Last month, Ed Marx, one of the most respected and influential leaders in healthcare IT, announced he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Throughout his career, Marx has prided himself on being a transparent leader; in keeping with that, he has chosen to document his journey in a blog series. Each installment will focus on a different aspect of his journey.
Reality Begins to Set. At noon on Wednesday, I traded my suit coat for my dark blue volunteer vest. I made way across the sky bridge into Taussig Cancer Center. Turning down the long hallway entrance, my pace slowed a step to the music playing softly overhead. As in most weeks, I went straight to the elevators, to the outpatient floors visiting patients here for chemotherapy. As I stopped into their rooms to check on them and chit-chat, I realized I was also now a person dealing with cancer. While I did not share my common diagnosis, I felt a strange bond and emotion. It is as close as I have come to grasping the fight ahead. I know I still have to cry.
Treatment Options. Simran and I are now experts in prostate health! We studied prostate cancer treatment and outcomes so that with our clinical team, we can make the best decision. This is one hallmark of where I serve: empathetic care and shared decision making. We concluded that the best long-term treatment for us was prostatectomy. The removal of the prostate. After gathering second opinions and research on open versus closed technique, we decided to stick with Dr. Klien, one of the world’s best surgeons. And colleague. And friend.
Scheduling. Because we have a little time, we decided not to rush the surgery date. This allows Simran to complete her clinical hours for her Master of Nursing. It allows time with my team to divvy up responsibilities and to complete strategic initiatives. Importantly, it allows us to attend a family reunion over the holiday. Surgery will follow shortly thereafter. I will have the balance of July to recover. Perhaps I will miss 2020 budget planning???
Thank You. Before I get too far, thank you for your outpouring of good thoughts and prayers. All are welcome and received. This is one of the reasons I walk through this in confidence. I will explain more next post.
Gratitude. I am tracking every caregiver I interact with so I can remember them and be thankful for their service. We must give thanks in all circumstances, even cancer.
June 5 – Biopsy Day. Joyce the receptionist with the big smile. Alban the medical assistant who debated me if weights were more important than cardio. I challenged him to a 10K but then he challenged me to a dead lift competition so we called it even. Eric was the nurse who made the awkward procedure normal, and of course Dr. Klein performed the procedure and personally let me know the results.
June 19 – First Opinion. Jody is Dr. Klein’s most excellent assistant. She met us outside his office and brought us in. Of course Dr. Klein was gracious with his time and very patient with all of our questions. Simran and I posing with Dr. Klien outside of his office.
June 21 – Second Opinion. Antoinette is the receptionist who checked us in and treated us with kindness. Shardae is the medical assistant who was very personable and sensitive. Dr. “B”’s nurse Terria was similarly sensitive and made us feel comfortable and confident. Dr. “B” was incredibly thorough and patient as Simran and I bombarded him with numerous questions. We felt blessed that we had the first opinion validated and two excellent treatment alternatives to choose from. Before the day ended, Dan from surgery scheduling called and the wheels were in motion.
Good Things from Bad Circumstances. This remains a work in progress, but our family created a top ten list: “Top Ten Good Things About our Cancer Journey.” I’ll give you a sneak peek into a couple as they are already materializing.
Encourage Male Health. Several men contacted me after the first installment of “You Have Cancer.” They got their PSA checked and had elevated numbers. They are now getting appropriate follow-up. One had a biopsy and reported Gleason Level 6, so he caught it early. A few men who had not previously disclosed outside of family opened up to me about their cancer journeys. It is important to talk about it and support one another.
Raise More Funds to Cure Cancer. I was set to ride my second Velosano. Given the location of my surgery… I likely won’t be ready mid-July. That said I will cheer on my team and volunteer that day. If you are interested in donating, here is the link for my personal page.
Emerging Song Themes. Whip It! I will whip cancer, whip it good.
What’s Next? This week is focused on work transitions and completing major initiatives. Simran will serve 10-12 hours a day in clinical rotations so she will have the required hours to graduate. She will also take summer sabbatical to nurse me through recovery. Simran organized an intimate gathering of besties and children in Texas this weekend for a small party. I still work out as a member of TeamUSA Duathlon and plan to race this weekend. I can’t help myself. I have had a remarkable season to date and want to squeeze in one last race. I hope Simran is not reading this section.
Professional and Personal Insights.
- I am becoming increasingly sensitive to the needs of our patients
- I am thankful for my family and hurt for those who go through cancer hell alone
- I am falling in love with my teams
- I am thankful to serve a manager who cares
- The continued affirmation that I am where God wants me
This piece is the first in a blog series written by Ed Marx, CIO at The Cleveland Clinic, chronicling his recent cancer diagnosis. The next installment will focus on his approach to making treatment decisions.