For a long time, I lived a fun life with a great job, a handsome husband and beautiful children. I wore fabulous clothes and went to fun parties and trendy restaurants. I exercised and ate healthy foods and had a positive mental attitude, which I believed contributed to my privileged life.
In that life, illness didn’t happen to me. It didn’t happen to most of my social circle or my family, and, other than the rare accident, death was something that happened only to the generation or two ahead of me. Illness and death were not pretty or fun or any part of that life.
When I had the hubris of the healthy, I would distance myself from the rare friend who became sick. They must have done something that caused it, I might have thought. They were living an unhealthy life or caught some bad karma. Call me when you're better. I didn’t actively think these things, but I might as well have.
Then it happened to me: In my forties, with two young children, I received a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. Despite my best efforts, it is conceivable that I did something to cause it, lived in some unhealthy way or had bad karma. For whatever reason, I am where I am.
I recently read some of the articles on the Lisa Bonchek Adams controversy. In case you missed it, Lisa has been busy on social media documenting her life with stage 4 cancer. On Jan. 12, in a, frankly, tone-deaf opinion piece, former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller triggered a web firestorm by suggesting that Lisa is not appropriately facing her own imminent death. (Keller's wife, writer Emma Gilbey Keller, also wrote a piece that offended Lisa's followers; the article, published in The Guardian, was subsequently pulled from the publication's website, according to reports. The WBUR/NPR show On Point is discussing the controversy today here.)
Like Lisa, I am a mother. I am dealing with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. I have been at this for six years. I am lucky enough to have the support of family and friends. And I blog.
Through my blog, I’ve met amazing people, many of whom are also cancer patients. Most of them blog as well,
which is not surprising given how common blogs are. They tweet and post on Facebook. They have become as important and dear to me as my “healthy” friends, and I eagerly look for their posts as they share their experiences.
We support each other as we fully live the treatments, scanxiety, test results and taking stock of our current situation as our health changes. We share in the routine of daily life and our many joyful moments.
More than once, we’ve faced moments that seem to be close to the end. Sometimes we are right, and sometimes we learn that that scary moment was just another moment on the journey.
Through it all, we live our lives.
Lisa's writing is beautiful. But her blog is not always easy for me to read, primarily because it shines a light on a part of life that is not pretty or fun, and old habits die hard.
I hope that Lisa knows not to listen to those who would presume to write her off. No one can say how her journey will unfold. But I will stay tuned. Just as I learn much about life from hearing the stories of my friends, I expect to learn a lot from her stories. What a privilege to have a window into an honestly lived life.
Marie Colantoni Pechet lives in Cambridge with her husband and two sons and blogs at Adventures in Spiritual Living. Read her previous posts for CommonHealth here and here and listen to her speak frankly about her life with cancer here.