Maybe this is a story
Maybe this is a poem
It starts where the last one ended—a new beginning
It continues, unafraid, without knowing
It’s been one year, one month, and eight days since I last published a post.
How to even start with what has happened in the meantime? As I sit down to write I feel compelled to offer an explanation for why this update has taken so long. After such a prolonged delay without word from me—a delay that, I know, left some people wondering, if not a little worried—I feel I should give a better answer than “a lot has happened.”
There are a few reasons for my absence, and I suppose the most obvious is that I’ve been busy. However, busyness is not the complete picture. It would be more accurate to say the greatest reason for my absence is that I’ve been focused. And perhaps the word “focus” is an understatement. It would be most accurate to say the greatest reason for my absence has been obsession—a soul-consuming obsession, a ravenous fire in the pit of my stomach, a blinding preoccupation with one thing, and one thing only—to recover.
I had beaten cancer, but I was a long way away from getting back the life I had before. My body was crippled with pain and fatigue; I had no job and no ability to earn money (a generous disability policy had supported me thus far, the payments for which would soon end since I was no longer on chemotherapy). I barely remembered anything I had learned during my seven and a half years of medical school and psychiatry residency—years spent studying my passion and vocation, years that were so inconveniently interrupted when I was diagnosed. I had survived, but felt light years away from putting the pieces of my life back together.
Are you surprised? Tales are written of great men who go out and fight battles and win wars and slay monsters, but what happens after? Men who slay monsters will tell you that slaying monsters is the hard part, but it’s not. The hard part is finding your way back home.
For three months I waited and planned. I went to Hawaii for my brother’s wedding, then Mexico for a college friend’s wedding. I loved these trips, but you must understand that simple things like walking through an airport and sitting up on a plane—what most people would consider the gentle lead up to a relaxing vacation—took up, for me, an inordinate amount of energy.
When I got back from Mexico I decided the first step would be to taper off pain medications, which I had been taking daily for the previous three years. I still had pain (a chronic effect of the chemotherapy), but I didn’t want to take pain pills forever, and as hard as it would be to stop now it would be harder to wait until later when I would hopefully have a job.
I took all of my bottles and counted up my remaining pills and wrote out an elaborate taper schedule. First one pill three times a day, then three quarters three times a day, then half four times a day, then half three times a day, then one quarter four times a day, then one quarter three times a day, then one quarter two times a day, then one quarter once a day. It took about two months.
For most of these two months I cocooned myself under the covers of my bed, imagining ways I could kill myself to end the torture. To distract myself I copied and then recopied my taper schedule in my daily planner (a planner that was largely empty except for the reminders to “take pill”). I soaked in epsom salt baths, I took vitamins, I popped a hundred other pills that were not opioids. On more than one occasion, I shit my pants. About two weeks after my last dose I no longer fantasized about committing suicide. As I started feeling better, that burning pit of desire rekindled in my belly, and as it grew I once again narrowed my focus onto the one and only goal that mattered.
At this point my primary problem was energy—not the average person’s perception of low energy like, “I’m kind of tired” or “I need a nap,” but the kind of crippling fatigue that resulted in days without showering and skipped meals because it took too much energy to walk to the fridge. At best, I could do one thing a day, such as running an errand or going to a doctor’s appointment. If I wanted to reach full recovery, this simply would not do.
So first I sought out information. I established that my symptoms were characteristic of the chronic pain syndrome known as Fibromyalgia, and so I read everything I could about Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia, I learned, is not so much a diagnosis in and of itself, but is more a final common endpoint to many potential insults (in my case, years of chemotherapy). The first four or five books I read on the subject weren’t any good, but then I found one that clicked, and so over the next week I read it once, then twice, then three times, then four, and then I read it however many times one needs to read something in order to be able to recite it by memory.
Now informed, I put myself on a fanatical regimen of supplements and vitamins, and armed with knowledge of a concept of energy conservation called “pacing” I created an elaborate point system to categorize how much of my limited energy each activity I did used up. Showering: 2 points. Eating: 1 point. Cleaning up after eating: 2 points. Talking: 3 points. Driving: 3 points. Anything outside the house: 3 points per hour.
I calculated I could expend no more than 20 points each day without becoming sick, so I fastidiously scheduled every hour of every day in my planner (finally, I had more things to fill in than “take pill”). I saved a few crucial points each day for weight lifting, and so week over week built my endurance to 22 points, then 24, then 26, then 28, then back down to 26 because I got greedy and tried to do too much, then back up to 28, then 30, then 32 points.
This took about three months.
After three months I could reliably engage in productive activity ten to fifteen hours a week. I know this doesn’t sound like much, but after years of doing not much more than lie in bed, I can tell you ten to fifteen hours a week is nothing to sneeze at. With ten to fifteen hours a week one may not be able to work full time, but one could, theoretically, finish the last few remaining requirements one had left in the final year of one’s psychiatry residency program and graduate. And yes, this is what I did. I finally graduated residency, and at the ceremony I got my diploma and it said UCLA Department of Psychiatry 2010-2017, and yes it took me seven years to finish a four-year residency program, but goddamnit I finished. I came, I saw, and I conquered.
