This is a somber read for a Saturday, and it’s supposed to be my “day off,” which means I work for 6 hours instead of nine. When I finish this, I’m going to take a long walk, though I won’t see any penguins. But I’ll be thinking of Josie Rubio on the way.
Rubio was a writer and editor who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma six years ago. During her remaining years of life—she died four days ago at 42—she wrote prolifically on her website A Pain in the Neck, discussing her disease, its metastasis into neuroendocrine tumors, her suffering, her attempts to find a boyfriend, and her attitude, which was often surprisingly upbeat and always worth a read. Her New York Times obituary, if it can be called that, is below, which includes some links to her published work about trying to find love at the same time she was dying.
Here’s perhaps her most famous piece (below), which, as the obituary above notes:
The online version of Ms. Rubio’s article, published on Aug. 24, garnered more than 225,000 page views; it appeared in print the next day in the Sunday Review section. That same weekend she learned that her prognosis was grimmer than she had thought.
“Instead of sitting at home feeling sorry for myself, I read a lot of really nice and encouraging emails” from her essay’s readers, Ms. Rubio wrote in a blog post soon afterward. “It sounds like dating sites are going to be inundated with cancer patients now. Good. Feel free to use my opening line.”
The opening lines grab you:
One night, as a friend and I were headed to a bar to see someone I had met on a dating app, she asked, “What do you tell these guys?” I pulled up my profile and handed her my phone.
“I have cancer so if you want to hang out, act now!” reads the first line.
“This is great,” she said with a laugh.
After her diagnosis, Rubio was ditched by her boyfriend of twelve years but, after pondering what to do, swallowed her pride and her knowledge that she was terminal, and dived into an online dating pool. And she finally found love—with the the guy who was by her side when she died just a few days ago:
The guy who made me break some of my rules made me shatter more. I found myself, at his insistence, reluctantly and badly dancing, but laughing the entire time. I’ve held his hand across restaurant tables. I steal kisses from him in public. Sometimes I don’t recognize myself anymore.
I’m so happy and so sad at the same time.
Death isn’t an abstract concept. I live week to week, moment to moment. I live fully, but I have always done that. Since the new treatment, I can even walk around sometimes not thinking about cancer. I agree with my ex: It’s nice. Since that first 1992 date, I just wanted to find someone and feel like that part of my life was settled. But from ages 28 to 40, I just settled. Period.
When my ex kissed me goodbye on the day we broke up, I thought, “This will be the last time a man kisses me.”
It finally feels good to be wrong about something.
These pieces will make you weep, as will the words she wrote in the next-to-last post on her website (click on screenshot below), when she found that her cancer had spread massively through her body, that her death was imminent, and she would have to go to a hospice:
Josie was also a cat lover, as you can tell from the banner of her website (above).
In the end, my heart will stop, but it feels broken now. I don’t want to leave the cats. I don’t want to leave my boyfriend. I don’t want to leave my mom. I don’t want to leave my friends. This is very different than how I felt in May of 2018, when my boyfriend at the time wanted me to die so he could be with his Pilates instructor in London (it worked out for him in the end even though I didn’t die then). Then I didn’t care whether I lived or died because I felt broken. This time, I don’t want to go, and I know that makes me much luckier. My life is so much better than the way it was.
My friends decorated by room with photos. I’ve had a good life. I can’t comprehend that it’s going to stop so soon. How did this happen?
. . . I’ve received countless messages of love.
I asked my boyfriend what he thought happens after we die. He says you live on in other people’s memories, and I won’t be forgotten.
Still, the end looms close, and I feel like I’m not ready.
The final entry on Josie’s website, below, is given its entirety, and was posted after she died.
Here’s her image from her Twitter page, which had its last entry on November 21.
And one more photo.
YouTube has an interview with her before she was diagnosed with cancer.
If I’ve made you sad today, I’m sorry. But I hope I’ve also made you want to live more fully. As an old friend of mine used to say when talking of life, “Squeeze that lemon!”