This, Too, Is Our Life With Cancer


Sitting by the fire in Santa Barbara.

Our life with cancer is not all doctor’s appointments and test results. It’s silly jokes and morning coffee, long conversations and quiet time, slow bike rides and long walks downtown for beer. It’s day trips to the City and longer trips to the mountains and down south to see family and friends.

I now want to write “it’s good times and bad” – for the parallel structure, of course – but I can’t, because it’s mostly good. The bad part of our lives is cancer. Other than that, our life is good.

It’s laughing with friends in Carmel Valley.


Carmel Valley selfie, using my built-in selfie stick.

It’s wine tasting in the Sierra Foothills.


Sierra Foothills wine swirling.

And it’s fun runs on the beach after one too many cocktails.


Running near Half Moon Bay.

I can’t remember the last time we had an argument or disagreed on much of anything. We were in a pretty good place when Loren got sick, and we’re still there today. Loren thinks we should maybe buy a house in a nearby neighborhood, about ten blocks from where we live now. She says it’s an up and coming area, but I’m not so sure. I think it’s still a little sketchy.

Loren retired from her job and is working on projects of her own. She is investing in the stock market and sewing seat cushion covers on the side. She goes to yoga at least three times a week and finds time to play with me every single day.

Our life with cancer is just that. Life. With cancer. With a renewed appreciation for life.

Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.
#cancer #breastcancer #lifewithcancer

How Am I Doing?

My wife, Loren, is battling metastatic breast cancer. And almost every conversation I have these days – at work and with friends, at the bar and on the phone – begins with the same question: How is Loren doing?

The answer is, she’s doing okay. She, fortunately, does not have any nausea. Maybe a little heartburn and bone pain, along with a great deal of fatigue, but no nausea. She is maintaining her weight and we are, obviously, hoping for the best.

Most people nod, say they’re happy to hear it, and leave it at that. Some ask for details, and I’m happy to go into the minutiae of treatment and tell them about the good days and the bad, the patterns within the data (we keep track of Loren’s symptoms in a small notebook – how she’s feeling listed on the left side of the page, medications and other countermeasures on the right), and our mostly successful efforts to anticipate and counteract the side effects.

Good friends and family, however, ask the more difficult question: How are you doing?

I’m doing okay, I guess, about as well as can be expected. I’m not overwhelmed anymore – “Just whelmed,” I like to say – and deep down, I have the sense that I’ll make it, no matter what happens. I’m not losing weight, I’m all caught up at work, and I’m not worried about, or anticipating, what might happen next.

But I no longer have far horizons, or at least those I care to look toward, because none of them include Loren anymore. I live up close, in the moment, enjoying the times when Loren has energy and getting things done when she sleeps. It’s a crash course in mindfulness, one that gurus everywhere would be proud of.

But one that’s surprisingly difficult. We weren’t built to always live in the now — we were made to reminisce and daydream as well. And Loren and I do remember our many years together, both the good and the bad, but we don’t look very far ahead anymore. Not much past next summer.

Not because we think she is going to die before then. The statistics look good and she seems to be responding well to her treatment. But nothing is known, nothing is certain, until she gets her next scans: one for the brain in January and one for the rest of her body a month or two after that.

If everything looks good, Loren will switch over to maintenance chemotherapy, which won’t include taxotere, the nastiest one of her chemo drugs. Her hair will grow back, for the most part, and her taste buds will return (with a taste for cheaper wine, we hope). Life will return to normal – or something resembling normal — but every three months or so the docs will take another look and let us know if everything is going to change.

I know. I’m back to telling you about Loren and how she’s doing. Because it’s easier than telling you about myself.

I’m okay, as good as can be expected. And you? How are you doing?