5 years after diagnosis.

In the late summer/early fall of 2013 I was diagnosed with Stage 3b colon cancer that had already invaded my lymph nodes and pretty quickly spread to my liver, becoming stage 4 colon cancer.  We have been chasing this cancer away ever since.

In 2013 I read that I would have a 13% chance of surviving. 

If 100 people with my diagnosis stood in a room together and each year came back there would be fewer and fewer people.  I read that in 5 years, the percentage has gone up a whopping one percent.  This year, there would be 14.  I’m one of them.  This fills me with deep gratitude.  And deep sorrow and anger for the 86 people who fought and were overcome  by this terrible disease.  Just like I don’t know why I got cancer as a 35 year old active woman, I don’t know why I’m in this small group of survivors.  All I can do is be thankful and be an active participant in our race to a cure.  I have participated in clinical trials (Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis was injected into me, carrying with it some magical immunotherapy designed to teach my immune system to fight cancer) and research studies (I was screened and received counseling for being at high risk for depression following my surgery on my liver.  I wasn’t depressed, but I benefited greatly from my relationship with my counselor.)  I had genetic testing to learn about my family history and a possible genetic link.  They found no clear link, but there is markedly higher risk in my family.  The one great thing about colon cancer is that you can catch it before it starts with proper screening.

So here’s some awesome news:  I had my CT scan and it was CLEAR.  My blood work shows that my tumor markers are nonexistent, which means my cancer is undetectable.  I do not currently have any trace of cancer in me.   I made it for five years.

(My oncologist is the coolest.)

The gratitude comes in waves.  Grateful for more time with my people.  Grateful to have more time to use my gifts and strengths to make the world better.  Grateful to have time to see more places. Have more thrilling moments.  To be surprised by what beautiful things life brings.  Adventures lie ahead.  Invite me on one.  I’ll say yes.

I want at least 100 more adventures in the next six months.  Like these:

‘Twas the Night before a CT Scan…

The night before finding out if you are healthy or not is always a weird night.  You have to go on with normal activities.  For me, today, it was brunch with friends, back-to-school shopping, and dinner with my parents.  But there is always this little thought in the back of your mind saying “tomorrow, everything could be different again.”  The weight of that thought can be crushing.  But I’m lucky enough to have five years of experience.  😊

What I will share from my experience is this:  I know one powerful weapon for fighting fear.  It’s gratitude.  Deliberate, specific gratitude.  I sit and reflect, purposefully on all there is to be grateful for.

Cass – what a kid.  What a joy to be her parent, her mother.  I’m still in awe that this kid grew inside my body from a couple of cells, into a human person with ideas and opinions.  Come on!  Life is amazing!  She is so funny and so fun and so sweet.  I love the way her mind works and her caring, kind heart is going to change the world.

My family – My husband basically keeps me alive and on track and reasonably organized.  He’s a human smart phone.  He also knows when I’m anxious and he does lots of very nice things for me.  My parents continue to feed me some of the best meals I’ve had in my life, make life special for Cass on a regular basis and surprise us often in ways that just make my day.   My extended family gives me great joy for all of the amazing ways that have supported us and thoughtfully cheered us on.  But mostly, they are tons of fun to spend time with.

My new job – what an adventure.  I’m working among some of the smartest, talented people in our field, and I’m energized and excited every day by how much more there is to know.  We are helping people in our profession impact so many lives, it’s amazing.  I’m humbled to be part of this group, and guided by sharp minds and kind hearts.

My friends – I know some of the funniest, most caring, generous people on this planet.  Some of you never cease to amaze me with how open you still are to learning, growing, changing, challenging ideas and shifting thinking.  You’re open and vulnerable and honest.  You don’t care about maintaining some reputation or putting on a front – you care about authenticity and supporting each other.  I’ve had some incredible conversations lately – thank you to each of you who challenge me, trust me with the truth, make me laugh, point out wise and interesting things about this world.  We are so fortunate to have each other and live in a time where if you are in Ohio, Colorado, California, New York or even Korea for a few weeks, I can still tell you something hilarious and know you’ll love it as much as I did.

