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Stupid vs cancer

She was halfway through treatment to fight Stage 1 Cervical Cancer. It was taking a toll on her body, but she continued to fight.

Mother’s Day found her feeling well and so I had her over for lunch and gardening. We talked about how differently she saw life now that the “C” word had hit her like a ton of bricks.

You know I’ve been thinking,” she said.

I’ve spent way too much time freaking out about stupid things. When you get cancer, all other things pale in comparison.

A dirt-covered hand wiped her brow as she continued. “So my new rule is: stupid versus cancer. If it’s not cancer, it’s stupid – let it go. In my opinion, death or stupid really sums it up.

My mom lived another five months before the “C” word would take her.

Stupid vs cancer:

In the thirteen weeks since she died, I’ve thought about her “stupid versus cancer” rule. When I’m knee deep in dirty diapers, when traffic is heavy, when the dog has chewed up yet another of my daughter’s toys – I ask myself, is this cancer, or is it stupid?

Stupid vs cancer:

So in a sense, my sweet mama taught me some of life’s greatest lessons in her final months on this earth. Simplicity at its finest: letting go of what doesn’t matter, and choosing to find joy among the difficult. As hard as it is at times to walk through this season of grief, I’m grateful for her words that warm day in May.

Stupid vs cancer:

Do you find yourself struggling with this, too? Do you think the “stupid versus cancer” rule will remind you that often the best thing we can do is let it go?

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  1. Sue

    This was my mantra for three years after my daughter’s heart transplant (at 4 MO – she is now almost five years old). I would try to catch myself when I started to freak out about something and think, “at least I’m not in a hospital room.” or “it isn’t a heart transplant.” It really does put things in perspective, but this was a great reminder because as the pain and worry of that period fade, I started to lose it a bit. I will begin to appreciate it again. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Katelyn

    I’m so sorry for your loss. We lost my step father almost 9 years ago to lung cancer.

    Along similar lines, I try to ask myself, “Will it matter tomorrow?” If it’s not something lasting then I try to let it go. I’ve slipped from this recently with my 3.5 year old and I would do well to remember it again. Thank you for the reminder.

  3. Amy E Patton

    I just finished leaving a long comment on Melanie Shankel’s big mama blog. So let me just say, this is literally part two of an answer to prayer I just prayed. I know what to do with a hurt. Let it go. Thank you.

  4. Bek {Just For Daisy}

    Such beautiful words. Thanks for sharing. A friend’s mum died of cancer two weeks ago. Devastating. Thanks for the reminder – I will use that cancer v stupid. Hugs to you xx

  5. Southern Gal

    Perspective. Mine gets out of whack quite frequently. I like how your mom faced life. So sorry for your loss.

  6. alicia

    My beautiful boy (4yrs) has 3 chemos left in his treatment, with a great prognosis. It is easy for me to worry that I will lose the clarity the last year has brought. Having a simple phrase like that to think of will help. Thanks! (It is easy, even in the thick of it) to lose perspective.

  7. Jen

    Thank you. I am so sorry for your loss…truly. My mom began chemo yesterday and this is my new mantra…will share it with her today.

  8. Kelly

    As my dad is currently going through chemo for stage IV lung cancer, this couldn’t be more timely. I’m so sorry for your loss, but so thankful that you shared your heart.

  9. carmen

    True! I recently read about a lady battling with C word, and she said, “don’t have time to waste in geeting mad, why I can’t live with C-word? C word took my mom’s life one day before mother’s day. Good advice! Thank you!

  10. Courtney

    I lost my mom to cancer when I was in college. Watching her suffer and ultimately losing her gave me a clear lesson in stupid – one that my friends and roommates had yet to learn. (Which was a good thing. I wish the world’s problems would never cross the line from petty to serious.) I found it difficult to relate to my college friends after that.

  11. Tiffany

    I was “lucky” enough to be diagnosed with breast cancer at age 33. It changed my life in so many ways. I am truly grateful and proud to say that I ask myself “is this stupid or is this cancer” every single day. It puts everything in perspective and reminds me to live in the moment and keep trying to the best I can do for my wellbeing and that of my family and those I love. A true gift.

  12. Shelly

    Wow. Talk about perspective. For years I’ve been guilty of making excuses for my complaining…I have ten kids in the house, everything’s always messy, I don’t have time to myself. Thank you for showing me what I’ve known all along- there is no excuse!

  13. Leah

    My mum has just been admitted to hospital for a staph infection three weeks after having her fourth cancer removed. She is of the same mind – life is short and she had been blessed four times and now the small things are very unimportant. Enjoy the now, decline the negative and look towards the future. It’s the best that we can all hope for. 🙂

  14. Kimberly Fay

    A great article and a great reminder for me. Thank you for sharing. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  15. Darcy

    We are in the middle of chemo treatments for our 6 year old son.
    It definitely puts things in perspective.
    Our saying, “Let go of the trivial!”

    We use that and have found more time for just being together as a family with both our children.

    Sorry for your loss. Thanks for the lovely post and beautiful photos.

    • Darcy Wiley

      I’m a Darcy with a 6-year-old son, too. Praying for you now as yours is going through this. I hope he is responding well to treatments and that you’ll see him back to normalcy and full health soon.

  16. Abbie

    I hear you. Loud and clear! My stepdad is fighting cancer right now, and the chemo hasn’t touched it. It’s amazing how my perspective has changed since his journey started. I’ve said to myself numerous times, “Well, at least I’m not dying!” Perspective is a powerful thing. I’m so sorry about you mom. No matter how prepared you think you are, it’s hard to see them go.

