Relationships

“How Long Have I Got Left?”

Last May, my brother-in-law, Paul, who has a deep gentleness and a keen sense of humor, found out that he had incurable lung cancer. Out of nowhere, he was facing death. He was 36 and had always been healthy. Our family was floored.

This week, he wrote a beautiful essay for the New York Times about what the experience has been like. At first, he thought he had only a few months, but now, because of a new treatment, he may live longer. (Two years? Five years? Ten years? The doctors don’t know.) And that uncertainty is disorienting.

“The path forward would seem obvious,” he writes, “if only I knew how many months or years I had left. Tell me three months, I’d just spend time with family. Tell me one year, I’d have a plan (write a book). Give me 10 years, I’d get back to treating diseases [as a neurosurgeon]. The pedestrian truth that you live one day at a time didn’t help: What was I supposed to do with that day? My oncologist would say only: ‘I can’t tell you a time. You’ve got to find what matters most to you.’ ”

We all know are going to die, and we don’t know when, but as Paul says, “now I know it acutely.”

Read his beautiful essay here, if you’d like. Thank you so much for sharing, Paul. We love you. xoxo

(Top illustration by Tucker Nichols for the New York Times)

  1. Thanks so much for posting this so that even more people see it. I was wondering if you would. I know Paul and Lucy from residency (I started residency at Stanford in emergency medicine the same year Paul started and my husband was in Lucy’s class at UCSF) and have been thinking about them so much since this was published. It was nice to go back and read it again as I got so much more out of it this time–my first pass I was just so shocked and sad.

  2. Such a beautiful article. It really puts things into perspective. Sending prayers to your family.

  3. t. says...

    This touches me so much in so many ways. Thank you for sharing. My thoughts are always with you.

  4. Thank so much for sharing this. Sending all my good vibes to Paul – I so admire his attitude and strength as well as his clarity. Hits quite close to home.

  5. All our love and prayers are going to him and his family!

  6. Wow, such a beautiful essay that brought tears to my eyes. You have a wonderful brother-in-law.

  7. Thank you, Paul, for the beautiful essay. Best wishes to you.

  8. Wow, prayers to you and your family.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this. It was so lovely and moving, and devastating and sad. There is always hope; so glad that he holds that. Peaceful thoughts for your whole family!

  10. Just few months ago we lost a dearest friend for a cancer. It ‘was sudden and devastating. In only three months he left a lovely wife, two adorable daughters, his parents and a sister, and many, many, many friends breathless.
    He was a good man, a kindly old heart, a hard worker, a loving and faithful husband, a generous friend. He was only 50. Yes, it’s more than 36 but it’s still too early. We all miss him every day. I hope with all my heart that Paul can live long enough to know the grandchildren of his grandchildren with all of you….

    In loving memory of John Amadeus Vinuesa

  11. Just few months ago we lost a dearest friend for a cancer. It ‘was sudden and devastating. In only three months he left a lovely wife, two adorable daughters, his parents and a sister, and many, many, many friends breathless.
    He was a good man, a kindly old heart, a hard worker, a loving and faithful husband, a generous friend. He was only 50. Yes, it’s more than 36 but it’s still too early. We all miss him every day. I hope with all my heart that Paul can live long enough to know the grandchildren of his grandchildren with all of you….

    In loving memory of John Amadeus Vinuesa

  12. There are no words to describe my feelings right now..My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer 2 weeks ago and she starts chemotherapy on Monday. Hopefully, her good spirit, strength and will for live keep her alive once she replaces all the negative thoughts that are on her mind at the moment..
    I’m wishing Paul all the best!

  13. Thank you for sharing. I will be praying for you and your family!!!

  14. Such an inspring essay. Beautifull written. Thank you so much for sharing, and to him for being brave enough to share.

  15. Thank you so much for sharing. I think everyone is wishing for the best for Paul and his family. It’s heartbreaking, but at the same time, a wonderful reminder to be grateful for what we do have.

