As mentioned in the last post, Abbot Steve now receives regular medication injections and is able to “dose” himself as needed. This is a relief for all of his caregivers and, once again, we give thanks for the wonderful care he is receiving from Petaluma Hospice and, in particular, his doctor Steve Hadland and lead nurse Cynthia Clarkson.
During last week's hospital stay at a visit to the on-site chapel, Lane was recognized by hospital chaplain Joé Annette Lille of Stone Creek Zendo, who offered words of comfort. When Steve woke up later that day, he found a beautiful card of the old gatehouse altar at Tassajara made by Peggy Denial and signed by Joé. It sits in his bedroom now. "We are the beneficiaries of such tender mercies," says Lane.
As his mobility has declined, Abbot Steve has found a way to set up an office in the living room where each day he keeps up with communications, as he is able. Tonight he will skype with the annual Dharma Eye Zen Center Solstice Party in Marin County. He and Lane are sending solstice greetings to all in the ten directions.
Last week Abbot Steve's pain level increased significantly, and hospice care was unable to relieve the pain, so he went to the hospital. Now he is at home with a pump to automatically deliver medication at regular intervals, but the situation is still quite delicate and challenging to manage. He is in good spirits, but the cancer continues to progress very rapidly.
Thank you, as always, for sending your good thoughts and wishes.
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.
First, it is an inspiring thought to dedicate this particular day for giving thanks and put “gratitude” on the national calendar as a shared cultural value. Though any great thought may be tarnished and undermined by our usual self-serving narrowness, here is a window of opportunity that can warm the cockles of my heart and yours. It’s an invitation to each of us as citizens, as one member of the millions of us to be generous with each other and recall the many gifts we receive simply by being alive here in this place and time. ...continue reading →
Abbot Steve completed another lay entrustment ceremony yesterday, for Tom Millard of the Dharma Eye Zen Center.
Mary explained to me today that the last report about Abbot Steve's condition was possible because fortunately the hospice physicians have been able to find a better mix of medications overall for him. She also informed me that, despite the apparent improvements, he continues to become exhausted quite easily and must manage his energy carefully.
We feel fortunate that he has been able to perform these ceremonies for his students.
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 →