February 4, 2014

Things You Never Knew

Me and M in 2007
Today is yet another in a long list of days I don't know how to feel about.

I've been thinking about cancer a lot. Not just because I'm editing the hell out of my book. Not just because I'm due for another skin check. Not just because of M's last MRI and the frank shock of the new neuro-oncology interns. Not just because friends and loved ones keep getting that diagnosis, keep hearing expiration dates and time tables and the sort of heart wrenching news you can never un-hear.

Although it's also that.

The thing that's had me thinking the most about cancer is what happens to my family next month.

Next month marks five years, five whole years, since M ended all of his treatment for his stage four brain cancer.

Not that it matters what stage it was. Not that it matters where it was. No, as soon as the word "cancer" appears in your medical files, things change. Things change in ways you would never expect, and ways that never would have mattered.

Next month, for the first time since we got engaged, my husband will be eligible to buy life insurance again.

Just think about that. Think about knowing every day that you're on borrowed time, that you are supposed to die. That you're supposed to be living each day like it was your last, fast and hard and with dignity and beauty.

And then imagine that instead of bungee jumping and traveling to Prague, the things that make you happiest, give your life the most meaning, are building a family.

For five years he's been living without a net.

I'm going to be honest, I haven't missed life insurance. I was so happy to have M alive and well that I didn't
give a damn about cashing in on his corpse. But that's not really what it's about. Life insurance is about dignity for the bereaved.

If he had died during these last five years, the girls and I would have been left with nothing. Scrambling to pay his final bills, to afford somewhere for his remains to rest. I would have had to hold off mourning, to start scouting apartment listings and "Help Wanted" ads, to put our home on the market and prepare to move my children away from everything they'd ever known.

I thought about it once in a while, and it scared the crap out of me. But next month, my husband can get life insurance again.

He'll no doubt have to pay through the nose for it, but he can get it.

And yes, I understand why a life insurance company wouldn't want to touch him, to bet on his life.

But each time I thought about it, my skin would crawl. As though it weren't bad enough to worry. As though it weren't bad enough to wonder.

Cancer takes things you never knew you had. Cancer takes things you never knew you cared about.

Today is World Cancer Day, and I'm grateful that next month my husband goes from being a risk to being a survivor in somebody else's eyes.

Today is World Cancer Day, and he is one of the lucky ones. Unfathomably lucky. But there are so many more people in the world, and there are so many days in the year, and there are so many kinds of cancer.

There are so many kinds of fear.

I don't know how you're celebrating this day, but I know how I am. I'm making my husband a banana pudding pie with graham cracker crust- the same dessert I made him every week of chemo for over a year. We haven't eaten it since, but today it seems appropriate. Maybe, almost five years later, it can just be a dessert again.

Maybe being able to just enjoy some pudding is another thing cancer took away from us.

But like life insurance, I'd like to think it's something we can take back again.

So in honor a World Cancer Day, a few hopes for things we can reclaim:

Our peace of mind.
Our financial security.
Our love of pudding for the sake of pudding.
Our ability to say "forever" without doubting ourselves.
Our life stories.
Five years of uncertainty.

Happy World Cancer Day, everyone. And here's to many, many, many more.


  1. That must have been so scary -- all of it, but especially not having a safety net "just in case." But I am glad you didn't need it, and that you can celebrate today. :) I have had six family members and a friend who were not so lucky, but I am still going to celebrate them today.

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  3. So beautiful and yes, yes, yes! to all of that. I wish you and your family health and happiness and so many, many more years. My nearly 8yo son Miles has been done with treatment for ALL for almost a year now and he's got a clean bill of health. Luckily, when he was diagnosed, he was eligible for for state healthcare, because when you hear "You've got cancer" or "Your child has cancer", after the initial shock kicks in, the last thing you want to have to worry about is "How are we going to pay for this?". So glad that you'll finally have that piece of mind. xo

  4. Thanks for sharing this on the Hump Day Hook Up



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