"Cancer, What Do You Have to Teach Me?"
How does one respond to a cancer diagnosis? For some, it's an all-out war: "I'm gonna beat you, Cancer." For others, it's an acquiescence: "I'm surrendering to you, Cancer… you're bigger than me."
As most of you know, I have been dealing with a prostate cancer diagnosis over the past five years. Two years ago, it progressed to stage 3, prompting a partial removal of my prostate through ablation. Unfortunately, it didn't stop there, as the cancer spread to my pelvic lymph nodes, leading to a radical prostatectomy last month. Throughout this journey, I've come to realize that my relationship with cancer resembles that of a teacher and student. This realization inspired the title of today's blog post: "Cancer, What Do You Have to Teach Me?"
My goal is to be an A+ student of Cancer's tutelage, then graduate and say goodbye to my teacher once and for all. Here are my top four lessons (so far):
1. “Slow Down, Spread Out.” Long ago, when we created a San Francisco hotel for bourgeois bohemian businesspeople, we offered slippers in every guest room with "Slow" on the left slipper and "Down" on the right slipper. Being the driven nut I am, I believe "Slow Down" is the mantra for my approach to aging. And "Spread Out" means to focus on the vast array of things that are important to me beyond being CEO of MEA: hanging out more with my sons Eli and Ethan, traveling with my partner Oren, spending time with my parents who are in their mid-80's, enjoying quality time with friends.
2. “Slow Down MEA.” As an entrepreneur, when you happen upon a great business idea, you press your foot on the accelerator. As a social entrepreneur with MEA, I see the great value we create for people in midlife who want to consciously curate their lives. So, of course, in the pandemic, we spread from our Baja campus to purchasing three big, expensive properties in the Santa Fe, NM area, and I'm excited that we'll be opening our Ranch campus early next year. But, in the spirit of slowing down and making sure that scaling doesn't diminish our soul, we're slowing down the development of the other two Santa Fe properties just so that we can grow at a more natural rate with less stress.
3. “Less Hero, More Coach.” As I wrote about in this blog post, "Designing Your Own Hero's Journey," one of the archetypes that I'm most drawn to is being the hero, the person who comes in and saves the day. It feeds my ego. But, honestly, it's pretty tiring living that way, and it doesn't give others the ability to step up if I'm constantly swooping in like Superman ("Swooperman"). So, I'm doing my best to live my own credo of leading with questions instead of answers while coaching others to find their internal wisdom. I can't say I'm doing this well yet, but at least I'm consciously focused on my progress.
4. “Love My Body.” How would I treat my body if it was my best friend? As our car ages, it needs more maintenance check-ups. Our bodies are the same. It may not define me as much as it used to (my former biceps and thick hair). Still, it is my rental vehicle for this lifetime, so I'm cutting back on my sugar and alcohol, and I'm excited to go to an Austrian health retreat with Oren and Cookie this summer to learn more about how to love my body more.
So, thank you, Cancer, for being a punishing and intense teacher. According to my cancer specialists, my prostate cancer has only spread to one-third of the pelvic lymph nodes they initially expected. I'm officially off the hormone depletion therapy and won't undergo any radiation in the short term. We'll await the results of my PSA blood test next month to determine if any further steps are required beyond "active surveillance." As a result, I have decided to take a vacation this summer, which means that you, Cancer, will be taking one as well.