Oliver Sacks: I have terminal cancer

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2015/02/19/oliver-sacks-i-have-terminal.html

“I cannot pretend I am without fear,” he writes. “But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude.”

This news has really devastated me. His piece in the NYT is brilliant, of course. HE is brilliant. Not only is he indeed a tremendously insightful scientist of the mind but he is a true humanist with an obvious and profound appreciation for so many aspects of life – and he writes beautifully. He’s a real Renaissance man.

And I am sure he will go on to do some brilliantly interesting and fun things in the time he has left.


Sacks spoke at the university where I work a few years ago. If memory serves it was around the time of the release of Uncle Tungsten. I don’t know why I didn’t go. Missing the chance to see him in person will be one of my regrets. I love it that he’s a doctor who sprinkles his writings with references to Auden, Shakespeare, and other poets. A thorough grounding in the humanities would benefit most doctors.

On a slightly brighter note a friend of mine with incurable liver cancer was given 4-9 months after being diagnosed. That was a little over four years ago. I hope Dr. Sacks has similar luck.


I’ve read all of Dr. Sacks’ books, have attended a lecture and spoken with him a bit, but I would never have identified him as the man on that motorcyle.

He’s a kind and thoughtful man with a great talent for communication. His books have already immortalized him.


I’m sure he’ll write a book about it. It would be great to see him write another book that doesn’t exploit the frailty of a patient for profit. He’s a great writer.

Maybe his oncologist could come up with an anecdote based treatment.

my favorite science friday guest - I loved the tour of his desk they did sometime back. , but enough - its too soon to mourn, just in time to celebrate.

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I was just thinking about that very book when I read about Sacks. He should be credited for helping to make science interesting for the masses* by utilizing a narrative approach.

*that would include me


The occurrence of metastatic ocular melanoma happens in approximatly 50% of patients after initial occurance of the tumor in the eye, rather than 2% that Oliver Sacks states. However, this unique, aggressive and incurable cancer is rare and initially strikes only about 2,500 patients in the US each year, so he was indeed unlucky to get it in the first place. I hope treatments are able to slow the progression of the tumors in the liver, and we will be blessed with the company of Mr. Sacks for a long time to come.


Hence this little gem I was taught by an astute old Physician: “Beware for the man with an enlarged liver and a glass eye.”

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