My personal health update

Dec 27, 2023

Dear patients, colleagues, and friends –

I know many of you have wondered where I’ve been this past year. I invite you to read the messages below from my son and wife, respectively, for an update.

Season’s greetings!

To the patients, colleagues, and friends of Benjamin Asher:

As some of you are aware, my father has been on medical leave for the past year. On December 29, 2022, he was diagnosed with late-stage renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer).

His healing journey took him across the country as he sought out alternative treatment options. Being an integrative physician, he felt strongly that he wanted to explore non-invasive, holistic treatment options fully. After little improvement from his time at clinics in California and Mexico, he returned to the east coast, where he is currently receiving treatment.

As anyone who has gone through a personal journey with severe illness knows (whether personally or in a supportive capacity), the path has many twists, turns, and surprises. You come face to face with your fears and you begin to question assumptions about life that you may have carried for as long as you can remember.

Up until now, my father has felt resistance to sharing his diagnosis broadly. A lot gets projected onto you when you tell someone that you have cancer. It triggers fear, sorrow, pain, and sadness in many. It rouses the human desire to fight – fight one’s own body, fight nature, fight the medical system. And despite the agony that the disease carries (both physically and emotionally), my father, my mother (who has been with him every step of the way), my sister, and I continue to understand that there is a deeper spiritual experience alchemizing.

We see it in the synchronicities and the way we are supported in every moment even when we feel lost and alone. We all must face our mortality. We all must be humble, for most of what we think we know turns out to be smoke and mirrors. As a physician who has practiced for over 40 years, you think you know a thing or two about medicine, healing, and the pain of severe illness. But becoming a patient yourself brings a whole new perspective. As a son supporting his father on this path, it has brought me into deeper levels of love and compassion than I ever knew before.

While the next steps are still a mystery, my father very much hopes to return to working with clients in some capacity in the near future. He misses the daily interactions and the profound connections that he’s had with so many of you over the years. It is his intention to use his own personal experience to be able to better support others as they navigate the murky waters of illness and to bring a deeper, more well-rounded understanding to integrative medicine.

We will send out more updates as we have them. In the meanwhile, your good wishes and love are always welcome. And we send you all the best this holiday season and into the new year. May you be reminded of the beauty of life in every moment.

With much love,

Inspired by our son’s eloquent account I’d like to add:

I think my husband is a rockstar.

My three hours of moderate indigestion yesterday allowed me to marvel at how he manages much more significant, persistent physical discomfort – continuing on intrepidly, very often with good humor, and growing even more loving every day.

I know Benjamin set about composing letters to you all several times over the last year – only to discover what he began was already outdated by the time he’d reached the end.

What is clear is that being catapulted from the role of physician to patient has profoundly deepened his appreciation for every single person that entrusted him with part of their healthcare journey – recognizing more profoundly the vulnerability that accompanies a visit to any practitioner.

Just days before Benjamin’s diagnosis a passing acquaintance shared with me something that at the time seemed out of the blue and out of context: a year prior she learned she was living with cancer, and her greatest blessing was the ability to fairly quickly adopt the outlook that “life happens for me not ‘to me,’ Her approach was to befriend her new circumstance, becoming curious about what it might teach her. This made a huge impression on me, and it’s a perspective that’s helped carry us both through the last twelve months. I’ve witnessed my partner apply what he’s long advocated: using illness as a pathway to expanded consciousness and gain fuller awareness.

While neither one of us would have consciously chosen this, there truly are no regrets. There’s been plenty of frustration, disappointment, and grief. However, there is no blame to cast on anyone or anything, including ourselves. It does not feel ‘unfair.’ Many have asked me how this can happen to someone so steeped in practices of optimal physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness for decades. We have come to accept that this is nothing more or less than the next phase of our life path. We continue to reaffirm that the unforeseen gifts and gains have outweighed the challenges and losses.

And I am beginning to experience what Benjamin means when he (frequently) says this is all leading us toward a greater understanding of, and capacity for, love.

There have been many bona fide “earth angels” who have swooped in to keep us going just when it seemed one more day, one more step was unimaginable. Some of them are likely reading this right now. Every single act of kindness on our behalf is truly cherished, and someday I hope to more fully acknowledge each individual effort. At this moment I would like to give a special shout-out to Dr. Leo Galland, who has gone that extra mile for us. His wisdom, genuine care, generosity, and steady presence (including identifying and securing an appointment with Benjamin’s current, excellent oncologist) helped save Benjamin’s life last spring – and have been foundational in allowing us to reach this moment, healing and grateful.

We curiously find ourselves today with no clearer trajectory or prognosis than we had a year ago. That said, Benjamin is beginning to imagine a return to work that does not require he first be “on the other side” of his dis-ease, with this chapter of his story tidily drawn to a happy conclusion.

My wish for you and yours in the new year and beyond: May the road always rise up to meet you – offering the strength and support required to face whatever life brings… and may your trials be accompanied by as much grace, ease, and insight as possible.

Peace to you,
Cynthia Weiss Asher