  16. As a long time reader, I am truly shocked and saddened by this post. My heart aches for you, your sister, Paul, the entire family, knowing that you all are facing this battle. My dearest aunt has been fighting aggressive and recurring peritoneal cancer for several years; I am well aware of the emotional toll this situation can have on the family. My thoughts and prayers go out to your family, especially Paul and Lucy.

  17. joanna, i am so so sorry for your whole family – especially your twin sister who i am sure, along with paul, is completely confused and devastated. i pray the time he has left (which hopefully will be many years!) will be richly filled with family, joy and excitement.

  18. I’m very moved. Thinking of Paul-and of your family, Jo.

  19. I read this article on Sunday and immediately knew it was written by your brother-in-law from other times you had talked about him and Lucy. I didn’t comment since I didn’t know if you wanted the connection known, but now that it is, I want to say how sorry I am and how hard it must be for your sister far away from family support. Prayers and thoughts for your family.

  20. Oh my God, heartbreaking and beautiful. Love to Paul and your family. xx

  21. Thank you for sharing this. A family friend passed away this week, after suffering from cancer for years. Sending good thoughts to your family.

  22. Thank you for sharing his words. As an emergency nurse who had cancer at 30 with 3 kids under 6, I felt a rush of emotions come flooding back.
    I will share this with my fellow coworkers. It’s always good for healthcare providers to be reminded of the human (not textbook) side of illness.
    I sincerely pray that your brother-in-law is working 10+ years from now – for him, his patients, and your family.

  23. Thank you for sharing this. It is a very emotional and moving essay.

  24. I read this article, but I had no idea it was your BIL. I truly wish him the best.

  25. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  26. Can’t wait to read this. Your brother in law sounds like an incredible person.

  27. Joanna – Knowing Lucy and Paul (and also from reading your site frequently) through my son, Dr. Matt, (Lucy’s old and good friend from college and med school), I am feeling so sad that this struggle is part of your family. My encouraging prayers and hopes go out to your family – thinking of your mom as well. I will be hoping for positive words of good health for Paul for the future. Warmly, Joanne C.

  28. this is absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking. so much love to your family xox

  29. so beautiful and such an important reminder to live in the now and make sure you are doing the important work of life.

  30. Paul seems like an incredible person, husband, brother-in-law and physician. He healed people before his diagnosis, and no doubt will now heal people because of his diagnosis. I lost my father to brain cancer just more than a year ago. He was also a physician – a brilliant, brave, kind hearted man far too young to die. One experiences so many emotions during these sorts of things, but I have never been able to put my finger on one particular aspect — until reading Paul’s essay. “In a way, though, the certainty of death was easier than this uncertain life.” I burst into tears reading this because for me, this was so true. I’ve never been able to articulate this clearly – to myself or to anyone else – but now I can, thanks to Paul.

    Paul will change lives because of his strength to write these brave words. He has already changed mine.

    Sending much love and peace to Paul and each of you.

  31. This is a beautiful message. My mom has been battling Multiple Sclerosis and I have tried for years to put into words what this one phrase said in this essay: “In a way, though, the certainty of death was easier than this uncertain life.” Because living with a disease is hard and in many ways I think it is harder that dying…reading this made me realize a big part of that is because of the uncertainty, the not knowing. Thank you for sharing this with us and I will keep your family and brother in law in my prayers for continued strength, improvement and perspective.

  32. Joanna, this is so sad. Paul, thank you for sharing this beautiful essay. All the very best.

    Anne (a reader from NYC)

  33. Joanna, this is so sad. Paul, thank you for sharing this beautiful essay. All the very best.

    Anne

  34. Your family is in my prayers.

  35. A beautiful essay, indeed…I’m sorry to hear that your sister and family are going thru this. Sending my love and prayers to Paul. xxoo

  36. Wow. I read his article earlier this week, before I knew he was your cousin. As someone who works in a hospital with terminally ill children, his words really spoke to me about the human nature of wondering and worrying in the face of illness and death. Thank you for sharing this!

