What if you only had 100 days to live? What would you do? Quit your job? Travel the world? Start living? Start loving? Start making your moments count?
What if, of those 100 days, 90 of them you felt sick, in pain, or fatigued? That simple tasks like showering or getting dressed required help? That riding in the car was difficult because of the discomfort it caused? That staying awake for several hours in a row felt like a phenomenal feat? And what if the last 10 of those days you were drugged out on morphine, toeing the line between living and dying? Aware for some moments? Confused and out of it for others?
What if you only had 100 days to live? What would you do? How would you live? Would it be too late?
You don't get to choose your last 100 days. And you definitely don't get to choose the condition you will be in during those days. On December 8th, Brad started to plan his life in 100 day increments - never imagining he might not make it through the first 100. He was going to write his memoir. We were going to buy an RV and travel the country and visit the life he lived. The life that we lived. We were going to connect with friends and family. We were going to have adventures.
Today would have been Brad’s 100th day. 100 days after his “Day Zero” blog post. 100 days after starting to take Cabozantinib. 100 days to see how he was responding, to see how the disease was being managed.
Brad died on his Day 46.
What if you only had 100 days to live?
Of Brad's last 100 days, most were spent in bed. Most of them he was too tired to write. Too tired to talk. Sometimes too confused to get his thoughts in order. Brad spent his last 100 day frustrated that the physical state of his body was preventing him from achieving the goals he set for himself. Always hoping that tomorrow would be a better day. That tomorrow he would write more than a paragraph at a time. That tomorrow the meds, the supplements, the diet, the meditation, would all kick in. That tomorrow never came.
What if you only had 100 days to live?
Brad didn’t get to spend his final 100 days chasing dreams and big ambitions. He didn’t get to write his memoir or take our cross country road trip. But he did spend those days doing what was most important: connecting with the people he loved.
In the end, Brad didn’t make any drastic life changes. He didn’t learn he was dying and start making amends (he didn’t need to) or start suddenly living and loving (he already was). Although we hoped for more - more time to write, more time to live - he was already living the life he wanted. He was already the man he wanted to be. He was connecting. He was contributing.
Over and over he would tell me, “Connect and Contribute.” Those were his priorities, above all else. And he honored his commitments to live and love presently - to connect and contribute - until the very end.
It is devastating to think of the impact Brad would have had if he was given more days. How he would have continued to contribute. But I am grateful he got the days that he did. Because he lived more in his 35 years (that’s roughly 12775 days) than most will live in a lifetime. And that impact will continue far beyond our days.
What if you only had 100 days to live? What would you do?
Don't wait until you are given 100 days to live your life. Because you don't get to pick what those days look like. How your body will or will not fail you. How the reality of everyday life will get in the way of the life you planned.
When Brad and I walked into the ER in October and found out he had stage 4 cancer, we never could have known that that day was Brad’s real “Day 0” - that he would only get 100 more days after that. That January 22nd would be his final day - his day 100.
You don’t get to choose your last 100 days.
So what if you only had 100 days to live? What if today is your Day Zero? What will you do tomorrow? What will you do today?
If you’ve been following along here or listening to the podcast, you know that Brad and I planned to go on an epic cross country trip together. Before we could leave, we were waiting for the scan that showed his treatment was working. That showed stability. The scan that said he would live a little longer. The scan that never came.
We thought we could make it. Thought he would make it. We put a deposit down on an RV, aptly named “The Gemini.” We talked about painting it and adding the Defending Your Life logo on the side. We planned our route. We would circle the country and visit places he’s lived. Converse with old friends. Make new friends. We wanted to podcast and document the journey. Show us living courageously while talking with other people on how they, too, live courageously. I would drive and he would write. We would listen to music and have adventures and live our life as fully as possible. We had a plan.
I now have to make new plans. The reality is, this road trip was just one of many plans we counted on that will never come to life. One of thousands of dreams and ideas and ambitions we discussed. It is part of a future that no longer exists. My future now looks wildly different. My future is unrecognizable.
After Brad passed away, I knew I still had to take this road trip. Not the exact trip we planned (buying an RV now seems outrageously irresponsible), but something that could partially mimic it. I’m not entirely sure why I feel the need to embark on this solo journey. Maybe because I just want to escape and run away. Maybe because I feel I owe it to Brad. Maybe because I just can’t accept the fact that I am supposed to make new plans and instead would rather cling to my old plans, our plans. Maybe I just need to share - and write - our story. Maybe I just need to honor Brad. I don’t know. Maybe it’s all of these reasons and a 100 others I don’t fully realize.
