On my 43rd birthday I was getting a brain MRI and imagining I would be dead in 8 months. Today, I am 44.
The first time I met with my oncologist, he explained that with the right treatment, even people with stage IV lung cancer can sometimes have a great quality of life. I wasn’t sure what that meant. But in the past year I have:
- Gotten legally married to my partner
- Team-taught two college classes at a state prison, including the very first religion course our program has offered there
- Been a witness at my older sister’s tiny Quaker wedding (I was one of only two guests!)
- Vacationed at the Jersey Shore, and enjoyed watching my daughter and her cousins have a great time on the beach
- Seen all kinds of old friends at an ACT UP reunion in New York
- Heard Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Tanglewood
- Helped my younger sister pick out a wedding dress (it was a big year for engagements and weddings)
- Completed three of my four qualifying exams for my PhD
- Seen my first academic publication in print (a co-written chapter in Katie Day’s Faith on the Avenue, http://global.oup.com/academic/product/faith-on-the-avenue-9780199860029#.UtrREQh8Fyw)
- Co-taught the youth Sunday School class at my church
- Spent Thanksgiving in New Orleans with extended family on my father’s side
- Seen my daughter sing in a school concert and swim in her very first swim meet.
When you are diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, it’s totally normal and understandable to feel that you don’t have anything to look forward to except grueling treatments, miserable side effects, and a painful, premature death. It’s totally normal and understandable to fear there might not be any point in prolonging the suffering with treatment if the cancer can’t be cured. However, even though my cancer still isn’t curable, intelligent treatment has bought me so many opportunities for rich, full, meaningful life. I am so grateful!