A bird looking into a large birdhouse with many rooms, all of the empty

What's Next?

I put my younger son’s final class picture in a frame that I purchased when he started kindergarten. This picture frame has a spot for class pictures from every school year, arranged in a circle, with the center and final spot being reserved for his high school senior picture. Two years ago, I completed the matching picture collage for his older brother.

When I was first diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, these boys were 10 and 13 years old. Not only did I never believe I would finish inserting pictures in these two frames, but I also never could have imagined that I would be considered to have “no evidence of disease” (NED) at the current time.

Becoming empty nesters

Starting in September of 2021, my husband and I will become empty nesters. My younger son just received his first college acceptance, so while it is still up in the air where he will decide to attend college, we know that he will be going! Or, at least he will be going if the pandemic is under control by that time.

How is our life going to change as empty nesters? Well, one of the first things we are considering is downsizing from our 4-bedroom house in the Chicago suburbs. My husband is still too young to retire and although I can do my lung cancer advocacy work from anywhere, I cannot imagine moving away from my oncologist and the rest of my healthcare team in downtown Chicago. So we are definitely staying in the Chicago area!

I've spent 7 years not focusing on the future

It’s kind of scary to start considering these changes though since I’ve spent the past 7 years trying not to focus on the future because that is the way I handle living with lung cancer. On the one hand, I know I’m extremely fortunate to be able to start making empty nester plans, but on the other hand, I feel a little superstitious that one tiny little hidden cancer cell, hearing I’m thinking about the future, will decide to wake up and grow!

What comes next for us?

So where will we go? Given my older son’s pandemic experience of freshman year of college ending suddenly and sophomore year being remote so far, we know that anywhere we move, we need to have at least two bedrooms in order to accommodate the possibility of the boys moving back home suddenly. We also need space so that they can come home for summer and other vacations as they wish.

However, we would love to no longer worry about home and lawn maintenance. It would also be a nice change to be able to walk to some stores and restaurants (once COVID is over) instead of driving everywhere. My husband, having grown up in Savannah, Georgia, isn’t completely sold on downtown Chicago living, however, so we will likely investigate some more suburban/urban areas. Our little dog Missy doesn’t like to walk too much, so we’re not very concerned about her needing her own outdoor space!

So very proud of our sons

While we will definitely miss our boys come September 2021, it will be a huge relief to know that they are ready and prepared (more or less) to go out and live their lives on their own. I never expected to be able to see this occur when I was diagnosed back in 2013.

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