My Chemical Romance’s “Cancer” Lyrics Meaning

Most simply explained, in this narrative Gerard Way takes on the role of a character whose death from cancer is imminent. There is a whole back story behind certain lyrics, as the concept album this piece is derived from revolves around said character. But knowing this backstory is not necessary in terms of appreciating what the lyrics are putting forth.

And as for Gerard Way, he is still very much alive and kicking. Also, it doesn’t appear that anyone particularly close to him has met such a fate. So in this song, it can be said that he’s both empathizing and sympathizing with such individuals, i.e. terminal cancer patients.

And if in such a predicament, as in not only being about to pass away but also being victimized by chemotherapy, he apparently envisions himself or someone like this as being in too emotional of a state to actually bid farewell to his loved one. 

Indeed, it isn’t the inevitability of death that has the narrator intimidated, even though he is aware that some common experiences, such as being married, will be denied (thus implying that he’s young). Rather it is the thought of leaving his loved ones behind that seems to be disturbing him the most.

The Addressee of “Cancer”

Then in the outro he is asking the addressee, who reads like a loved one that is present at his deathbed, that “if you say goodbye today… be true”. That is a very ambiguous statement which can be interpreted in different ways. 

But one theory that seems plausible is that, as put forth by a number of music scholars, is that he wants there to be an actual closure point in their relationship. Or put differently, the narrator doesn’t want to go in his sleep without a proper farewell.

Conclusively

Truth be told, just analyzing these lyrics can get you in the feels. And to some extent that is the intended purpose, i.e. for them to have a direct emotional impact on the listener. But at the same time, Gerard has asserted that the cancer in this song, which is never namedropped by the way, can be interpreted as a metaphorical symbol. However, he does not specify as to what it represents unless, as implied by Gerard, it is symbolic of disease itself.

My Chemical Romance, "Cancer" Lyrics
My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way explains "Cancer"

My Chemical Romance

My Chemical Romance is a band from the New Jersey city of Newark who have dropped a number of hits during the aughts. And “Cancer” can be considered one of them in that it has been certified gold by the RIAA.

My Chemical Romance managed to put out four studio albums between 2002 and 2010. The third of those efforts, 2006’s “The Black Parade”, is the only amongst them to have made it onto the top 10 of the UK Albums Chart and Billboard 200. Moreover it went multi-platinum in both countries. 

And it does not appear that “Cancer” was one of the singles issued from that project. However, it still managed to be certified, as noted above.

Facts about “Cancer”

When this track came out on 23rd October 2006, My Chemical Romance was five members’ deep. The following four of those individuals are still down with the band –

  • Gerard Way
  • Mike Way (who plays tambourine on this track)
  • Frank Iero
  • Ray Toro

Meanwhile the fifth, member Bob Bryar, left the outfit in 2010.

The Twenty One Pilots covered this song in 2016 and officially released it as a promotional single. And that time around “Cancer” did chart in a handful of countries. And to note, Gerard was also “really impressed” with their version.

The five aforementioned bandmates are officially credited as the writers of this track.  But according to the musician, Rob Cavallo, who produced the track alongside the unit, it was actually Gerard who authored it.  And he did so under a spell of intense inspiration, having the song written, with the help of Cavallo, in just eight minutes and promptly recorded thereafter.

A live version of “Cancer”, rendered by My Chemical Romance, can be found on select editions, i.e. as the B-side, of another tune that actually came out as a single from “The Black Parade”, that being “I Don’t Love You”.

Cancer

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