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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"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)

275 comments:

1 – 200 of 275   Newer›   Newest»
Christie said...

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.

dc said...

Lovely essay, thank you for sharing.

Jocy said...

This is so incredibly moving.

art lover said...

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.

Allisunny S. said...

Beautiful and poignant, just like life itself. Xo

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

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

Le Smurf said...

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!

Debs said...

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.

D2 said...

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.

Sharyn said...

Wow. Love and prayers to you and your family.

Vivian said...

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

bisbee said...

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.

P. said...

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.

Anna said...

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.

Alyssa said...

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.

Jillian said...

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.

Mary said...

Heartbreaking and very powerful. Thank you for sharing.

Samantha said...

Absolutely beautiful and touching.

Elizabeth said...

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.

Fiyel Levent said...

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

fancyalterego said...

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. :-)

Meadow said...

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

JacPfef said...

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.

Michelle said...

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

Betsy Whitis said...

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.

Kiana said...

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.

Catherine said...

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.

Becca said...

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

Katie D. said...

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.

Jess Gerrow said...

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

Kate Uhry said...

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.

Magdalena Paulino said...

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!

Nisha said...

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.

shruti kapoor said...

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

Mary Kate said...

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

Emme Gee said...

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.

Alice said...

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

Jenni said...

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!

Unknown said...

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: www.toquegirls.com

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

Professor Frank said...

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.

Rachel B.C. said...

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...

Abby said...

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

Jessi said...

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

melissatudor said...

Beautiful essay. Thank you for sharing such a personal story

Gabriella said...

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

Erin Maliszewski said...

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

Rachel Littlefield said...

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.

Jenna said...

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

Paper and Stone said...

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.....

Kristen K said...

What an amazing article. Thank you for sharing.

Jackie said...

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.

Megan F said...

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

Gabri Joy said...

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.

Gabri Joy said...

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.

bananastand said...

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.

Erin B SC said...

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.

Laura Jean said...

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.

Caroline said...

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

Caroline said...

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

Amy Powell said...

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.

SHK said...

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

A.Co said...

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.

holly*anja said...


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.

Kelly said...

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.

alice in nomansland said...

Wow. The health publication I write for covered Paul's piece today...I was completely struck with his beautiful, heartbreaking writing. I was even more struck to find out that he shares a connection with one of my favorite bloggers, you. Our take on his piece: http://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2014/01/28/how-long-have-i-got-left-a-doctor-turned-patient-struggles-with-the-question

collette said...

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

Colleen said...

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.

Kelsey said...

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.

Brooklynn said...

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

Lesia Joukova said...

This was amazing, thank you so much for sharing.

Lucy said...

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

Athira said...

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

Bethany said...

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

Megan Desmond Martinez said...

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

rachelsanghee said...

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*

Lisa Hodges said...

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!

Leah said...

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

Becca said...

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.

Emily said...

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.

marie clare said...

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

Sasa Zoe said...

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

www.shallwesasa.com

abroadathome said...

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.

spunthoughts said...

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.

Cheryl said...

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! :)

Meredith said...

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.

Lindsey said...

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

FMP said...

Thank you for sharing this.

Trina said...

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

Trina said...

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

CC said...

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

erinerin-erinerin said...

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

girlseeksplace said...

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

Carrie said...

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

{d}omestic drama, {d}esign and everyday {d)iscoveries said...

My thoughts and prayers to your family.

glenda said...

So sorry! Thoughts and prayers to your family Joanna xo

Megan said...

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

La Vie est Belle said...

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

Ivy said...

My thoughts and prayers to Lucy and Paul.

Unknown said...

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

becca ann said...

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.

MelanieKPrice said...

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.

Tish said...

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.

Lot 48 said...

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

2 by Design said...

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.

2 by Design said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Faviola Garcia said...

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.

Laura said...

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.

Annie Green said...

Brilliant writing, expertly delivered. Humbling.