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  38. A big, warm hug to Lucy and Paul, and you, too. To be confronted by a reality like this is huge and deserves much love. Know that you all are loved, even by a community of people spread wide across the internet… xo

  39. My dad has had stage III-IV PMP cancer for the past four years. He was diagnosed the night before I left for college my freshmen year. I completely understand your brother-in-law’s observation about time and what he would do with it if he knew. He sounds like an incredibly brave, heartfelt individual to have written such wise words. Really moving post. :)

  40. Sorry to hear about your brother-in-law but at the same time, thanksful to heart about him and talk about him, because that’s whats important! life isn’t a straight road, and a life with chornic disease is just as important to celebrate and evaluate.

  41. Brilliant writing, expertly delivered. Humbling.

  42. I am so sad to hear that your family is struggling with this – I can’t imagine how hard it is. Thanks for sharing, and hopefully he can keep that little glimpse of hope in sight.

  43. Loving thoughts and prayers to Paul, Lucy and their entire families. As a long time reader I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sadness but Paul’s essay was truly amazing and comforting to read.

  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

  45. My cousin was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer last year and as you said – our family was floored. She is the wife of a rabbi, has two small children, and a PhD in comparative literature. I have looked up to her my entire life and still haven’t been able to wrap my head around the idea that she will go, let alone the fact that we don’t know when. She is brilliant, healthy, strong, and yet, here we are. I applaud your brother-in-law for having the strength to talk so openly about his diagnosis. Writing has helped my cousin cope in many ways and her posts are somehow both moving and funny, hopeful and devastating. Here’s a link, if you would care to read: http://bmatzav.blogspot.com/
    All the best to you and your family…here’s to making it all count.

  46. i can’t even imagine what that would be like. i don’t event know what i would do. that is so incredibly sad. my thoughts and prayers are with your family. how do you even begin to handle something like that?
    laurenofthedoxey.blogspot.com

  47. the honesty is so moving. brought back my faith in the power of the human spirit. PS. I really, super duper hate cancer…more and more stories…thankfully there are more and more fighters sharing their journey to balance it out.

  48. Wow Jo. What a raw and beautifully written essay. Such strength. Your brother-in-law Paul sounds like such a remarkable man and how lucky for you to have his as family. What a gracious and strong man. Many prayers of love, continued strength and peace for Paul and Lucy.

  49. I love this essay so much. I read it a few days ago and kind of thought the writer might be your brother-in-law. It’s a really incredible essay. I am really sad for your family.

  50. Paul is a gifted writer. Thank you for sharing his story.

  51. My thoughts and prayers to Lucy and Paul.

  52. Joanna,

    I am stunned! After reading this article the other day, my husband promptly emailed my older brother, Dr. Bob S. Carter about the story. Bob replied, attaching a photo of himself and your brother-in-law at a conference at Stanford. My husband asked my brother: “if you get a chance, please tell paul i was touched by the profound insights in his article and that he has unseen fans over here in stasha and me. if he ever comes to this part of the world i would love to meet him. or perhaps the next time i am in palo alto.” So now I echo those same sentiments–if you get the chance, please pass along to Paul our gratitude for his insights and a personal invitation to our place in France. All the best to your family. -Stasha Ashton

  53. What a beautiful essay, indeed. My heart and prayers go out to you and your family. xo

  54. So sorry! Thoughts and prayers to your family Joanna xo

  55. My friend’s sister is facing something similar. It is devastating. My thoughts and prayers are with you all <3

  56. Lovely. Prayers going out to your brother-in-law and family.

  57. Thank you for sharing and good, healthy vibes to your brother in law <3

  58. CC says...

    Thank you for sharing this. Our thoughts are with your family.

  59. Poignant essay, Joanna, thank you for sharing it. My best wishes to both Lucy and Paul.

  60. Poignant essay, Joanna, thank you for sharing it. My best wishes to both Lucy and Paul.

  61. Thank you for sharing this.

  62. It is such a small world, I had no idea he was your BIL. My mother also has lung cancer with a strange genetic mutation & receives treatment at Stanford, likely from the same oncologist as your BIL. She is amazing, I love her. He so eloquently put into words what my whole family has been feeling since her diagnosis almost 5 years ago. I can’t thank him enough for sharing his feelings. xo

  63. I’m so sorry to learn this, and I can’t imagine how hard it is on you as you watch your twin deal with it. Paul and Lucy have always sounded so wonderful and full of life–I’m glad that doesn’t seem to be changing, even with so much uncertainty. Hugs to all of you, especially Paul, and thanks for sharing his beautiful essay.