So yes, I graduated, and yes, I was thrilled, but what was I going to do, sell my diploma for groceries? No, I needed money. And more than I needed money, I needed purpose. I needed a job. So I applied for part-time jobs, just ten to fifteen hours a week, because by this point I had enough energy points to work ten to fifteen hours a week AND shower and eat and talk every once in a while.
However, while applying for jobs, something magical happened. I met with a former attending of mine who is in private practice and I asked him for a letter of recommendation for a job and he said, Sure. And then he said, I’ll give you a letter of recommendation, but why don’t you come here instead? Why don’t you start a private practice and use my office (and you can pay me almost nothing for it) and I’ll send you patients (because I have a ton of connections and my practice is full)?
He said, You can do it part time, because when you work for yourself you’re in charge, and you can work when you want to work and rest when you need to rest and you can set it up however you goddamn want to and you’ll make a ton of goddamn money (he phrased it differently). And I said Yes, Yes, Yes, YES, YES.
So that’s how I got to where I am now. A few months ago I studied for and took my psychiatry board exam, and found I remembered much of what I feared I’d forgotten. A few weeks ago I turned 35—an age I wasn’t sure I’d ever reach. I have my own private practice, and I have a little office with a view of the ocean and I see patients and they tell me they suffer and I say, I know. I say, It will change, because I know it will. Time promises one thing—it moves forward. Somewhere along the way we will be changed, even if we don’t try.
You may wonder, Do I feel different now? Do I appreciate life more than I did before? Of course, the answer is Yes. How could I not be changed? How could I not appreciate what I have; how could I not be afraid of losing it again?
What amazes and thrills me, though, is that, sometimes, the answer is No. My life these days is so… ordinary. I go to work and see patients, I play tennis and ride my bike and balance my checkbook, I read books and write words and Google Game of Thrones fan theories. I plan my wedding for the Spring (I’m getting married). I get a cold and complain about it. Sometimes I feel tired and I forget why.
But how wonderful is it to be ordinary, to have the luxury of getting caught up in the petty concerns of everyday life like traffic and money and work? How wonderful is it to have a life so stable you are able to take it for granted? To be able to worry and hope and dream and plan for the future because you believe you will live to see it?
A few years ago I had a conversation with my oncologist, Dr. Eradat, when I was in the worst of my treatment and saw no end to it. I asked him if I would ever feel normal again. “Well,” he said. “It depends on what you mean by normal.”
(Not the most encouraging thing I’ve ever heard, but an honest answer).
So I clarified. “I mean, when will I not feel so… afraid?”
“Oh,” he said. “Afraid? That doesn’t go away. In twenty years you’ll have a cough and you’ll feel afraid. Your stomach will hurt and you’ll feel afraid. But you’ll need to live your life, anyway.”
There was a point when I had no fear left—when I had lost everything important to me and there was nothing left to lose. Now, I am afraid. I am afraid because I have a life I could not stand to lose; I have a life that, in all its imperfection, is worth the pain of living to keep.
All those years ago what I needed to know was not, Will I ever again be normal? It was, 1) Will I ever again be happy? and 2) If so, when? The answer was, 1) Yes, and 2) It won’t take as long as you think.
I struggled so much against this horrible thing that happened to me, trying to fight what simply had to be endured. In the end I did not need to do anything special to find my way home, because home is more than a place, it is a desire. It will consume you until you have no choice left but to find it; home will grab hold and pull you toward it with a force more powerful than gravity. I just had to be patient. I just had to wait.
I am here, and my feet are planted firmly on this earth. I am alive—I am so wildly alive. I feel each beat of my heart, I sense every sound, the melody of voices so distant you can barely hear them, the gentle hum of traffic outside my window. In the morning it smells of bitter coffee, in the evening of lavender soap. I see every brilliant ray of light, I feel the soft warmth on my skin. The sun glows down on me as if it comes from heaven.
Most of all, I am afraid. I feel that hiccup every time my heart skips a beat. The terror in my throat that chokes me. Every time I cough I feel it, every breath I take I feel it. But I will live my life, anyway.
Photo By Nigel Howe
goddamn you go girl!!!!!!
I am a 3-time cancer survivor (breast cancer at 38, thyroid cancer at 43, and bile duct cancer at 53). Each time is like a punch in the stomach. But here I am 8 years from my last cancer. I changed careers after 27 years as a software engineer, went back and got my masters’ degree in counseling,. worked in a clinic for 2 years, and have now reached my goal of going into private practice to help others overcome anxiety and depression! I have had other bumps in the road (trimalleolar fracture this summer) but I try to always move forward and listen to the universe. I applaud you for moving forward and yes, you never view an ache or pain the same again (even after many years) but is that a bad thing? I listen to my body in a way that others do not. When people ask how I do it I say that I had no choice. Often people call me lucky and it makes me laugh. Bravo to you for moving forward and reaching your goals.
Kathie Weston says
Beautiful…..thanks for sharing so much of yourself. To come back to ordinary is perfect. Gratitude for the simplicity of looking out a window at the ocean from your office.
JaneMarie M Borger says
How wonderful to call you Dr!! Congratulations on finishing residency and all the other triumphs you have accomplished. I have missed your writing and am thankful you are back. I’ve been waiting, probably like many others. I hope you will consider (if you haven’t already) writing a book about this journey.
