We are living in a very tumultuous time and the world has become a wild and wacky place. Everyday, we are bombarded with bad news, vicious gossip, conflict, war, and natural disasters. This creates such stress on our immune systems and here in New York City, many of my patients are experiencing anxiety for the first time in their lives. So, today, I’ve decided to tell you all a true story that will make you feel good, restore your faith in humankind and I hope you will pass it on and pay forward some of the kindnesses that have been bestowed on you….
A couple of months ago, a person who has been a patient of mine for many years and a thyroid cancer survivor reached out to me to tell me that a diagnosis of Stage IV esophageal cancer was given to this person and could I help. My response was “Of course, I will do everything I can to help minimize the effects of chemotherapy and boost your immune system. We will get through this and you will win this war”. We discussed the treatment strategy for the chemotherapy and scheduled acupuncture treatments so that the patient would have a treatment before and after chemo, then weekly treatments in between chemotherapy.
My next patient at the clinic that day is another long time patient who is also a breast cancer survivor and thriving/living life fully and with joy. She noticed I wasn’t my usual self and asked what was wrong (I just couldn’t keep a smile on my face that day). I told her how upset I was that my patient had been given this diagnosis – you couldn’t know a finer human being in this life and it pained me to see yet another person in my life be diagnosed with cancer. My patient said ‘I know this man who had 4th stage esophageal cancer and beat it…cancer free for over 7 years and he counsels and advocates on a volunteer basis for people who have been diagnosed. I went to high school with him…..would you like his contact information?’ I was so moved that my patient offered to help someone she didn’t know and when I became a bit emotional with her generosity, she said ‘why wouldn’t I want to help you help someone else – you’ve done so much for me’. So, I reached out to her contact, Mark Speckhart, and we spoke for almost 2 hours on the phone. I’ve not met another human like this man. He is above extraordinary. He donates much of his time to assist cancer patients in their journey through surgeries, treatments, and personal crises…just because he’s a walking angel on this earth. The man exudes life, joy and lives with gusto. As it turns out, Mark had already reached out to my patient because a neighbor of his had worked with my patient at one time and connected them (what a small world!). Mark is helping my patient every step of the way with tips on how to detox from chemo sessions to probiotics to daily routines. I didn’t know at the time Mark had spoken with my patient and when I brought up his name to my patient, I was told they had connected and how great he has been with guidance and advice. My patient laughed and said how it was amazing so many people were being presented to help and Mark should know where another connection to him was coming from..an old high school chum. My patient has a team behind him to fight this war with cancer. This person is blessed with a fine family who is very supportive, a great team of doctors, a personal trainer (we share the same trainer) who gives him extra work and attention, a great acupuncturist, and a mentor who has been through this journey and gives back to others selflessly. Yesterday, my patient told me the scans reveal that the nodules have shrunk 60-70%; a far better result than expected and the future is looking bright. The patient thanked me for my part in this process (to alleviate the side effects of treatments), but I was overjoyed that the patient said it was such a great group of people to come together to help a stranger. My patient will win this war with cancer and live to see grandchildren in this life.
The point I’m trying to make today is this: total strangers will come together to help in a big way. It only takes ‘the asking’ as the Irish would say. I’ve been blessed to know Mark Speckhart – an inspiration. I’ve also been blessed to have my patients in my life who, when they see I’m not myself, they ask and really care about me. I’m blessed that they are generous and give back to help another person they do not know just because it’s not only the right thing to do, but because they’ve been down that road themselves. I’m blessed to witness the courage of all my cancer patients – I don’t know that I have that type of courage. Today, take 5 minutes and think about this little story. Think about who in your life has given you the strength to rise when you’ve been down. Who has introduced you to a person who has made a significant different in your life. What have you done to pay it forward?