I love this life.  My heart is full of love for the people who have been kind enough to be in relationship with me.  The perspective this rocky road of the past five years has given me is…at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is real, meaningful relationships.  I have them in spades and I’m so, so grateful.

Tomorrow’s outcome is important.  It will inform many things in coming months.  It will have significant impact on my emotions and the emotions of those around me.  But it’s not everything.  Many things will still be true even if we were to get news we don’t like.  God will still be good, and He will still be on His throne.  My family will be there like they always have been.  And Team Jessi will still roll deep.  I will still have joy.  I will still laugh.  I will still trust God, even when the adventure is scary.

But, let’s put our thoughts and prayers in motion, if you feel comfortable joining us in prayer.  Pray to our Father in heaven, for good news tomorrow.  Amen.

2018: Turning 40 & 5 years of survival

In 2013 when I was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer, the year 2018 popped up in my head.  Why?  Because as I sat in the waiting room at Hilman Cancer Center, I was reading a pamphlet on colon cancer and a little chart caught my eye.  It was the 5 year survival rates for people with my diagnosis.  And the news wasn’t good.  13%.  Sitting in a cancer center, surrounded by elderly people who didn’t look so hot, feeling perfectly fine, but knowing this horrible disease was eating its merry way through my body – I felt the air rush out of my lungs.   It hit me.  I really was probably going to die from this.

30 minutes later, we met the guy who everyone told me would make me feel better – my soon to be oncologist.  And he made me feel worse.  He barely looked at me, and he asked me “Do you want to know what your chances are?”  I looked him square in the eye until he met my gaze and I said “Absolutely not.”  Because I already knew.  And I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop crying if he said it out loud.  The numbers and words on a pamphlet are one thing.  Coming out of a very educated man in a white coat – it felt like they would be solidified, permanent, true.

We went home and I cried the whole way.  But when we got home, I was done crying.  I was determined.  Determined not to let the pamphlet or the guy in the white coat (who I mentally fired during the car crying) or the odds have any more power over me than simply being numbers.  I mean, what were the odds that I would be getting colon cancer at the age of 35.  One in many, many thousands?  Odds mean nothing.  Not because they aren’t real or accurate.  It’s just that they really don’t matter.  My story is my story.  It’s unique.  Individual.  Specific.

At the age of 9, I walked out of my house and it literally blew up 2 minutes later.  I was stupid and went surfing in a hurricane in 1996, got sucked under water for a very long time, but somehow popped back up, a hundred yards down the beach from where they were looking for me.  In 2000 my house caught on fire while I was sleeping in it and an accidentally set alarm clock woke us up to black smoke so thick we couldn’t see.  Another minute and we would have been gone, said the fireman.  A gas leak in my next house brought a dozen fire trucks and EMS vehicles – we almost hadn’t called because we weren’t sure if it was a problem.   The point is, I should have been dead a few times, but God has seen fit to keep me around.  My number simply isn’t up until He says so.  I’ve learned to trust that, and not the odds.

I just celebrated my 40th birthday.  A bunch of my favorite people gathered around and told funny stories and raised their glasses, basically to the simple fact that I’m still here.  I couldn’t be more grateful.  New adventures are in store this year, I assure you.  This is a year where we are turning to new chapters.  New ways of growing and expressing the unique gifts God has given me.  New challenges.  New people.  New places.  Leaving comfort zones and diving in.  God is making all things new.  A game changer, He is, indeed.  Change is scary.  Both those who resist change get left behind.  I liken it to jumping out of a plane.  Knowing it’s crazy.  But trusting the parachute is in perfect working order and falling into the great, empty sky.  I’ve done this – I was  just barely 16 and used my older cousin’s driver’s license.  It was insane.  And you know what?  It was really, really fun.  Are you with me?  Let’s go.

On the Subject of Infomercials

So who is it that invented the infomercial? Because they were smart. And mean.

Apparently the first product to be “infomercialed” was a Vitamix Blender in the 1950s. That was probably hilarious and weird. Some guy in a suit, holding the blender up and emphatically saying “VITAMIX!” over and over in a very serious tone.

