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.
Life is fleeting, and cancer survivors and caregivers understand that perhaps better than most.
In the now famous commencement speech made by Steve Jobs back in 2005 he said “Almost everything— all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” I remember listening to that speech and printing the words and worshipping them. I wanted that kind of bravery, but I didn’t have it. I followed the motions; I cared a great deal what people thought of me (I still do) and I played everything safe. I planned and prepared and gunned it through every piece of my life with laser-like focus.
When I was 28, I had my dream job and dream husband and everything in my life had gone according to plan. I defined myself by how busy I was and how together I was and how hard I worked. I had every reason to pause and enjoy it all, but I didn’t, because I assumed those things would always be there—that they were earned and inevitable.
Then one day none of that mattered.
My husband, Jon, was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer and none of my obsessive planning, rule-following or caution made a difference. That rocked me to my core, it shattered my world and it made me better. I feel devastatingly unlucky to have lost him so soon, and so overwhelmingly lucky to be alive.
Once you see how quickly life can be taken away, all of the little things we don’t do and don’t try feel foolish. There’s pain in being embarrassed but there’s a much greater pain in regret. Watching Jon fight so hard to live and enjoy every minute of his life made me want to fight harder too- to live the bravest life possible in his honor.
We all have a certain amount of time on this earth— and whether you spend that time doing the things you're passionate about, taking a chance on people you think might make you happy or just dreaming about doing those things. It all ends at some point. I wish I could go back and tell myself to take more chances, but I can’t, so I’ll tell you now.
I’m not a big sharer, but I keep talking about Jon and my story here. I’m not someone who overly emotes but I can muster up the courage now to tell people how I feel. I try to remember, every day, that very few things are really worth fearing.
In 2020, every one of us has been tried, but as we head into this new year, it’s important to remember that there is an abundance of good waiting for us too— if we’re brave enough to make it happen.