My father, my brothers, and my best friends have all heard the lecture: If I’m in a coma, and it looks like I’m not getting better, pull the plug and give away all my organs — everything…that’s useful. Save all the lives! However, if there is any chance that I am going to make it, and it’s been more than 14 days, make sure you bring in someone to thread my eyebrows. I am aware that this conversation is not a normal one to have, but then again, nobody has ever… >> Read More
Several weeks into chemotherapy and proton therapy, Lydia lost most of her hair. At 7-and-a-half my daughter was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma. It turned out that her night terrors and toothache…were really symptoms of a tumor growing under the surface of her right jawbone, a tumor that started in the connective tissue. As Lydia’s hair thinned more and more, I offered to shave her head. “Are you kidding me?” she said, hand on her hip and a death-ray stare in her eyes. “It’s bad enough… >> Read More
We pulled up to the funeral parlor and our 5-year-old Ravi skipped along the stairs. My partner, Yael, and I exchanged glances. We had wondered when was early enough to bring Ravi to her first…funeral, but with her cousins in abundant attendance and her grandmother’s specific request that she come, we acquiesced. Her grandmother’s brother had died and Ravi, well, hasn’t been shy when it comes to asking questions around mortality. “Is God dead?” Ravi asked us on a car ride home from camp this past summer. Sure, Ravi… >> Read More
When I mentioned recently that we were planning to visit the cemetery where my father is buried, my 6-year-old asked if we could “dig him up.” I smiled and explained to him that once a body is…buried, it stays buried. He asked: “Is your dad a skeleton? Is he dust?” “A skeleton, probably,” I told him, though I wasn't quite sure. My son considered that for a moment. Then he returned to the Lego seaplane he was building, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn't have to wade… >> Read More
My mother died of glioblastoma in May 2002. It’s the very same kind of almost-always fatal brain cancer that U.S. Senator John McCain is now fighting.
In the few short months between Mom’s…diagnosis and her death, her illness took away all the things that made her a person — first, her sharpness, then her empathy, and then her logic. And then nothing, because in the weeks before her death, my mother — a longtime and much beloved college administrator — stopped talking altogether. To be diagnosed with cancer… >> Read More