I have seen my share of infomercials. The Shamwow, the Bowflex, the Food Dehydrator. I also enjoy a moment or two in the “As Seen on TV” aisle of my local Rite Aid. I know they are basically useless items that are poorly made and absolutely do not do what they claim to as well as they claim to. And yet…there is an allure to them. I have woken up at 3am, having left the TV on, when my ear catches a blip about a hair removal device, a bra-esque contraption or a nutritional supplement that, within about 3 minutes, I am convinced I not only MUST have, but that I must have been crazy to try and live without up until that moment in time. Fortunately, I do not cave to these impulses. Well, honestly? I parent a busy child and work a lot of hours, and sleep is a hot commodity in this house. So exhaustion always wins out before I can dive over my snoring husband for the phone and my credit card. In the morning, I wake up and laugh at myself, at how totally sold I was, in my sleep-deprived mind, on some scam that promised to change my life. Skinny! More productive! Better skin! No panty lines!

The morning often brings clarity, does it not? Perhaps you’ve made some bad decisions in the dark of night that, at sunrise, seem outrageously foolish. Public, solo dancing. Taking off one’s cardigan to reveal a sequined tank top and a lot of sallow, January-colored skin. A 1am run to the nearest Krispy Kreme location.

But back to the infomercials. I once actually bought something from an infomercial. It was a hammer that kept nails in a little compartment and when you pressed a button, it flipped a nail up and onto the head of the hammer where it was held magnetically. One handed hammering! Amazing! Imagine all you could be doing with your other hand when you no longer had to hold that pesky nail. I was especially enamored with the added benefit of not having to risk smashing your fingers when you held the nail in place. There were at least 30 shots of someone smashing their fingers and the announcer guy going “Ouch!” on their behalf. I was totally sucked in. “What fools we’ve been!” I said to no one, because I was the only moron up in the middle of the night watching this nonsense. So I called the 1-800 number and I bought one. It wasn’t until after it arrived that I realized a few things:

1. At that time in life, I had approximately zero reasons to use a hammer. I was in college and I traveled light – not so much as a calendar to hang on the wall.

2. You had to hit the hammer, with the attached nail, against the wall or whatever really hard, otherwise the nail went flying across the room, lost forever under the refrigerator. So…what I failed to realize (until well after the $14.99 plus shipping and handling was firmly attached to my credit card) was that there was no way to put the nail in any precise location. A general 5 inch radius, sure. But the exact spot where you wanted it so your picture frame could be level – nope. Impossible.

3. Did I mention I had no reason at all to use a hammer?

So, I learned my lesson and never bought another infomercial product again. Except for the one lapse in memory I had when I was deeply impressed with the before and after photos and testimonials of Hydroxycut diet pills. You know, because of the “science” behind it and all. I bought them, took them faithfully for a month with no results except some unsettling jittery feelings and a weird metallic aftertaste. But seriously, it’s been a solid 8 years since I’ve been a sucker. Well, at least insofar as it pertains to infomercials. While I’ve got a lot of years of clean time under my belt, I must ask you…if you see me get a faraway dreamy look in my eyes due to a P90X infomercial, please, just whisper the word “Hydroxycut” in my ear and gently point me in the direction of my running shoes.

The reason I thought of all of this is that i was given an As Seen on TV hair straightener called Simply Straight. Here’s the thing though: it totally works. Dry curly hair, to dry straight hair in 15 minutes. This may have changed my life. Thanks, Aunt Bernice!

Just tell the truth

Welcome to my new, fancy, not quite how I want it blog.  We’ll march onward anyway.  I’ve ventured into the clearly superior WordPress world.  Anyway, welcome.  Welcome to 2018.  Here we are.  And I have some thoughts.

Look around you.  Really look at the people around you.  Your loved humans.  Are they ok?  Are they happy?  Are they fully operational?  Are they genuinely sharing with you about their life?  Or are they faking it, and just barely making it?

