I have read the stories and listened to the talk shows about Farrah Fawcett and her battle with cancer. I’ve read about Patrick Swayze. And as these stories trickle out and people speculate about famous cancer patients, I live with the battle privately every single day. And I thank goodness for it being private.

When Michael was diagnosed in September they gave him 3-6 months to live. Six months being the very outer range of the time frame. It’s been 8 months and he’s still here.

When he took a turn for the worse after Thanksgiving one of the doctors said this could be it. When he collapsed in mid-January, they said this could be it. After his MRI in the beginning of March we were told it was bad and he didn’t have long. When his fever spiked to 104 three weeks ago, hospice said to gather the children, this was it.

None of that was it and the stops and starts and the hope versus the futility go round and round. We’ve been at “this is it” at least half a dozen times.

I’ve said to friends and family that I’m sick of burying my husband who is still very much alive. Grieving for someone who is living is hard enough. I miss the fun times, the good times, the healthy times. Yes, they are gone for the most part. But Michael is still here. And focusing on him not being here ruins whatever time I have and whatever memories are still there to be shared.

Living with cancer and the uncertainty after a grim diagnosis is exceedingly difficult. My adoptive father was given 6 months and lived 3. My adoptive mother seemed to rally and then hit a long decline that led to her death. She was pretty functional and alert for her 70th birthday in mid-April and dead by mid-July. It came quick and it took all of us by surprise. It seemed the only one who was prepared for her death was her.

I tend not to pay attention to the lives of actors. I really don’t care all that much. But listening to speculation about Farrah Fawcett on the talk shows today was a bit too much for me. Why sit around and try to figure out what stage she’s in? Why try to figure out if there’s any hope left or if she’s still battling? Why? What is it to you?

As a caregiver for a terminally ill person I find speculation about anyone’s illness to be gross. With a terminally ill person in the house your life ceases to exist on so many levels. There’s so much you know you need to deal with, at some point, but so much you don’t want to deal with. Yet.

You absolutely have to take the medical opinions about life expectancy into account, but you have no way of knowing if it’s even close to being accurate. Everyone I’ve ever known with terminal cancer has lived for longer or shorter than any estimate they’ve ever been given.
It’s so individual.

So how sick is Farrah really? I propose to you that it’s none of your business. Let her say what she wants to say when she wants to say it. If it’s to educate and to help others with similar diagnoses, that’s great. If it’s to ease her pain and stop the speculation about her, that’s great. But let her speak when and if she wants to.

A life with cancer, whether it’s the patient or the patient’s family, is so very difficult. My greatest fear is that I won’t be here when the time comes. Every single departure from the house, be it a business trip or a short jaunt to the grocery store, fills me with dread. Yet hanging out is not easy either. I try to make it “normal” but it’s not.

Nothing is normal when you’re a family living with cancer. To be a family living with cancer in the spotlight must be doubly awful. If I tuned into a show and saw a panel of people discussing how long my husband possibly had to live, I would toss the TV out the window.

You. Don’t. Know. Even if you were there every single day, you still don’t know.

And stop counting people out who are still very much here.

Compassion. Have some compassion.


Sometimes saying nothing or doing something silently (make a donation in her name) or working for awareness of lesser known cancers is the greatest compassion there is.

If you want to “help” do something for cancer patients everywhere–write a story or do a segment on this particular type of cancer and its prevention and cure–write about cancer families and suggest ways friends and families can make it easier–put some substantive information out there instead of just sitting around speculating about high-profile patents.

Do something positive with your platform and leave the salacious and unnecessary details out.