Your open and honest sharing made me THINK and I am grateful to you! I’ve been the friend who wants to make it all better and you helped me to realize that’s not always the way. I get the listening part now. I get the massaging hands, feet, heads and temples for the person in pain. I understand to do whatever it takes and to not WAIT for the request, but to give when I can. And not expect ANYTHING in return as the person is …. you know.
I’m grateful Dr. Miller that you were always real. No matter how ugly or how dire it seemed. You shared. I cried. I said prayers and I learned from you. Even in the dark you were teaching me.
My favorite picture from your blog is the one of you playing music with your new hairdo. It gave me hope. I had hope that you were smiling again and though the journey wasn’t easy, you were in it!
The happiest of wishes to you and your fiance. Congratulations on your practice and on finding the new YOU. Please keep writing! You have a gift. I appreciate every moment you shared and I look forward to the rest of your story. Thank you!!!!
Yes! Yes! (And more YES!) I read every gorgeous word. So thrilled to see I had received your email. I immediately savored every bit of it. You put light and love in the world. Lots of gratitude for
How do you cope with that fear ? Because i have this fear and it limits my daily living!
Congrats!! Fellow warrior you speak the truth. I am so far (knock on wood) 3 years in remission from Follicular lymphoma, high grade – mixed follicular and diffuse pattern B- Cell. R-CHOP followed by 2 years of maintenance- Rituxan.
The journey back to “normal” is hard but it’s worth it. That day that when you almost forget you have cancer or are recovering from cancer treatment. I finally after 3 years do not constantly think – “Is this the day my cancer comes back? Will I live another year? What if I get a dog, what happens when I die? (my husband would care for her)”
My new normal is good. There are remaining issues from chemo – but I have and am learning to live with those.
You GO Girl!
Thank you for sharing your story and being honest. <3
Patti Riccio says
I have been following you from the beginning Elena. This is such wonderful news. I have often wondered how you were doing. I am inspired by your courage and grit and thankful for the outcome. I send you love and blessings as you continue your journey.
Paula M Sowers says
I have thought of you often over this last year and hoped all was getting better. Hearing from you today, simply put, made me happy. Enjoy every last minute of this life! You deserve to be happy!
Lori Eyre says
Incredibly inspiring. Nothing but good wishes for you! Enjoy life!
Sooooooo happy to hear your triumphant story…..i honestly forgot as I stopped using this email about 2 years ago.
You did it!!!!!!!!!!
Yesszsss and keep writing, lady!!!!
Hallie Harris says
Thanks so much for your update ..
Your story in inspirational in so many ways.
If your ever speaking publically,I️ would love to attend .
Praying for you, you are a strong woman
kitty loewy says
Sending love and hugs and wishes for a happy life. Mazel tov on your upcoming wedding and may you be blessed with good health and happiness, always.
Mark Henry says
Thank you for these words beyond words. I am so glad that you are in the world.
Harriet Cabelly says
Yay for You! Gorgeous piece! So happy for you! You have your life back, and what a life – love, career, purpose, scenery, joy…..meaning!
Christi Conard says
So good to hear from you! Thank you for sharing your battle/journey with us. I am thankful and grateful for the progress you have made and continue to make!
Rachel Dube says
WOW. I have so much to say but I’m still processing what I read…..I am just so happy for you. You are a true warrior and give us all something to strive for. Keep fighting every day and spreading your positive energy all over this world. We need it!
Linda O Carducci says
Thank you, Elana. Thank you for sharing. And, thank you for enduring.
Ann Marie Calka` says
Was just thinking about you, So happy for all the progress you have made!
I love your writing. And wish you well!
Thank you for sharing your very powerful story! It is a huge gift to me and, I’m sure, many others. Words are truly powerful. Yours inspired and helped me.
Continued blessings to you,
Margaret Nagel says
I’m so happy for you, Elana. Thank you for sharing your insights with us.
Elana, I am thrilled for you and more than a little teary-eyed. Best wishes to you as you find the joy in your ordinary, extraordinary life.
I was just thinking about you and this blog yesterday and then I see this post! So happy to hear of your upcoming wedding. I appreciate your honesty too, in sharing the difficulties of your journey. As hard as it is to know that suffering sometimes is part of life, it is important to know that things change. Your eloquent way of telling your story is a gift and one I am sure has helped so many. Thank you.
Courtney Lee says
I’ve been wondering about you! I’m so exited you are doing well and thank you for sharing your struggles. Keep doing you, girl!
I could have, not so eloquently, written most of this post. You are not alone. And I am 4 years out from my last treatment. Thank you for sharing.
So happy to hear from you again!
Ed B. says
That was the most inspiring thing you’ve ever written, one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever read. Thank you for letting us share your harrowing journey. I look forward to some very ordinary posts.
OMG! This email made my Love your story and your words <3
Hugs from Costa Rica! You may wanna consider coming for your honeymoon 😉
Alyssa Fernandez says
I second this. I’m so glad you’re doing well! And yes, go to Costa Rica!! You won’t be disappointed.