  64. What a great article — what a great brother-in-law to have! Thanks for sharing. Will keep him in my prayers. Glad things are looking up! :)

  65. Joanna, Lucy, Paul –
    Thank you for sharing this with us, thank you for your beautiful words, and thank you for imparting on us a little bit of your tremendous courage. I too am hopeful for your treatment and I will also keep you in my prayers. Please continue to keep us all updated.

  66. What a moving and beautifully written essay. I’m amazed at his clarity and resilience. It’s a brilliant reminder to not only keep things in perspective but to be grateful and thankful all the same. Thank you for sharing.

  67. oh noooo. Soooo sorry to hear it. But it is life. Have to live to the fullest everyday and every moment. After reading this, it really makes me cherish everything even more. I hope your brother will get better. <3

    http://www.shallwesasa.com

  68. Praying for Paul, for his strength to keep going on.

  69. Like many others, I have been a reader of your blog for many years and have always admired the obviously beautiful relationship that your sister shares with Paul. I am so, so very sorry to hear this devastating news. Paul’s essay was deeply moving and clearly shows his wonderful soul, sharp mind, reflective nature, and his love of life. Although we’ve never met, I’ll be thinking of you all and hoping that Paul has many years left to be with the people he loves and continue changing the world.

  70. Many hugs to Paul, Lucy and your whole family. I found out last night my Mom has kidney cancer. Too small to operate on, they just said to wait. What timing for your post. Good vibes to all of us, we must be strong.

  71. I am so sorry to hear this Joanna. I cannot fathom what this must be like. Sending warm thoughts to your family.

  72. I will definitely be praying for your family. My father lost his life a month ago to cancer, and I know it can be extremely hard on a family. I had early melanoma two years ago at 28 and am doing well now. It is nice to see a doctors perspective. I’ll be praying that he will continue to heal!

  73. This brought me to tears. So strong, so true. My mother had breast cancer and it reminded me when I first heard the news. It was a similar process, I think, searching for numbers, percentages, time frames.. Thanks for sharing. My mom survived and she is now much better. I hope the best for Paul and your family. *BIG hug*

  74. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Your BIL has a very strong spirit.

  75. Oh Joanna, your brother-in-law and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. His essay was beautiful and hit so close to home – my mother lived with metastatic breast cancer for ten years (seven years longer than doctors predicted when she was diagnosed.)

    She said once, “I choose to live like I am *living* with cancer, rather than *dying* from it.”

    Attitudes don’t heal everything, but they can change our quality of life for the time we have. Tell your brother-in-law that he should write that book. We would read it. <3

  76. Wow. I remember seeing posts about him. I’m so sorry to hear this awful news. So much love for Paul and Lucy.

  77. Totally crying at work. What a moving story. Love to you and your family xo

  78. This was amazing, thank you so much for sharing.

  79. Oh Joanna. My heart goes out to you and your sister and family. What a beautiful legacy he has already left with this article.

  80. Oh Joanna, I’m so sorry. I’m filled with such sadness. Thank you for sharing this. You are so sweet to be so open on your blog. To know that your family, especially Paul and your sweet sister have been enduring this makes me so sad. I can but imagine how heavy your heart is to see you dear family member and sister go through this. I’m so sorry.

  81. Wow, I had no idea that he was your brother-in-law. What an amazingly talented family. Beautiful article. Your family is in my thoughts.

  82. Joanna, I am so sorry to hear this. I will read the piece and be thinking of you all.

  83. What a beautiful and poignant essay. Paul, and your family are in my thoughts. Your website has been a haven for so many reasons for years and this is just another wonderful way you share with your readers. No other blog handles so many personal trials and triumphs like you do. Thank you as always for sharing.