Sarah Hurwitz said...

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.

Jenny Bakos said...

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. :)

Sarah said...

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

Becca said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
theshoozeveryday said...

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!

Cathi said...

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

theshoozeveryday said...

oops, brother-in-law...not cousin :)

megan said...

Your family is in my prayers.

Informal Waste Sector said...

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

Anne

Anne H said...

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

Anne (a reader from NYC)

AGW said...

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.

LeahBK said...

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.

Melanie said...

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

alice said...

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

Joanne Chandler said...

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.

Georgia Christakis said...

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

Tiffany said...

My heart goes out to you and your family.

June said...

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

christa said...

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

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

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.

Kirby Todd said...

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

emilymcmaster said...

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

Hannah said...

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.

Eriannejoy said...

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

Olivia ten Kate said...

Love x x

Margaret said...

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.

Meg said...

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.

CYLiou said...

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.

Hilary Linderman said...

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

Brittany Fry said...

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

Katerina said...

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!

Nanu fait dodo said...

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

Nanu fait dodo said...

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

Lauren Davis said...

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!

nrsaldivar said...

Wow, prayers to you and your family.

Susan said...

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

JENNIFER N said...

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

Sarah said...

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

CRISTINA/TINI said...

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.

t. said...

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

Elizabeth said...

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

Unknown said...

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.

Jen said...

"The angst of facing mortality has no remedy in probability." Such a beautiful essay, and yet such a terrible thing to happen to someone so young. Thanks so much for sharing, Joanna -- and prayers for Paul and your whole family!

Niamh Roisin said...

That is so wise and heartbreaking to read - wishing strength to all of your family, and especially your sister

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Such a connected world we live in. My heart went out to the "unknown" gentleman who wrote that beautiful essay in Sunday's paper, never realizing I would open your blog to read this today. I said a prayer for him on Sunday, and do so again today. His dignity and honesty in turning his face to the situation we shall all one day face was inspiring and helped to assuage that too often unacknowledged fear that hides in us all. May God Bless him. xo

Jessica Quadra Andrews said...

I'm so sorry to hear this, Joanna. It's hard to fathom getting news like this from a loved one. Thank you for sharing this with us. Love and good thoughts to you and your family.

Lucy L said...

Oh my. So damn devastating yet beautifully written, this was deep... Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your lives. All the best to Paul I believe he will live a beautiful life still, absolutely.

x

Lucy

susan corinne said...

thank you for posting this today... i found out this morning a very close relative was "given" 4 months to live. this article is helping to soften the blow... I will share it with her, in hopes that she finds some comfort in it.

Unknown said...

Wow. Wishing Paul and your family all the best.

-Cindy

haylie said...

My dad has an aggressive form of cancer and has already lived much longer than anyone really expected (even though we didn't talk about it). The not knowing is so hard... it means you go through cycles of grief and business-as-usual all the time. You can't ever settle. Love to you and your family xoxoxo

mylifetintedpink said...

My heart aches for you and your family. What a difficult place, emotionally and physically, to not know, constantly floundering between the options of how best to spend the time left.

I can provide no suggestion. I can only offer my sympathy and prayer.

Alicia said...

Thank you to you and Paul for sharing such a personal story. For what it is worth I'd encourage Paul to research a woman named Diane Legg. She lives down the street from me and was a diagnosed with lung cancer when her youngest of three boys was one - in 2004. She is a champion of lung cancer research, has advocated for 10 years for those who have been unable and has found a way to outlive a bleak prognosis. She is well known in the Boston community and together, I am sure she and Paul could continue to make personal strides and raise awareness of the disease. Good thought and prayers are with your family...

June said...

Joanna, thanks for sharing this article by your brother, who is an eloquent voice for a very stigmatized disease. Many people don't realize that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer - not just smokers - that it can affect people of all ages, and that it claims more lives than breast, prostate, colon and kidney cancers combined, making it the leading cause of cancer deaths. I am certain his article will be a source of hope for many people struggling with disease. Wishing him and your family the best.