But in 10 days I am getting on the road. Leaving on the first day of spring.
Brad loved significant dates. He loved the equinox. The idea of a refresh. A new season. He proposed to me on the first day of fall. We got married a year later on that same date. Our anniversary date was rotating with the fall equinox, changing slightly each year, depending on the sun. “It’s gross how romantic it is,” Brad used to tell people.
So now on the spring equinox, I’ll be embarking on this new season of my life (it's gross how cliche it is). Generally, I feel lost in my life. Lost at home. Unsure of what to do and where to go. I’m hoping escaping for a bit will give some clarity, some sense of my next steps. If nothing else, it will give me an adventure. If there is one thing Brad and I loved together, it was an adventure.
And because you can’t just have a soul searching road trip without some bigger purpose (thank you Brad for your influence to always go beyond yourself and think bigger), in addition to writing, I am hoping to continue podcasting for Defending Your Life in a variety of ways.
First, I want to have conversations with other people like me. Conversations with both cancer survivors and other widows (I have the unfortunate distinction of being a member of both clubs). The topic of each conversation will be how you live courageously in the face of cancer and/or loss and how do you find joy during your darkest moments. Two concepts I am currently struggling with. How do you go through this and make it out on the other side??
I’d also love to keep podcasting about Brad, his influence, and his life. Talk to friends and family (both those I know and others I don’t). I want all the Brad stories. Even better if those stories come with a couch I can crash on.
And finally there will probably be some “I’m all alone in the desert, what the fuck was I thinking?” solo podcasts. Because let’s face it, I am utterly unprepared (both emotionally and physically) to go on the road for the next two months and the combination of insanity, unpreparedness, and grief has got to lead to some stellar podcast content.
At the end of the day, I really see this trip as a search for joy and meaning - two things Brad and I proudly lived our lives by. And ever since Brad died, I feel like I’ve lost both. I'm hoping to stumble upon them somewhere along the way.
The rough route. Who has an extra place for me to stay?
I’ve been putting this off for sometime, but the most recent podcast episodes of Defending Your Life are up, including Brad’s last episodes and life after his death. Listening to these episodes was not easy for me, but this podcast was one of the most important projects in the last several months of Brad’s life, and it’s important to honor his passion and contribution.
The reality is, the last 10 days of Brad’s life was tough. After we learned of his pulmonary embolism and the progression of his disease, Brad declined rapidly. His body was already failing him, but it was watching his mind slip away that was the most difficult. In the end stage of life (that’s what everyone calls it), it is not uncommon for confusion, fogginess, and hallucinations. As Brad’s organs began to fail, so to did his mental capabilities. He was still mostly his witty, hilarious, intelligent self, but this side effect was something I was unprepared for and was the most difficult to accept. Brad’s mind - his words, his thoughts - are a gift to the world and acknowledging that I would never get another conversation with Brad being fully Brad was one of the most devastating losses before his death.
After Brad’s passing, the people in his life struggled on how to connect and move forward without him. Brad was our bridge and everyday we continue to make the effort to communicate and support each other. Jeremy and I are lucky enough to be in the same city and can podcast a bit of our process, but through texts, calls, emails, and visits, we regularly stay connected with Brad’s family and friends. I am incredible thankful for that.
Many have asked if we plan to continue Defending Your Life. The answer is yes, but as of now, we don’t know exactly what that means. We are still trying to figure out the best way to use this platform to honor Brad, his desire to connect, and passion for contribution. Until then, here are the newest episodes of 2017:
Season 2, Episode 1: PE & Progression
Summary: It's a new year and a new season of Defending Your Life. In this first episode of the year, Brad and Dana are given some bad news after the discovery of a pulmonary embolism.
Season 2, Episode 2: Love Story (Sort of) - Part 1
Summary: In this episode, Brad and Dana attempt to discuss their love story with Jeremy, Dave, Lindsey, and Margo. But with Brad on a cocktail of pain meds and others just on cocktails, what was supposed to be a love story, ends up being a hilarious, juvenile, laugh fest about sex, love, and relationships. Moms, Dads, and Grandparents, you may want to skip this one.
Season 2, Episode 3: Love Story (Sort of) - Part 2
Summary: Part 2 of the “love story” continues with Brad, Dana, Jeremy, Dave, Lindsey, and Margo.
Season 2, Episode 4: Post Brad
Summary: On the day of Brad’s passing, Dana, Jeremy, Dave, Lindsey, and Margo sit down and talk about their thoughts and feelings.