  84. A friend sent me Paul’s beautiful NYT piece yesterday with a note telling me about how amazing Paul is (they are pals from Stanford – he did an EM residency there) and just how honored he has been to know him. I read the article and was instantly reduced to tears. Clearly your brother in law is an extraordinary person. I, too, am a physician and will be keeping this article to help me talk with patients about tough things and these difficult “numbers.” His words are nothing short of beautiful. You and your family will remain in my thoughts and prayers.

  85. This is heart breaking; the acutely unknow… sending a BIG HUG to Paul and his wife and your family.

    I’m heading over to read his essay now.

  86. Wow. His essay brought me to tears. Thank you for sharing.

  87. I’m afraid to read this at work, as your excerpts made me tear up, but wow. so moving. and I will definitely read later with tissues… and then go hug my family.

  88. My thoughts and prayers are with your family. That is just so sad.

  89. My thoughts and prayers are with your family. That is just so sad.

  90. This article touched a friend who is facing terminal cancer. she posted the article a few days ago. These words are touching people around the world. Write on Paul, write on.

  91. I read this when Lucy linked to it – such an amazing beautiful piece of work. I can only imagine how hard it is to accept this reality, but Paul appears to be taking it as well as he can and giving the attention where it needs to be – to the things that matter in life. Much love to everyone in the family and here’s hoping Paul is a medical miracle.

  92. Joanna, I read this essay on Saturday evening, and after a very quick Google search on the author, I was shocked to realize that he was your brother-in-law. My cousin who was so full of life and love died in 2009 at the age 29 from brain cancer, but even though she was living with brain cancer for four years, she was only dying from brain cancer for the last four days of her life. She really celebrated every moment she had and made us all better people because of it. I hope Paul is able to live this way as he faces his own disease. My thoughts continue to be with you, Paul, and the rest of your family during this time.

  93. Thank you for sharing this. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer a year and a half ago. She too is on a new treatment that might prolong her life a little but for how long no one knows. My family has found this article therapeutic because some how it validates us as human beings to say “we are not alone. There is some one else who knows what this feels like.” That is enough.

  94. Thank you for sharing this. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer a year and a half ago. She too is on a new treatment that might prolong her life a little but for how long no one knows. My family has found this article therapeutic because some how it validates us as human beings to say “we are not alone. There is some one else who knows what this feels like.” That is enough.

  95. Oh, Joanna. I read this essay over the weekend but didn’t make a connection to your family. Thank you for sharing. Sending warmest thoughts

  96. Thank you very much for sharing Paul’s story — I know you’re very close with your family, and I am keeping all of you in my thoughts.

  97. What an amazing article. Thank you for sharing.

  98. Heartbreaking. Cancer is such a b*stard. My wish is that the answer to his question is “a few more years yet”.

    Really puts into perspective the rubbish that I worry about…..

  99. Thank you for sharing this essay. A good life lesson for everyone.

  100. Thank you for sharing. My mother was diagnosed a week ago, and I am a firm believer that there are no coincidences in life. Reading his essay and hearing both his honesty and hope was inspiring. There are no words to try to comfort you and your family at this time, but I know thoughts and prayers for all of you are following everywhere you go.

  101. I read this last week, and was moved by his story. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.

  102. A very moving and wise essay. Thanks for sharing, and good thoughts for your family.

  103. Beautiful essay. Thank you for sharing such a personal story

  104. My heart is with your family right now….xoxo
    Thank you for being so honest with your blog Joanna.

  105. What a beautiful essay. And what a difficult thing for your family to deal with. Thanks for sharing.

  106. Thank you for sharing this. It’s so personal for Paul, you, your family. And yet so incredibly human, recognizable. Keeping Lucy and Paul in my thoughts today…

  107. Lovely essay. It reminds me of something I heard Edmund White say about living with HIV while so many around him had died of AIDS. I don’t remember what it was exactly, just about how you spend a lot of time expecting to die and then suddenly have to worry about your retirement. Such a riduclous gift. Paul’s essay is very touching.

