerned.
As I sat in that consultant’s room and heard the words nobody wants to hear, I know that you wanted my Mum and family to concede that you have won. Temporarily, we did.
Yes, you have taken hostage of my mum’s body but there is one thing you will never take from us; love and memories of shared lives.
We Are Stronger Than You in Knowledge
You may have the upper hand in knowing the future: the roller-coaster of emotions, the changing symptoms, the length of time left, and how it will end. I am traversing uncharted territory, it’s true, but you do not know me, like I know me.
You have no cognition of those you attack. You are weak in your limitations. You have no heart, no sense of family, and no recollections of shared lives.
Bad luck, Badness. You lose.
The Stats Don’t Add up in Your Favour
You take perverse glee in claiming another life as a tally mark on your cancer death card.
It is undeniable that statistically every year the lives you taint are increasing. How proud you must be. But here’s a smack in the chops for you; for every tally mark, you’ve actually lost.
Behind that strike is a person who had a life that mattered; no matter what age they were when you made your claim upon them.
Behind that person are family and friends who endeavour to comfort and care for those you desire for your own.
Behind the supporting family and friends are amazing charities, hospices and voluntary organisations that fight you every step of the way, even with limited financial resources.
Encompassing all this are hospitals and medical staff looking after us all; patients and families.
You cannot claim any of us. You do not possess the power to kill compassion, empathy, love, memories and relationships.
Life in Her Hands
I hopelessly watch as my Mum reduces physically due to your effects. Badness, running through her body. I hold frail hands with raised veins, due to losing weight and frailty.
I grip those papery hands in mine and feel that if a transfusion of love and good intent were possible, I would grip tighter to stall the dubious route of Badness through those weakened veins.
When I hold those hands, hands that once held me as a child, you cannot sever the connection they have in life or in death.
I look at her gold wedding ring; now loose on her finger but clasping on tight, just as the love and commitment of my dad does to the woman he made vows to 49 years ago.
Her hands have raised five children and supported her husband. I may have resented those hands in the past when they waggled fingers, were busy elsewhere, or chastised me, but that’s life.
These, I must remember, are the hands that held me when I came into this world. I will do everything in my power to be holding them when she makes her way out of it. Badness, you cannot break that intention. Even if I am not there at the end, I will metaphorically be holding on.
Regret, Anger, Guilt and Shame
I fight the compulsion to wear rose-tinted glasses and become sentimental in my fight against you, Badness.
We have all made mistakes. I’ve made many with my mum as she has with me. That’s the ‘beauty’ of parenting and being a child. We are all trying to find our way through it without a manual that has all the right answers. Sometimes it is out of our hands.
I could wallow in regrets; sometimes I do. I refuse, however, to allow you to have a part in that. This is between her and me. You have no place here.
You’d love my family and I to bow down to recriminations, anger, guilt and shame, attributing them to you. We all feel them. Life can cause so much damage. However, you will not have your sport with me giving these feelings to you.
I am giving my hurts and pain to Grief, and then transferring them to Bereavement when she takes her place.
My Anger and Hurt Belong to Me, Not Cancer
I will not give you a sob story to languish in.
You will not have my questions of ‘Why her?’, ‘Why us?’ because I will not stoop to your level to give you the power of silence as your reply.
To me, you will remain a stranger.
I could vent my anger at you for choosing her. But what can be achieved by shouting into the wind to fall upon uncaring ears?
You have no respect for the damage you do to my family and the millions of others you touch. You will not gain strength from consuming my pain and anger.
I could question why my mum has you in her life 10 years after the death of my brother. I could engage in word wrestling with you, bargaining to leave my family alone after the tragedy we have already endured. However, I will not play your game.
You chose her. You chose us by implication. I will not weep because of you. My crying is for her, for us, for me.
This letter to you is my victory. It is a celebration of inner strength, love, family and not allowing you any glory in our pain.
We hold the cards here.
You Are a Terminal Leech
You enjoy your terminal status as if the game has already been won. You may be the reason for my mum’s end but you will never terminate memories of the life she had and how she spent it with others.
You delight in wearing us down as we strive to do all we can to support her.
You snidely giggle as you watch my family weep in private, put on a stoic face for her, worry about the future, consider how best to make the rest of her life count, and negotiate how to be carers.
I admit that you’re doing a bloody good job at chiseling off parts that may weaken us, but you will never shatter the core; the sense of family and commitment in those that chose to show it and be it.
My Depression Is Not Your Playground
You try to wreak havoc with the depression that I have (see The Enemy Strikes Back and Then Some… ) by planting seeds of doubt in my family’s mind of my ability to cope. That’s a losing battle, you bastard.
I’m winning because I’m in recovery, I have the most amazing husband, and I know now how to ask for help.
I know self-care. I know I matter enough to deserve it.
I may feel more fragile at times because of mental illness but I have a mountain of strength and strong hands behind me.
Fair Weather Friends and Empty Words
I will not allow you to mock me when people I thought were friends offer support that never manifests. Badness, I am an expert with this now. You’re too late to this game.
I know how empty words and gestures of, ‘If there is anything I can do’ and ‘I’m here for you’ can crush us. I have been there when my brother died and when I have had depression.
I know who my true friends and family are now. They are constant.
Let the vacuous sentiments come if they must and makes the person offering them feel better.
Let the ‘looking for gossip’ parade come out of their hiding places.
I know the truth of the power of genuine words of love and care now. You cannot blind me to them. My eyes are wide open.
We Will Continue to Kick Your Arse
I despise you for every person’s life you have claimed.
I hate how you cruelly shatter families and relationships.
But the laugh is on you. We carry on and you will never win.
We fund-raise, we spread awareness, we continue to live, albeit with broken hearts, in spite of the damage you cause. We will never be empty-handed.
I can see a time in the future when you will be eradicated. Don’t get too comfortable Badness, your days are numbered. Already we have come so far in exposing your malevolent nature.
Watch as your cancerous empire crumbles you pathetic parody of a pantomime villain.
I know that the moment of your destruction has not come soon enough for my mum. You will ‘win’ in respect of being the cause of death on a piece of paper that this writer and reader would never want to scribe or read.
There are times when I mistakenly think that you are more powerful as I watch how you physically and emotionally diminish her. But Badness, never can you win.
Whilst love, peace, compassion, research, awareness and memories remain, you cannot destroy the essence of us; patient or loved one.
Bugger off, Badness. Screw you, Cancer.
The gig is up.
You’ve been exposed for the coward that you are.
Bravery and love wins. I wrote this. I published this. Here is your evidence.
I have a feeling there will be others reading this, affected by cancer, who will be adding their voices, whether silent or made known publicly.
Brace yourself. We are stronger than you think.
From the daughter of a woman who will never be yours. Either of us.