The only other review I’ve written this year was way back in January, when things maybe didn’t feel altogether shiny and new and possible, but they at least felt shinier than they do right now. At the time, I was recovering from surgery, radiation, and chemo from a touch of cancer, and looking forward to getting to whatever the new normal was going to be.
The best laid plans, eh?
Unfortunately, the cancer came back just a few months later. Not only did it come back, but it metastasized to my left lung. The speed with with the cancer returned after having the aggressive treatment I did, in addition to the metastasis, was capital B BAD, and so my doctor started me on immunotherapy lickity split. This worked for a few months, but then my cancer got smart and started growing again, so now I’m on a new chemo regimen that, according to my most recent scan, seems to be working. Pardon me if my expectations remain low, given my previous track record, but the important thing is that most days, I feel OK enough to do things I love. Like read. And review books. You know, eventually. Eleven months later.
I really meant to review more books this year. I certainly read more than I reviewed, which was an improvement over 2020 (but what even was 2020). Most of what I read was pretty light, but I read a fair amount of dark shit, which might seem weird given my situation, but I’ve discovered that the dark shit makes me feel better sometimes. Sometimes I picked up something I thought was going to be light that made me think about real life stuff unexpectedly, which is pretty annoying, but that’s what happened with Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez (number 3 of the unfortunately named Friend Zone series).
Life’s Too Short is rom-com fun with some VERY heavy elements, which I would have known had I read the description closer OOPS MY BAD). Vanessa is almost 30, a famous YouTuber, and has temporary custody of her niece, Grace, while her family gets their shit together. Grace’s crying shenanigans lead to a late-night meet cute with Vanessa’s neighbor, Adrian, the hot lawyer owner of the building (the meet cute is between Vanessa and Adrian, I should say, not Adrian and the baby because that would be weird). They become friends. JUST friends wink wink.
Here’s where the dark shit comes in. Spoiler alert, I guess?
Vanessa has vowed not to date anyone because there’s a good chance she won’t live past the age of 30. Her family carries a gene for ALS, and she knows she may have it because her mom and sister did, and both died young and quickly after the symptoms started presenting. There is no treatment that significantly extends life at that point, and the diagnostic process is difficult, so Vanessa has decided not to pursue anything medically even as she starts to present symptoms.
Though Vanessa and Adrian have vowed to themselves to remain BFFs and that’s IT, I’m sure you can see where this is going because you’re all intelligent people who’ve read many books. They develop FEELINGS and have to figure out how to deal with them on top of Vanessa’s potentially short lifespan and all of their baggage re: HARD LIFE STUFF.
To say I identified with Vanessa’s plight is an understatement (I mean, aside from the baby and the being famous and the falling in new love because I’ve been married for 100 years). You can only sit and stare at your doctor so many times as they break down your poor prognosis before you start believing that your best days really are behind you, and now you’re just counting down to death. It’s on my mind daily. It hits me at times I’m not expecting, as I’m just watching TV or out for a walk or, you know, reading a book I thought was going to be fluffy fun.
For a long time since the recurrence, I’ve really struggled with what to do with myself. I’m leaving my job so we can move across the country to be closer to family and this is my last week of work. I’m leaving a field that I love and I’m not sure what I am without my job, and really not sure what I’ll do with my time once it’s over. Sure, I’ll spend some of that time at doctor’s appointments and recovering from treatment (and Cannonball Reading!) but what about the rest of the time? I’ve never had this much free time staring me in the face and I have no idea how to fill it.
Another thing I struggle with, that honestly Vanessa helped me with, is what does a prognosis of incurable, advanced cancer mean for my future? How do you set goals and hang onto dreams when your future seems so uncertain? The truth is, I have no idea. No one does, really, we can only guess. But going through this does make it seem like my deadline has been moved up, and I struggle with whether I should try to rush through all the things I want to do or if there’s even a point. I balance on this knife edge every time a new project presents itself.
The truth is, reading this book actually helped me a lot with that. Vanessa is determined to live her life to the fullest, every day, for as long as she can. And while I’m hindered by some of the elements of my disease (including the treatment I’ve been through so far), there’s no reason to abandon all of my goals just because I might not know what the future holds. In that respect, I’m just like everyone else, which is maybe the most comforting thought I can have right now. Thank you, books!