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In 2013 I had a retinal detachment while at work as a hospitalist. I was directed to a retinal specialist that day. Dr. Moore was the kindest but also most direct doctor I have ever known. He informed me and my wife that I had a choroidal melanoma, a very rare form of eye cancer with a poor prognosis. I happened to have had a patient who was also a friend, who died from this. This was shocking news, frightening, and very much in my face.


That night I went off to sleep quite easily. In the middle of the night I had a dream, or more of a vision. In this dream state I was being confronted by a woman who was inexplicably extremely angry with me. I felt hopeless, confused, and lost. The background was dark, much like a black box theater. I then saw some light come from behind me. Quietly and slowly a figure in light came toward me. This was a woman walking in silence in bright light. She had her left hand held out, palm up. As she approached I put my hand on top of hers. Instantaneously there was a silent explosion of brilliant light, with a feeling of expansion of every part of me into the universe. I was enveloped in love and knew then that love is the most powerful force in the universe. I knew that no matter what might happen to me, including dying, that I would be fine, at peace in the universe of love.


Because of this experience I have felt that the cancer I have had has been the greatest gift in my life. I am thankful for the diagnosis because of what it has brought to me. I now see this perfect love in surprising places and its intensity can be very emotional, very deep in my heart, and filling me with tears, joyful wonderful tears. I look at death as not something to fear, but with curiosity and positive anticipation. It is about love and the perfect brilliance which we all have within us.


  • David’s story is not all that uncommon, according to the International Association for Near Death Studies “about 12% to 40% of people who go through a near-death episode will later say they had a near death experience”. It sounds like he was shown a fundamental crossroads: chose anger or chose love, and he took the hand of love. I’ve yet to meet a person who chooses this path and regrets it.


  • This coming close to death has re-sensitized him to the exquisite beauty of life, where there’s space for everything, including pain and heartache. Tears of joy and tears of sorrow look so much the same.


  • With enough time and support, many people come to see their diagnosis or trauma as a source of vitality.


  • Curiosity is a wonderful lens through which to look into the future.  Whatever unknown is coming David’s way, he has perspective and a compass in hand. Fear does not have to be so frightening. 


        -BJ Miller, MD  

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