The Last Lecture – week one

  • Presenting the long-awaited, yet-to-be-tested Being Cancer Book Club.  Our first month’s selection is “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch.  The book is based on a lecture given at Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh where he was a professor of computer science.  Randy had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, had ‘failed’ treatment and was given just a few months to live.  The book is a series of reflections that are focused more on how to live than on how to die.

    I thought that we would divide our book selections into four parts.  On each Monday I will write a  post on the previous week’s reading.  Readers can then offer “Comments” on the readings also.

    You can order a copy of the book from Amazon by using the link on this page or on the “Book Club” page.  A recorded CD version of the book is available there also.

    Reading Assignment – Part I entitled “The Last Lecture” and Part II entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” .  Approximately 50+ pages.

    Discussion Questions – Initially Randy’s wife is opposed to his spending time on this speaking/writing project.  How did you identify with this conflict between the needs of the sick person versus the needs of loved ones?  To what extent do you think this conflict reflected gender orientations?  How do you deal with self-fulfillment issues when you have a deadly disease?

    “Kids – more than anything else – need to know their parents love them.  Their parents don’t have to be alive for that to happen.”  How does this theme resonate for you in dealing with illness and family?  He worries that his young children will not remember him.  What thoughts have you had about the legacy of memory that you might leave your children or grandchildren?

    Randy tells about how he was raised as a child.  How did your own upbringing impact on how you handled your diagnosis and subsequent struggle with disease and treatment?

    The second section deals with how Randy strove to achieve childhood dreams.  How has that worked out for you?  How did cancer affect your pursuit of your dreams?

    Finally how does this book club format work for you?  Any suggestions for improvement?  for future books?

    I look forward to your comments next Monday


    About Dennis Pyritz

    Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.


    The Last Lecture – week one — 9 Comments

    1. What a great idea. I need to go and check the book out of the library so I can be apart of the book club. I sure hope some of my readers jump on board. Thanks for stopping by and letting me know about this. Keep on rocking and rolling. I will be back once I get the book to participate.

    2. I don’t feel ready to read this book, I struggle enough as it is with worries about the future (my children are 5, 4, 2 and 1). My outlook is not poor enough that I “have” to go there yet, so I am not going to. I love the line you quoted, however: that we do not need to be alive to love our children is so true! Cancer has made me much more faithful with all the little “record keeping” things – baby books, momentos saved, photo albums kept up to date. I know that if I am gone, those things will NOT be done by my husband. I also keep a 5 year journal in my wide-margin Bible for each child. I am half way through kid number 2 so I have to live at least 13 more years to finish the project! 🙂

    3. Hi Dennis, this is a great idea, and I love what little of it I’ve already browsed. I’m glad to be a part of it.

      You brought back some memories with “The Last Lecture.” Even now post-treatment (well…almost), I can’t read enough about other people’s experiences with cancer. I read this book while I was going through chemo. I remember feeling aggravated and jealous reading about Randy’s pursuit of his childhood dreams while feeling like I’d tossed mine by the wayside for the sake of a secure paycheck. I haven’t yet completely changed gears career-wise, but my perspective is definitely different and I’m more confident that a change will be realized.

      Thanks again, Kathy

    4. This is a fantastic idea and resource. I have bought loads of books (knowledge is power !) since finishing chemo. Most aren’t available in the bookshop and I have had to rely on the reviews on Amazon to choose which might be most useful. This has been helpful but I’m never quite sure if it’s friends and publishers doing the reviewing, they’re certainly strangers. Your blog has great integrity and I feel it to be very trustworthy. This is going to be a great resource and is an inspired idea. It’s going to be great to discuss these books with someone who doesn’t roll their eyes and say I’m on about cancer again!

      I haven’t read but have seen the video of The Last Lecture and was moved. I’ll give you some comments when I’ve mulled over your very stimulating questions. Great, great, great post !!

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