I’m someone who is usually pretty readable.  You can tell when I’m disappointed, when I’m frustrated, when I’m furious and the dragon that lives in my belly starts to huff and puff and eventually flies out and around Pittsburgh setting people on fire and eating them.  She is feisty.

But I’ve been unsettled.  I like many aspects of my life, but I’ve felt unsettled and quietly disgruntled.  And I’ve been brave enough to share a little bit of that with some of my favorite people.  And others who have been there at the right place and time.  And here’s what happens:  when I tell the truth, believing in their care for me, their acceptance of my “stuff” and their kindness…they tell me the truth too.  I believe we are all looking for some truth listening and some truth telling.

Some people, as the classic movie line goes “can’t handle the truth.”  I’ve learned this the hard way, and those people get the “I’m good, how are you?” treatment.  Rejecting someone’s struggle and shaming them back into ‘everything is fine” is a stinging poison that touches all of us and herds us into complacency and convincing ourselves that we are ok, our kids are ok, our relationships are ok our satisfaction with the life we’ve chosen is ok, our jobs are ok, our bodies are ok, our finances are ok, our church is ok, our mental health is ok, our spiritual journey is ok.  It’s all ok!  Right??  I’m ok, you’re ok.  Don’t think about any of this stuff too much.  Because if you do…it rocks the boat.  It rocks other people’s expectations of you.  It might require you to (gulp) change.

The question is, who do you want to be?  A person who bravely tells the truth about what is imperfect inside you and your life, and who listens without judgment and embraces the struggle and disharmony of others…or the person who says that everything is great and accepts only a similar response in return.

Not everyone can be a truth teller, and no one can be a truth teller all the time.  But my direction, for myself, is clear.  I’m seeking out truth tellers and truth listeners.  And I’m telling myself the truth, too.  My word of the year is authenticity.  And I’m embracing it with wild courage.

I don’t know how to fix much.  But what I do know how to do is create safe space for real conversation.  Come sit next to me, and let’s talk.  Let’s be honest about how things are going.  Let’s say the things out loud that we are scared to say.  and trust that there is no judgment or future gossip.  Let’s engage in authentic conversation where we don’t have to impress or convince or deny.  So, come on over.  I’m pretty much never more than ten feet away from coffee or a decent Malbec.  Cheers to authenticity.

Eucharisteo 2017

Thanksgiving reminds me to point my thoughts toward the practice of giving thanks.  Eucharisteo.  This idea that Jesus had this tendency to give thanks prior to asking The Father for something.  In her fine book, 1,000 Gifts, Ann Voskamp shares her story of an early life heartbreaking loss and how she went about the next couple of decades going through the motions of faith, but holding herself back, not really trusting this God she’d had decided was not trustworthy.  Eventually, she leans into her faith, deciding God may be worth trusting afterall, and she throws herself headfirst into this gratitude experiment.

I took that ride along with her as I read the book, dutifully making my list of things to be thankful for:  my exquisite, blue-eyed fairy daughter, the way sunlight beams in and makes rainbows just when I need to be reminded of my beautiful friend Laura who left this world way too soon, the nicest Malbec with a new friend, a Steelers last minute win, the way missing someone lets you know your heart still works, perfect black heels, feeling cozy and safe, laughing until I cry, not getting a parking ticket even though I totally deserve one, my pregnant friend’s pregnant lady glow, my hair growing back fuller and better than I ever thought it would.

Yo, I don’t have cancer right now.  (Or maybe ever again.)  How about that.

When I’m cranky and frowning and sniffing the air and crossing my arms and frustrated and disappointed…I think of Ann.  And I think of Jesus.  And I am reminded to give thanks.  Not just because that’s the example we have – but because this practice…this eucharisteo…it is a powerful force, infusing us with life and love.  It fights against fear.  It fights against apathy.  It helps you to decide not to give in to bitterness.  It keeps your heart soft and ready for whatever is next.

Help effectively

When you see a fellow human struggling, many of us – we feel compelled to help.  Whether it’s the people in Houston on top of the roof, just a few inches away from rising floodwaters, or a panhandler at the on ramp of the highway asking for change.  A cancer patient.  An addict.  Mental health battles with nowhere to turn for help.  