Lisette said...

This sparks so many thoughts. Very moving! I wish your family all the best.

Julie Kinamore said...

Hi Joanna,
I read Paul's piece last week and did not realize the connection to you. I remember reading about Paul in some of your past posts over the years. I'm very sorry and will be thinking about your families. I also wanted to reach out because I work for First Descents, a non-profit that specifically serves young adults (ages 18-39) with cancer. We provide free week-long kayaking, climbing and surfing programs to young adult cancer fighters all around the country. It's an amazing way for people to connect through a shared experience. This is open to everyone else reading Cup Of Joe as well. Unfortunately, it often seems like everyone has a connection to cancer somehow. www.FirstDescents.org is the website.
Good thoughts and love.

brianne said...

Beautiful essay... I'm so sorry to hear this news. Sending lots of love and prayers for Paul and the whole family.

ErinMichelle said...

What a beautifully thought provoking article. It is a good lesson for all of us. Thank you for sharing.

Jen said...

hope and prayer for you family. thank you for sharing.

Kristen said...

What a beautiful article. Thank you for sharing.

i love poppies said...

Joanna, it is posts like this, that cut to the core of our humanity, that keep me coming back to your blog every day. Thank you so much for sharing this...what an amazing perspective.

Michelle Ash Latham said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. Sending positive energy & good vibes to Paul, you, and your family.

Michelle
www.ahealthymrs.com

Amanda said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing this. And at the same time, I'm so sorry. I'm reading the Fault in Our Stars right now, so reading your brother-in-law's story is particularly poignant to me. After reading that novel and Paul's story, wherein both speak so much of the uncertainty of their death, I'm wondering if the uncertainty could be a kind of gift. Like the rest of us, he doesn't know when he's going to die. I think, for me personally, that kind of knowledge would be too crippling, too overwhelming, and just so limiting, rather than never knowing.

Of course, I cannot speak from experience; it's just a thought, a hope really. I hope he gets those 10 years.

gw said...

Courageous, moving essay. My thoughts are with your sister and Paul.

Alissa said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your brother-in-law- he sounds like a beautiful person. Prayers for him and your sister and your whole family.

Joanna Nordhues said...

Paul's story is my mom's story...right down to the targeted therapy. Her results have also been positive. I sent her his article which she greatly appreciated. It put into words things that only one in their position can articulate. Thank you to Paul and thank you to you for sharing.

Holly said...

So sorry to hear this, Joanna. He has a lovely perspective on life as a whole--we feel we can't go on, and yet we do. I am always grateful for people who write beautiful truths. Prayers for Paul and the rest of your family.

Christy said...

Dear Joanna, Paul and Lucy,
My Facebook wall was full of links to Paul's piece over the weekend, all from my med school classmates now residents. It struck a chord with all of us; you wrote so eloquently, capturing the perspectives of patient and physician all at once and very poignantly. I thought the name looked familiar, but didn't put 2 and 2 together. While I am sure you are getting much response to your piece, I just wanted to reiterate how many people your piece has resonated with, what a difference it has made in our lives. I wish you all the best in your ongoing treatment. I live in The Netherlands now, and we say "sterkte" when you are facing a challenging time, which loosely means strength but, to me, is a beautiful sentiment which can't be directly translated. Sterkte, Paul. Sterkte, Lucy. Sterkte, Joanna.

Joy said...

So sorry to hear this. His article is very touching. Much love to your family at this time.

Hugs

Ada said...

When I first read the article this weekend, my heart stopped. I recognized Paul's name from reading your blog in the early days. What a beautiful piece and an incredible perspective - I hope he realizes how moving his writing is and how many people he touched. Go Paul! Keeping you all in my thoughts.

Josephine said...

Oof. So eloquent. My thoughts immediately are for Lucy. What would her essay read like?

Big love to you all.

Donna W said...

