Monday, August 13, 2018

The Secrets to My Strength and Resilience in the face of Terminal Cancer

All through my journey with Glioblastoma spanning from the initial diagnosis and first Craniotomy on Monday, November 14, 2016, to the present day, I have received a lot of praise and compliments on how I have been dealing with it. 

Many people have told me my fight with this terminal cancer has given them hope and has inspired them. I have been told multiple times that my positive attitude and sense of humor in the face of a terminal cancer is amazing and worthy of emulation. I have also got praise for the transparency I am bringing into the often tough journey with Glioblastoma.

I am very present to the fact that if I had not put in a lot of hard work over the years to improve myself, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now. 

I would have given up at the very beginning. I would be a very bitter man. I would have been feeling sorry for myself, and curse everyone and everything for life being so unfair and cruel towards me. 

As one of my friends suggested in a different context, I would have probably taken to alcoholic drinks or psychedelic drugs/opioids to make myself forget about the difficult circumstances I was facing and ease the pain. 

I am not doing all that. Instead of that, I am putting on an admirable and exemplary fight against this terminal cancer. My response to terminal cancer can literally be termed as Superman-esque.

The following three factors are a big reason why I am able to respond very differently:

  1. Going through Psychotherapy sessions costing me tens of thousands of dollars every year from 2002 to 2007.
  2. Being part of the amazingly transformational environment at Landmark Education in New York City from 2007 to 2009.
  3. Luck. Pure Luck. 

That is it. The keys to my strength and resilience in the face of terminal cancer. You can stop reading now if you are not interested in the gory details/explanations and a summarized telling of my life story. 😁

Just to be clear, I didn't take on all this hard work to improve myself with the objective of preparing myself for a life with terminal cancer. I took on these personal improvement tasks as they came up in other contexts in my life, and thankfully it is turning out to be very helpful in my current struggle. 

The rest of this blog post explains each of the three factors in detail. 

1. Psychotherapy Sessions - Why? What? How? Etc. 

The unique circumstances and specific situations/incidents, while I was a kid, set me up for life as a misfit. As an individual devoid of any personality or sense of self-worth. Everyone I met was always better than me in some way or the other. They had what I craved for. I did not have what they had. I would forever keep seeking approval and appreciation from everyone.

A few weeks after the September 11th attacks, I self-diagnosed myself with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and started seeing a trained & certified Psychotherapist in Manhattan for weekly once/twice/thrice psychotherapy sessions.

The progress was slow as I wasn't very convinced of its effectiveness even though I had convinced myself to pay thousands of dollars every month for those sessions. At the back of my mind, there was always a voice that was telling me "I am a fool and am getting fleeced willingly."

Progress did happen as I stuck with it even while I wasn't seeing any quick and immediate benefits. In slow spurts. With starts and stops.

The process of personality formation which should have happened while I was a kid in the safety and love of my parents started happening slowly from across the therapist's table in an expensive office over multiple therapy sessions spanning months and years.

I don't know how much money I spent on the whole process. I can only nail down the estimate to "Tens of thousands of dollars every year." I guess I was lucky I was gainfully employed and earning well enough in Manhattan to afford that kind of a yearly expense.

After sticking with Psychotherapy sessions for nearly 6 years, I finally ended those sessions after I started feeling like someone of value.

My participation in the Landmark Forum Course in June of 2007 also was a big factor in me ending the regular Psychotherapy sessions. That leads me to the second factor.

2. Transformation through Landmark Education Courses

I attended the Landmark Forum Course in New York City for the first time from Friday, June 8, 2007, to Sunday, June 10, 2007, and had an amazingly transformational experience. I walked in on Friday morning as a person who had the weight of the world on his shoulders and walking around with a frown always on his face. By that Sunday evening when the course was ending, I was a totally different person. It almost felt like a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders and I was feeling very light and happy and at peace with myself and with the world.

I think what happened was that the course made me loosen the grip my past was having on my mind and let me deal with the current situation on its own merit without bringing in the huge luggage from the past into consideration.

The various lessons - called distinctions in Landmark Education lingo - learned during the Landmark Forum course makes one see the world with a new set of eyes.

The one negative thing about the Landmark Forum course though is that even though it is a very transformative 3-day experience, the lessons learned during the three days do not stick permanently. Especially as we go back to our regular life and our old ways of living and being. Which makes us forget the lessons from the Landmark Forum very quickly as we come to believe the way our life is as the real truth and what we experienced in the course will soon be forgotten as an aberration.

To counter this, the Landmark Education community encourages participants to sign on for more courses. Specifically, the participants are encouraged to complete a set of courses grouped together as 'The Curriculum for Life." So naturally, there is a lot of cross-selling of other courses while a person is attending one course.

