Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Live for Joy

I have been truly blessed.  Back when I was first diagnosed, five years ago, June 15, 2011, I set a goal.  I wanted to see my youngest, then 14,  graduate from high school.  In my mind, that event put a period on the job I was supposed to do - raise my kids.  

Setting a goal a few years in the future when living with metastatic cancer is playing with fire, of course.  This disease will take you when it wants to take you, we don't get to choose. We have that Sword of Damocles hanging over our head, but being able to look forward to an event helped me focus my eyes forward rather than up. 

That high school graduation was an event that would have made me happy and proud without having cancer, but having cancer, it brought me true joy, and a sense of relief and accomplishment.  I did it, I raised my son.  He was prepared for college, he was able to live on his own if necessary.  Whew.  I don't take credit for his intelligence, drive, grades or anything but his ability to survive without me. He can cook, do laundry, is able to interview, find a job, understands paying the bills.   He doesn't need me at all, which is the goal in raising your kids (slightly heartbreaking, but it is the point of being a parent).

I got to see that period on the end of his childhood.  And then, my luck continued.  I have gotten so much more than I ever hoped for.  In the past five years, my stepdaughter became pregnant, gave birth to my first grandson who is an insanely beautiful, blue-eyed, blonde, curly-haired boy who is now two.  And, of course, he is a genius, speaking in full sentences, fully potty-trained - and he knows his Grandma Ann. We had a crayon sword-fight at the wedding.  He is unlikely to remember me unless I live much longer than anybody expects, but somewhere in his brain, I live.  Joy.

Wait, what wedding, you ask?  This weekend, on a glorious bright blue day up in the Sierra Nevada, my oldest son married his love of eleven years.  The wedding was a reflection of this couple, simple and classic, funny and sweet, creative and imaginative.  Watching your son vow to love his woman forever is heart-melting.   This little boy that you read stories to, kissed boo-boos for,  cooked dinner for every night, this boy whose hair you cut and clothes you bought and who you taught manners and hugged every chance you got - the fact that he is able to give his heart completely and honestly to somebody else,  that, my friends, is pure joy. It doesn't hurt that I love his wife like I love my stepdaughters.  

At the wedding, people asked me what my next goal is.  Many are under the impression that setting goals to live for is what keeps me going.  In reality I stopped thinking that way after the graduation.  I am not asking for more, in any sense except that I'm going to keep going with the treatment and the appointments and the unending cancer lifestyle.  I'm not giving up, but I am not going to focus on the future.  My next big event is my son's college graduation in two years. I hope to be there, of course, I do - but big events are part of life.  There will always be one in the future, and the time will come when I will no longer be there, as happens to us all.  At this point, I'm satisfied with the day I am in.

Our regular days can bring plenty of joy if we look for it.  A bird nesting outside on your eve, a rainstorm, a dog chasing its tail.  The big events bring true joy but the little things make life happy. I've had plenty of both.

So my advice for you newly diagnosed metsters is, as it has always been, to take each day as it comes.  You indeed have a sword hanging over your head, but don't give it power.  It will drop one day, or maybe, just maybe, you will be in the lucky 2% and it never does.  I just know that staring at it above all the time means you miss the joy below.

Bride and Dad

Here Comes the Bride

Groom and Bride


Me chatting with relatives

Me, my cousin, my sister, my husband at rehearsal dinner

Me and my husband


After the Ceremony


  1. I have also had the goal to see my youngest graduate from high school. She was 7 when
    I was first dx'd with 3b breast cancer, and 11 when my mets were found. Tomorrow night is graduation! I am feeling huge relief but a major let down. I would live to see my son married and to see at last one grandchild. But these are not nearly as important as what I have accomplished.

    1. Congratulations! If you are anything like me, you cried like a baby!

      I think there is always a let down when we reach a goal, whether we have a disease or not. We become so focused, and it's human to feel a bit empty when it's over. You'll adjust.

  2. Three days after I was told I was metastatic, my first grandchild was born. As I held him that first time, I promised to love him forever, even if someday I was no longer here for him. He is now 3 and has a little sister. Whether they consciously remember me or not, I believe there will always be a part of them that will remember my love.
    Congratulations on the wedding, Ann. May you be blessed by seeing your youngest graduate from college, see him marry, and hold and enjoy more grandbabies.
    Elizabeth J.

    1. I agree with you. Your grandkids are part of you and your love has changed them, even so early. Congratulations, it must be amazing to see your baby become a parent.

  3. Beautiful post as always, Ann. It seems that you've raised two amazing boys, and I'm glad you got to see your oldest get married. I don't have mets (at least not that I know of... yet), but I'm fully aware that it is a real possibility for me, and it has changed how I view my future. While there are all sorts of things I hope to be alive to witness in the future, I also understand that there will always be big events, and no matter what, I won't be there for all of them. (None of us will.) I've also learned to appreciate the beauty of the little things.

