Sunday, April 15, 2007

Can't You Just Get Over It?

I'm finding more and more posts similar to this on the internet. Every time I read something along these lines, the knowledge that i'm doing the right thing is once again affirmed. Tracey was 45 when she died.

Paul Schaye doesn't like the expression "cancer survivor."

"It sounds like someone who washed up on shore," he says.

The 54-year-old Manhattan investment banker has incurable
gastrointestinal cancer. Statistics suggest he may have two years to
live. But he's living as hard as ever -- making deals at work, taking
trips with his wife, indulging his passion for extreme sports. Last
weekend, he biked 55 miles, ran 17 miles and swam 132 laps. "I'm a cancer
thriver," he says.

'Ironman' Paul Schaye
In another age, people would see Mr. Schaye as a man in denial, who'd be
better off resting, praying and getting his affairs in order. But today,
there are new cancer drugs with no debilitating side effects, and new
attitudes that have transformed people's view of the illness.

These breakthroughs explain why we're now having a national discussion
about how cancer patients should conduct themselves. Elizabeth Edwards
vows to stay on the campaign trail, despite breast cancer. White House
press secretary Tony Snow hopes to return to work after treatment for
colon cancer. Mr. Schaye sees these high-profile cases as proof that the
parameters of cancer have changed.

For some cancers, "we can now give people a pill so they can keep
enjoying their lives, without having the chemotherapy that can be so
disabling," says Mr. Schaye's oncologist, Gary Schwartz of Memorial
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "Even with chemo today, we can minimize
side effects."

So far, research hasn't proven that a positive attitude can help patients
overcome cancer. But doctors do say that positive patients are often
easier to treat because they're more engaged in their care. There also
are benefits to maintaining a routine, including exercise.

Dr. Schwartz places Mr. Schaye in the top 5% of his patients in terms of
attitude. Mr. Schaye is aware of the grim procession ahead, the doctor
says. "But Paul is not depressed. He feels like he's controlling his life
and destiny."

Mr. Schaye, founder of the mergers-and-acquisitions firm Chestnut Hill
Partners, learned he had cancer in October. He sent friends a mass email
that began: "I have cancer, and for the record, it sucks.... I plan on
fighting and I am going to win."

By "win" he didn't mean cured, necessarily, or that he'll live to old
age. Yes, he hopes medical advances will be discovered before cancer
shuts down his organs. But he knows that's unlikely. So by winning, he
means "thriving." He recently ran a marathon. He ends his emails: "I am
an Ironman."

He's asking friends to join "Paul's Posse" to help raise money for cancer
research. Long before his diagnosis, Mr. Schaye supported cancer causes.
For years, he rode in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, a 192-mile bike-a-
thon for cancer research. He has cajoled 43 people, including Dr.
Schwartz, to ride this August. Their efforts are chronicled at

One rider, his friend, Geoffrey Kauffman, speaks of "a confluence of
cancer in my life." Mr. Kauffman's mother is a 40-year breast-cancer
survivor who now has lung cancer. Other loved ones have had pancreatic
and ovarian cancers. Because Mr. Kauffman, a hedge-fund executive,
educated himself -- devouring medical journals, contacting researchers --
he is a great resource. "I have an ability to translate from doctor to
human," he says.

Mr. Schaye's posse has grown because his optimism is contagious, says his
wife, Gay. "It's hard to be down around Paul." The Schayes, who have no
children, are grateful Mr. Schaye's drug regimen has him symptom-free.
"We have no need to think about what terrible things might happen
tomorrow, when we can make another great memory today," says Ms. Schaye.

When Mr. Schaye and I spoke, he talked easily about his prognosis. The
only time he got choked up was when he considered his wife living on
after he's gone. "I feel like I'm abandoning her. She's losing her best

But he's staying upbeat. "My clock is ticking a lot faster than yours,"
he said. "But I've had a blessed life. And that life is continuing."

Write to Jeffrey Zaslow at