Men make plans; God laughs.
This post isn’t about law schools, big law firms, or even the legal profession. Rather, it begins a new series that will end — well, I’m not sure when it will end — but I have a pretty good idea how it will end. A few days ago, I received an unfortunate diagnosis: pancreatic cancer.
For my entire life, I’ve been a healthy person. Never overweight (5’6″, 140-145 lbs.); never smoked; one or two glasses of wine per week; annual physical exams; regular exercise regimen for the past 20 years. The diagnosis is the culmination of a startling turn of events that began shortly after my January 24 keynote address at the DuPage County Bar Association’s Annual Mega-Meeting. The following day, I was still tired. Ten minutes into my usual 30-minute workout on my elliptical trainer, I was totally out of gas. For the remainder of the day, I rested.
On Monday, I felt better as I prepared for my Tuesday morning undergraduate course – “American Lawyers – Demystifying the Profession” – at Northwestern University’s undergraduate campus in Evanston. The next day, I made it through the 90-minute session, but fatigue persisted.
By Wednesday morning, I felt bad enough to contact my doctor (“primary care physician” or “PCP”. We’ll be taking a deeper look into medical system as I proceed, so defined terms will become important). I told him that I had a major appearance scheduled for Friday in San Francisco. After describing my symptoms (including bowel movements that were, shall we say, indicative of a potential problem), he suggested blood tests.
I drove to downtown Chicago and began the half-mile walk from the Millennium Park garage to his office. One block into the trek, I knew I was in trouble — light-headed, weak, unsteady. (If I had disclosed my condition to my wife, she would have driven me. But I’m a do-it-yourself kind of guy.) I made it to the doctor’s waiting room, provided enough blood to perform complete tests, and then, after sitting for several minutes back in the lobby as I regained strength, walked back to my car.
Once home, I packed for San Francisco. My wife and I were looking forward to the brief trip involving my USF symposium appearance and a visit with our daughter living in the Bay Area.
At 4:30 pm on Wednesday, January 28, the phone rang. At the other end of the line was my doctor.
“You have to cancel your trip,” he said. “The only place you’re going is to the emergency room. I just received your blood tests.”
My life would never be the same.