    Your grandson may not remember you, but he will know you because of the love you have for him. Even after people die, they live on in spirit through the memories that others have of them and share with younger generations. From reading your blog, I know you don't believe in any sort of afterlife, and neither do I, but I do believe that people live on in spirit through the impact they have had on others. In that sense, you will be practically be immortal.

    Hugs to you.

    1. Thanks you, and we do think the same! I'm glad that you have used your very normal worry about mets to appreciate the time you are here. Let's hope you never deal with it but do continue to enjoy the beauty.

  4. Practically immortal - that is you! Thank you, Ann, for all that you do for others in the community. I am rooting for you always and so glad to see you able to enjoy this beautiful milestone.

    1. Thank you! I've been very, very lucky and I am grateful.

  5. Congratulations! I know this has been a goal for you for a long time.

  6. Thank you Ann for giving me hope. I was diagnosed last July denovo stage 4. Blogs like yours give me hope, I missed my oldest child's grad because I was too sick but I have a 16 and 13 year old to raise still. I hope for weddings and grandchildren too.

  7. Ann this is one of the most wonderful, deep, rich and hopeful posts you have written. It is the secret of happiness for everyone, not just metsters. Let's all take time and remember to smell the roses. So happy for you - and you looked beautiful!

  8. Hi Ann, you are having a great spirit which is highly required in these kind of life threatening diseases. God bless you with more strength to fight with it.

  9. Hi,

    First of all, you look gorgeous.

    I am 29, have two cute toddlers of 4 years old. When i was diagnosed with bc last year (and stage 4 right away), my goal was to stay myself, and to live as long as I could. And maybe to stay around long enough to make them remember me...
    I had chemo and didnt loose my hair, I have herceptin and perjeta now, 13th time already (time flies). I had 8 liver mets. 4 When chemo was finished. And now, almost one year after my diagnosis, i'm so called ned. I didnt see that coming! First i Tried to live with these mets, now i have to believe that they will never come back. Screw my dissapointment if they do. But i think my initial reaction wasnt wrong, I make the best of each day. Of course, those kids help me a lot.
    I want to thank you for the attention you draw to this cancer. Maybe, thanks to people like you, there will be a cure. We all have to believe that! I'll keep on following you because many times, you make more sense than my oncologist.

    Olvia, Belgium.

  10. It doesn't matter what age you pass away at you are missed My father passed away almost 2 months ago. He was 92, living independently and loving life. He fell and substained a catastrophic brain injury. He was dead within a week. I can think of thing he is missing every day. He adored his grandchildren and he has already missed some milestones. Continue to live for those milestones. Whether they are large or small, they are important. If you are not there it diminishes the feeling of accomplishment. That will not go away, it might not impact as much but it will not go away.

  11. Hello Ms. Silberman,
    I finished your blog, from the start. I like your writing style - except the one-liners that are a bit irritating sometimes.
    I commend you for not stopping the posts after you were diagnosed with metastasis. Your blog has provided the best insight ever into the life of a cancer patient. Especially the posts about appetite.
    And now something that I know you will not like. In my opinion, cancer is a satanic disease. Satan punished you, God knows why. Medicine is clueless. They just go through the motions - and pocket huge sums.
    Turn to God with a pure heart and a sincere intention. Say Our Father when you rise and when you retire, quietly. And whenever you remember. God can change the course of cancer anytime and wrest you back from Satan's claws. As long as you do not feel death approaching, for then it is late.
    Best regards to you from Hungary and keep the posts coming.

  12. It is always heart warming to read stories like these. A neighbor of mine told me that living life with goals is what kept him going. It was as if he was always giving himself a deadline, saying "once i make it to my sons wedding, or my granddaughters birthday, it will be okay to pass." Once he was a lot older, he said he had fewer and fewer goals. He felt his health dwindle. He got a puppy named Oreo. Instantly he bounced back. He began walking his dog with me nearly every day, despite all the years physical therapy getting him nowhere.
    Unfortunately, towards the end it was not the cancer that did him in. It was a heart attack and aneurysm together at the age of 82.
    The last conversation we ever had was about meeting up the next weekend to take our dogs out to the dog park. He never did get to make that goal.

  13. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Best wishes.

  14. I want you to recover! Try custom essay writing service. I am sure that eveything will be fine!

  15. Hi Ann, this is a wonderful, insightful post. The bride and groom are a beautiful couple. Your perspective on enjoying life should be taken to heart by every one of us. Life has its big moments, always, and it's a privilege to witness those big moments. By the way, you look beautiful in the pictures!

  16. Anne - I was thinking about you yesterday - great to see you looking so well - what a happy day for you.


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