Crying man bends over and reaches for a mirror on the floor. In the reflection he is smiling, not crying.

Mourning and Remembering Life Before Cancer

Last updated: May 2023

A cancer diagnosis is life-changing. It’s bad enough when it’s a curable cancer, but so much worse when it’s incurable and the reality of a premature death hits you.

Then the treatment side effects kick in and can change your life immeasurably.

Missing my life before cancer

I spent a lot of time mourning the old pre-cancer life I had lost. The reality is that I spent far too much time thinking about dying and lost the joy of living as a result.

It took me 18 months, my younger sister going into a hospice for end of life care for breast cancer, and some problems that were plaguing me before I had what I can only describe as a complete mental breakdown. Breaking into tears regularly, feeling suicidal, and completely at the end of my tether. I was in a very unhappy place.

Finding ways to cope

Thankfully after some therapy, I emerged from the very dark place I’d descended into. Since then I’ve tried to remember the joy of living and to get the maximum joy from life.

When I was diagnosed, I had one grandson, and we dote on each other. I’ve gone on to have another three grandchildren, and I adore them all. They give me the greatest joy you can imagine, and I live for them.

I don’t think I mourn my pre-cancer life any more. But I do mourn living a normal life, because every time I try to do so the consequences are horrendous.

Feeling more fatigue

A great example was a weekend in March that my wife and I spent at a country musical festival. Our American readers will recognize the names of the headline acts: Thomas Rhett, Lady A, and The Zac Brown Band. It was four days of great music, but it called for early starts at 7 a.m. and late finishes, including getting to bed at midnight before repeating the following day.

We had a truly wonderful time and traveled home on the Monday feeling great, but then the consequences hit. I suffered two weeks of the most dreadful fatigue, where I felt so unimaginably awful. Virtually incapable of existing and frequently going to bed in tears because I felt so shattered. And then lying there wide awake because I wasn’t tired; it was fatigue.

Usually, my go-to when I’m feeling fatigued has been to go out and have a gentle run. But I wasn't able to do that, having developed an injury. A bit of walking helped, but I found that I tired very easily. Thankfully I got back to running, but it felt more challenging than it did previously.

Wanting to do normal things

Part of my brain keeps telling me that my treatment has started to fail and my body is fighting something more sinister. But I know deep down that that is a pretty ridiculous thought process, and it’s highly unlikely.

Ultimately I’d just love to be able to do normal things, live a normal life, and not suffer consequences as a result. Yes, I still mourn. I mourn normality!

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.


This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

Has prostate cancer changed your life? (Select all that apply)