  108. Joanna,
    Paul’s story floored me when I read it this weekend. My husband, also a 36-year-old surgical resident, was diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer in the same month as your brother-in-law. Everything Paul described in those few days was exactly what we went through. Spencer so hoped to go back into an operating room one day; we had strong hopes for our targeted therapy. Where their stories differ is that my husband’s cancer made a mockery of his treatment. My husband died 46 days after his diagnosis.

    Some details of our story are here: http://www.toquegirls.com

    I haven’t stopped thinking about Paul and his wife since I read his story. I wish them every, every happiness.

  109. Thank you for sharing and best wishes to Paul and your family. His essay struck a chord with me as both father and father-in-law were diagnosed with cancer in the last year. If there is any silver lining to this, it’s the reminder that life is fleeting, to live each day as best as we can and to hold our loved ones tightly every chance that we get!

  110. wow, what amazing essay and wow, i am very impressed with your brother-in-law’s attitude. truly moving.

  111. I am tearing up…what a moving essay. I am sending good thoughts and prayers to Paul and your family. Wishing you all the best.

  112. Thank you for sharing. Cancer sucks. I’ll say a prayer for him.

  113. A beautiful essay. Very moving. Thank you for sharing I hope he and his family cherish the time they have together.

  114. Joanna,

    I have been a long time reader of your blog and am so sorry to hear this. Thank you for sharing this and sending you lots of strength and compassion.

  115. This post breaks my heart. I have followed your blog for years and have read about your twin sister Lucy and her husband Paul. I hope that science brings a breakthrough. My prayers and positive thoughts are with your brother in law and the rest of your family!

  116. I am so sorry. I lost a friend to lung cancer, which spread to his brain last March, he was 46, when he died-too young. He lived in every moment the last few years of his life, every second of every moment. He had some amazing alternative trails at Dartmouth Hospital, which allowed him to live way past what anyone thought. I know how difficult it is for the family, and people closest. I think harder perhaps for those around. Strength & love to the family.

  117. Thank you to you and Paul for sharing such an intimate piece of your lives with us.

  118. Wow, I am so sad. I always loved reading about Lucy and Paul – this is a big shock and so sad to read. He’s one of those people you can tell is an amazing person just from the pictures. Love to you and your family.

  119. Thank you for sharing this article, I found it incredibly moving. I’m so sorry to hear that this has happened to Paul and to your family. xo

  120. Joanna, I was brought to tears reading this over the weekend. Even though I don’t know you personally, some days I feel I do, making this story feel all the closer to home right now. Many prayers to Paul, your sister, you, and the rest of your family. And daily joy to each of you. xo.

  121. Oh Joanna, I’m so sorry for your brother and law and your family for having to face something like this. I try to avoid reading articles like these or anything about death because I become so obsessed with the idea of dying that I forget to just live, which is the point behind these articles. I wish there were something I could do or say to help. So sorry this had to happen to such a wonderful family.

  122. Thank you so much for sharing, I’m so sorry your family has to go through this. My brother in law has terminal brain cancer and it’s a struggle to watch how he and my sister deal with it. It makes me motivated to focus on what is truly important to me.

  123. My heart goes out to your sister. Paul is a beautiful person.

  124. Oh Joanna, my thoughts are with you, your sister and the rest of your family. Best wishes and lots of luck to Paul as he pursues this new treatment.

    On a side note, when my mom was diagnosed with ALS, I gifted her one of my favorite books: the Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch. Randy was a college professor who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He spent the time he had left writing this poignant book about perspective. I found it tremendously comforting.

  125. Oh no… this is so sad. I hope he gets better :( :(

  126. Beautiful essay. Cancer is such a unique experience for each person, and it’s good to hear that someone with such a vast knowledge of it has found a way to keep moving, even if he knows the inevitable is…well…probably inevitable.

    The uncertainty seems to be the worst part of it, and I’m glad he was able to explain from his perspective why doctors are so hesitant to give patients that ticking timeline they crave. It’s a terrible disease, not only because of what it does to your body, but what it does to your psyche.

