28 October 2007


Death and childhood dreams

Dr. Randy Pausch is a Computer Science professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, where he has taught for about ten years. Last month he gave a lecture, more than an hour long, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." This week, he reprised a ten-minute version on Oprah, of all places.

Why? Well, Dr. Pausch is not quite ten years older than me, and like me, he has metastatic cancer, diagnosed about four months before my colorectal tumour. Unlike me, his doctors have told him with fair certainty that his pancreatic cancer is going to kill him soon, probably within months. So here's his talk (the Google Video preview picture is not him, by the way, but one of the people introducing him):

He's not depressing or morose. In fact, Dr. Pausch is in good shape, and quite funny. For instance, early on in the talk, making it clear that his lecture was not about cancer, he says, "If you have any herbal supplements or remedies, please stay away from me," and while warning that he won't talk about spirituality and religion, he does reveal that, "I have experienced a deathbed conversion: I just bought a Macintosh."

I think Dr. Pausch and I share a similar attitude to this disease. There's no point in blame or guilt. There's plenty of sorrow to go round, so there's no need to wallow: it will come without that effort. On his own website he has written:

"Winning" means buying time; I will always hold out hope that a miracle cure is developed that would give me a normal life span, but right now we're fighting to stay alive a few more months at a time.

To paraphrase his approach: whatever time we have left, let's have some fun. I can go with that.

Thanks to Jeb for the link.

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Thanks for posting this, Derek. He is amazing.
Hi there,

other therapies you may consider:


Also, herbs and supplements may not cure you, but they can have a good impact on immune system.

Good Nutrition too is a must (again depending on what your doctors permit you).

Sweating (e.g. in sauna) and exercise (both good if you doctors permit you) can strengthen the body too and help it remove its toxins.

All these though may help remove drugs you use from your system and that may not be indicated in drugs therapy, like chemotherapy drugs, so in that sense the Computer science can be right about herbs and supplements.

Rejecting herbs is nonsense, as many herbs do indeed exhibit medicinal properties (some herbs quite powerful and beneficial to the body medicinal proterties actually). But I would say, they are good for mild conditions or to strengthen the body in a generally healthy body.

Nonetheless, some Vitamins like Vitamin C are always good, especially for cancer patients.
It's the previous poster. I wrote "The Computer Science" in the post, I actually meant to write:

the Computer Science lecturer.
I don't think he meant to reject herbs etc. out of hand, but simply to try to dissuade the flood of well-intentioned (and sometimes hucksterish) people who try to convince any cancer patient to take huge doses of strange herbal supplements at any opportunity.

I've experienced this myself, and my take on it is that herbs are also drugs, just ones that come from natural sources, and that it's wise to look out for side effects and interactions with other treatments of any kind.

I do take vitamins, especially D and C, but I've been cautioned against large doses of C at this point. That's because it does have antioxidant properties, which is actually a problem with chemotherapy, because chemo agents are in many cases oxidizers, so lots of vitamin C would actually counteract the intentional poisoning effects of the chemo while I'm taking it.

So you can see why I would want to be careful.
Hi there again!

here is an interesting link:


on other cancer therapies (good perhaps as complementary to your regular regime?)

Some of them may actually work, according to the provided information!
Hi again,

one good.

if you want something that has real potential to slow down cancer,

try caloric restriction (calorie restriction without malnutrition).

But contact your doctors if you want to follow the diet, they may consider it inappropriate.

Here is some information to get you started:

Oh jeez, one thing I *don't* need is fewer calories. I lost over 50 pounds up through the summer, and it's been a struggle to gain 30 of them back and keep myself there. I don't want to look like this skeleton man again if I can help it.
Dr. Pausch died in July 2008. Since he had aggressive pancreatic cancer, he lived a much shorter time after his diagnosis than I have so far with my slower-growing (but still growing) lung metastases from colorectal cancer.

Darren points to Legacy Locker, which is a start (though how good a one is an open question) to dealing with our digital legacies after we die. Dave Winer also had some interesting ideas about "personal endowments" back in 2007.