Oliver Sacks learns he has terminal cancer

Oliver Sacks, in his moving NYTimes op-ed about learning that his ocular melanoma has metastasized to his liver:

I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.

This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night.

Sacks’ version of “live like you were dying” is exactly what you’d hope/expect, showing his depth and ability to turn his careful consideration and clinical acumen internally, just as he did in his New Yorker essay about prosopagnosia (face blindness). Read the whole op-ed (and the essay too).

“Sudden clear focus and perspective” seem harder and harder to come by in the contemporary era, but I’m adding tacking it on late to the resolution list this year. I still remember first reading and being inspired by Sacks’ An Anthropologist on Mars and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat in high school, probably the two books which most shaped my early interest in neuroscience and medicine. He’ll leave a tremendous legacy.


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