Erica Finamore is an editor and writer from New York City. After 26 months of caregiving, she lost her husband to glioblastoma, a terminal brain cancer, at age 30. She is a brain tumor research advocate and member of the Gray Nation Endurance Team through National Brain Tumor Society.
After cancer took her husband away, one caregiver discusses the importance of celebrating the important dates and milestones. Even after they're gone.
I was never a big date person until my husband got sick.
I don’t mean date as in dinner and a movie, I mean actual calendar dates. But when Jon got diagnosed with glioblastoma and I knew we were on borrowed time, every day seemed to matter more. We celebrated our six-month wedding anniversary because we weren’t sure we’d make it to our one-year anniversary. Then when we did make it a full year, Jon was in the ICU that day recovering from a trial surgery in which they injected a virus into his brain. Don’t get me wrong, we spent the evening in a pricey room overlooking the east river, but that room happened to be located at NYU’s Tisch Hospital.
That anniversary felt like a victory because we had fought so hard to get to that milestone, something most couples (myself included) take for granted. We even made it to our two year anniversary, and while Jon’s health was declining, he was well enough for us to take a drive to Philly and celebrate our anniversary in the place where we got married, eating dinner where we had our rehearsal dinner two years before.
Again, that two-year anniversary felt incredibly meaningful because there had never been any indication, we’d be celebrating it together: His genetic markers were bad, his scans were bad, his tumor location was bad. Making it to that day was nothing short of a miracle for us, and to commemorate it, we had our amazing wedding photographer capture it, and I bought us both bracelets that say, “Love Never Fails,” in morse code beads. We buried Jon in his and I wear mine every day as a reminder. Jon’s health may have failed us but love never did.
Wednesday, October 21st will be my first wedding anniversary without my husband, and it’s a day I’ve been dreading. It would have only been our third anniversary and we both would have been 31—a young age and a tiny number—and yet it’ll never be ours.
I’ve thought a lot about what our anniversary would mean this year for me now that he’s gone, and while I do feel bad for myself (who else knows a 30-year-old widow?) I found myself reflecting on all of the incredible things we did in that short amount of time.
We learned so many life lessons, experienced new places and things and we got to share a meaningful and deep love. We shoved a lot of life into those 30 months of marriage, and I know we had something that some people don’t see even at 50 years— for that I’m grateful.
I remember every date now without wanting to really. The day he was diagnosed, the dates of our scans, good or bad, the anniversary of his death and the anniversaries of big moments in our lives. I know over time some of those will fade away, but October 21st will always be a big one.
While this date will always be a bittersweet memory for me, I hope it will serve as a positive reminder for our friends and family and people we don’t even know that even in the best health, days and dates are precious.
Forever isn’t a given for all of us—tell people how you feel about them now.
Take the trip and don’t hold out for the perfect time. Celebrate every victory and every good day, no matter how minute. Life’s two biggest gifts are love and time—if you’re lucky enough to get both, use them well.