The Cost of Brave Love

posted in: Cancer | 2

Toban says the day he knew I really loved him was the day I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer.

I had just been told my life was over, and he said he felt something Hallmark should probably trademark: “You looked at me with such love that I knew I was a witness to what our life was supposed to be.”

Seriously, how good is THAT? The man has really missed a calling writing for Lifetime.

Besides enraging me by leaving kitchen cabinet doors open (I am 100% convinced he does this deliberately), ensuring our toddler learns one new heavy machinery sound effect a day, Toban continues to amaze me with how much his perfect, Canadian heart absorbs.

What is the cost of loving someone when you know it’s going to be painful?

I recently had the chance to interview my new and perfect friend, Lucy Kalanithi, whose late husband Paul Kalanithi wrote When Breath Becomes Air.

Lucy dropped all kinds of selfless wisdom on what it feels like to bear the legacy of love after the death of a spouse. She told me how romantic it can be to wake up next to the same person every day, choosing that space and place amidst the erasure of any well-made plan. Because it turns out, she said, that was her life. To hold him until his last day was the thing she was supposed to do.

It’s wild how we are all connected by different kinds of love. Love that reaches into the past, love that reaches into the future, and love that glories in the absurdity of today.

When debating whether to start a family after Paul’s diagnosis, Lucy asked him, “Wouldn’t having a baby make dying harder?” And Paul said, “Wouldn’t it be great if it did?”

We give love to the caregivers. We give love to the pall bearers. We give love to the uncertain lifters, the way-makers, and the dream catchers.

My life now is a three-month liturgy. Every 90 days, I am pumped full of dye, read by machines, and scrutinized to find out whether I get another 90 days to live. This hopscotch timeline means I have to make very calculated decisions about how I spend my time. What should I care about? What matters if everything hangs in the balance? This conversation with Lucy gave me a new beautiful way to think about how to make hard choices:

Is it beautiful? Is it brave? If I were to love it would it hurt like hell to leave it?

Well then, good.

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When Lucy Kalanithi fell for another doctor, she couldn’t know how much she was about to learn about love. The widow of Dr. Paul Kalanithi, author of the bestselling memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, talks about the high cost of love and how the best things in life are those you are afraid to lose. Follow Lucy on Twitter.

Listen to Lucy’s interview on my podcast, Everything Happens, here.

2 Responses

  1. nylse

    Every 90 days? We should all measure our lives in such moments even without a diagnosis. I appreciate your words.
    A reader of your book – Everything Happens for a Reason

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