Susan Vlach says
What a breath of fresh air you are today. So happy for your recovery, your courage, your ability to put one foot in front of the other. None of know what tomorrow will bring, and watching the coverage of the shootings and all the tragedies that occur, it seems daily, puts us all at an emotionally fragile state. Nothing like what you are enduring, but the lesson the newspapers bring is to live each day, enjoy each day, and stop trying to plan life a week, a month, a year in advance. Life on this planet doesn’t work like that. Every morning is a gift. You are a great example of that!
So glad to hear from you again. Your courage and perserverence has certainly been amazing! Enjoy every moment.
So glad you arrived at the other end of the tunnel, back to the light. I admire all you accomplished this past year. Cancer is not only occurs at a cellular level, but grips the entire person, their family and support system. Congratulations on getting your life back.
BEST STORY EVER! Thank you for sharing, what a beautiful reminder to embrace ordinary life. Congratulations on your engagement.
I was so happy to read this. I have followed your story from the beginning. Keep going. Never give up. You get it. I did not go through your struggle but life gives us each our own particular struggles. I am so happy you e come out the other end. The gratitude just shines through what you’ve written.
Keep it going. I have a word for it I picked up on the camino and had it tattooed on my right foot.
Ultreia!!! Forward. Keep going!!!
Diana Blair Revell says
Live, live, live each day, and rise to live some more!!! You’ve given me the gift of encouragement today!
Yay congratulations on passing your exams and your new purpose!!
mariam habib says
i have rarely felt so much joy for the happiness of a stranger. so glad to hear from you and so glad to know you are doing well. i am bolstered and strengthened by your approach to recovery— thank you for generously sharing it. may life unfold with health and happiness and more joy for you. sending so much light your way!
Heather Thornton says
So happy to read your update and my heart warmed by your process and drive and authentic ability to share your journey and reality. So many blessings. Much love to you Elana…xo
You are an all-mighty inspiration to every one of your loving supporters. Thank you for sharing your self so openly, so honestly, and living with the courage of a true superhero
Stephanie Vordick says
Thank you for sharing your beautiful update. Sometimes I need a kick in the pants to remind me that I have choices for how I view my life and my chronic health stuff. Thanks for the much-needed kick today. 🙂
Great to “hear your voice” again, Elana. I am sooooo happy for you! Thank you for sharing. God bless you!
mary lindberg says
I have followed your struggles since they started which was the same time my son, your age, began his treatment for sarcoma at UCLA. His journey continues differently than yours as he died 2 1/2 years ago. Oddly my recovery parallels yours in some ways.
I am very happy for you! I have tried to find out more about you over the past year. I hope your comfort and loves continue.
Michelle Fruge' says
While you may have lost a lot in your battle for cancer, your wit and intelligence are intact !!! This is very good news and yes I was wondering what happened … so glad to hear this!
I don’t remember how I came upon your blog but was immediately pulled into your life. I lost my daughter at 35 just 4 years ago of AML with FLT3. It was her 33rd birthday. She was an attorney with a 1 year old son when she was diagnosed. The picture of health, strong, eating well, thin and exercising. Every time I read about your horrendous experience I told myself I couldn’t read it again. But I always did. I want you to know how happy I am that you are holding on for dear life. Life is such a gift that we all take for granted. I feel such relief that you can take a walk and breathe fresh air and nourish yourself surrounded by people who love you. I am also very very happy that those people who love you didn’t have to lose you. I hope they know how lucky they are.
So great to hear from you. Thank you for sharing your journey. I am so happy that you are doing well and that you are pleased with your life. Congratulations on your pending marriage. Sending you continued good thoughts.
Diane Pudney says
I’ve been waiting for you to post again….I knew you would! I’m happy that you did! I’m also happy that you are not only getting your life back…but getting a whole new life! You’re strong and inspiring…I hope you know that!!!
I was so excited to see this email from you today. I cannot begin to express to you just how happy it made me. It gives people a reason to hope and live. You are truly an inspiration to all!! Congrats to you and to your life and your upcoming marriage. You deserve it all. Hope to see more frequent emails now. Thank you for sharing your life with us.
Elana! It’s so awesome to hear from you. I️ was one of the ones wondering just what was going on, hoping for the best. Your blogpost is so compelling, so honest, and so inspiring. I️ wish you well, and all the happiness and health in the world 🙂
Esther Klein Buddenhagen says
Wow! Just Wow! And many, many thanks.
Charles Boursier says
Every moment is indeed an opportunity. It’s good to see your words again.
I googled you last week and found your office – and now this thoughtful, empowering piece describing the most recent path in your journey – I feel privileged to have been a silent follower – now time to express my excitement for a life well-worth living and loving! Yay Elana!
Lowell Nerenberg says
Elana, it is truly thrilling to come all this way where we read more of your long, arduous and ultimately successful journey and recovery. Wow! I’m so happy for you. And very proud of you, too. How you managed to persevere through the years into greater health and well-being again; it’s miraculous. You graduated! You’re in practice — contributing to and facilitating the healing of patients! You’re getting married.
