Unintended Journeys

[ Below is the email I sent out to my extended team of colleagues at work before going on medical leave of absence. After reflecting on my son Sidd’s comment below, I decided the notion of “deforestation” is one I like when thinking of the journey I was about to make. For me, it conveyed that I should notice what in my life is not needed, what is distracting, versus what is important and central to happiness and success. Time will tell how well I apply these lessons. ]

Hi Team,

As you will come to learn I am taking a medical leave of absence, and I would rather not have you waste cycles speculating what and why, as that is distracting, in my opinion.

I am on an unintended journey (as happens in much of life) due to the discovery that I have battle to wage. Prep has been busily underway for round 1, which is on Friday 10 am PST.

I have cancer (which is bad news), but it is lymphoma (which typically is better as it is often treatable and curable), but it is T-cell lymphoma (which is a bad news kind), but it is at Stage 2 (that’s good news), and I am in the Seattle area which is a bit of a cancer Mecca in terms of expertise (again, good news). And that’s how your brain ping pongs around for a bit, doing a drunken walk from smiles to frowns to smiles. At this point, it’s largely moved on to focus hard on the gameplan at hand.

This is a horizontal problem (you could be in Somalia or Seattle and get cancer) but to paraphrase Bernie while waving your index finger in the air as if to get the waiter to bring you the bill, the difference is I will be receiving “the top 1/10th of the top 1/10th of one percent" in terms of health care via the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. On balance, life is good. My boys are chipping down their swim team times, we are awash in sunshine, my extended family is mobilizing around me like a bunch of crazy people… the list goes on and on, no? Life is relative – – in a world full of pockets of deep strife, I am in a tranquil corner when you measure along 1 of a 100 different dimensions (be it my abode, locale, community of friends, phenomenally supportive colleagues and mgmt, the sprawling benefits of our company, etc., etc.)

When I told my sons of this development, they listened the way they play Minecraft, full on. After some questions the 13 year old smiled. Why the smile? I asked him. He replied, "Well Dad, you know I am not a fan of your hairy chest and back. I guess this chemo will be kind of a deforestation, at last, right?" Good to not take ourselves seriously, no?

Having been in this org for 8 years and worked with many of you, I go into this nutty adventure personally inspired by the humility, intellectual & whimsical curiosity, the relentless persistence all of you show off each day.

I will be unplugging from work. Yet, if you get a moment you are bored, drop me a line via my personal email address. No insightful idea or observation is needed for the note or call. I can share a suggestion for a summer time read too, (including lots of partly read books I really like). I will also try to capture some observations about this cancer thing in a small blog I keep that is more of an unlisted journal.

Two asks I closing:

  • Hug your family and friends every time you get a chance. Easy to let that slip.
  • Try new things & get out of your envelope of comfort regularly. (In truth, this is actually the observation of a bald guy – – "Did I try that one?" is my rhetorical question whenever I see a cool hairstyle – – and usually the answer is no, sadly.)

Enjoy another amazing summer.

Abe Pachikara, Chief of Staff, US DX

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