Season 2, Episode 5: No, But Yes
Summary: Jeremy and Dana - a little hesitantly - sit down for their first podcast together after Brad’s memorial service and reflect on life after Brad.
Season 2, Episode 6: Valentine's Day Solo
Summary: Dana talks about being alone on Valentine’s Day.
Season 2, Episode 7: Guilt and Shame
Summary: Suneil, a great friend of Dana and Brad, joins Jeremy and Dana to talk about the struggle to move forward without Brad and ways to cope throughout that process.
This morning Dune and I sat in your chair. The leather chair I promised you on our third anniversary in 2011, when we lived among cheap Ikea furniture and hand-me-downs and were too broke to invest in something so luxurious. The chair we finally splurged on 5 years later, after you got sick and needed a better place to read and write. We sat in your chair and looked out as the sun rose above the water. We sat in your chair, with the window open, feeling the cool breeze and the warm sun. We sat in your chair and experienced the morning exactly how you would have done. Quietly, thoughtfully, reflectively. We sat in your chair and wept.
It’s been 4 weeks.
I still keep waiting for you to walk in the door. Still reflexively grabbing for my phone to call you. Still reaching my hand over to hold you in bed. I still refer to myself as a “we” even though I am now just a “me.” We have been a unit, a team. We have been an unstoppable force. We have been a family. How do I go back to being just me?
But, because of you, I am not alone. The people closest to you - your family, your best friends, your core - have become my greatest sources of strength. I can’t possibly understand the cruelty of you being taken from me, from all of us, but I will forever be grateful for both the relationships you encouraged me to form when you were here and also the ones you left behind when you were taken from us. I am not okay. But because of your depth and nurturing of relationships, because of your connection, I have an army that looks out for me. One that allows me to laugh and cry and get really, really angry. One that allows me to just be.
That’s because of you.
A couple weeks before you passed away, you told us that the meaning of your name is a bridge: “Bradford literally means bridge!” You have no idea the bridge you are. Your work in the city, your passion for inclusive growth, your thesis on the divide at Alter Road, your relationships, your friends and family, your presence. You were a bridge, connecting us all in unimaginable ways. You are my bridge.
It’s been 4 weeks and even though I feel pain and loss in ways I didn’t know existed, I also know that my life is more connected, more meaningful, and more full of joy because of you. Because of you, I will spend my days trying to live more courageously.
Thank you for the greatest love story I’ll ever know.
Today my worst nightmare happened. We lost my love, my best friend, my heart, Bradford. He passed away in our bed, holding my hand, just like he wanted. I don’t think there is a person in this world that would disagree that we lost him far before his time. He had so much more to give in this life and was robbed of his full potential. But for the amount of time he did have with us, he lived more, loved more, and accomplished more than most do in 100 years. Brad affected the lives of everyone around him. Real connection was his top priority and I don’t think he fully realized how many people he truly reached - through his passion, drive, and search for deeper meaning.
Brad was the light of my life and always pushed me to be the best version of myself. He challenged me and questioned me. But most of all, he loved me. Fiercely. And Unequivocally. Our love was loud and obvious for the world to see. Our love was fearless.
Brad, the idea of living a life without you is more than unbearable. It’s impossible. You were my always. My forever. Already my life feels so quiet without you. I don’t know how to go on without you, how to be my best self without you by my side, but I will try. Because that’s what you wanted and that’s what you deserve. And I will figure out how to honor your life, every single day of mine. And I know I am not alone in that.
Love, I will miss everything about you. Every single day. I am so proud of the life you lived and the man you were - not just in the face of this terrible diagnosis - but every day I knew you.
You are my hero and no one lived their life more courageously than you. Sweet dreams my love - I love you more than the sun and the moon.
We wanted to provide a quick update. Last Thursday after finding a blood clot in his lungs, Brad's doctors found significant progression of the disease. The news was difficult for everyone. Brad declined rapidly over the weekend and his family has gathered in Detroit over the last week or so. During that time, Brad & Dana have been visited by immediate family, cousins, aunts & uncles, and close friends. Brad is in hospice care and surrounded by his favorite music, stories and poems. He is as comfortable as possible and spending as much time as he can with everyone. Unfortunately we cannot accept or respond to the calls, visits and texts at this time, so let this update be our way of sending our love back to you. We will continue to update each of you as best we can throughout this coming weekend. Much love and continue to live courageously. -Jeremy Potter
It’s a new year and that means some new changes here at Defending Your Life. First of all, we’ll be switching up the tenses of these blog posts from third person to first person. Writing about yourself in the third person is really difficult and impersonal. Plus, it’s no surprise that I/we (meaning Brad and I) are writing all these posts, so moving forward, we are going to stop pretending to write about “them” and instead write about us. Mostly I (Dana) will be writing and updating the posts, but we’ll let you know when it’s Brad or Jeremy or some other third party writer.