    I wish him all the best, however long he has. :-)

  127. Dear Joanna, this is one of my greatest fears and reading this took my breath away. Just wanted to say that my heart goes out to you and your family, and I’ll be sending bucket loads of positive thoughts your way. F xx

  128. I am viscerally sad about this. I know how connected you and Lucy are; and I always loved seeing pictures of their wedding and their cute coupledom together. I wish you and yours all the best.

  129. Absolutely beautiful and touching.

  130. Heartbreaking and very powerful. Thank you for sharing.

  131. I read this beautiful essay on Sunday, and I thought the author’s name sounded familiar, so I googled it and immediately recognized photos from your blog. I actually wrote out an email to you but decided not to send it – it would be too weird, I thought, and possibly an invasion of privacy.

    Now that you’ve shared, I can just say that I am so, so sorry this is happening to someone you love, and I hope that Paul gets that decade or more, as well as peace and happiness for however long any of our lives are.

  132. My best friend was diagnosed with incurable thyroid cancer that has spread to many parts of her body. There is no plan of action at this point for her because the doctors have never seen this type of cancer in someone of her age. She feels fine too which is the crazy part.

    The thing I know she has definitely struggled with is how much time does she have. Because no one can tell her. And thus in turn, I have struggled with it a lot. I have struggled with the thought of a future without her, when I thought we’d grow old and be crotchety grandmas together. The unknowing is a killer.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  133. This is so moving I don’t know what to say. I lost my father due to a very uncommon illness, he was not that old. After his death I’ve spent years contemplating about the issues of life and when death can hit us. It made me realize to live life gracefully, to let go of pride and to show everyone you love just that, even if it’s only a little bit a day. I’m thankful to have live and experienced what I have and embrace each new day with thankfulness.

  134. P. says...

    This took my breath away. Damned cancer. My deepest sympathies to your family. It may sound corny, but I hope he feels the rush of love going out to him as people all over the world read his story.

  135. Thank you – I read this on Sunday, but of course, didn’t make a connection. Very moving – Paul is obviously a very thoughtful man, and his essay will, I’m sure, be helpful to many who deal with similar issues.

    All my best to Paul and the whole family – we never know what the future will bring.

  136. This is an incredibly touching essay. It made me so sad to read this, but also very hopeful. He has an amazing attitude and I wish him all the best- and to his/your family as well. xo

  137. Wow. Love and prayers to you and your family.

  138. D2 says...

    What a moving piece. I’m so sorry to hear this. Difficult at any age but he is so young. Definitely puts life in perspective. I will say a prayer for him and your family.

  139. I am a cancer survivor. The term, “I can’t go on, I’ll go on” really struck home with me. But not only as it relates to cancer…with life. When times are hard, we go on, don’t we?

    Thank you Paul for the lovely essay, my best wishes to you.

  140. Wishing and hoping Paul continues to do well. I admire his “keep on, keeping on” attitude! What a hero… Sending lots of love to him and your family Jo!

  141. There is always room for miracles. Always. I will be saying a prayer for dear Paul.

  142. Beautiful and poignant, just like life itself. Xo

  143. Oh Joanna, I am so sorry to hear this. I don’t know you personally but have been reading your blog for years and have read about your brother in law on numerous occasions. He is right when he says we will all die one day but 36 is far too young.

  144. This is so incredibly moving.

  145. dc says...

    Lovely essay, thank you for sharing.

  146. I didn’t realize the connection. I read that article on Sunday, and I found it incredibly moving. My dad lost his life to lung cancer that metastasized into brain cancer when he was only 38. I was in middle school. My dad was a smoker, so it’s hard to say whether his was a genetic fluke or caused by his personal choices (or a mix of the two), though I don’t feel like much is accomplished by “blaming” him. I realized after reading this piece that I was really too young to completely understand what my parents must have been going through and struggling with, with the “unknown” of how much time he had left. Now that my husband is the same age, I am a little obsessed with every sign and symptom of cancer. I know that life is too fragile to assume that we will all survive until old age. I found this article informative and, also, comforting. I wish your family–and, especially your brother-in-law–the best.