Rene Ruston says
Elana I am your former neighbor across the street in Sherman Oaks. I am so glad to hear you are doing so much better. We only spoke a handful of times in person, but, I have been so inspired through your writings and feel honored to have met you. You have found your calling through unimaginable adversity. Thank you for not giving up and sharing your experience so that others might be able to fight their own battles as bravely and intelligently as you.
MELANIE U KARMAZIN says
All wonderful news! Congrats. I wish for you continued health and happiness.
WINNIE BARRASSO says
I am not sure how I actually started to read your blog but I was so inspired by your story I kept up with it, and then life went on and your name popped up in my email,
so I went back and read your entire story. You are truly amazing and so inspiring I am happy to hear you are doing well. I recently lost my brother to cancer but it is so comforting to hear your story amidst all of the not so happy endings. I cannot imagine dealing with all that you have and being so strong, I love to read your articles I hope you continue to write Thank you for sharing
Heidi P. says
Thank you for coming back. I’m so happy you have found the balance you need.
Beautiful update. Congratulations on every single accomplishment, you have truly earned them all. I am so happy for you!
Ann Dermansky says
Not so long ago I thought of you and realized there had been no emails, no new projects, nothing. Whatever happened to Elana, I wondered. Thank you for letting us know. So glad you’re truly recovered/recovering, that you got your degree, that you’re working and planning your wedding. I saw an almost V-shaped squadron of geese streaking across the sky this morning. My husband of 55 years died less than two months ago. But I am alive. I can cry. I can watch the geese whizz by. I can make a pot of matzo ball soup. I can love my dog, my kids, my friends. Life is not easy, but it is all we have. Sending love….
Pat Wetzel says
The fear never leaves but one does find ways to cope. I’ve been debating about publishing a piece I wrote about this on www. CancerRoadTrip.com. After reading your piece, I shall publish it. Check the blog in a week or so. Perhaps sharing these experiences will help all of us!
Who could wonder what matters in life after reading that. Thank you and yes YOU GO!
Marisa Campbell says
Elana, I hadn’t realized how long it had been since you last wrote, and I had forgotten how piercing your words can be. Thank you for pouring your heart into your work, for sharing the voyage you are on with us, and for reminding us that living each moment, in whatever way it arrives, is a gift.
Melissa Stalcup says
I was so excited and yet quite nervous to open your email. I love the way you broke down your last year of recovery into little “bites”. Isn’t that really all we can do? Congratulations on your upcoming marriage. Is it to the handsome man you appeared with on you last post? Please don’t wait another year plus to write again. We are all cheering for you.
So glad you are doing well! What a long, hard journey it has been. I’ve been inspired by your words. Thank you.
Wendy Aling says
Elena, so glad you updated us on your journey. You are amazing, and an inspiration. Congrats on your upcoming marriage and new career.
Nicole Doran says
I can’t remember how I stumbled across your writing 4 years ago but am so glad that I did, and was happy to read this entry today. Congratulations on the goodness of your life.
OMG as they say, I have been telling family and friends or anyone who’ll listen, for months, that I can only do one thing every day. Seriously, I have only the energy for one single energy-depleting thing daily, even four years post chemotherapy. And the pain! They stopped prescribing when treatment ended, I depend on OTC Aleve, Aspercreme, some Tylenol to increase the effectiveness of both, or an opioid if a friend offers one. Thanks for validating me in what I thought was my failure to bounce back. Neuropathy, joint pain from Aromatase inhibitors, shoulder dysfunction post mastectomy, sleep disorder because of it all, lympedema, etc. and all I get from physicians and nurses is how tough it must be. Yes tough! Here’s a check, thanks for nothing! Thank you thank you thank, Dr. Miller! I’m not a malingerer after all!
Erin Egloff says
It’s great to see you in my inbox! I had missed your emails. I’m sorry for your struggles. I also suffer from fibromyalgia. Vitamin B12 and 9 hours sleep helps me, but I haven’t found anything else that really works. A great source of support is the woman who runs https://www.chronicbabe.com – it’s a great website and regular emails as well. I highly recommend it if you haven’t already seen it. Take care!
Susan lahrs says
So glad you are doing well. You are a gift to us. Teaching us important things. My lost of my husband of 33 years in a horrible accident makes me wonder if happiness is in my pathway . You give me great hope. God Bless!
Al Noble says
You are a warrior, your courage is a great example to all, thanks for being you!
Much love form Jamaica! It was very nice to hear from you. Best wishes for being a little less afraid but you obviously have major cojones to live with it anyway.
Kate Sholonski says
Elana….first of all I read every word your heart shared, feeling your breath in between thoughts and am feeling joy in this moment with your name on it.
Just a few days ago, you came to mind and I wondered if I had perhaps missed updates and now know you were, putting yourself back together again, one piece at a time.
Thank you for sharing!
So many times I have wondered where your story went, once I even looked for an obituary. But no timing could have been better than this for your wonderful update. Thank you so much. Would love to know what book on fibromyalgia was so useful and I am sure many of us would love to hear of your love story and your wedding plans, if you choose to share!
With gratitude and all best wishes.
Linda Campbell says
I was both relieved and blessed to see your email. I have thought of you several times over the past year and hoped you were well. This was so encouraging! Thank you for emailing, and sharing a bit of what the last year has been like for you. I hope you continue to email and share your journey. Blessings, Linda
What a warrior goddess you are. Wow.
