A Letter to My Loved One’s Terminal Cancer

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

United hands with flower - CancerYou 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.

Caring Hand on Senior Hand - Cancer

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

Hand and barbed wire - CancerI 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

Hands and rope - CancerYou 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.

Hands of fire - CancerBravery 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.

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer. When she's not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, books, the cats, and the husband. Perhaps not in that order.

29 comments on “A Letter to My Loved One’s Terminal Cancer

  1. Mascara alert required!
    Thanks so much for putting into words what most of us think and feel about the Badness. Get renaming btw.
    Sending hugs xoxox

  2. Difficult to put things in words (although loving that you’re allowing us to comment in purple). This is an incredibly deep post and it felt wrong to comment 2 hours ago just for the sake of it. As always, still here and listening. Sometimes the right words don’t exist and hugs, I find, are the best way of indicating support. Lots of hugs to all of you. I keep begging the Husband to let me know if there is anything I can do to make your lives a little easier at this time. Seriously, let me know. x

    1. Thanks Pam. These collection of words are perfect because I know they’re filled with love and care. The Husband and I have felt so encouraged by your support. x

  3. Sending love and hugs to you and your mum, and your family. Cancer sucks, and it’s thanks to people like you who spread awareness that many more people can fight it and beat it. Thank you for this post 🙂

  4. Wonderful words Lisa. Powerful and deep. I watched both my parents go thorough this years ago. I vividly recall hearing the diagnoses from the Specialist, first with my dad, then many years later with my mom. As hard as the news was for me to hear, I couldn’t fathom the terror they must have felt.
    But we made the most of the time left.

    Cherish the time together. Wishing you and your family the best.

    1. Mike, I’m so incredibly sad to hear that you lost both parents to cancer. Life can be so cruel sometimes.

      Thank you for your advice and for taking the time to share it with me.

  5. Thank you for sharing Lisa, I can tell it was written from the heart. I also have a blog, but cannot share it just yet and I feel very thankful to be free of the badness which had squatted in my breast. Keep being amazing.

    1. Denise, I feel privileged that you’ve not only read and commented, but also that you’ve shared your experience of the Badness with me. I hope one day you get to share it on your blog because I’m sure it will help others.

      I wish you a healthy and happy future.

  6. You’ve taken my Nan, you’ve taken others I know but when we take you we won’t remember you with fondness, we won’t look at pictures of you nor will we visit your final resting place with flowers and tears. Instead we’ll cheer with tears of celebration knowing that you work be able to tear another family apart again.

    We’re going to kick your fucking arse and kick it big.

    1. Wow Christopher! Thanks for the back up in telling that Badness the score! Powerful words and I’m right with you.

      I am, however, sorry to hear about your Nan. Her memory lives on as we continue to expose this arsehole illness.

      Thank you for such an inspiring comment. I wish you well.

  7. Thanks for your honesty and openness. You mom is so proud! This was a heartbreaking account of the realities of cancer. My mom was diagnosed when I was in 2nd grade, cleared and then diagnosed a second time when I was in 4th grade, then in remission for 17 years before I had to watch her endure this pain a third time. Watching her, and being a part of her daily trials and tribulations as an adult wrecked me and shaped me into the person that I am today. Thoughts and hugs to you from afar!

    1. Thank you April for sharing your experience with me. I can already feel how this is changing me and can relate to how you’ve stated that it’s altered you.

      I wish you’d never had to go through this with your mum but the Badness doesn’t care, does it?

      Thank you so much for commenting.

  8. Beautifully written. So raw and full of emotion. I’m sorry your mother is suffering, and in turn you and your family. This peace is heartwarming.

  9. You owe me a box of tissues, but thank you for sharing your strong and empowering words. I’ve lost two friends to cancer recently, and I needed the reminder not to fear cancer or give it any control over me.

    1. Oh Laura, I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve lost two friends to this Badness. Your tears are so very much for them and never for this cruel illness. I feel honoured that my post has helped you to see that in some way.

      Wishing you well. Thanks so much for sharing.

  10. This is so true I lost my husband to the badness after a very long six year fight you are also right about the family and friends who don’t ring because THEY can’t cope thank God for the real friends I hope you find peacexxx

    1. Elaine, I wish we never had to have this exchange but here we are…

      It’s so hard in these situations to find that the people you thought were valued friends and family just aren’t. I guess many of us still fear talking about death and terminal illness. I’m pleased you have people around you that are consistent and unafraid of ‘getting it wrong’.

      Thank you for sharing and for your wish for peace. I hope you have, or find it, also. x

  11. Lisa this touched me on so many levels
    I agree with every word about the Badness
    Sadly it stole my beautiful mum in July this year
    And my god it destroyed her despite her strength- she did win no doubt because we loved her so very much
    Treasure every minute worth your mum
    Your words made me cry x
    Lots of love. X

    1. Philippa I am so genuinely sad and sorry to hear that this has happened to you. I feel so desperately angry that you had to go through this but I am heartened that love won through in the end because even from a few sentences I can see that your love for her is huge. I hope you are being supported and strengthened by loved ones. x

      1. Lisa we should not have to witness our loved ones struggle to stay with us
        But I knew in the end we would all lose out
        And now 20 weeks on and the void is unbearable
        I have All this love to still give mum but no way of showing her anymore x
        Every minute counts now with her – take that time and treasure
        Tell her everything you want her to know
        And remind her that she will live on in you all x
        The only blessing I take from her loss is she is with my brother and she can be a mum to him again xx

  12. Wonderfully written from the heart… I can relate so so very much as I am walking this path with my seeet mum to… badness one day we are coming to get you!!!!! ❣️❣️❣️

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