“My medical odyssey began in the summer of 2006, when I felt slight unexplained pain in my upper abdomen. Later jaundice set in, and my doctors suspected I had hepatitis. That turned to be wishful thinking. CT scans revealed I had pancreatic cancer, and it would take me just ten seconds on Google to discover how bad this news was. Pancreatic cancer had highest mortality rate of any cancer: half of those diagnosed with it die within six months, and 96% die within five years.”
“It’s over,” I said to Jai (his wife). “My goose is cooked.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Don’t tell me you’re counting tumors,” she said. I couldn’t help myself. I kept counting aloud. “Seven, eight, nine, ten . . .” I saw it all. The cancer had metastasized to my liver.
Randy Paush, a professor of computer science was told by his doctors: he only had 7-8 months to live. The “Last Lecture” literally was his very last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University where he taught for two decades. It is also a book by him on the joy of life, the story of love for his family (wife and three children) and the spirit of living with full knowledge of impending death, each day counting his remaining finite months of life! The book chronicles what we can do and live in the “heart of suffering, the calling to heal the bloodied planet.” And, how to utilize human potential to a maximum “which is how our greatest problems will be solved.” These are his words.
One of his doctors advised him (on his impending death), “to behave as if you’re going to be around for a while.”
Randy chides, he was ahead of the doctor as he responds, “Doc. I just bought a convertible and got vasectomy. What more do you want from me?”
And, “I’m living like I’m dying. But, at the same time I’m very much living like I’m very much living like and I’m still living.” He smiled.
“Give yourself permission to dream.” Before reality most everything was a dream! He suggests.
In this final lecture to his students he cautions: “I know you are smart. But everyone here (at Carnegie Mellon) is smart. Smart isn’t enough. The kinds of people I want in my research team are those who will help everyone else.” Become a good team member, as being able to work with others in group is a necessary skill both in work world as well as in any family.
I can vouch for the above statement as my own professional experience in the USA was precisely similar, as a technology engineer.
“Failure is not just acceptable, it’s often essential part of life’s journey a prelude to success.” Most often in Start-up companies they hire the people who have failed yet they had the potential for success.
“There is more than one way to measure profits and losses. On every level, institutions should have a heart.”
“I’m a guy who has floated in zero gravity (inside a plane designed for astronauts). But I was floating even higher that day. I was incredibly appreciative that Tommy (his teacher and mentor) felt I helped enable his dreams. But what made it really special that he was returning the favor by enabling the dreams of my current students (and help me in that process) that moment turned out to be a turning point in my relationship with that class. Because Tommy was passing it on.”
Through experience he suggests, working through our traumas ignites our resilience and lights a fire of sacred purpose deep within our souls. “When we know how hurtful the world can be we also see the many ways that we can make a difference. In the heart of suffering, the calling to heal this bloodied planet. Let us go to work.”
On optimism and the will to live with limited time at hand, “It can enable to do tangible things to improve your physical state.”
“Dr. Zeh calls me poster boy for ‘the healthy balance between optimism and realism. He seems me trying to embrace my cancer as another life experiences. ’”
He urges his kids (children and students) to find their way with enthusiasm and passion. He wants them to feel and assures he is with them, “what ever path they choose”in their life. Each life is unique and different and he advises to make it the best they can.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, “The Last Lecture” and must admit that it made me emotional at times a contemplating on life itself and the tragedies we endure in the process of living as they come mostly as a surprise and often with a shock!
Also, very recently I interviewed Manisha Koirala extensively for hours; however, I like to mention a small portion of my conversation with hope that it may add some value to the readers in real life. Rephrasing her words ( condensed for length) on my final question to her, “Today, after winning fight with cancer, what are your final words to all of us, the lesson that will help others in their lives?” Manisha replied, “My second life (post cancer) is a blessing for me. It was cancer that made me self-analyze if I was self destructing in my relationships I chose in my life. Were they just for temporary feel good moments as they did not last for longer periods? I have done a lot of self introspection and reflected on life and I come to realize that the cancer was a gift to me. It gave me a lesson on the beauty and preciousness of living first hand. I promised to myself I shall not make any mistake on relationships any more as I often did in the past. Manisha may be a star to the world but she fought insecurity, lack of confidence (in spite of numerous successes she had in her career as an actor) and loneliness all her life. Now, in everything I do, I pause, think, analyze and do a self talk and tell myself, I still have a career, my family loves me, and I do love them immensely. I still very much love work of art including my acting career and I try to give everything I have to my work. Luckily, I am STILL working and enjoying it thoroughly. The key for all others also is you must love your work and give everything you have. I enjoy being with nature and all the flowers that I have planted. How colorful and beautiful they are when they bloom. They give me happiness. The pets have, the cat and the dogs return my love for them. It is an inspiration for life, and, that is a blessing I can count on. After all, what else do I really need?”
(Arun Sharma is an engineer and writer with seven published books.) email@example.com
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