This is likely to put off some people. This is the reason Landmark Education is considered disreputable and as a cult. In fact, my wife used the over-sales content as an excuse to walk out of the Advanced Course she had signed up for in Bangalore a few years later on my urging and decided to never do any other Landmark Education course. 😞

Thankfully I didn't fall into that trap. My circumstances at that time allowed me to commit as much time as I wanted on Landmark Education for the next 3 years. I was very impressed with the impact my participation in the Landmark Forum course had on me. I decided to commit as much time as possible learning more and being immersed in the Landmark Education community for the next few years. In fact, at that time my goal was to work towards becoming a Landmark Forum Leader, having been impressed by the power and charisma they exuded while leading the 3-day course.

From mid-2007 to end-2009, I was a permanent fixture at the New York Center of Landmark Education. Spending 2 or 3 evenings during the week and one or two weekends a month at the Center. Either attending a course or volunteering at their office.

It was the 6-month Introduction Leaders Program I participated in 2009 that finally made all of the distinctions of Landmark Forum a permanent part of me. Even though I haven't been to a Landmark Education course or Center since 2009, the lessons have served me well ever since.

I attribute a big part of my strength and resilience in the face of terminal cancer to the lessons I learned as part of my immersion in Landmark Education world from 2007 to 2009.

3. Luck. Pure Luck.

Luck has played a big role in how I have been dealing with Glioblastoma so far. It was luck that set me up as a misfit for life and made me take up psychotherapy sessions for years that would help me later in life. It was luck that made me immerse myself in the Landmark Education world in New York City from 2007 to 2009 and make me learn some life lessons that would make a huge difference over time. 

More immediately relevant to the journey with terminal cancer are the following factors where luck has played a big part:

3a. Medical Insurance through Obamacare Exchange

As a freelancer with a 2-year-old daughter, I had medical insurance through the Obamacare Exchange in Colorado. And not through an employer. This turned out to be a big slice of luck as the insurance obtained through the Obamacare Exchange did not have limits on pre-existing conditions and hence ensured that any relevant medical expense will be fully covered. This ensured that my treatment on the diagnosis of Glioblastoma was very speedy and smooth. 

I was diagnosed with a brain tumor at around 8:00 AM-ish on Monday, 14th November 2016. By 2 PM the same day, I was on the operating table to remove the tumor. And by 5 PM that day, the tumor was removed and I was recovering in the Intensive Care Unit. A big part of this was because of the guarantees provided by my insurance obtained through the Obamacare Exchange. 

The fucking Rep-ugly-cans and the Conman Dotard administration has been trying their best to destroy Obamacare as a whole, and dismantle parts of it like the 'No Pre-existing-condition clause'. So it is likely I will have problems with insurance covering my cancer bills soon. At the time of my diagnosis though, that was not the case, and the insurance made things go very smoothly as I have explained so far. The insurance has been good with the ongoing treatments as well. 🙏🙏🙏

3b. Reasons to be Thankful

During my diagnosis and first craniotomy, the way things turned out made me be very thankful from the beginning, and that set me on the whole journey with terminal cancer with a good attitude. 

A severe bout of nausea and throwing up + losing consciousness on my way back from the bathroom had taken me to the emergency room early morning on Monday, 14th November of 2016. I don't recall anything about meeting the doctors or undergoing the surgery, etc. after that. 

Next thing I know I wake up in a very strange place on Tuesday, 15th November 2016. My first thoughts are that I am still asleep and having a very strange dream and that I will wake up soon and everything will go back to normal. Slowly I realized that I was in a hospital and that the people fussing over me - the doctors, nurses, my family, and friends - were all really there and that I have been through a risky medical procedure. I could see very well. I could talk very well. I could hear very well. I could move around with help, but it didn't look like I was damaged in any way. 

There was a huge bandage on my head that indicated my head had been cut open. Other than that I seem to be perfectly fine. As I learned more about the risks involved with a brain tumor operation, I was amazed that I came on the other side of it with no major side-effects whatsoever. That was part of what made me very thankful even though I had been through a major medical procedure. 

Another aspect of this situation was that I was unconscious during the worst parts of the ordeal. I woke up only after the worst parts of the situation was over. Thank God!

That sense of being thankful has been with me ever since and has been a big part of my fight with Glioblastoma. 


Hope this write up about how I have strength and resilience in the face of terminal cancer helps and inspires others. 

If you have some questions about any of the above please write to me at prakash.n.murthy at

The story so far

It has been a month since I decided to start a blog to journal my journey with Glioblastoma Multiforme after bei...