Tuesday, February 14, 2017

February 14

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you had a nice one. Tonight, instead of romance, Alexi and I divided and conquered homework and hockey practice duties, though we did celebrate over the weekend. And this morning I made heart-shaped biscuits, along with eggs and bacon, for breakfast. In this house, nothing says I love you like bacon.



Speaking of love, a few days ago Alexi and I attended a party to celebrate the release of my friend Sarah Jio’s eighth (!) book, Always, which is about love in Seattle in the nineties. It will be my airplane read later this week.


Sarah and I became friends through blogging. After I mentioned that I have a BRCA1 gene mutation, she interviewed me about it for her Glamour column. I talked about my experiences with breast cancer that led to the discovery of my cancer gene and the preventive surgical choices I made, but not about the terror that sometimes still filled me whenever I had an unexpected pain somewhere, or noticed anything that might be abnormal about my body. At the party I remembered how I'd felt at the time of that interview, in 2009, a few years after my BRCA1 diagnosis. Now, I can’t remember the last time I felt afraid.


Alexi and I started dating just after Valentine’s Day in 1998. This picture was taken a few months later. You wouldn’t know it from looking at us, but I’d just learned that I had a rare, aggressive form of breast cancer. We were on the ferry because Alexi and his father, who was visiting from Nova Scotia, were going fishing. We traveled across Puget Sound and then through rain forest and alongside miles of primeval shoreline, finally arriving at the motel where they would be staying. I returned home in order to meet my oncologist the next morning; they spent the night in Forks, Washington and then fished the Bogachiel River with a Native American guide in his drift boat. A few days after they got back, I had surgery and then a month after that, I began chemotherapy. After my hair fell out, Alexi shaved his head and kept it that way until mine grew back. Seven years later, we went through it together again, this time with a baby and a toddler. I’ve learned that life isn’t about avoiding hardship; it’s about creating meaning in the circumstances you find yourself in.

In our years together Alexi and I have experienced long, uneventful stretches of everyday life, times of dislocation and crisis, and bursts of joy. This year, for the first time, our oldest son, Abbott, celebrated Valentine’s Day with someone outside our family. I feel a catch in my throat when I think about what he doesn’t yet know about love.

8 comments:

Tami said...

My son celebrated with someone outside our family this year for the first time as well. I felt proud he wanted to make fudge and a homemade card.

Eve said...

I m glad to read you re not afraid anymore. I agree when you say that life is about finding meaning in the things we re going through.
I m sure you ve learned so much.
I cant wait to read your book.

Lecia Phinney said...

So great, Tami! I love that.

Thank you so much, Eve. xoxo

Raquelita said...

This is an extraordinary essay on love. Your writing brought a lump to my throat. C and I celebrated our 13th Valentine's Day together yesterday. C's uncle told us after we got married that he has only fallen more and more in love with his wife in the years since his marriage. I know what he means now. Just because something is hard does not mean it cannot be good. Have you read Sheldon Vanauken's "A Severe Mercy"? We quote "Here's Hail!" to one another at this time every year.

Lecia Phinney said...

Raquelita, thank you so much for saying so. Congrats on 13 years! I haven't read "A Severe Mercy" -- will look for it! xoxo

Lisa Jones said...

"Creating meaning in the circumstances you find yourself in"...that is perfect. Thank you!

Rachel said...

Lecia, as always, your posts are so beautiful! Your thoughts on the purpose of life (avoiding struggle vs. creating meaning) reminded me so strongly of Paul Kalanithi's beautiful book, "When Breath Becomes Air." Happy (belated) Valentine's Day to you and Alexei!

Anonymous said...

Coming to this late but Happy Valentine's Day anyway! It was heart shaped pancakes here. I loved this post and your thoughts on life. Your writing captures so much and always manages to move me. Thanks you!