I was diagnosed with cancer at age 58. My doctors gave me six months to a “yearish” to live, as I’ve written about in The Times’ Opinion pages in the past. Thanks to breakthroughs in immunotherapy and all-around good fortune, I’ve out-survived my prognosis by several years.
But I may not survive President Trump.
I gave my husband a multiple-choice quiz the other night: Will the anxiety Trump generates: 1) have no effect on me, 2) kill me off sooner than expected, or 3) actually extend my life by inspiring me to hang around long enough to see him thrown out of office?
Needless to say, we’re hoping for No. 3.
Trump’s presence as commander in chief has invaded my brain and made it more challenging to face mortality as I had planned — with grace, humor and a sense of peace. Instead, I’m cursing at television newscasts and bemoaning early morning Twitter storms from the White House. My idea was to live what remained of my life fully and with optimism — eyes wide open to the miracle of life.
But Trump has thrown a monkey wrench into all that.
The president represents the flip side of everything I love about America. He traffics in fear and has divided us into warring camps on issues of race, gender, football — you name it. He builds walls, figuratively if not yet literally.
He seems willing to do and say anything to score a win. He is full of himself, and so little else.
He has eroded the very institutions that make us a democracy by attacking the courts, assaulting freedom of religion and mugging the media. He lies without shame, he never admits a mistake and his supporters don’t seem to care. He’s a terrible role model — a bully with no regard for facts, let alone truth.
Finally, the man is dangerous as hell. I’m not alone in worrying that he’s going to tweet the world into a nuclear war.
I’ve been advised to drop out of the daily news cycle so as to avoid stressing about Trump — just “unfollow” current events. But that wouldn’t suit me. I’m a retired journalist; I want to stay informed and involved.
When I learned that I could expect to die within a year, I was at least comforted by the belief that humanity was slowly evolving toward the better. This may sound naïve — I knew we hadn’t vanquished poverty, war, racism or inequality. But millions of people around the globe no longer lived in extreme poverty or died of preventable causes. And we seemed to have made steady advances in important realms; e.g., we humans had finally begun to understand our precious status as caretakers of the one Earth we possess (see the Paris climate talks).
Trump and his tribe have set up colossal roadblocks to my optimism. It will take decades to undo what his presidency has done so far and — when it comes to averting the worst of the climate crisis — that’s time we may not have.
I know I’m lucky to be around right now. Like many cancer patients, I’ve fought to make it so, with surgeries, chemotherapy, rounds of radiation and all manner of treatment in several research studies to extend the time I have left. I recognize the beauty of each new day in ways people without grave illnesses perhaps do not.
I no longer fear my own death. But that’s less solace than it used to be because Trump has made me fear for future generations.
I’ve never been a bucket-list person, but I do now have one wish before I die: That Trump be banished from office, our country’s ideals upheld and America set back on its imperfect but still exceptional trajectory toward the light.
Trump no longer president. I hope I live to see that day.
Melinda Welsh is the former editor of the Sacramento News & Review.
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