Judy Tenuta's health issues inspired bawdy last song, Kicking Cancer's A**

Alexandra Ciufudean October 7, 2022
Judy Tenuta's health issues inspired bawdy last song, Kicking Cancer's A**

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Comedian and self-styled “Goddess of Love” Judy Tenuta passed away at her Los Angeles home on Thursday (October 6, 2022) with her manager Roger Neal confirming the cause of death was cancer.

Known for her surreal, high-energy performances and brash humor, Tenuta handled her health problems in the same way she processed almost everything else – by writing songs about it.

Since being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2020, the comedian spoke openly about her health journey in interviews and shared frequent updates with her 21.5K Instagram followers.

Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

Judy Tenuta was open about health problems

In early 2021, the self-styled “Goddess of Love” was feeling less than divine. But, having always been a healthy person and not wanting to go to the doctor in the middle of the covid-19 pandemic, she put off investigations for a while.

“I felt perfectly fine. Occasionally I’d feel a little pain around my stomach, especially after I’d eaten,” the comedian said in a March 2022 interview. “I had always been very healthy but I would still get that pain. So, I figured I had to go in. My brother had just told me he had a kidney stone, and it sounded like that.”

However, further tests revealed “it was ovarian cancer, and it was advanced.” Undeterred, Tenuta took the health setback in her stride.

“It’s just like learning about a death you weren’t expecting and you’re in denial,” she said in the same interview, remembering her initial reaction to the diagnosis. “But then you must accept the reality. I realized the doctor wasn’t trying to play a joke on me and was very serious about what they do.”

In the following months, the actress underwent two rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to remove her cancer, trying to stay optimistic throughout.

“When you are going through chemo, it’s hard to stay positive,” she explained. “But I had a friend who would call me every day and say, ‘Judy, get out of bed. You are kicking cancer’s a**.’ That made me start laughing, and that made me do it.”

What also got her through was her music. As the cancer entered partial remission and her health improved, Judy Tenuta was at it again.

Comedian’s health issues inspired Kicking Cancer’s A** song

On New Year’s Eve 2021, Tenuta released Kicking Cancer’s A**, a song inspired by her health struggles the previous year.

Written in her signature style – equal parts camp and whimsical and peppered with classic Judy-isms such as “You cannot possess me, no, cancer, no” – the song was a rallying cry.

“My dad taught me, when you feel bad about something you’ve got to go and sing about it. It makes you feel better,” the comedian explained.

Tenuta revealed in a later interview the song came from her customary reply when friends asked how she was doing. “I’m kicking cancer’s a**,” she would say, and the phrase went on to become her last widely released song.

Tributes to Judy Tenuta

In spite of Tenuta’s relentless optimism earlier this year, her health took a downturn. In September, Judy’s former husband and fellow comedian Emo Phillips was told Tenuta was extremely ill with cancer, although there was still hope she could defy the odds.

Judy Tenuta passed away on the afternoon of Thursday, October 6 surrounded by family. Her cause of death was ovarian cancer, her manager reported.

Tenuta is survived by her partner, Vern Pang, several brothers and a sister. In the wake of the tragic news, friends, colleagues and countless fans shared hilarious and touching tributes to the “Goddess of Love”:

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Alexandra Ciufudean is the Head of Entertainment at The Focus where she manages a growing team of outstanding writers. On a day-to-day basis, she hunts for the latest in online trends and keeps her finger on the pulse of US culture, politics, and celebs. Alexandra helped launch The Focus in 2020 and developed the site into an expert online news source. A language nerd through and through, she boasts 5 years of experience as an editor, writer, and content specialist across web, video, and social platforms, and a master's degree in Comparative Literature.