Welcome back. You have been held in thoughts and prayers but your words have been missed. Thank you for sharing, then and again.
Jane Arcario says
Great update. Glad to hear you are well, thriving! Best wishes on your upcoming wedding. Stay well and stay strong.
Well done! You inspire me.
Berri Kramer says
I was wondering where you went, but I KNEW you’d be back!
Great strength, great spirit, great faith.
Nancy Eos MD says
Thank you for sending this after one plus year of wondering what happened to you. I am so admiring of you and your ability to speak it. Shortly after you began your adventure and I began to follow you, my best friend was diagnosed with cancer. She doesn’t speak as heartfully and fully as you. So I have been reading you and filling in what my friend hasn’t been able to communicate. Thank you. I send you loving energy and healing thoughts. Glad you finished your residency. It’s worth it.
missed you- I believe there will come a day when you don’t worry about a cough- my loving thoughts & prayers – ????????
Gerri Shayer says
Congratulations on your battle for life. Your strength and drive to fight for mental and physical health is an inspiration for all. Enjoy every moment!
Jim Ross says
You are incredible inspiration to all of us. I’m a two time cancer survivor. I remember chemo so well I can still feel the aches and pain. But I want to share my daughter’s story because she is my personal heroine. My daughter, Megan just celebrated her 43rd birthday. Megan has Down syndrome. In March, 2017 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. On April 13th she had a mastectomy of her right breast. After she recovered from surgery she endured 6 weeks of chemo, last all her hair, and about 20lbs. She’s now receiving treatment every three weeks by IV of a targeted immune therapy called Herceptin. This treatment will continue until June 2018. November 1st was her 43rd birthday and her hair is growing back. Did she complain about surgery and chemo? Of course she did! But she toughed it out and she’s winning! She’s very much looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas and now so are we!
Thank you for being such a fighter and sharing your strength and wisdom with all of us. You were knocked down, but kept getting up. A lesson for all of us. Bless you and may you continue to enjoy life to the fullest.
Jim Ross aka Megan’s Dad
Beautiful! I must say that your Zen nature is showing 😀 so happy for you.
Susan B says
Bonnie Minardi says
Thank you so much for the update, Elana. I have thought of you often and keep you in my prayers. Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! Please keep writing…you inspire me and so many others.
Alyson Zonitch says
Be still my wildly beating HEART…I am filled with so much JOY for you and my face became soaked with TEARS of JOY as I read each and every “breathtaking” word! Thanking GOD for all your wonderful news and sending lots of LOVE, HUGS & LIGHT your way…just BE and ENJOY your life Dear Elena.
So thrilled for you. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story. The wisdom you shared is amazing. God bless you!
What a lovely and welcome surprise to see this post. I am thrilled to read all your wonderful news. Congratulations on completing your residency and opening your practice. I wish you the very best in the future. Hoping to hear from you more often and especially to see wedding pictures.
John McBurney says
I am so glad to read this and have confirmation that you are ok. I googled you about 3 months ago. It was hard to find anything definite. One small mention on a webpage for what I know now is your practice. I wasn’t sure it was you and I was afraid you had disappeared.
It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Nearer. Farther off.
It happened, but not to you.
You were saved because you were the first.
You were saved because you were the last.
Alone. With others.
On the right. The left.
Because it was raining. Because of the shade.
Because the day was sunny.
You were in luck — there was a forest.
You were in luck — there were no trees.
You were in luck — a rake, a hook, a beam, a brake,
A jamb, a turn, a quarter-inch, an instant . . .
So you’re here? Still dizzy from
another dodge, close shave, reprieve?
One hole in the net and you slipped through?
I couldn’t be more shocked or
how your heart pounds inside me.
Thank you for sharing this incredible poem on this stunning update from Elana… Dr. Elana Miller. ????
Jaye Roth says
Thankful! Missed you!
Elaine G McGillicuddy says
I’m deeply moved by your story. You write straight from the heart. So very glad you’re back! I missed you. I started reading your blog shortly after my husband died (January 3, 2010) of . . . well, the name they gave it is primary osteosarcoma of the spine. Oh did Francis suffer! Even with meds! He was 82, the love of my life, and so I myself have been writing ever since. Four books published so far, and am working on another now. Info on my website – simply my name. Somehow what I’ve been through accompanying him during the 100 days from diagnosis to death put me in sync with you. Your courage is absolutely amazing. Keep on living fully as you are – amazingly, dear Elena!
Natalie Schnare says
Welcome Back! Thank you!
Rosemary Zimmerman says
Powerful work! You are an amazing woman who has helped many people through your writings. Thank you for caring and sharing your journey!
Barbara Snow says
Dear Dr. Elana,
Your post made my day. I’ve often wondered about how you were doing. And now I have a 33 year old friend recently diagnosed with stage 3 lymphoma. Cancer never ends, but your story goes on and I’m so happy to hear that you’ve moved forward on so many levels. I wish you all good things in your life.
Barb in Minnesota
What a joy to read your words and see you pop up again in my inbox.
I am so happy for what you have found. Your home.
