It has been 5 days since Myogen's death and 97 days since his diagnosis. Hardly time for me to have any sort of perspective. I have been thinking about him a great deal over the last days and weeks and a couple of things stand out for me. ...continue reading →
I have not provided an update since before the Stepping Down Ceremony on December 15th, and I am having a surprisingly difficult time calling Steve not Abbot Steve but Senior Dharma Teacher Steve. Although this is the title normally given to abbots who step down, it just does not have the same ring. In the ceremony the moment of change happens when the person who is holding the whisk transfers that to the other hand, takes up the fan and puts down the whisk. It takes but a moment, ceremonially. It seems a much more complex process outside of that defining ceremony. So I'm working with the new title as I continue to struggle with this disease. ...continue reading →
Included in this update are two pictures. Most mornings Abbot Steve does a morning jundo. This is a ceremony in which he carries a lit stick of incense to various altars throughout the house and yard, ending with an offering to the Quanyin statue at the altar in the back yard. The first picture is of the Quanyin altar; the second is of Abbot Steve after coming in from his jundo two days ago.
This past week has been a mix of clear, pain-controlled times, and difficult, pain-filled hours. Today was a day in which Abbot Steve woke and spent two hours reading Dogen before the rest of the household started to stir. As I am writing this, he is now sitting in the living room enjoying the changing light while working.
Abbot Steve is feeling very connected to all those people who are sitting Rohatsu Sesshin all over the world, and all the multitude of you who are supporting those who are sitting.
He especially wanted me reiterate his deep feelings of gratitude for all the support he has received and continues to receive from each and every one of you. May your goodwill benefit all those in the ten directions.
There are moments of grace in our lives, and sometimes when we are quiet we are witnesses to them. Right now seems to be one of those times. Abbot Steve is no longer plowed under by pain, nausea or the chemo drugs. He is able to walk and sit in a sunny backyard and talk to family, friends, students and sangha. His energy can be allocated in ways that inspire him rather than dictated by the demands of cancer or chemical. A terminal diagnosis can be a gift in a strange, unimaginable way—a gift that allows time, each fraction of a moment, to be precious in a way that it rarely is when we think that we have unlimited moments.
Abbot Steve's daughters, Hannah and Robin, and son, James, were here this past weekend. The family were together looking over family photos and telling stories. It was wonderful to hear the laughter.
Thank you, each and every one, for your expressions of love and support. May they extend to all beings.
I have just completed one round of three chemotherapy treatments for Stage IV pancreatic cancer, a terminal illness. While I sincerely appreciate the benefits of this treatment, I have been listening deeply to this body/mind and soul searching whether to continue with more of this chemical intervention. As of yesterday morning I have decided to not do more chemo, and instead have begun working with Memorial Hospice based in Petaluma as I continue to respectfully engage in the process of dying.
One can't exactly say where such a decision comes from, but I feel more clarity and relief since deciding to focus on "palliative care." This change will allow me to focus on taking good care of this precious body/mind. I feel very fortunate to have wonderful hospice care people based locally and look forward to working with them.
It has been eight weeks since I received this diagnosis. Every day has brought new situations and opportunities for learning, and this will continue in the remaining weeks. I appreciate your understanding that my energy will continue to diminish as time passes, and so my ability to respond will become increasingly limited.
My wife, Lane Olson, will continue to facilitate family communication, and Mary Stares, my assistant, will do the same for sangha and the wider circle of friends. I continue to be deeply grateful for all the love I feel, the chanting and messages of support for my well-being and for the benefit of all beings in need.
I love each and every one of you,
Abbot Myogen Steve Stucky
Abbot Steve finished his first round of chemotherapy this past Thursday. This week he is able to take a break from chemo, and a blood test on Wednesday may help determine if the treatment is having any success in shrinking the cancer cells. He still has very little appetite, and his experience of pain is again a concern.
So far it has been the case that the day after chemo has been a pretty good day. Abbot Steve took advantage of this last Friday by performing a lay entrustment ceremony with Elizabeth Sawyer, a long time sangha member. Steve Weintraub and Ken Sawyer were here as witnesses to that ceremony. Included in this post are a few pictures taken just after that ceremony.
Abbot Steve is working to accept the limitations placed upon him by his decreasing energy. Every day seems to bring new challenges. He and Lane are continuously learning about pancreatic cancer and the complex situation that they find themselves in.
Finally, Abbot Steve asked me to again thank all of his family, friends and sangha members who are sending greetings and who are supporting him in many diverse ways.
Abbot Steve heads to the infusion center at Kaiser several times a week for chemo and hydration. In the center is a glass-fronted case containing the warm blankets Steve loves. Returning home recently, he read aloud from Sherman Alexie's War Dances. It was the chapter called "Blankets." An exerpt follows: ...continue reading →
Jay gently reminded me this morning that I had not sent in an update for a while and asked if there would be one today. Thank you, Jay, for the reminder.
Abbot Steve's condition has been changing. Just about two weeks ago he and Lane made contact with an incredibly supportive hospice doctor. With careful monitoring and close contact with the hospice doctor many changes were made in Abbot Steve's pain control regimen. For now Abbot Steve seems to have found pain relief that is effective and allows for mental clarity. This new regimen also seems to have lessened his nausea some. He still has virtually no appetite and his energy is very limited, but given the difficulty felt last week, today seemed much more easeful.
Abbot Steve underwent a second chemo treatment last Thursday and is scheduled for a third one the day after tomorrow. It is too early to know if the chemo is of benefit, but Abbot Steve is intending to continue with the treatments until he is no longer strong enough or it proves to be affecting his health adversely.
Thank you all again for your cards and blog entries. Abbot Steve appreciates all of these messages of love and support a great deal and has the wish that these wishes help alleviate the suffering of all beings.
Abbot Steve returned home about an hour ago from the 2nd of 3 chemotherapy sessions in this first cycle of treatments. It was a long morning and he is exhausted.
It has been a difficult week. Steve is still working to manage his ever-present pain. There has been some hope that a place of stability could be found which would afford both mental clarity and lower levels of pain, but as of yet that place has been elusive. He is having continuing difficulty with nausea, and his appetite is very limited.
Abbot Steve moves around the house with the use of a cane and still goes into the yard each day to marvel at the beautiful roses that are blooming in their back yard.
Abbot Steve continues to appreciate the well wishes and support he is constantly receiving from family, friends and sangha. He adds that this is a good time to examine the reality of impermanence in all of our lives. And to continue to express our love for each other.