Hi Joanna...Paul sounds like an incredibly kind and brave person and he's such a gifted writer. I'll keep your family in my thoughts and prayers. As a cancer survivor, this article really hit home for me. Thanks for sharing. - Donna

Karen T. said...

As the daughter of a headstrong nurse who lived for six years with a cancer diagnosis, I thank you for this. Paul's article so eloquently describes a journey that is so difficult to traverse or (as a bystander) understand. My mom rallied and lived an awesome full life well beyond the 3-5 months she was initially given. Sending positive thoughts to you and your family, Jo and Paul.

Lael said...

a wonderful article, thank you Paul for writing and sharing it. My thoughts are with your family.

Becca - Rebecca Atwood Designs said...

My heart goes out to you, Paul, your sister and your family! We had a family friend with a very similar situation and it was heart breaking. What they thought was 2-3 months ended up being almost 10 years. There are no words, but my thoughts are with you and your family.

Katie Peshek said...

Lovely essay Joanna, thanks for sharing. I too have been a fan of your blog for years, and was so saddened to read about Paul's illness. Cancer is just the absolute worst. Sending prayers and good wishes to Paul, Lucy, and your family. xo

Diane Johnson said...

May it help all of you, in some small way, to know that so many people are thinking of you all and hoping for the very best. The article was powerful and heartbreaking on so many levels. I will keep you all in my prayers.

Diane Johnson said...

May it help you all, in some small way, to know that so many of us are thinking of you all and hoping for he very best.

lamcal said...

I just came across this quote and then read your entry today. I had read Paul's essay on Sunday and was quite moved. I did not realize the connection between your families. Anyway…read the quote, thought of your brother in law (and all of us) and saw the entry…so am sharing. May tape it up on my mirror for awhile….

Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?
G.K. Chesterton

J said...

I read this article over the weekend and was so touched. Sending the best healing thoughts to Paul, and much love to your entire family.

Patty said...

brilliant essay! makes you think about what's important. Thank you Paul and good luck to you - go on!

maryamafaq said...

Hi Joanna,
I too read this article over the weekend and realized the name sounded familiar. It just so happened that i my own brother in law passed away from lung cancer 7 years ago, and the anniversary of his passing was this past Sunday. It was a bitter sweet day remembering him and reading this piece made me miss him some more.
Life is such a strange thing. I wish you and your family the utmost health and a speedy recovery to Paul.

kroides said...

Trying to find meaning in the senseless is the greatest form of bravery. This made me cry and I don't even know him. I will think of him today, tonight, and probably every time I read your blog. It's apparent....with love like yours, 10 years sounds quite probable. My best to you and your family.

kmohawk said...

Love and prayers to Paul and all his loved ones. Thank you for sharing.

Elephants said...

I said a prayer for Paul. Thank you both for sharing.

Elephants said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hayley Curtis said...

Thank you so much for sharing. My 26 year old fiance was just diagnosed with cancer on Friday and had surgery today. His prognosis is positive and it is very treatable so I know it in no way compares to what you are going through with your brother in law but it was incredibly meaningful to see this post on today of all days.

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

Sending lots of good thoughts to your brother in law! I'm so glad he is with the right doctors and is fighting hard. A close friend in Atlanta went in for back pains and walked away with a 2 mos left lung cancer diagnosis. She refused to take no for an answer though and eventually found a doctor in NYC, where she flew monthly for treatment. Almost all of her FIVE YEARS were good ones. She just refused to take no for an answer- it was remarkable.

KK @ www.preppypinkcrocodile.com

smash said...

Such a touching article Joanna. Thanks for sharing. Wishing him and all of you the best.

smash said...

Such a touching article Joanna. Thanks for sharing. Wishing him and all of you the best.

jdawg said...

Wow.

Nan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Claire said...

What a beautiful and poignant essay, thank you for sharing. My thoughts are with Paul, Lucy, and the entirety of your family in this heartbreaking period.

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