Yesterday, as I do on an almost daily basis, I checked out other myeloma blogs to see how my fellow bloggers are doing. Well, I wish to thank Teresa (“The Beast” blog) for leading me to Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture.” You may have heard about the talented computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University who delivered a lecture in September 2007 titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” The lecture has been seen by millions on YouTube.
Prof. Pausch had pancreatic cancer. His last lecture was literally his last. He died in July 2008.
I urge you to watch it when you have slightly more than an hour of free time…you won’t regret it (I think): http://www.thelastlecture.com/aboutr.htm. This link will take you to a page where you can read a bit about Prof. Pausch, his work, pancreatic cancer, etc. Click on “Randy’s website” (or here: http://tinyurl.com/2brkxr ) to find a series of videos, including his brief testimony before Congress and…his last lecture.
I laughed out loud, I teared up, I listened. I learned. Early in the lecture he tells the audience that We can’t change the cards we’re dealt, just how we play the hand. Indeed! He then focuses on his childhood dreams. While listening to his words, I tried thinking of my own childhood dreams. Not much came to mind, oddly enough, but I did recall spending hours putting jigsaw puzzles together as a kid (this is pertinent, as we will see). The more difficult the puzzle was, the more pieces it had, the better. The absolute best was putting together 5000-piece puzzles. I still love puzzles, and would have one spread out on a table right now…if we didn’t have cats, that is!
In fact, and this is a brief aside, my early enjoyment of elaborate puzzle-solving explains a lot about who I am today—my curiosity, my desire to learn and do research about practically everything under the sun. Of course, now I have an extra “push”—the quest to save my life and (I hope!) help others in the process. My childhood dreams certainly never included developing myeloma! But what is myeloma if not a big and daunting puzzle…the most difficult puzzle of all, in my experience???
Anyway, and here I get to the point (!), the first childhood dream that comes to mind is related to my love of puzzle-solving: I wanted to become an art restorer. The idea of bringing ancient paintings back to life was fascinating to me. Well, I never did go into the art restoration field…my life took other turns.
Then there was the “Margaret the Archaeologist” phase…another example of how nerdy I was even as a child. At the age of ten or so, I became obsessed with the “mystery” of the Etruscan language. I was certain that I would grow up to be the first to unlock the secrets of that ancient language.
My parents took me to many of the Etruscan sites and museums all over Tuscany and waited patiently while I painstakingly copied tomb inscriptions and the baffling symbols I found on urns (etc). I still have my Etruscan notebooks in a sealed box somewhere. Well, I never did find the solution to the Etruscan puzzle, but when I went to college in the United States I took some archaeology courses as part of my major in Social Anthropology…and I wrote a paper about the Etruscan civilization and language. So even later on in my life I had a connection to this particular childhood interest. Still do, in fact. I love visiting ancient sites, Etruscan and non-Etruscan.
I don’t recall having any childhood dreams as creative as Prof. Pausch’s dreams of being Dr. Kirk (Star Trek) or experiencing zero gravity. The closest thing would be my longing to sprout wings on command and be able to fly. I still dream about flying, but I have in recent years added the ability to become invisible so hunters won’t shoot me down…hey, you’ve got to be practical, after all!
Well, I don’t want to harp too long on this subject. I simply wanted to post about a fascinating lecture that gave me quite a lot of food for thought and will probably be of interest and use to other cancer patients. Prof. Pausch offers a lot of good advice, including the following: never underestimate the importance of having fun. Very true! And I loved what he said about his near-deathbed conversion…but I won’t spoil it, you will just have to go watch the video to hear what happened…
I would like to end the post with a bit of advice that I have taken to heart and that Prof. Pausch talks about in his last lecture: