I was scheduled to speak to a large multispecialty medical group in early Spring 2020. They were looking for someone who could educate, entertain, tell stories, and inspire doctors to sustain their healing spirit in these rapidly changing times in healthcare delivery. This is my arena of expertise and I was looking forward to addressing 1000 of their clinical and executive leadership.

A conference call was set up with the planning committee, the Chairperson, (an ER doc) introduced herself, told me about the organization, and then asked me to tell the group a little about myself.

I started speaking, and within 30 seconds started getting short of breath. I managed to get out that I needed a moment to catch my breath… but it was more than a moment and after 30 seconds she asked me if I was OK? I mumbled yes, and when I began again acknowledged that I had a chronic heart condition and sometimes needed to take a momentary pause, then blithely moved on uninterruptedly.

Before the call ended however, the Chairperson asked me more about my heart condition, and I probably said more than I should have because an hour after we hung up my agent called to tell me they wanted to cancel my engagement. She never spoke with me directly, but it was clear that my condition scared her sufficiently that she didn’t want to take the risk of my crumbling on stage. 

 I get it, and even see the dark humor; 1,000 doctors coming to Vegas to get away and play, and instead get treated to just another day at the office… probably not the best way to set the tone for a meeting. But I’m thinking what a wasted opportunity, I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate the importance of living your truth, owning your strengths and your vulnerabilities, and be joyfully engaged wherever you are in the moment.

The cancellation was a bit of a blow, but what bothered me far more was the prognostication about the imminence of my demise. Doctors may know a lot about diseases, but not a lot about how long somebody can live with it. We are abysmally poor at such predictions, and we ought to stop doing it. Such pronouncements tend to immobilize patients, they get frozen by somebody else’s sense of who they are and what they will become. Don’t let somebody else tell your life’s story, it diminishes you. Live your life every day enraptured in the here and now.

I got cancelled and this week confirmed another engagement.