Josie Rubio, 42, Dies; Wrote of Dating While Terminally Ill

Her essay in The New York Times drew a wide readership; she also chronicled her life with terminal cancer in a blog, finding humor amid despair.

Josie Rubio in Málaga, Spain, last April. A writer and editor, she wrote a Times Op-Ed essay, “Dating While Dying,” that drew a wide readership.
Credit...Cynthia Scherer

Josie Rubio, an editor and writer who chronicled her life with cancer in a long-running blog and whose Op-Ed essay in The New York Times in August about dating while terminally ill drew a wide readership, died on Tuesday at a hospice facility in Brooklyn. She was 42.

Her friend Joselin Linder said the cause was complications of the cancer. It was first diagnosed as Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2013; she later developed neuroendocrine tumors.

Ms. Rubio wrote about grappling with cancer in the blog A Pain in the Neck, often finding humor in her struggle. In her last entry, “Hospice,” published on Nov. 16, she began by saying that “dying, as it turns out, is incredibly boring.”

That wry sensibility infused her Times Op-Ed essay, titled “Dating While Dying,” part of the Opinion section’s continuing Disability series, which explores the lives of people living with disabilities. In her article she detailed her breakup with her boyfriend of 12 years and her re-entry into the dating pool, sometimes writing in disarming fashion.

“The truth is, I was prepared to die instead of date again,” Ms. Rubio wrote. “From what some people told me, I might as well already be dead as a single woman over 40.”

[Read “Dating While Dying.”]

In the article, Ms. Rubio quoted the forthright opening line of her online dating profile: “‘I have cancer so if you want to hang out, act now!’” She also described daunting treatments that, she said, paled in comparison with any anxieties about a romantic outing.

“Since my cancer diagnosis six years ago,” she wrote, “I’ve had poison pumped into my veins, tubes threaded into my neck, organs removed, radiation tattoos applied.”

She continued: “But meeting a stranger for a date filled me with dread. ‘I’d rather be getting a bone marrow biopsy,’ I texted my friends before marching out to meet my first date in more than a decade. But I went. And it was fine. Fun, actually. So I stuck with it and dated some more.”

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.”

Ms. Rubio succeeded in finding love. An obituary on her Facebook page noted that her boyfriend, the photographer Mathew Zucker, “didn’t leave hospice for two weeks and was at her side when the cancer finally ended her life.”

Josefina Maria Ana Rubio was born to Salvador and Kathy (Varga) Rubio in Brownsville, Tex., on Oct. 12, 1977. The family moved to Solon, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, where she grew up. Her father died while she was young.

She earned a journalism degree from Ohio State University in 1998, then spent about a decade as a staff writer at Columbus Monthly magazine in Ohio.

Ms. Rubio later worked as a writer and editor at VIVmag, a digital women’s magazine; as a social media director and writer at, a website dedicated to turning couch potatoes into gym rats; and a contributing writer for, a comparison shopping, consumer news and product-review site. In recent years she was an interactive producer for the Guggenheim Museum and a freelance writer.

Ms. Rubio, who lived in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, is survived by her mother and boyfriend.

“In the end, my heart will stop, but it feels broken now,” Ms. Rubio wrote in her penultimate post, “The Worst Thing.” “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.”

“I’ve had a good life. I can’t comprehend that it’s going to stop so soon. How did this happen?”