Anthony Pawson, Thank You For Another Year of Life, and More…

On August 7, 2013, at the age of 60 Dr. Anthony J. Pawson died. Pat read this in the New York Times on Sunday morning.

As Pat shared this article with me my ears perked up – as she knew they would. Why? Dr. Pawson was, to quote the article, “a Canadian cell biologist whose pathbreaking insights about how cells communicate with one another resolved one of science’s oldest mysteries and helped spur the development of a class of drugs that target cancer, diabetes and other diseases…” And later in the article, “Perhaps the best-known of these is Gleevec, a cancer drug that blocks the abnormal cell signal that causes a rare form of blood cancer called chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).”

Since I myself was diagnosed with CML in May of 2012 and likely would have died six months ago had Dr. Pawson not made the discoveries that he made when he did, discoveries that led to the treatment I have been on the past 14 months, I am deeply grateful for his work. Let me pause here in appreciation…

His insights and discoveries led to Sprycel (produced by Bristol-Myers Squibb, and a next generation drug to the first such drug, Gleevec mentioned in the article). Sprycel is the Tynenol-size pill I take daily that has preserved my life these past 14 months – painlessly and without noticeable side effects. As my oncologist said, “Gary, you will die with CML, not from CML.” Had I contracted CML seven years ago he said I would have faced bone marrow transplants and aggressive chemo and still would not have survived more than six months in all likelihood. So “Yes, Dr. Pawson, THANK YOU!”

After reading the NYT article I looked into Dr. Pawson’s background. I found a clip of an interview he gave when in 2011 he won the Kyoto Prize. I listened to the clip with interest. Here he gave four key qualities he felt were necessary if a scientist was going to be creative. (Open video clip). I was inspired by his list of four qualities, A creative person must:

1) Have a deep and real passion for what one is doing

2) Hold a strong desire to contribute to the wellbeing and evolution of humankind

3) Not be afraid of being “new” to an established field – you see the forest with fresh eyes and in a new way that long-standing “experts” may have missed by having been so deeply involved and entrenched in the trees for so long.

4) Cross pollinate with people from other entirely different fields of study thereby bringing in fresh ways of looking at stubborn problems.

I found these words to be encouraging to my pursuit of spiritual growth. How so? Certainly I have felt great passion for spirituality in general my entire life, and for Pathwork in particular these past 13 years – loving the material and spending many hours working with Pathwork and other spiritual material day in and day out. I have a desire to contribute – evidenced by my website, the recording of the Pathwork Lectures, my blog, etc.. Since I have but limited formal training in theology, spirituality, and psychology, perhaps I can bring fresh eyes to this field. This “fresh eyes” business is perhaps my biggest inner hurtle to doing more since I so easily dismiss the many hours I have devoted to my love of Pathwork, often considering all this study as mere amateurish play compared to “real” scholars who have spent years in the seminaries of the world. Finally I greatly enjoy hobnobbing with a wide variety of people and my curiosity takes me across many fields of study, many unrelated to spirituality or psychology.  This gives me a chance to cross-pollinate across my many interests. So yes, Dr. Pawson inspires and encourages me in my spiritual pursuits, amateurish or not!

In summary, what does Dr. Pawson mean to me? I realize that I not only quite literally owe my past year of life to Dr. Pawson but that he also inspires me to be more courageous in my pursuit and sharing of Pathwork and other dimensions of spirituality and personal growth that are so alive in me. Thank you Dr. Pawson!

Shared in love, Gary

Open this NYT article on Dr. Pawson that includes links to other articles and videos on Dr. Pawson as well as on CML.