For a Terminal Cancer Patient, Good News Always has an Asterisk

I’m often explicitly encouraged by lung cancer advocacy organizations, “tell us when you have a big milestone to celebrate so we can splash it on social media.” So here it is: my youngest child graduated high school last week!

I couldn’t be more proud of this kid (if you want to read about her college plans, you can check out this post). I love her beyond all reason. She was in 2nd grade when I was diagnosed, and I have never taken it for granted that I would get to see her high school graduation. I know far too many friends who didn’t get this gift. Of course, I am grateful. Of course, I am celebrating.  

And also, I am not. 

I am greedy. 

When she was in 2nd grade, I prayed just to make it to her older brother’s elementary school graduation. And then to hers. And then to his bar mitzvah and middle school graduation. And then to hers. And then to his high school graduation, etc. The finish line is a moving target, and it’s never enough. 

I want a lifetime of milestones. So even as I celebrate one, I experience a melancholy, a fearful wistfulness. The clock immediately starts again, and I find myself in the same place wondering “will I make it to the next one?” 

I get constant reminders that I may not. Two ROS1der friends who were diagnosed within a few months of me died in the last month. Two other fellow long-term lung cancer patients are currently in hospice and I’m doing the familiar vigil, checking in with (the ever-dwindling) circle of compatriots, scrolling social media for updates. A fifth friend is heading into a risky and challenging clinical trial this month, and it makes me nauseous with nervousness on her behalf just thinking about it.

Although I live outwardly as if I’m part of the non-terminal civilian world, the threat of this disease is as visceral and omnipresent as ever for me. I just don’t talk about it much anymore because – well, for a lot of reasons – but mostly because I’m just so_fucking_ tired_ of talking about it. 

So, yeah. I’m not great at unqualified feel-good posts. This is the best I can muster for you: “Yay! I made it to both my kids’ high school graduations! They’re amazing. I’m proud. I’m grateful. And, I’m so, SO, lucky!”*

*And also this still kinda sucks.