Thoughts on being widowed young and having cancer
I knew as soon as I suspected I had cancer that this had to be addressed. After all, it’s perfectly human to ask the question “why me?” Entertaining that question can send you down a deep, dark rabbit hole, and I decided that I would take some very concrete steps to pull myself out of it quickly if I ever found myself digging.
As most of my friends and family know, this is not my first major life hurdle. To those who are reading this blog and either don’t know me or didn’t know this about me, let me introduce you to a man who touched my life in so many beautiful ways, and who left this Earth too soon: Damion.
Damion and I were barely married for a year and a half before he perished in a plane crash on March 13th, 2008. I was four months pregnant with our baby boy, Austin. I could write a whole new blog about the amazing person Damion was, and how much I grappled with losing him unexpectedly and bringing our son into this world on my own. In fact, I have an entire journal where I wrote daily after his death. Writing is truly therapeutic. Austin is the greatest gift he gave me, followed very closely by the gift of his incredible family on the West Coast, who are my extra set of parents (including two extra moms!), my brothers and sisters, and lots of aunties, uncles, cousins, and friends. You know who you are and I love you.
Now I’d like to introduce you to a young man who never got the chance to make it into adulthood or become an uncle to the two little girls I have the honor to call my bonus daughters (and by extension and uncle to Austin, too). Meet Sean:
Sean is my husband Eric’s little brother. He, too, left this world too soon at the very tender age of 15. I so wish I could have met my brother-in-law. Eric knows grief. He too knows the pain of losing a piece of your heart and soul. When we first started talking, we realized we had this in common, and it propelled us quickly from superficial platitudes into deep conversations about life and death- and we’d barely had our first date!
We decided that statistically speaking, we had each already had our “tragedy” so we should be in the clear, right? Were we tempting fate? I feel like this is an appropriate place to insert an inappropriate joke, but I can’t think of one.
Please don’t think that I consider an early-stage, treatable cancer diagnosis to be on par with losing a person you adore. I know it’s not. But still. Cancer? Really? That word has such horrible emotions drudged along with it. And that word HAS taken so many people from those who adore them. It has already turned our world upside down, but we can be comforted in knowing the treatments are temporary and I’m not going anywhere.
I came across the YouTube channel of a NYC photographer who successfully treated the same exact cancer I have. Her videos have been inspiring to watch because she faced all the hurdles and talked about them in front of the camera with such candor. She talked about the “why me?” question. She then said, “well, why not me?” We are all susceptible. Cancer doesn’t discriminate, and it’s the luck of the draw. Some of us get unlucky twice. (By the way, her videos are very good and you can watch them here . She’s doing great now and is cancer-free).
This is not a pity post. I can confidently say that I have lived (and plan to continue living for a long time) a very charmed and privileged life. I have the two most amazing parents a girl could ask for. I have a sister who is also my best friend. We never wanted for anything growing up. My extended Peruvian family is truly wonderful. I am still in constant contact with my high school besties. I attended top universities (shout out to my Dukies and my Gators!). I spent three super fun and crazy years in Washington, DC, with my two ride-or-die BFFs. I absolutely love my job- my students give me endless energy and a sense of purpose. I also have some really special colleagues whom I love like sisters. Speaking of friends I love like sisters, I have been blessed to meet and become friends with amazing women throughout every stage of my life. I have been lucky enough to find a partner with whom I share a deep, true, passionate love not once, but twice! I am fortunate to experience motherhood with my not-so-little mini-me biological child and with children who are mine through my marriage; all three are born in my heart.
This is also not *exactly* a gratitude post. It’s about perspective. My life struggles have been (are) public ones. They are prone to others’ empathy because it’s hard to hide them. I think about all those people, some of whom I know personally, who deal with life’s struggles privately. People who live with the scars of an unhappy or abusive childhood, those who may have an abusive partner, those dealing with addiction issues or have a loved one dealing with addiction, those who struggle with crippling depression, people with deep financial problems, people watching their children or aging parents suffer. It’s rare to get through life with no major struggle, whether private or not. But it was important for me to put what I’m going through into perspective, and that’s what helps me get out of that hole.
This is not an unlucky girl. This is a very lucky one.