One week ago today, cancer took the physical life of my mother. Cancer may have killed my mother, but we didn’t let it have the last word. Yes, our family was filled with sadness, but we had a way to express our personal grief.

Let me just start with . . . .

Cancer Sucks

I personally don’t like nor do I use the word “sucks” but in this case, there is no other way to talk about cancer. It’s all very raw right now. 

My mom had multiple bouts with this horrendous illness. It robbed her of her life piece-by-piece. I was jealous of other mothers/child relationships because our relationship became 90% talking about her medical condition. And I don’t blame her – it’s just how her life was. 

It’s not fair. She didn’t deserve any of this. And there was nothing I could do to stop it. Nothing.

We could never get away from it. Her last major cancer bout was anal cancer, which she was diagnosed about three years ago. She endured chemo and radiation. Even though she was given a very high chance of remission (according to the doctors), the treatment was terrible. She was driven to Rochester every single day for 5 weeks. I saw my mom go from walking (in fact, almost running) to her first treatment to needing a wheelchair immediately upon exiting the car and barely able to ring the bell on her last cancer treatment. She had numerous hospital stays in Rochester and some of those visits, I brought my dad. As terrible as this sounds, but these car trips to Rochester with my dad were some of my best memories

She immediately started numerous hyperbaric oxygen treatments to help the healing process on her bottom side. It never succeeded. Her pain never ended.

Cancer sucks.

And due to the radiation treatment, her bladder was damaged and she needed a catheter. No longer could she use the restroom like the rest of us. And the catheter would be forever. Always, always a reminder wrapped around her leg.

During her last few weeks, the pain was unbearable. I am so thankful for a brother who lived near so we could tag team. I am not a strong person. Towards the end, I struggled to go see her and talk with her on the phone. I couldn’t tolerate the screaming and crying – it was killing me inside and I felt so helpless. Many trips to the ER because of the pain. I feel bad because we didn’t know where the pain was coming from until shortly before she passed. 

At times, I felt like I abandoned her. Thank God for my brother who could step in while I regained and recharged some energy for the following day. It was hell on earth – first and foremost for her and for us because we were helpless. Nothing was helping her pain. 

Cancer sucks.

So thankful for hospice. Once it became clear what was going on, hospice came to the rescue. They were a godsend. Our main goal was just to make her comfortable and they did just that. She was in hospice for a mere five days.

Her family surrounded her as she took her last breath. The very first thing I requested was to have her stupid catheter bag removed. And I was disgusted with her assisted living home because they did not allow her to spend her final days at home with my dad. They refused to allow her to come “home.” And I still have a hard time with that. Her family (excluding my dad because he couldn’t make the trip) was at her side when she took her final breath. 

Cancer sucks.

As we were preparing funeral arrangements, a thought came over me. You see, her apartment was filled with remnants of cancer. It was everywhere. There were boxes of unused pads, gauze, bandages, gels, creams, supplies for sitz baths, extra catheter bags. Items she needed to just get through each day of pain. I wanted to get rid of all this crap. And my brothers felt the same.

And we did.

“Cancer Burning” Fire

After the funeral, the family gathered at my home and we had a “cancer burning” fire. We took everything that defined her for the last three years and we burned it. And it was a big, big fire. People took turns adding “cancer” items to the fire. In my mind, it was symbolic

Did it change the results? No, my mom is still gone. But dammit, we wanted the last word. Judge me if you want, but this was all we had left and we wanted the last say. 

Maybe part of the grieving process. Probably. I have so many feelings and thoughts about what she went through that it’s going to take a long time to get through all the layers. When your loved one goes through cancer, you just keep putting your foot forward to the next step and push back and try to forget what is behind you. 

Yes, this is all new–it’s only been a week. Yes, I am still having my daily cries. Yes, I am angry, sad, resentful all wrapped up together. Yes, time will help. Yes, prayer, family, and friends will help. And I probably may regret some of the things I wrote here, but the pain is real  . . . My head knows that she is in a much better place but my heart is not there. 

But for right now.

Cancer sucks.

I would love to hear your stories. Would have you done the same thing? 


Similar Posts


  1. I LOVE the fire idea! No judging here- my mom died of Alzheimers- not the same at all but still way to intense and went on for years. I am sending you love, hugs and prayers.

  2. So sorry. I know it’s not enough to say that.
    I am glad you felt comfortable enough to tell how you were feeling.
    And like you, I don’t use that ‘sucks’ word often, I always use ‘vacuums’. However in your writing, cancer sucks, was the perfect wording.
    Thoughts are with you.