  17. Linda

    With those words your mom will live on for ever. I loved it so much I am thinking of getting it tattooed on my arm as a reminder when I loose perspective which is too often.
    Thanks so much for posting.
    stupid vs cancer
    love it

  18. Terry

    My 17 yr old niece was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia before Christmas right out of nowhere…She used to live with us. I have a 15 yr old daughter and they are close. She is like another daughter to me. It still doesn’t seem real to all of us. She has been so effected by the chemo that they can’t move forward to give her the next round. As I have been walking through this with my brother I have definitely gained a whole different perspective~you just put the words to it…I thank you for sharing and my heart and prayers go out to you~I am still grieving the loss of my dad(he was 85/natural causes and am on this journey with my mom. We think she has melanoma but refuses to see a doctor(she is only 76/wants to die because my dad is gone) ~~”my parents are my heart”…”my family is my heart”~~

  19. Bridget

    Thank you for the post and reminding me of the beauty of perspective. Alton Brown once said something like “If it doesn’t say ‘incurable ‘ or ‘indictment’, its all small stuff”. I need to remind myself of that more often.

    I’m sorry for your loss. Having lost both parents in the last 10 years, I can empathize. Healing thoughts.

  20. Sue L

    Sorry that your mom lost her battle. Her words are so true, the big C puts things into perspective. My daughter had cancer when she was a baby (she is now 14) and that lesson has stayed with me. Every day I am not living in a hospital is a good day.

  21. Sheri Zee

    We all need this reminder every now and then. Thank you. And so sorry for your loss.

  22. Anne Marie

    I found out I had cancer when they removed a cyst during my son’s premature birth. Cancer and a newborn premie and a shocking death of my MIL all within 6 weeks meant some of the most challenging times in our life but we survived. Not only did we survive but we thrived learning how much our friends and family truly care for us. Whenever things get crazy, I try to remember to pause and reflect at how far we’ve come. This post is so incredibly accurate for me. Stupid vs. Cancer is a motto I try hard to remember to live by everyday. Your mother was a very wise woman. I’m so sorry for your loss!

  23. Jennifer Henson

    Just found out that someone dear to me will be entering her journey against cancer through surgery and treatments… I appreciated this post so much. You are so right-stupid traffic in the school pick up line is nothing compared to the wind being knocked out of you from hearing “cancer”…

  24. AR

    My condolences for your loss. It is a different and reflective time of life, isn’t it? My sister, who has two young children, has stage IV bile duct cancer. Stupid versus Cancer defines life right now. Sometimes the stupid stuff is good to get caught up in though – it takes our minds off the cancer for a moment! Thank you for sharing. Peace ~

  25. Sue Hodgson

    A very wise woman your mom… Stupid vs. Cancer puts it all into perspective. My mum is at the beginning of her battle and sadly my brothers battle is over.

    …couldn’t agree more Cancer Sucks.

    ~hugs~ Sue

  26. Vanessa

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. Much love to you and your family during this time.

    I apply a similar rule at work, where people stress out far too much in my book: “will anyone die if this doesn’t go wrong?” – now I do work in a dangerous industry, where yes, people can and have died at work, but the critical nature of the work doesn’t really apply to a meeting, or a broken printer.

  27. Sharon


    I’m sorry for your loss. My best friend’s Mom died from Cancer when we were teens. I just don’t know where you go from there.

    As someone who has Cancer currently, I definitely think this has been my attitude since I was diagnosed almost a year ago. If I weren’t walking through it right now, I’m not sure the idea would be as relevant to me. But, it is very relevant to me that most things in life are small and don’t really matter after you’ve been faced with something so big.

    An acquaintance recently shared this with me. The artists wife had Cancer. I liked the words to the song, and I especially liked what is written below the video.

  28. jessica

    yes, isn’t this the hardest? the part of life we all need to work at? the days are long but the years are short.

  29. sigrid

    thank you for sharing I will try to practice cancer or stupid

  30. Darcy Wiley

    Angie, I’m sad to hear the “C” word took your mother so early. (My own mom lost her mother to the same when I was just a toddler. We’ve both felt that empty space in our family these three decades.) But what a happy reminder of your mom you must have every time you use her phrase.

    It reminds me of what Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird when a doctor couldn’t provide any comforting words about her friend Pammy who was dying, but instead said, “Watch her carefully right now,” she said, “because she’s teaching you how to live.” Anne went on to say, “Time is so full for people who are dying in a conscious way, full in the way that life is for children.” The picture of your mom on the blanket with your kids under the tree is just perfect.

    P.S. My friend Rachel was telling me about you the other day (I’m helping her with the proposal for her “big project”) and here you popped up in my email through Art of Simple. 🙂

  31. Mare

    This is so lovely and smart and wise….I love this. I love the question, is this cancer, or is it stupid? Such a perfect framework to pop everything in. We spend so much time on STUPID. I have heard before that people who have cancer say they now see things clearly – the see things authentically. What a gift, even though it comes through suffering. God bless you and your mom. Thank you for sharing this.

  32. kristin

    this has helped me so much,
    having family that suffered too from cancer, but it really makes us stop to think what is important,, thank you Tsh,, for having this site,, I love it!!!

  33. henry

    Sorry that your mom passed away, and I advice you to eat real healthy and stay fit. we do control our health more than we like to believe. By the way, milk is linked to cancer and many people drink it everyday. The cow hormones are not good for humans.

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