We feel compelled to help, because, (in my opinion) we were created to connect and care for one another.  That empathy and compulsion to alleviate the suffering moves us to respond.  Some of us deadened those feelings long ago, and retrained ourselves to believe it’s not our problem and it’s probably that person’s fault and they don’t deserve another chance to receive grace and mercy. But some of us hold those feelings alive in our hearts and we are moved to act. Perhaps we put our change in a cup.  We suggest that the suicidal depressed woman “cheer up and pray more.”  Maybe we send a box of old clothes to Texas, hoping they somehow find a human their size in need of our cardigan from college.  We inquire about the cancer patient’s consumption of bottled water left in hot cars to help them target the cause of their body failing them.  

I’m asking those who don’t feel the urge to care or help to consider that almost certainly, someone you love is struggling mightily, with one of those above overwhelming weighty life matters.  The world we live in is becoming increasingly shadowed by these dark clouds of sickness, mental health decline, natural disasters, powerful drug addiction.  You are impacted.  This stuff isn’t going away.  These evils will hit closer to home.  I know it’s hard and scary to love people who are hurting and imperfect. You worry that you’ll get hurt because you might lose them. You don’t want to get involved in someone else’s mess.  You have your own problems.  But I ask you to allow compassion to foster in your heart.  You don’t even have to get involved but lack of empathy is unhealthy.  It may seem subtle, but you impact the world differently whether you see struggle and shrug with contempt, or sigh with care and smile compassionately.     

And on the other hand, if you care. Are we caring effectively? What happens when you hand someone a dollar on the street? What might they be doing with that?  Is it to buy something that helps or hurts them?  I’m not interested in judging a panhandler for asking for money.  But I do know that many people on the street support drug habits by panhandling, or simply fund an irresponsible lifestyle that is harmful to them.  I don’t judge them for doing it at all.  But I don’t want to help them with it.  When you send that cardigan to Texas, did it help?  Did it get to the right place?  Or is it in a box sitting in some cargo storage room at the airport taking up space?  Did someone reputable ask for it and explain how it would be used?  How does a cancer patient feel when grilled about their diet or exposure to chemicals or genetics?  Do you think they haven’t considered these matters?  How do these questions make them feel?  Is letting someone in active addiction or early recovery stay on your couch kindness or enabling?  Asking a deeply depressed person if they have tried yoga/meditation/your church – what impact does this have?  

Intent – wanting to help – does not always match impact.  Our INTENTION to help may have the following impacts in these kinds of situations:

-Providing the dollar that goes toward a stamp bag of heroin laced with fentanyl that causes an accidental overdose.  
-Demonstrating that you think a complex, heart wrenching problem is simple to fix when it is not.
-Sending unneeded, unusable items that end up creating work for people who are already overwhelmed.
-Causing someone to feel judged, guilty or shame when they are already struggling.  
-Enabling someone to continue in a deeply destructive lifestyle because of our inability to say “no.”   

I’m advocating that we all care deeply, and then we thoughtfully consider how we respond to any situation. Sometimes, our instinct to help stems from the desire to alleviate the discomfort we have with observing another person suffering.  Can we look past that desire to remove our own uncomfortable feeling, and think through to a more effective action?  

I suggest we investigate the best ways to help in all situations. Look for expert advice on the most effective way to have a positive impact.  Here is some advice on how to help more thoughtfully and effectively:  

If you send money to Texas, consider sending to a local nonprofit that has a high Charity Navigator rating and knows how to handle the different problems: rescue, shelter, food distribution, volunteer management, childcare, animal rescue, medical care.  I suggest giving to the local rescue missions.  They are working hard to help people, and they do that 365 days a year anyway.    

If you want to help homeless people, give to an organization that wants to embrace and support the entire person on a journey of wellness, recovery and eventual independence.  Many nonprofits do this.  Light of Life is one.  Community Human Services is another.  