  3. Oh, Wanda…. your words make me feel your pain, frustration and grief. I thank you for sharing such raw emotion and helping us understand what caregivers experience. Your mom was more than a courage-filled ‘trooper.’ She was tenacious in her earthly journey. I applaud the bonfire. I hope there was some small amount of healing through that. Sending hugs and condolences. :(

  4. I lost my little sister to cancer last August. My brother-in-law said he didn’t want cancer to define her even though the last 3.5 years of her life were all about cancer. That bonfire would have been something we would have done if it had occured to us. It’s great that you did it. Cancer surely does SUCK!

  5. God bless, Wanda. I can’t imagine how hard it is to lose a parent to cancer and to see them in pain and suffer like that. I pray for healing and peace for your family.

  6. Hey Wanda, Not sure what to say. But I want you and yours to do well.

  7. Hi Wanda,
    I just read your blog and had tears rolling down my face. I am so very sorry for the loss of your mom to cancer. I hope in time you and your family will have peace and healing. I wish I could give you the biggest hug right now.
    Christine in Canada.

  8. So sorry to hear. Cancer takes to many!!! Lost a half brother, two sister-in-laws and three nephews all to cancer. Another half brother had colon cancer but survives. Flip side my Mother passed last Sept. at 95 years old. Take what we get and be thankful! The world keeps on turning good or bad! I follow you because Farming has been in my blood since birth, get a lift from your Posts!

  9. I’m so very sorry for your loss and your pain, Wanda, but thank you for sharing what you have gone through. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to sit down and write this but hopefully it was somewhat cathartic for you. I hope you know that you touch many with your writing. My prayers are with you and your family as you mourn this terrible loss.

  10. I’m so sorry you lost your mum – I’d be devastated to lose mine….but I think claiming her life back again by burning the cancer stuff was a wonderful tribute to her and one you should be proud of :) x

  11. Thanks for sharing, Wanda. I’m with you. Cancer sucks. I’m also with you regarding the burning. I often turn to fire for healing. I hope your family finds peace. I’m glad you had the last word.

  12. I had not thought of the point you make that your relationship became defined by the cancer. What a double loss

  13. My condolences to you and blessings to you and your family. Sometimes a purge is just what’s needed. In Calif, we are not allowed to burn like that due to toxins that would be released, but I have let a balloon go with all those negative thoughts and memories.

  14. You are such a courageous woman, i really admire your strength. Cancer really does suck, no better term to describe it.

  15. Wanda, I left a comment and then the internet ate it up so if this posts twice you can delete one of them!

    I am so sorry!! I completely understand. My mother died of cancer in 2000 when I was 42. She was 62. She had more than one type of cancer wracking her body and in the end they gave her so much morphine that we couldn’t communicate with her. When I saw the fire photo I felt that it was probably cathartic for you to burn all those things. God bless you and your family, Wanda, and I will pray for you. Our mothers are in a better place but I still miss mine.

    1. Thanks Aileen. And my mother also had so much morphine at the end that she could not communicate with us. It was terrible. Thankfully she is in a much better place and without pain.

  16. I lost my mom after a five month bout of cancer five years ago. It was living hell on all of us that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. That burning party sounds excellent; how therapeutic it must have been!
    I love it.
    I will never judge anyone in that position; it becomes doing what you need to to survive.

    1. Thanks Lori. You are right about the living hell. It was terrible. And the burning party was therapeutic. And the part I didn’t mention is our county had s burning ban. I didn’t care. It needed to be done.

  17. Hi Wanda, I’m so sorry for your loss. Cancer does suck. We lost our mom, plus a few other family members to cancer (aunt, brother-in-law..). Our mom died in 2002 but I still shed tears occasionally and am grateful to have good memories of her in my heart. I applaud you for sharing – that’s what helps us all move forward. Your blog and website are terrific.

  18. So sorry for your loss. I loss my mother to ovarian cancer in 1988 and it is still painful to think about. She was only 67 and wanted to live so badly. She spent the last 3 months of her life in a hospital that was an hour from home. We put our lives on hold in order to be there for her. When we knew that the end was near, we tried to bring her home to our local hospital, but we were told that there was no room for her. Her cancer journey was full of ups and downs, hope and hopelessness. She went through so much pain while trying to beat it. It gets easier, but you never forget.

    1. I am so sorry for your loss. 67 is very young. I was just so disappointed when her assisted living home would not allow her to come back home. She really wanted to be home and my dad was not there when she passed. I will address this at some point but my dad still lives there. Won’t address it until he no longer lives there. Thank you for sharing your story.

  19. Pingback: 2016 In The Rearview Mirror, The Good And The Bad - Minnesota Farm Living

Comments are closed.