Monday, October 8, 2007

Life Is Precious

I've been deeply moved by the story of Dr. Randy Pausch, a professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Randy has been battling pancreatic cancer for the past year. He initially had successful (yet very major) surgery in September 2006 to remove a tumor and part of his gallbladder, pancreas, small intestine and stomach.

During late 2006, Randy underwent chemotherapy treatment at the renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and in the first half of 2007 was able to receive a cancer vaccine being developed by Johns Hopkins University. Although he lost 43 pounds during his treatments, Randy bounced back quickly and was playing rec-league flag football within 6 days of completing chemotherapy!

His 5-year survival rate was determined to be 45%, and Randy had been focused this past summer on rebuilding his strength and stamina, and most importantly dedicating time to his wife and three small children. Unfortunately in August he received some bad news.

While outwardly looking strong and active, Randy had a recurrence of cancer. A CT scan showed 10 tumors in his liver and additional smaller tumors in his spleen. Doctors said it is one of the most aggressive recurrences they have ever seen, and gave him a consensus of 3-6 months to live.

Randy's story came to my attention through ABC News, which discussed a "last lecture" he delivered a few weeks ago at Carnegie Mellon entitled, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams". Watch the ABC News summary below:

Also watch follow-up questions sent to Randy by ABC News, and his responses: Click Here

Both moving and inspiring, the lecture allows Randy to share with the audience his childhood dreams, life's ups and downs, and the lessons he learned from along the way. Some fantastic quotes from his speech include:
  • "We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."
  • "...experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted."
  • "...brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something."
  • "...the best gift an educator can give is to get somebody to become self reflective."
  • "I don’t know how to not have fun. I’m dying and I’m having fun. And I’m going to keep having fun every day I have left. Because there’s no other way to play it."
  • "Decide if you’re a Tigger or an Eeyore."
  • "Never lose the childlike wonder. It’s just too important. It’s what drives us. Help others."
  • "You get people to help you by telling the truth. Being earnest. I’ll take an earnest person over a hip person every day, because hip is short term. Earnest is long term."
  • "Apologize when you screw up and focus on other people, not on yourself."
  • "Get a feedback loop and listen to it ... When people give you feedback, cherish it and use it."
  • "Show gratitude."
  • "Don't complain. Just work harder."
  • "Be good at something, it makes you valuable."
  • "Find the best in everybody. No one is all evil. Everybody has a good side, just keep waiting, it will come out."
  • "Be prepared. Luck is truly where preparation meets opportunity."
  • "It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you."
I highly recommend taking the time to watch the full lecture linked below. It is full of many humorous anecdotes and poignant stories, and most of all showcases Randy's energy, spirit and humanitarian nature:

And yes, if my kids want to paint their bedroom, I will certainly let them do so, not only to spur their creativity and imagination, but to honor Randy.

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