Secondly, as we’ve mentioned in a couple of the podcast episodes (which I’m sure you all are completely up to date on, right?), we have added some additional sections to this site! Take a look around, but most noticeably, we’ve added some of the projects we are working on (Brad’s memoir project, my #ForcedJoyProject), more in depth details about Brad’s Complete Treatment, and a Community section to keep you all connected with what we are working on. You’ll also notice a couple new sections that we’ll be implementing moving forward (Profiles in Courage and Fundraising efforts by friends and family).
With the podcast, we closed out the year with over 50 episodes! We are currently adding an intro/outro to all the published episodes (or season 1, if you will) and hoping to get them up on iTunes soon for even easier listening capabilities.
And last but not least, we are officially on social media! What’s a blog/podcast/website without a social media presence?? This is a big way on how we can stay engaged with all of you (especially when we don’t have time to update the site), so do us a favor and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
The holidays were a whirlwind of celebration and visitors - from Brad's first girlfriend, Bridget to the Fletcher Mafia crew to family who spent Christmas with us. In the last couple weeks, we threw an epic version of our annual Get Frosted party (our 7th!) and hosted an intimate, last minute New Year's Eve celebration. Aside from a couple scheduled check ups, we spent zero time in the hospital and had no emergency situations (a great way to finish out the year).
Corresponding Podcast Episodes:
Episode 44: Fletcher Mafia
Summary: Althea and Fabian - friends from the Fletcher School - talk about relationships and ambition with Brad, Dana, and Jeremy.
Episode 45: Updates with Brad and Dana
Summary: Brad and Dana update the listeners on the direction of Defending Your Life as they head into the New Year. They also do a quick update on Brad's health, including some revealing and somewhat scary news, after Brad's follow up with the Oncologist and Neurosurgeon.
Episode 46: High School Sweethearts
Summary: Brad’s first girlfriend, Bridget, visits and they talk about young love and their 20 year friendship.
Episode 47: Brad and Eliza
Summary: Brad and Dana's 4 year old niece, Eliza Dowling, expertly podcasts about Christmas in this short and sweet episode (and one of our favorites!).
Episode 48: Un-Grinched
Summary: On Christmas eve, Dana's sister, Margo, joins Brad and Jeremy to talk about Christmas and being called a grinch in the past.
Episode 49: Dana
Summary: Late night, after Christmas Eve’s Eve Celebrations, Brad, Jeremy and Margo talk about Dana and their impression on how she is handling the diagnosis.
Episode 50: Jeremy Solo
Summary: Jeremy reflects on the previous episode’s conversation regarding Dana.
Episode 51: Christmas!
Summary: Brad and Dana are joined by friends and family in this Christmas episode, hosted over their dining room table with loved ones.
Episode 52: Dana Solo
Summary: Dana reflects and reacts to the "Dana" episode (episode 49).
Episode 53: Transitions
Summary: Brad, Dana, and Jeremy reflect on transitions - both in life and in the podcast - as well as address using the podcast as a tool to discuss tough topics.
Episode 54: End of Year Reflections
Summary: In the last podcast of the year, Brad, Dana, and Jeremy talk about what they got out of the experience of podcasting and the direction of Defending Your Life moving forward.
Brad's grad school classmates from The Fletcher School at Tufts (aka Fletcher Mafia) created the most amazing video for Brad. Don't Stop Believing, everyone.
After much debate about whether or not to travel, Brad and Dana decided to make the 8 hour trek to VA to celebrate with the #FrostPack. Brad's brother and aunt arranged an epic party in Brad's honor, filled with great food, great music, and even better people.
Brad had surprise visits from friends and family from all aspects of his life and from all over the country, including friends from elementary school, high school, college, and grad school. No doubt the discomfort from the car was worth it.
Corresponding Podcast Episodes:
Episode 41: The Writing Project
Summary: Brad and Dana travel to VA for an epic #FrostPack party. In this episode, they share with Marsie some exciting plans for the future.
Episode 42: Luke & The Frosts
Summary: Summary: Brad's cousin, Luke joins Brad & Dana as well as Marsie, Dave, and Lindsey to talk about family and what it means to be a Frost.
Episode 43: Priorities
Summary: From VA, Dave, Lindsey, and Marsie talk with Brad and Dana about priorities and time.
#FrostPack Dance Party