Cancer…what’s up with that?

I don’t even know where to start. Anything I have to say about the matter is pretty commonplace. I don’t get into the “Cancer sucks” memes that go around, because I don’t know anyone who says cancer rocks.

Seriously, though, I’ve tried writing this post several times and each time I’ve failed. It’s been fourteen years and I’m still mad, I guess.

In 1997, I got married. My parents came to the wedding, and everyone kept commenting on how much weight my mom had lost. Everyone was smiles about it. Except me. Something in my head said, “This isn’t right.”
So, I begged her to go see a doctor as soon as she got home. She promised me she would…when her new insurance kicked in. A few short months later, she was diagnosed with Colo-rectal cancer.

Eleven months after that, she was gone.

I’ve tried to write about the ordeal. The trials. The pain. The torture of watching your mother being eating alive from the inside. The agony of sitting at her bedside when she finally realized there was nothing left they could do. The hopelessness I felt because all I could do was hold her hand and tell her I loved her…and that I couldn’t answer any of her questions; that no one could. I’ve tried. And every time I’ve failed. I just can’t do it justice. It’s too close, too visceral. And because to this day, there’s a single question that still haunts my memories:

“Why do I have to die?”

Her cancer had spread from her colon to her liver. She had over a hundred small tumors spotting her liver, and the cancer was spreading to her pelvis bones. We had transferred her from the hospital to a hospice when the doctor made the call that all treatment options had been exhausted.We told mom she was being transferred to a private hospital. The word hospice was never mentioned to her. In retrospect, I don’t know why. She worked in the medical field in some form or other her entire life. She knew. But I digress.

The hospice room was darkened. The only light was what filtered through the open door from the hallway. I peeked in to see how she was doing. She put a finger up and waved for me to come in.

“Shhh…come here.”

I walked over and sat at her bedside. He hands were pale and ice cold. The fingernails were growing darker around the base. A sign that the end was near.

“Did you see him?”


“That man in the hallway. He just died. Now, he’s down there waiting for them to come get him.”

I was enraged. The hospice policy was to close all doors before wheeling a body out for pick-up. I told my mom I’d be right back. I walked with all the righteous anger I could muster at 2 AM. I went to the nursing station and demanded to know why they didn’t close the door before taking the man down the hall out.

A nurse who was on the phone, dropped the headset. She  looked at me wide-eyed. She hung the phone up. “We haven’t taken him from his room. In fact, I haven’t even had a chance to call his family yet. How did you know?”

After an awkward pause, I told them what my mom said. One nurse walked over to me and grabbed me by the elbow and took me outside. She told me what my mom saw was common. The day after someone dies, almost every person in the ward says the person came to say ‘bye’ before going away. (Mind=Blown)²

So, shaken, I walked back to my  mom’s room. She wanted me to sit down. So, I did. Then she teared up. “Scotty Ray, I’m so damn scared.”

I held her hand. “It’s okay mom. I’m here.”

“Why? Why won’t they give me a new liver?”

Tears filled my eyes, “Because they can’t get rid of all of the cancer.”

“So, this is it. Why? Why do I have to die?”

“I guess God needs another angel.”

We held hands and cried in the dark as the clock ticked in the background. Each second marked was one less second we would have together.


ancer stole my mother.

I know what your saying. “So, why this story? Why now?”

Because today is World Cancer Day.

Back in the ’70s it was a rare thing to know someone with cancer. Now, EVERY family is touched by it in some way shape or form. Get educated. And let’s see if we can start kicking cancer’s ass back.

As a parent, you owe your children at least that.

Addendum: I’m angry, not because cancer is a guaranteed cold-hearted killer. No, I’m angry because the advancements in treatment over the last decade could have prevented her death. There are better treatments, better screenings nowadays. I’m just mad that it couldn’t have waited a few years longer before striking. The outcome might have been drastically different. And I would give so much for my sons to be able to see her in person just one time.

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10 Responses

  1. Pippi

    I can only imagine the heartbreak of losing your mother…too early…to such a horrible disease. I am sorry. I can feel your emotions in this piece.

    • diaper_dad

      On the upside, it’s really made me think seriously about the garbage in our food now. Also, it was a big factor in me quitting smoking. So, there’s some good that has come of it. It was surprising though, while writing, how fresh and raw some of those emotions still are…even after all these years.

  2. Robyn Iversen

    I love you Scott. I know how hard that was to write and I know how hard it’s been without your mom. She would be EXTREMELY proud of you!

  3. Joanie

    I know how hard it was for you to sit there in the dark. My heart aches that you had to live through that . Ive faced it as well. And time doesn’t make it all go away no matter what anyone says.

  4. Mitchell

    Wow. I can’t imagine the whole of the emotions that must go with all of this. I appreciate you sharing it as you did.

  5. Robert Iversen

    As a friend and fellow son of a mother who died because of cancer, I really empathize with you… more than we will both ever know. I share tears reading your story because of the questions, because of the love lost, because of the what could have been, and because the chance my sons will never have to meet their dad’s mom. I have a wonderful mother-in-law, but it would have been really nice for them to have known my mom… who would have been 76 years on the 19th of February… ironically in the same month as World Cancer Day. I love you, my friend, brother in Christ, and brother in deep pains of the heart. Yes, cancer sucks and I do not believe it was ever God’s plan or intention. Just my 2 cents.

  6. gina valleyg

    My heart aches for your loss. How awful to lose your mother. It is even worse to have had her taken so cruelly. I am so sorry.

    I think we are doubly pained with the loss of our parents when we become parents because of the loss to our kids. I am sorry your kids don’t get to meet your mom here, but I’m sure a lot of her is in you, so they are blessed through that.

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s a beautiful piece.

  7. diaper_dad

    You guys’ comments are great. Yeah, it sucks to have lost my mom. And yes, there’s a lot of her in me. But the part that I find amazing is how much of her I see in my sons. My oldest gets a certain look in his eye that it is scary how much he looks like her. When he sleeps, I can see my mom. And when they are older, my boys will know about their other grandma. But for now, I take solace in the little bits of her that have survived and will continue to survive long after I’m gone.

    So, yes, she may no longer be here, but she’s not gone entirely. I can get behind that. 😀

    Thank you again, EVERYONE, for making a painful day, a joyous one.

  8. Jenn C.

    Scott, I just did a quick search for “Doctor Who” on your blog, because of your comment on the Tampa bay Bloggers group. This is not at all what I was expecting to find, but WOW it really did tell me so much more about you than a DW fan post ever could. I can’t even bring myself to imagine life without my own mother or father. It’s just to painful. Thank you for sharing your/mom’s story. I’m so glad to hear that you’ve been blessed with glimpses of your mom in your sons and she’s inspired you to clean up your eating and quit smoking!

    I do still hope to read a little Doctor Who love on your blog. Thanks for taking the time to read mine! I’ll send you an invitation to join my group, Tampa Bay Whovians!

    • diaper_dad

      I’m a recent convert. Over the last few months, I’ve devoured the series. And, yes, I’ve never actually written about it. Not that I won’t, mind you. I just haven’t felt myself to have enough ‘street cred’ as a Whovian yet. 😀


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