Last month, Ed Marx, one of the most respected and influential leaders in healthcare IT, announced he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Throughout his career, Marx has prided himself on being a transparent leader; in keeping with that, he has chosen to document his journey in a blog series. Each installment will focus on a different aspect of his journey.
Recompense. Thirteen years ago, I made mostly good on a personal challenge to live a life with no regrets. I reckoned to try adventurous things that might kill me. Learn new things like dance. I pursued faith and life with passion. It is a slippery slope, and I fell. More than once. But I don’t look back. I thought about people whom I hurt over the years. Broken relationships never reconciled. Family, friends, co-workers. The list long… longer than I cared for. While I was kind to many, I was an ass to others. I searched and reached for everyone on that list. I said sorry. Most responded favorably. This week I am reflecting on all current relationships to ensure nothing is left unfinished. Unsaid.
Responsibilities. I studied my schedule in great detail with my excellent assistant Dara. We captured major responsibilities in a document to ensure one of my IT leaders had point for each item. My team (executive peers) rallied around me to take executive sponsorship for each. Because of our “team of teams” approach to the way we work, IT will continue to move forward boldly without me. I am grateful we invested all the time we did into team building and relationships. They are strong. I am proud to serve an organization whose culture fosters such collaboration and unity. At home as well, all of our affairs remain in order.
Celebration. Our best friends John & Betty hosted a night of prayer and debauchery with some of our closest friends in Texas. IT caregivers sent me dozens of well wishes on paper cutouts. I also had a chance to catch up with most of my kids this past weekend. This holiday we meet up with family for the bi-annual Marx Family Reunion. A perfect week to hug on some of the dearest people in my life. The outpouring of love is overwhelming.
What Good Can We Create from This? My family did create a top 10 list; here is one repeat and a couple new ones.
- Raise More Funds to Cure Cancer. I was set to ride my second Velosano. Given the location of my surgery…I won’t be ready mid-July. I will cheer my team and volunteer instead. My family will be here with me doing second shift, bike check-in/out. If interested in donating, here is the link for my personal page.
- Suffering. While I have yet to find joy in suffering, I know through it comes growth. Some of the deepest times of intimacy with family or God has come in times of suffering. The challenge is to seek truth and peace during suffering. I don’t intend to wax philosophical, but found this approach beneficial. Get bitter or better.
- Mini Sabbatical. I rarely unplug from work, but I am lovingly mandated to take a break. During this time, I plan to read through a pile of books, learn new songs on guitar to sing to Simran, and simply relax. Simran and I are planning to write our own book in 2021, so we may begin to sketch the outline. Shalani (youngest daughter) and I purchased some puzzles and board games.
Gratitude. I am tracking every caregiver I interact with so I can show them thankfulness for their service. We must give thanks in all circumstances, even cancer.
Pre-Registration Desk. I was greeted warmly and registered by Bonita. Colleen checked my file to make sure my advanced directives, medical power of attorney and insurance documents were squared away. If you don’t have these documents in your chart, do it for the sake of your family.
Anesthesia Eval. Not sure if this is standard or because my recent medical history, but I had to pass through anesthesia. Cindy greeted me and anesthesia nurse Mahela evaluated me. All good!
Urology. I made my final visit to urology and spent a couple minutes with Marla at check-in. I completed the paperwork online for every appointment saving time! Carissa the medical assistant took me to the exam room and asked initial questions. Dr. Klien stepped in and once again explained everything in detail, answering every question. He introduced me to his nurse Carissa who was cheerful and kind. Dr. Klien warned me to be nice to her as she is the one who will remove my catheter one-week post-op. Deal.
Motivation. Thankfully my TeamUSA Duathlon season was early and I am finished for the year. This gives me ample time to recover before hitting the workouts hard. Goals my coach agreed to include a sub 40-minute 10K Thanksgiving and a sub 90-minute half-marathon New Year’s. The bike comes back to me pretty quick but I need aspirational run goals to motivate me as I start from scratch.
What’s Next? With everything in order at work, we are headed for our family reunion Thursday. The timing is perfect. Simran finished all her clinical hours the last week and a half to fulfill her Master’s in Nursing criteria. She is taking the summer off to help me heal before starting her doctorate program this fall. Simran is an amazing woman, and I am blessed to have her as my soul mate. And nurse!
We return to Cleveland Sunday. I give up my prostate o’dark thirty Monday.
I still haven’t broken down yet. I will. Going through all the pre-op check ups today…and talking recovery with Dr. Klien. It was getting real.
Professional and Personal Insights:
- I am glad I have lived a (mostly) purposeful life and have zero regret.
- I am walking the journey of my fellow patients and learning lots.
- I am thankful for my IT leaders who rally behind me.
- I am thankful to my team for covering my roles.
- I am thankful for access to world class care.
- The continued revelation that I am where God wants me to be.
This piece is the second in a blog series written by Ed Marx, CIO at The Cleveland Clinic, chronicling his recent cancer diagnosis.