TV Titan Uzo Aduba Talks About Losing Her Mom to Pancreatic Cancer in New Role as SU2C Spokesperson

Published Sep 24, 2021

Chris Spargo

Uzo Aduba Remembers Her Mom

  • Actress Uzo Aduba says she struggled to cope with her mother’s death last year from pancreatic cancer and that therapy helped.
  • The actress is working with Stand Up To Cancer to launch the group’ s campaign encouraging cancer patients to share their experiences in hopes of accelerating the pace of cancer research.
  • “I’m proud to lend my support to this campaign to encourage patients, especially from minority communities, to share their personal stories to help researchers discover breakthrough cancer treatments,” Aduba said in a statement.

Uzo Adubo has accomplished more in the past decade than most actors do in a lifetime, recently picking up her fifth Emmy nomination for her work on In Treatment after previously winning for her portrayal of Shirley Chilsom in Mrs. America and taking home two trophies for her breakthrough role in Orange Is the New Black.

She is now adding another role to her already stacked resume as the newest spokesperson for Stand Up To Cancer.

It is a role that hits very close to home for the actress, and possibly the most rewarding one yet in her illustrious career.

Uzo Aduba and mother Nonyem attend the 2018 French Open, one year before her diagnosis

“Like far too many people, cancer has touched me personally,” says Aduba. “I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer and have other family members who have been affected by this disease.”

Related: Fun-Loving Mom Diagnosed With Stage IV Melanoma at 22 After Ignoring Mole Becomes a Crusader for Cancer Awareness

Nonyem Aduba lost her battle in November, a little over a year after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Aduba and her sisters were by their mother’s side when she passed away, and had been by her side through most of her battle. Aduba flew home from Los Angeles in July 2019 after learning that something might be wrong with her mother while attending a wedding – as the maid of honor.

It was difficult to process Aduba told Time, revealing that the grief got to be so overwhelming that she started therapy a few months after her mother’s death.

“I knew I needed to talk to somebody about the amount of pain I was feeling,” recalled Aduba. “What it means to grieve. How does one say goodbye?”

Those sessions helped the actress start to process her mother’s death in a new way, and learn that there is no timeline for grief.

Uzo Aduba’s mother congratulates her in 2014 after her first Emmy win

“It’s O.K. to just be trying to figure it out and make it through today. I just hope we all learn to talk more about what we’re feeling,” noted Aduba, who was able to channel some of that energy into her work on the HBO series In Treatment.

There was one revelation however that proved to be a real breakthrough for Aduba.

“[I] don’t have to do life without her,” said Aduba. “I am her.”

The actress did have a strong bond with her mother, who was by her side when she won her first Emmy Award in 2014 for Orange Is the New Black.

And Nonyem was once again by her daughter’s side last September when she won her third Emmy.

The pandemic meant that Aduba collected her award from home during the virtual show, all while her mom was able to look on from just offscreen.

“Mom, I won,” shouted Aduba after hearing her name.

Two months later, Nonyem passed away.

Aduba is now teaming up with Stand Up To Cancer for a new public service announcement to educate and encourage cancer patients to share their experiences in hopes of accelerating the pace of cancer research and propelling new discoveries.

“The campaign will encourage patients to share their clinical information, samples, and voices,” the organization said in a release. “This information can play an important role in cancer research by increasing the pool of data available to help researchers accelerate new treatment strategies.”

Discussing her new role, Aduba said: “I’m proud to lend my support to this campaign to encourage patients, especially from minority communities, to share their personal stories to help researchers discover breakthrough cancer treatments that are effective for all.”

And for those missing Abduba fear not, she recently wrapped the Amazon anthology Solo, is preparing to film the limited series Americanah opposite Lupita Nyong’o, and signed an overall production deal with CBS Studios.

Related: Fragrance Maven Jo Malone Lost Her Sense of Smell From Chemo During Her Breast Cancer Battle; How to Manage Chemo Side Effects

Coping With a Parent’s Death

Nicole Cundiff lost her mom to stage IV ovarian cancer and, much like Uzo Aduba, was forced to watch as she rapidly deteriorated in her final weeks.

“Before my mom passed away, somebody had told me that I would never get over it. And I didn’t really know what that meant until she actually did pass away,” Cundiff tells SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “And I realize now that there are some things in life that happen that you never get over. And losing someone you love, and more importantly, someone who loves you that much is one of those things.”

Cundiff says that she and her two sisters keep their mother’s memory alive and are so grateful for how she prepared them with the skills they needed for life.

“And we’re forever thankful for that, but not having her here is something that I’ll never get over. We still grieve for missed moments,” explains Cundiff. “My kids grieve for a grandma that they never really got to know, and so it’s something we live with, but it’s something that will hurt forever.”


Dealing With Grief After a Cancer Diagnosis

SN & You — Mother-Daughter Bond

The unbreakable mother-daughter bond is the focus of a new SurvivorNetTV offering, SN & You — Mother-Daughter Bond.

The documentary follows Erica Stolper and her mother, Melissa Berry. Erica was just 7 when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and the two quickly found a somewhat unlikely way to bond.

The day that Melissa decided to shave her head, she asked Erica, who was obsessed with becoming a hairdresser, to help with her new buzz cut.

“It was the first big step that she really took in her whole journey,” recalled Erica in a previous interview with SurvivorNet.

“It was cool to be a part of it with her,” she says.


SN & You — Mother-Daughter Bond

Learn more about SurvivorNet's rigorous medical review process.

Chris Spargo is a senior reporter at SurvivorNet. Read More