If you want to help a loved one struggling with addiction, don’t enable them.  Seek support for yourself and find expert advice on how to encourage them to get help such as rehab.  Be able to say no, and be ready to assist them when they make that decision. Al-Anon is a great resource.   

Ask a cancer patient how you can be helpful.  Give gifts they would like.  Some people are hungry but too tired to cook and others might vomit if you came over with chicken soup.  Ask.  Send encouragement via text, email, etc.  It’s OK to ask questions to try to understand what’s going on, but don’t act like you can figure out why they got cancer, or tell them how to cure it with some weird snake oil your friend sells.  Just be supportive, pray, visit if they welcome it.  Offer the ways you are willing to help and let them choose.    

If someone you know is struggling with mental illness, be a friend, be forgiving, offer help with kids or pets or bills that need paid.  Support their family.  Offer to help figure it out.    

Bottom line:  Don’t not care.  But when you care, care thoughtfully.  

Get this book

People often ask me what to do for people who have cancer. I have written about this several times on this blog. But I want to add a new suggestion. This little book is awesome. 





I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t remember who gave it to me. Chemo brain is a real thing. Seriously, it is called post chemotherapy cognitive impairment and it can last pretty much forever. I remember lots of things perfectly fine, but certain things are just blank. So, whoever got me this book, thank you! I really like it. I don’t usually have high hopes for small, cute looking, spiritual themed books. Which is kind of silly because some of my favorite books have fit that description. But there are a lot of dumb ones out there.  With pat answers and encouragement from writers I can’t relate to.  

Again, I wasn’t expecting much. But this book has brought a tear to my eye each time I’ve picked it up. I am only 12 pages in, but this lady knows what’s up.  One of her first pieces of advice was about what to do when someone comes up to you and starts to tell you a story about someone they know who had your same kind of cancer.  And you start to tense up because you are concerned about how you’re going to react when they tell you that they died. Just the fact that she would bring that up makes me know that she has been through what I’ve been through and she has thought about how to handle it well. 
Anyway, this book is great.  Get it for someone you love who has been recently diagnosed.  

Changing the subject to…cancer!

I’ve spent the past 2 months hoping that when this day came, my oncologist would not look at me gravely, and then flip the monitor of his computer around to show me the scan images he would be looking at and point at some evil little (or big?) mass that was about to ruin my life over again.  If he did, it wouldn’t be the first or second or even third time.  We’ve done this dance before, me and determined, thoughtful, jovial Dr. Mehta.  He’s only in his mid to late 30s.  It’s weird when your oncologist just held his own first, freshly birthed baby a few weeks ago, when your kid is in second grade.  Getting older is weird.  I’m sure it’s even weirder for elderly people – they must look at their financial advisers, cardiologists and even the guy replacing their catalytic converter with such an odd mix of trepidation, concern, admiration and, finally, blind trust.

As for me, young(ish) means newly trained, up on all of the latest research, drugs, surgeries, treatments.  Careful.  Thorough.  Disciplined, and unlikely to let something slip by due to assumptions.  Don’t get me wrong – he didn’t hang up his cap and gown last week or anything.  As far as I’m concerned, he’s just right, age wise.  It’s just new and different, to think that people younger than me are curing cancer. l

So I spent most of the past two months trying not to think about this day.  And I’m pretty good at it, except when people randomly bring it up – I usually look at the clock and think “hmm made it to 3pm without thinking about cancer today.”  I don’t mind when people want to actually talk about it – like, have an actual question.  I am always, literally always, ready and willing to talk to a newly diagnosed person or someone who loved them.  This is something that I take very seriously and feel like it’s part of my purpose to be available for that.  I also don’t mind sharing my whole story, if it’s a person who I’m getting to know and it seems like it’s the right time to share.  Occasionally I’ll bring it up myself because it seems appropriate, or because it would be weird to avoid.  But when someone just brings up casually like “so, ,how’s your health?”  The way you might ask about someone’s child’s little league season.  Sigh.  I usually just say “fine.”  And smile.  And say “how is yours?”

