Fasting and Furious (and other cancer movies we’d like The Rock to star in)

Girl falls in love with guy. Two years later, guy proposes. Three days after they meet with their wedding planner, guy finds out he has cancer. We’ve all heard this fairytale before, amirite?

My life is now split into two periods: Before Pablo’s Cancer and After, or BC and AC as I like to refer to it. Before Cancer was a blissful period of time. Our biggest personal issue, which caused exactly zero arguments, was trying to decide the color of the bowtie for Bailey, our Dog of Honor. After Cancer, life has been … chaotic, terrifying, agonizing, and now, normal again. But, not the same as before. Our new normal involves a much deeper appreciation for each other, our family and friends, and a determination to get through the next couple of months. Pablo is going to beat cancer, and we’ll pick our lives back up after that.

A new perspective, a new normal

“There are always flowers for those who want to see them” — Henri Matisse

There’s a long list of things that I feel sad about, but when I start to go through them in my head, I realize how trivial they are. That’s the thing about seeing the person you love the most in this world fight cancer. You want to pity yourself, but you can’t. This is first and foremost Pablo’s battle. My role is to be here for him, for anything and everything he needs, but only he really knows how tough this is going to be. His courage brings me to tears, and as a result, he spends quite a bit of time comforting me, which I’m a little ashamed to admit. But, in my defense, I’m a girl who cries at Pixar movie trailers.

There were only two times I really saw him get choked up: when he told his parents and then, when he told his best friends. Both times it was because he felt bad he had to deliver terrible news to people he cared about. That’s Pablo. Not even a cancer diagnosis can change his inner, hard-wired selflessness.

While everyone’s lives continue around us, Pablo and I are learning new routines for the next couple of months. I’ve learned to stop planning too far ahead, canceling dinner reservations made months ago and making sure Pablo’s birthday trip/NYE is fully refundable. (I can’t just stop planning ahead. No one changes overnight!) We’re both making an effort to be more vulnerable, to share the good and bad with friends, and to reach out when we need help and support. This has actually been really hard for us albeit for different reasons. For me, you may have noticed that I am of Chinese descent. Chinese Americans take a lot of pride in always being gracious and welcoming to friends and family without “bothering” them. This explains our epic polite fights, which still happens at dinners with my family. For Pablo, he’s just a really great guy. He’s the type of friend, brother, son, etc. who will always be there for you without ever asking you to do something for him. The kind of guy who’d help a friend, pack, drive, and move to LA over a weekend without any hesitation. When Pablo told me about how he did this, I used this story as a warning to my friends to never ask me to do this because I would say no. (For the record, I’d be happy to pay for movers for you.) If you’re reading this and you know Pablo, you probably have many more examples. Feel free to share them with me anytime so that I can feel even worse about myself. Oh, and I’m sure there are other reasons related to how he grew up, but I’d prefer not to overgeneralize Spanish culture since I have no personal affiliation with it.

All of this is to say that we’re learning to really take life one day at a time. With almost five months of chemo ahead of us, I’m sure the hospitals, the blood draws, the pills — all of this will start to feel routine too. But, for now, it’s new and yes, scary. More than anything else, there’s something that happens every day that makes me realize how lucky I am to have Pablo. This isn’t always pleasant because it’s forced me to confront some things about myself that are too real, like how I’ve never, ever been the type of person to depend on anyone else. I was convinced that people could adapt to anything, so while we might need relationships and love, we don’t need any one person. I even moved to Singapore where I knew zero people partially to prove this point. But, I was wrong. I do need him. I need him because I’m a hopeless idiot with great taste in men who fell in love with this flawed but wonderful human. I can’t imagine a life without him, and I would rather be here, in this hospital, than anywhere else with any other guy. So, every day, I try to remember all the reasons I’m lucky and everything that I appreciate about our life right now. Those are the flowers I look for no matter where we are.

The staycation no one asked for

Today is Day 2 in the hospital, and Pablo and I just finished watching “Central Intelligence”. It was hilarious. On one of our first dates, Pablo told me about how much he loved The Rock. I was a huge fan from “Fast Five”, but Pablo helped me see how much more I could love him by telling me to follow him on Instagram. Whenever we watch a movie or show that we like without The Rock, we like to discuss how much better that movie or show would have been with The Rock. Now, I’m really rooting for a cancer-stricken action hero, played by The Rock, of course. 😏 I know, you didn’t come here to read about my taste in movies.

Anyway, Pablo is doing great so far. All things considered, the hospital is pretty nice although it is not as nice as the Mission Bay campus. I swear, if they started selling Blue Bottle or Philz there, the tech bros would feign so many illnesses they’d put WeWork out of business. Yesterday was a bit of a nightmare because of delays and errors (like the nurse stabbing Pablo three times because he missed his port once), but today has been a lot better. We’re still waiting to move to a private room so that I can stay overnight with him, but otherwise, we’re together and as happy as can be expected.

Like I said, we’re taking it one day at a time.

I feel like Pablo when I see me in them Medium posts

We’re just beginning this journey, but I don’t think we’ll ever adequately express how much the support we’ve received has meant to me and Pablo. Family, friends, coworkers —thank you to everyone who has reached out to either or both of us. I know it means a lot to Pablo because I see how happy it makes him every day. Yesterday, our two friends (Mari and Sinan) sent over a stuffed dog that is supposed to represent Bailey. While their ability to identify different dog breeds is questionable 😉 , it means a lot to us to know that our friends are thinking of us.

Pablo and Buster (the new Bailey) getting ready for chemo

My family came to visit. One of Pablo’s best friends, Derrick, came and sat with us for hours. And that was all yesterday! Since Pablo’s first post, we’ve been overwhelmed by the love. 😊 A friend from college, Ashley, reached out to give us more info about DLBCL because she’s the chief hematology/oncology fellow at Emory and has written papers about this type of cancer. We’ve talked with cancer survivors and their loved ones, Sara and Eric, Dan, Jenna, Jamie ❤️, whose strength has been nothing short of inspirational (and thank you April and Joelle for your intros). It is seriously comforting to know that we are not unique snowflakes when it comes to cancer. My coworkers have demonstrated time and time again that beyond what we accomplish at work, what matters is the kindness we show other humans when they are suffering, and for that reason, I am lucky it is work that brought us together. Jake, Chris, and Davey brightened Pablo’s last days before chemo with gifts and drinks (mostly drinks for the latter two). So, thank you, a million times, to everyone who has reached out or shown us support in some way. Please keep it coming! While I hope to never have to reciprocate under these circumstances, know that Pablo and I will be here for you anytime you need us as well. Yes, that means even if you need help moving to LA. 😉

I not-so-secretly love cozying up with P in a twin-sized bed
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