A Day of "Good" Problems

During the 11 very challenging months that my first husband, Ahmad, had metastatic bladder cancer, I ached for the lightness of the life that we had before cancer. Everything had become so intense, so serious, and so rapidly changing.

His pain escalated, the cancer spread quickly, we scrambled continuously to stay ahead of the changes.

The days before cancer

I remembered the days before cancer when I used to complain about commuting and the not-quite-right drink the coffee barista made for me. In the middle of cancer, I so longed to have those “problems.”

I realized just how delightful and comfortable our life had been. We lived in a fabulous city (San Francisco), we had meaningful work that paid us well, we had friends and family nearby. We spent weekends pursuing fun activities – eating out and visiting with friends, taking a hike among the redwoods, taking a spontaneous day trip to wine country. On weeknights, we might hear a talk by an author we liked or see a premiere of a movie.

When cancer became our constant companion

Life was rich with fun and possibilities. Just how good we’d had it became crystal clear when cancer became our constant companion.

We worked hard at dealing with the cancer but also at continuing to do those fun things. But it all got a lot harder because he got sick very quickly. If you ever experience metastatic bladder cancer, I hope that it will be a slow trajectory with long remissions in between. That was not our experience.


There isn’t a lot of “why” that you can find from a cancer experience. And while, yes, it does tend to increase most people’s gratitude for the good times, it’s not something most of us would choose in order to gain that gratitude. Perhaps people who survive and live long past cancer can say it was a “best thing” that changed their view of and appreciation for life.

But for those who lose someone and lose them quickly and in a challenging way, it is very difficult to ever see good in what happened. But when someone you love suffers that much for that long, I can say that there is relief when it is finally over. This comes only when they are no longer themselves, no longer living the life they loved having.


And so, after some time – a very long time – you can sense that some healing has worked its way into your world when you find yourself complaining about traffic. And immediately remembering how good you have it in that moment.

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