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Filipe Névola

Back4/15/24, 8:38 PM

Cancer, Metastasis and Other Things We Don't Talk About

tl;dl: live each day like it's your last, tomorrow may be your last day indeed

Hello, it's likely you don't even know this but I received this diagnosis, of cancer with neck metastasis, in March 2022.

So what? But why does this matter?

Well, it's news that changes everything yet in fact changes nothing.

Let me try to explain with an example, my long-term plan was to make my company, Quave, strong and to have my long-term friends working there with me but I had all the time in the world so along the way I became the CTO of a startup with great potential where one of the founders had a great match with me and still in the sector I have been directly and indirectly involved for many years: education.

Now let's analyze the situation: the cancer, or rather, the news of the cancer. The news changed nothing. It was a lie that I had all the time in the world, I could die at any moment, in various ways, as I still can and so can you.

But the news of cancer changes everything because it makes death and our finitude tangible. Besides, it demands daily responses from us. Let's go for more examples:

  • Are you really going to work on that? On Saturday? In the morning?
  • If today was your last day of life, would you do that?
  • Are you really going to say you're busy to your friend?
  • Are you really going to miss dinner on a special day with your wife?

All these questions went through my head daily but the news of cancer is bizarre, it amplifies the power of these questions to an absurd proportion and everything becomes questionable.

But in the end, what practical things has this news brought me?

  • After almost 10 years, this is the first time I am 100% at Quave;

  • After many years of waiting, I finally have a great partner by my side at Quave, Rafa Braga;

  • Another gentleman's agreement was honored and I have the best Designer I know at Quave as well, Adrian;

  • And other friends and excellent professionals are arriving, I'm sure. And of course, I already have other excellent professionals with me as we are always meeting and getting closer to more incredible people throughout life.

But what about personal life? Why do you talk so much about work?

Let's see, well, first, I talk so much about work because I'm here in this newsletter and I don't think you want to know much about my personal life, and if you do, too bad, I don't expose myself so much, but since we're talking about something super personal, cancer, here goes:

  • For years my wife had to wait because I had meetings and things not so important just because it was work. It's something that today I try not to do anymore, it's clear I'm far from perfect, but I'm sure that at least on wedding anniversaries I'll be able to have time (real event / inside joke rs);

  • My close family too, in many moments I arrived rushing to watch a game with my dad or to some family gathering. Today I have been able to have more time for this and often they are not natural times, that just happen, on the contrary, I need to force them to happen, the biggest example of this is the time I spend with Monalisa, my niece;

  • Friends: how I have spent time with my friends. We have created some routines together: beach tennis, Michelito, Matchori, tereré, barbecue and so on. In the end, they're just excuses to have moments together.

  • Health: this part I had been changing before the cancer and I believe it was fundamental. I had a major surgery on my neck and the recovery was excellent probably because I was physically well.

But I want to make something very clear here: cancer recalibrated my sense of urgency, my sense of priority, and what I really want to do every day of my life.

Saying "no" became much easier but don't be mistaken, I really enjoy working, it's a pleasure to work with the things I work today and I see no problem with that, even on weekends (I am writing this text on Saturday, 10:08 in the morning, in the middle of a trip and I have the wedding of a great friend soon. And for me writing this text is work).

My self-criticism was about moments when I worked on useless things or prioritized wrongly but on Saturdays and Sundays, I love working in the morning and it's very likely I will continue doing so.

Everyone should do what they like and spend time with what they like, be it work, hobby, or leisure. It's not for me to judge and I don't care what others think about how I spend my time.

My warning here and I think it's the only thing you can take from this text is:

  • If you were given the news of cancer today, what would you do? Would you continue with the same activities? Would you continue with the same friends? Would you continue frequenting the same places?

I learned a phrase not many years ago and I always try to think about it when I decide where to go: "Go to places where you are celebrated and not where you are tolerated."

Ah, I almost forgot, why am I writing this today?

Yesterday (this text was written on 4/17/2023) I received the results of the last exam I did to check how things are going 1 year after the surgery and all signs are positive, that is, it seems that I no longer have malignant cells.

I say seems because I know it can come back and if it does we will fight again and life goes on. There might be a new recalibration but life won't stop. Cancer won't stop me.

When my father died I said a phrase that I still carry with me and repeat many times: "I hate death". I am not a friend of death and do not flirt with it. I don't care about death. When the moment comes we will all die so why waste time with death? My commitment is with life.

I want to live in the best possible way, spending time with the people I love and making the lives of other people better.

One of the most effective ways to improve people's lives nowadays is technology and that's why I work with code: It's an excellent tool for solving problems.

And to conclude: cancer is bad news for those who receive it but I believe it affects those around them much more than the affected themselves.

Some think I'm "kind of a robot" but I faced cancer in a very rational way, trusting the doctors (excellent by the way: Dr. Luciana Secchi and Dr. Rafael Susin, thank you very much for your dedication) and the probabilities so to be honest it brought me more ponderings about life than sadness itself.

These were difficult days and months at home, especially for Lu, my wife, so I dedicate this text to her. If the disease were with her I'm sure it would have been harder for me, the feeling of powerlessness must be terrible and the wait an endless agony. Thank you for always being by my side my love, I love you very much and we will always be together, with or without cancer.

Well, you must have noticed that I used the word cancer many times right? Do you know why? Because I'm not afraid of words and I think it's time for us to bring heavy topics to the table and talk openly.

At home, we have chats about suicide, depression, cancer, death, and other taboo topics and I hope this text encourages you to talk about it with your partner and close friends.

Hug and enjoy those you love. They don't last forever and neither do you.