I was absolutely THRILLED to see an email from you today!!! I think about you so frequently and send prayers and positive energy to you. It is wonderful to hear your voice and to know that you are flourishing!!!
Please continue writing when you can!!!! Your insights and writing are beautiful and so true to life. Thank you Elena!!!
Dr. Maya Bose Vinod says
Thank you for sharing this Dr. Miller! A window of hope opened in my mind , I will no longer complain about mundane ordinary things in life! We are all living someone elses dream!
“and yes it took me seven years to finish a four-year residency program” .. remember, it’s Life, not a Race. Congratulations, Dr. Elana Miller, on all that you have survived and accomplished over the past seven years. Such a wonderful update; worth waiting one year, a month, and eight days to read .. gave me goosebumps. From one cancer survivor to another, I wish you continued healing, peace, and much happiness in the years to come. 🙂
Marian Adams says
Very inspirational and I must say that for those of us who have been attempting to get to a place of ‘normality’ and away from long held patterns of dysfunctional behaviour, there are lots of great examples of moving on, albeit slowly. Thank you.
lin willett says
Beautiful one I wish for you a long life lived in love.
I was thinking of you yesterday, wondering how you are, after so long without an update. Thank you for sharing your journey and inspiring us all. I am so happy your life continues to grow in such positive ways.
Dr. Elena Miller!
How awesome that you completed your schooling and are officially a doctor of psychiatry. Congrats on your wedding!!! But most important for being able to make lemonade from a ton of lemons that were thrown your way. Your words are inspirational and will reasonate with me for a long time. Thank you so much for sharing your life.
You are such a fighter! (And i mean that in the best way.) I am so moved by your determination, will, and resilience. I am also so happy to read about your recovery. Deep bow to you, and to your wisdom; it has been hard won. Your descent allows you to hold space for others in a deep and profound way, your presence will be deeply healing. Congratulations as well on your upcoming marriage. May you have every blessing !
I saw your email in my in box while at work in my private practice office. I wanted to read it immediately, but knew I needed to have the time to read it in it’s entirety, and to savor every word. I came across your story on the HuffPost (then the Huffington Post), several years ago, while I was going through treatment and recovery of my second cancer. I have most thankfully survived 2 cancers… breast and colon.
The after-treatment slog through neuropathy, lymphedema, post-surgical nerve pain, and masses of internal scar tissue from both surgeries, lysis surgery to even get to the colon for surgery…all of this often feels like salt and lemon mixed and spread in to the ulcerated and scarred cancer wound to the soul.
I remember going through my last rounds of radiation this time of year in 2006…eleven years ago. I was in so much pain, an exhaustion so deep down in my bones. Getting in and out of the car took took way too many ‘energy points’. I had changed in to my gown, and then followed the radiology nurse in to the Xray room. I sighed a long, tired breath, and asked her when I would ever feel ‘normal’ again. In her lilting, brisk tone she said, “Honey, the only place I’ve ever seen normal is on a washer and a dryer setting!” I laughed so hard that my pain, in those joyful, tear-filled moments dissolved.
I have a psychotherapy private practice that specializes in Crisis Counseling, for adolescents, adults, families. I often share that comment about ‘normal’.
As I read your post, I thought about all the settings on contemporary, digitized, modernized washers and dryers. PRE-wash, hand wash, delicate, steam clean, steam dry, air dry, air fluff. I’m not sure there are normal settings anymore.
Recent genetic research has discovered 9 conditions (dis-orders), that share information, though how and why has not yet been determined. ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, Bi-Polar, Schizophrenia, Autism/Aspergers/Spectrum, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s. In Autism Spectrum language, the terms neuro-atypical and neurotypical have been used. In his decidedly exhaustive and thorough evolution and history of the diagnosis of autism, Steve Silberman introduces the term neurodiversity. The book, “NeuroTribes, The Legacy of Autism and The Future of Neurodiversity”, laid to rest “normal” for me.
The poet Mary Oliver exclaims, Tell me what it is you plan to do, with your one wild and precious life?” (The Summer Day”)
Indeed! Live On in your wildness! Share your Loveliness! The world is a grander, more beautiful place with you in it! Congratulations ????
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.” Mary Oliver
Tracy Yort says
Welcome Home! Your supporting readers have all been awaiting your return! We all missed you and feel blessed to be back with you in your life. Your struggles are raw and real. True and honest. Straight from the heart. Don’t stray far. We all need you in our lives. Sending you love and strength.
Nana Adjoa says
It warms my heart to read from you again. I am really happy to hear of all the amazing strides you have made. You are a remarkable fighter and you deserve all the good things happening for you. Keeping shinning Elana. Xoxo.
What a testament to what I tell my kids every day- “if it is to be, it is up to me”. I’m elated to hear that you have prevailed!! Thank you for so bravely letting us in- I am grateful for your words.
I love you 🙂 Ive followed your story from the first post, and I went looking for your blog when you stopped mailing. You’re a beautiful beautiful person, and I wish I wasn’t on another continent. Love and light always.
