a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Sunday, September 4, 2016


My dad has cancer.

This has not been my truth to publicly share, but it has been the truth I have been living. It is a truth that has kept me quieter in this virtual world, quieter than I am comfortable being.

Today I am finally writing this truth and sharing it with you: My dad has cancer.

He was diagnosed in January with stage two cancer of the voice box. By the time he began treatments in June, it was stage three. This is an aggressive type of cancer cell, but it remains local to his voice box—even though the equally aggressive radiation and chemotherapy did not work.

Within a month, he will have his voice box removed. He will quite literally lose his voice. Forever. Eventually, the doctors will give him a prosthetic voice box. With the new voice box he will regain the ability to produce sound and shape words. After four months of silence he will learn to use a new, artificial voice.

The first thing people usually ask when I share this news is, “Was he a smoker?”

Yes. Yes, he was a smoker. Two packs a day for my entire 38 years of life, and he started well before I came along.

I cringe internally at the question every time. It is a natural follow-up question to ask, I know. But I cringe just the same.

I think the answer is comforting to the listener—a sort of reassurance that bad things only happen when we make bad choices.

But I know the truth.

Cancer doesn’t happen to people who deserve it.

Cancer just happens. Or it doesn’t.

I spent my summer believing that if we just did all the right things, if we just endured treatments that hollowed my father out, the universe would repay us by getting rid of the cancer.

I believed we would be rewarded for making good choices.

But I know the truth.

Cancer doesn’t depend on choices.

Cancer just happens. Or it doesn’t.

Even after the surgery, there is only a 20-40% chance that the cancer will not return.

It will happen. Or it won’t.

There is nothing I can do that will make a bit of difference in those odds.

Cancer is a humbling adversary.

But it has taught me a lot.

Cancer has taught me to be grateful for my dad’s voice even when I don’t care for what it is saying.

Cancer has taught me that I can endure 17-hour days in the hospital without a break to eat or drink when that is what I need to do.

Cancer has taught me that life can get worse than a 17-hour day in the hospital without a break to eat or drink.

Cancer has taught me that memories live not in things, but inside of us.

Cancer has taught me the importance of a support system and how to be a friend.

Cancer has taught me the value of hearing, “I love you.”

Cancer has taught me the value of saying, “I love you.”

Cancer has reminded me to treasure the little things, the small moments.

These are the truths I am living.
Dad before cancer