November 17, 2014: I am now approaching the three year anniversary of living with an extremely rare and serious cancer diagnosis (high-grade soft-tissue sarcoma), and more than 15 months of actively dealing with bony metastatic disease. It has been a tidal wave that has upended and reordered every aspect of my life — a full-blown, daily encounter with uncertainty, vulnerability, and the unknown. It has brought me face-to-face with many of the great mysteries and paradoxes of life and healing, and forced me to confront my own mortality more directly than ever before.
One of the great ironies in all of this, of course, is that it all arose in the context of 20+ years of working as a medical oncologist — providing guidance and care for thousands of patients and family members navigating the extraordinary challenges encountered on the journey through cancer. Beyond my professional work, I have spent most of my life personally exploring the great healing and spiritual traditions of the world. This spiritual knowledge and experience about the deeper dimensions of life — and possibilities for healing that transcend conventional paradigms, even healing from a rare and aggressive cancer — have been a lifeline for me.
At the same time, being an oncologist has in many ways made the journey harder and more challenging. For better or worse, I understand the medical challenges and complexities of what I am facing. I am also living each day confronted by the profound limitations of science and medicine — and alternative therapies as well — to adequately deal with this rare disease. Many of the decisions about what to do have been extremely difficult and uncertain, and the treatment options very limited. The journey has brought me closer to a deeper experience of my humanity — including reservoirs of inner strength as well as depths of fear, pain, and vulnerability — beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
During this time, being in contact with you — my dear community of friends and colleagues — has been an incredible blessing. Your consistent thoughts, prayers, communications, and good wishes have been a profound gift. In fact, it is hard to fully express how meaningful and important your presence, love, and communications have been. I hope you know and can feel the difference you’ve made. Thank you, again and again, for being there.
Until recently, I have sent out periodic email updates about my condition. Over the past few months, however, events have been so challenging that it has been very hard to stay in touch. After a lot of thought, and with the encouragement of many of you, I have decided to share and communicate through this new blog for a number of reasons:
- First, this will be a deeper and more intimate way of communicating about what I am actually going through.
- Second, it will create an opportunity for you to “check in” to know what is happening with me as the journey continues to unfold — at your convenience — and to share any comments or posts, as you feel called to do.
- Third, it will provide a more robust forum for us to stay connected, and will provide a crucible of support and communication that feels very important and critical for me right now.
- Finally, going through the cancer journey as a patient, I have learned much about life, death, cancer, and the mysteries and paradoxes of healing. The journey has also been filled with many unexpected blessings, insights, and understandings. I hope to be able to share some of what I have learned in a way that may be meaningful for others.
So, welcome to this new blog. It begins at a time of great uncertainty in my medical situation, and my care. I am facing upcoming decisions that will have serious consequences and implications for how my life, and my continued efforts to heal and live, unfold. Your presence in my life, and the contact and communications we may have through this blog, feel more important to me than ever. Thank you for being there, for staying in touch, and for sharing your comments in whatever way you feel inspired.
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