I hate having requirements of people – it makes me seem so picky and inflexible.  I try really hard to make supporting me easy.  But this one thing, if I’m honest, I’ve got to tell you – it throws me off.  Unless my scan is the very next day, I am simply trying not to think about it.  I’m trying to live my life, cross off my to do list, laugh with my friends, enjoy my child, train for a race, plan my next party, solve a work problem.  When you drop the “how’s your health?” bomb on me in the middle of that, I’m halted.  I have to go into that realm.  I have to figure out how much to tell you.  How much energy I have to explain things.  How to respect my own boundaries without being rude.  I wonder why you don’t just look at my million facebook updates, or keep in touch with me the old way or read this blog.  Even as I type this, it feels unreasonable to expect people to understand this.  It seems like a nice thing to do.  Ask how someone’s health is.  I’m not a private person.  Obviously.  But I also don’t always want to stop having fun, being normal, laughing, working, playing, thinking about one million other things, going about my business living outside of thoughts of cancer, and be plunged unwillingly into it.  We’re out, having a great meal, I’m thrilled with the company, the weather, the food, the drinks, and then someone lowers their voice “so…when’s your next scan?”  It shouldn’t be hard for me, but it just is.  I’m sorry my brain isn’t robotic enough to just compute your care and concern and move on gracefully from it.  Well, I do – I really do try to do that.  But it bothers bothers bothers me, and throws me off.

I guess, just let me bring it up?  Is that reasonable?  I don’t want people to feel like they have to walk on eggshells.  But I also know that if I believe the best I can about you, and believe that you’re asking because you care, then I have to believe that you don’t want to ruin my day.

So quit ruining the mood.  If you have a serious question,, if you are worried about someone who has cancer, if you have just been diagnosed, if you are scared you have cancer, if you want to talk because you need someone who has been there, done that – I AM HERE.  Day or night.  Soccer field or gala venue.  But I am tired of laughing hysterically at some great thing that just happened, and then being hit with a gentle hand on my shoulder and a low voice in my ear “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that we’ve been praying for you every night.”

Someone just told me randomly right after a very sudden “how are you feeling?” that he “prays that they do find something so at least if it’s there, we know it’s there.”  Oh really?  You don’t just want to really go for it and pray I don’t get cancer again?  No?  Ok, umm, cool.  I love when people go for originality.


Say something else

Someone I knew recently died.  He died of cancer, ultimately.  He was young.  He had kids.  It’s sad.  There is no getting around that.  I overheard a conversation about it.  Someone was asking what happened, what might have caused it, how they found it.  I’ve had this conversation a thousand times.  And it’s ok with me.  It really is.  I asked those questions before, too.

But I want to explain something to you.

When you ask those questions, I think I know why.  I think those questions really are disguised versions of these questions:

Did this person do things that might have caused the cancer?

Are any of these things (smoking, drinking, drugs, inactivity, eating red meat, drinking unfiltered water, staring at goldfish) things that I do?

Was it actually his or her fault?

What’s behind these questions is a desperate lunge for a bit of superiority, that will reward us with the feeling of safety.

And here, of course, is what’s behind that:

Do I actually have control over my life?  Can I control how long I stay alive?

I don’t know.  Maybe.  According to lots of studies, if you eat fewer animal products, you’ll live longer.  And a lot of other studies suggest that a low grain, more Paleo approach will give you more years.  Some studies say that keeping excess weight off is ideal, and other studies say that a few extra pounds can be protective.  You’ll read that running is terrible for you, and that it will save your life.  I know of healthy people who have dropped dead of a heart attack out of nowhere, chain smoking alcoholics who will outlive us all.

I’m an advocate for moving more and eating well – but I had cancer three times and I’m not exactly a bikini model, so if being healthy or skinny are your goals, don’t listen to me.  I’m sort of kidding, because, hey – I’m still alive despite my body trying to kill me every year or so since 2013.  But also, not.  I mean, seriously…WHO KNOWS.

I do know this.  It’s not kind or helpful or loving to try to figure out why someone got cancer or had a heart attack or died.  Say something else.  OK?