In June, 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.
Cured! I was sitting on our living room couch with Simran on July 12. We had finished lunch when Dr. Klein gloriously interrupted our discussions about the weekend. “Great news on your path – confined. That equals cure. Congrats!” Simultaneously, the completed surgical path report landed in my inbox. Yep. Whipped. Cured!
Emotions. I stood up and wailed in the arms of my lover, my bestie, my cancer caretaker. Emotions loosed, gratitude fulfilled. Expressed in tears and convulsions, unspeakable joy. Cradled in the earthly bosom of God, peace at last. Hearing Simran’s shouts, Shalani came to check on her parents. She joined our clutch. As we let go to breathe and debrief the news, Shalani wiped tears from my eyes. A moment I will not forget.
I Remember You. Over the last few weeks, my heart and mind return to friends stricken with cancer over the past few years. There are many ways to support people and here are some ideas.
- I shared mom’s story previously. I volunteer at our cancer center as one way to honor her. All proceeds from my Voices of Innovation book go toward curing cancer.
- I shared video of Ellen previously. I went from weekend triathlete to Ironman and TeamUSA as a result of her battle. I used my training time to pray for her and her family. All my race medals lay with her. My original triathlon bike still bears her name.
- The child of a former employee, I did my second Ironman in his honor. He has my medal and part of his Make-A-Wish included visiting Ironman World Championship site in Kona. Again, my training time was dedicated to focused prayer. Ten years later, “Ironman Sam” is doing well and in high school.
- One of my inspirations. He knows.
- The spouse of a former direct, I named my new triathlon bike after him. Each time I cycled I prayed for Rodney who went on to be completely healed. He called me this weekend to offer love and support.
- A former colleague who was struck with late stage cancer. We had a cantankerous relationship but nonetheless I loved the man. We both enjoyed java so I fasted coffee for 18 months until his body gave up. Every time I drink coffee I pray for Jack’s family.
- On a bright sunny New York day, my former mentor called asking for a referral and prayer related to his cancer diagnosis. We prayed on the phone. He received great care and was healed. For his journey I fasted my other weakness, candy. Each time I craved candy I prayed for him. Dave is now praying for me.
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.
July 15. One Week Post-Op Visit. Antoinette check me in and again was very pleasant.
The medical assistant Keena was my favorite as she removed Fred and Freddie, my catheter buddies. Fred is the big one I used overnight. Freddie is the smaller one that wrapped discreetly around my leg so I could go outside. Keena made me feel comfortable and gentle as she took that hose out of my bladder. Instant relief.
Valencia came in and checked out the surgical site. Everything perfect. We talked about bladder control exercises and what to expect in the next month prior to follow-up with my surgeon. She smiled and made Simran and I comfortable with the next phase of the journey.
What good can we create from this? My family created a top ten 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 wouldn’t have been ready mid-July. I cheered my team and volunteered instead. My family was here with me doing second shift, bike check-in/out. If interested in donating, here is the link for my personal page.
Self-reflection. There is nothing like a turn in your health to wake you up. I feel pretty awake after my 2018 widow maker. So you go a little deeper and ask many questions and review your life. That is where thankfulness and gratitude are born and you choose to become better or bitter despite circumstances.
I am a Servant. I mentioned one of the four cornerstones of my identity is “Serve”. One of the songs that spoke to me big since the diagnosis is an old 70’s Jesus tune by rebel rouser, Larry Norman. I am a Servant. Here are the lyrics.
I am a servant, I am listening for my name, I sit here waiting, I’ve been looking at the game. That I’ve been playing, and I’ve been staying much the same. When you are lonely, you’re the only one to blame
I am a servant, I am waiting for the call, I’ve been unfaithful, so I sit here in the hall. How can you use me when I’ve never given all, How can you choose me when you know I’d quickly fall
So you feed my soul and you make me grow. And you let me know you love me. And I’m worthless now, but I’ve made a vow, I will humbly bow before thee. O please use me, I am lonely
I am a servant getting ready for my part. There’s been a change, a rearrangement in my heart. At last I’m learning, there’s no returning once I start. To live is a privilege, to love is such an art. But I need your help to start, O please purify my heart, I am your servant
What’s Next. With the cath out, I am relearning bladder control. Yep, after proctectomy and relying on a cath for a week, your body needs to reprogram. I am also revascularizing my sexual response capability. It’s humbling. So these are two more base camps to climb before summiting cancer mountain.
Professional and Personal Insights.
- I am thankful for a clean path report!!!
- I am thankful for learning the patient experience
- I am thankful for Simran and family
- I am thankful for access to high-quality medical care
- The continued revelation that I am where God wants me to be
This piece is the latest in an excellent blog series written by Ed Marx, CIO at The Cleveland Clinic, chronicling his recent cancer diagnosis.