Christine Dance says
You don’t owe us a thing! And yet, I am so glad to hear your update. I wish you nothing more than happiness and a sense of normalcy, whatever that is. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
Helene VEDEL says
It is so fantastic to hear from you again. I was one of those many people throughout the world who were worried about you but now, I feel so happy for you! Do you realize the example you are setting for all of us, with this incredible strength and will and focus you had through those nightmarish 7 years? You are a tough, extraordinary lady and you plainly deserve all the love and happiness in this world. Thank you for sharing such an overwhelming text. It’s a hymn to life and I thank you for singing it so beautifully.
Love from Paris (France)
Lauren Hammer says
Thank you for sharing your update. I am so happy for you and am thrilled for all that you have going on in your life right now. I wish you nothing short of endless continued health, strength and happiness. I appreciate (not a strong enough word) your willingness to share your story over the years and welcome me, a stranger, into a glimpse of your world. I am sending you hugs, gratitude and endless well-wishes from New Jersey.
PS Mazel Tov on your engagement!
Natalie Ramirez says
Dear Dr. Miller,
I have been following your blog since my 4th year of medical school, and I am now in my first year of child psych fellowship. It has been very inspiring to follow along this whole time. I have no doubt that you are one amazing psychiatrist. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding and your completion of residency!!! Thank you for taking the time to write this beautiful post and for allowing the world to hear your story.
annick poireau says
Thanks for your sharing,so happy for you.
I have thought of you often,in fact i have been following you from the beginning.
love yours words,please keep writing.
Patricia Filby says
Dear, dear Elena!
How pleased and surprised I was to see your email. How wonderful to hear your remarkable story as you updated us after so long left wondering and hoping.
I look forward to your forthcoming emails now that you are living your life again.
Best of good wishes to you and your fiancé for your future together.
Love and blessings
I am so happy to hear that you are living life again and that you are well.
Keep informing us of your continuing happiness.
Your blog was just lovely with realism and hope. Thank you! I wish you a happy life to live – you are very honest and strong. Stronger than you probably thought at one time. Thank you for sharing. It resonated and is appreciated.
Man! I was so happy to receive this update of yours in my inbox. I have been following your blog since medical school (just completed residency) and I am elated that you’ve found your way to success. Wishing you all the best! Looking forward to more wonderful updates.
Great news from you. You rock, and you took time and you found your mojo… or you dragged it screaming and spitting until you harnessed it again. Look forward to your next posts.
Kim panzarella says
I’m glad you are well. You are an amazing person and a great writer. Your advice has helped me when friends and family members have been struggling with cancer.
sarah mccormick says
So happy to get your email! The writing is superb and I inhaled every word of it. I am sooo delighted for you and the way that the Universe worked it all out!
I have a couple of auto-immune diseases and Fibromyalgia and I am using your words to help me live a more active life. What is the name of the book that got you going on your point system? I believe that is something that would really work well for me.
You are so inspiring and I wish you continued health, wellness, and joy!!
Janet Knowles says
Seems like yesterday that you and Alice and Maya were together as teenagers. I’ve tracked your progress (writings) and you are truly an inspiration for how you can come out the other side. I have tears as I respond……….of joy and happiness for you and your upcoming wedding next year. Embrace your life like never before.
Much love and hugs, Janet
Seeing your name in my inbox brought tears to my eyes. I’ve wondered about you so many times. I’m grateful for the first time I came upon your blog. Your words flow beautifully and wake me up. I think it’s only natural for anyone who has gone through a traumatic health trauma to experiences fear. Trying to stay in the present moment is not easy, but helps. I’m happy for you with your engagement. Dr. Elana; your patients will be fortunate to have your care and wisdom.
Anastasija Pologar says
Thank you so much for sharing your courageous battle.
You have no idea what great timing it was for me to read your story. I have not suffered nearly to the extent as you have, but reading how you have coped with so much more than I have to (and my problems seem overwhelming to me) has given me new hope how to deal with my issues.
Thank you for being here.
Best wishes and prayers.
Amy Brown says
Congratulations on completing your residency, on starting your private practice and on getting married!! It was so wonderful to read your update. I’ve often wondered how you were doing and I was so happy to see the email from you. I wish you a wonderful happy holiday and New Year and a beautiful wedding and a life filled with all the little beautiful moments that come along every day, if we choose to look for them and appreciate them. Be well, Elena and I hope you keep writing your newsletter too!! Xoxo
Suzanne C Frank says
I am so thrilled that you wrote this. I stumbled upon it in my stuffed inbox, I missed it when it first came in.
I AM SO FUCKING HAPPY FOR YOU! I am amazed at all that you have done. Congratulations on your impending nuptials. Congratulations on getting off of opioids – what a feat!
Sending you so many good wishes! Please do keep writing. I’ll always want to know how you are doing.
Abi Mayer says
Thank you for sharing your journey and your insight. I’m still very much in the trenches (and likely will be, forever), but I appreciate that you are able to maintain a sense of– in my opinion– healthy fear even long after you have adapted to a new version of life. I’m so happy to hear you have found fulfillment and joy and purpose.
And congratulations on your pending nuptials!
Great Article Thank You!
Sabrina Labvah says
I know it has been years since you’ve written this story. I read it today. It was very inspirational. Despite the trials and triumphs, life is beautiful and it teaches us great lessons, the most important lesson is that life is meant to be lived. Kind regards, Dr. Sabrina.