My Brain is Fried: Inside Chronic Illnesses

Many people believe that everyone lives in the same world. At an event, we all see, smell, taste, or touch the same things, and therefore, our experiences are identical. But when we crunch the information into something that goes beyond observations, unique worlds—ones we may not understand—are created.

What Makes You Think You’ll Live Forever?

The opening line of the pamphlet was straightforward: Join us in a workshop where you will experience your own death. Six months prior, I would have thought it an interesting exercise. But having received a diagnosis of “aggressive prostate cancer,” it had the relevance of a guidebook for an upcoming trip.

Becoming Something Different

In Tibetan Buddhism the word “bardo” refers to a transition or a gap between the completion of one situation and the beginning of another. That gap can occur between life and death, ignorance and understanding, or in the case of speech-language pathology, between who we were and what we are becoming.

Dying the Way We Live

People who were dying in the Middle Ages said their goodbyes, gave away the furniture, and just stopped breathing. The non-event was witnessed by friends and family, who, at the moment of death absconded with anything of value. Later, they might gather to either celebrate or deride the person’s life. Today, although we rarely fight over furniture, we do something worse.

Prostate Cancer Research Funding and Male Vanity

As someone who’s living with prostate cancer, I applauded Louis Gossett Jr.’s testimony in Congress on the importance of prostate cancer research funding. If congress was listening, maybe I’ll live long enough for something else to kill me. But according to the American Cancer Society statistics, I shouldn’t hold my breath.

Dying Stands Logic on its Head

We often harshly judge behaviors we don't understand. They can involve someone's ingratitude, anger, or actions we label as foolish. I recently was guilty of the same thing here in the San Francisco Bay area with one of my hospice patients.

Faces of Grief

Although there are many approaches to grief counseling, most focus directly on the grief we experience over the death of a loved one. But what about the unexplainable, and often embarrassing grief experienced over the death of someone we never knew?

Bottomless Holes

More than 10 years ago, I saw a black and white photograph by Richard Avedon that I still vividly remember. It was taken of a young boy in 1947 in Sicily. He was in the foreground smiling broadly and wearing a suit that was too short in the arms and too tight in the waist. In the background—softly out of focus—was a tree with a symmetrical oval canopy and a fence that defined the boundary between sky and water. A seemingly bucolic scene unless you looked carefully at the boy.

You’ve Got It!

It was Monday, May 27, 2002 and the morning fog was clearing. Sitting in my kitchen drinking a cup of coffee, I watched the Pacific become visible. It would be a great day. Then the phone rang. “Good morning Stan”, my doctor said, “the results are positive.”