First day of acupuncture

After sending out the news about the tumors being cancerous and the need for radiation and chemo, I got a large number of responses from many of you. I am attaching a few pages with those messages, filled with love, support and good advice. One of my favorites is from Wessam El Beigh in Cairo who attached a photo of part of my farewell message when I retired from UNAIDS in 2010. Interesting how some of those lessons are coming back to me right now.


Today was an intense day, both in absorbing the news from yesterday and doing more than I probably should have. I went to the gym this morning and did 20 minutes at the lowest level possible on the elliptical machine followed by 20 minutes of using cables with no weight – this is part of ensuring that my body is as strong as possible before the radiation and chemo start. I then met Katia and Janet for lunch. Janet, I had not seen for almost 6 years and it was good to reconnect with her. She worked in human resources in UNICEF, is originally from Jamaica and is a very lovely person! I then went briefly to the art exhibit of my dear friend Carlos called “Deviations” before heading to my first acupuncture session with Viktor Krystufek ( I actually first met Viktor in Prague 3 years ago where he showed me around his magical hometown. The session was very relaxing and we agreed to work together to build my strength and energy to prepare my body and mind for the radiation and chemo. Needles were placed in my legs, arms and on the top of my head and between my eyes. I could literally feel the energy opening up. He also did Reiki with me to add to the energy.


That was more than enough for a day of activity, though I did have a few phone conversations with my dad, sister, Joan Zulanch, who is like a second mother to me – she was my Mom’s best friend and Joan and family lived next door to us until I was nearly 13 and then just a block away after that. Later I was surprised in a good way to get a call from Sandra Haji-Ahmed who had been a UNICEF colleague in Zimbabwe back in the 80s, then was a colleague in UNICEF’s Training Section and finally my boss in Training Section which then was rebranded as the Organizational Learning and Development Section. Sandra left UNICEF for a senior position in the UN Secretariat until she retired and she has recently been having her own significant health issues. We had an insightful conversation about what each of us has gone through and she even offered to come into the city when I have my radiation to help me get home after those sessions. Speaking of which, I am supposed to be accompanied home after each session, so if any of you is open to helping me during those 6 weeks – even if just once – please send me an email and let me know which week days and hours you may be available. I will find out on Monday what my schedule is, but I am likely to start on Monday, May 16 and continue through Friday, June 24.

Reaction to hearing about my radiology and chemotherapy

Laverne Webb: What a challenging journey for you. But I have to say I am impressed that the prospects for you seem so positive, and for this I am so grateful. This time of life has many potential challenges. I am watching so many friends with horrific health challenges, and even death. Your situation gives me hope and please know I am one of your long time fans and supporters who care about what is happening to you. So please keep me on the mailing list as you continue on this journey. Wishing you all success and a return to good health, Alan. Take good care, have great faith, and know how much you matter to so many and what a difference you make in the world.

Wessam El Beih: I am sorry to hear you need radiation and chemo. AND I trust all will work out just fine.

Alan, you may not believe this but few weeks ago, before I read your Facebook status I was thinking of something you said before- It is actually something that has affected me so deeply and I kept it hanging on my bulletin in the last three jobs together with few other notes I cherish. It was an excerpt from your farewell note (here it is attached). You are deeply valued dear Alan, thank you for you.

Barbara Hatch: Thanks for the update. With all of us in your corner, a full recovery is the goal! Do NOT take me off your list!

Lisa, Susan and Sarah: Hi sweetie pie. You have been on my mind all day. I am here with Susan and she just opened your email.

We are here for you through thick and thin. No matter what. There are so many people that love you and although we are in a long line of people, we are there solidly and ready to help.

If you want me to help with insurance I will. Anything Alan. In the meantime can we call you or do you need some space?

In case we haven’t mentioned it, we are here with lots of love, sending out healing vibes to you and healthy wishess

Michael Foley: Gosh, that new information was hard to take on many levels. I cannot imagine what you are feeling, and how you are having to create a new reality for yourself around the diagnosis and treatment options. There is no easy way out or through this, but then again, you’ve never opted for easy ways through any part of your life, and that has made all the difference. The challenge right now is to continue finding balance, and defining this as your temporary “new normal” until you are cancer-free, and you WILL be, my friend. You have great medical care available to you, which is quite an extraordinary thing, as well as a cadre of support. These will be your most powerful weapons, in addition to your own strong sense of self, toward combating any obstacles that await you.

Sending much love and light as always.

Arnie Falvo: I know you doing a lot Alan but maybe it would be useful to consider meditation. As well just a thought I’m praying for you . Buddy

Bill Gerlach: Will be praying for you…!

Malcolm: I know you’ll continue to meet this challenge fully confident of your eventual success at vanquishing this nasty intruder that somehow found its way to you. I understand that the progress made in treatment just in the last decade has been amazing. You may not be aware, given all your traveling, but Maryland Governor Hogan was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer just after taking office and went through a treatment course similar to what you described and barely missed a beat at governing. There’s also the rather amazing story of Jimmy Carter who somehow beat a crazily aggressive cancer recently. I know that you will be equally successful Alan. I know it.

Love and live long and strong.

Buffy: I just want you to know that I am thinking of you so much..With love.

You have such positive energy and that is very important in ANY healing process. But you MUST NOT push yourself to more than your body needs you to do! Save your energy for healing with as little stress as possible!
Can’t your father and Florence come visit you???

Get rest and know that we are all thinking of you!

Lee Brainerd: Fuck.We have to absorb this, but, basically, it sucks.I love that Antonio and Susan are nearby.I know you’ll do great. But, meanwhile, FUCK.

Alex Sanchez: I’m sorry for being a bit absent with you and Antonio these days but you know how busy is to be back in town after some weeks out for both the personal and work side.

You know, I think that the hardest and most critical part of everything has passed and this just take part of the normal procedure and as long as you can keep with you normal life and being able to go to fire, it’s great!
Now it’s time to be as close as possible to all the positive energies and love that surrounds you and to make the most of it. You’ve given a lot to the human being and your people your entire life and now it’s time to give it to yourself so take all your time needed, enjoy your people and everything you’ve accomplished and be focused on yourself so you can get better soon and most important than anything, you can come back to Spain as soon as possible so we can enjoy together of everything here.

Os mando un abrazo enorme a ti y a Antonio.

Seguimos en contacto.

Love you guys!!

Siddharth Dube: Alan sweetheart… Sending much love… When are A and you up for being spoilt at a great restaurant?

Yvonne Jones: So sorry to learn of the bad news. Josh and I send you love and we will be thinking of you every day and wishing for the best.
I dont want to tire you–so glad the doctors are counseling you to take time recuperating.

You are one of the bravest people I know.

If you need anything pls tell me. I will wait to see how you are doing before we arrange a trip to NYC. If – can do something like arrange for a food service to deliver to your house or cover assistance for house cleaning pls tell me the name of the service and I will order it for you.

Morrie Schulman: I’m saddened to read about the pathology report and your upcoming treatment. I have trust that you will emerge from this stronger and even more empathic.

Take care of yourself and give yourself permission to not push so hard with weights and exercise.

Stefanie Hopkins-Poulos: THIS SUCKS. I am feeling sad for you to carry this heavy reality. Thankful the tumors are OUT and you will get precautionary treatment to be certain that no trace of them are left behind. It’s late, and it sounds like it must’ve been a long tough day so I will call you tomorrow. LOVE YOU…..

Paola Solda: I was sad to read the message, as I thought that it was over already for you after having read that the operation was over and went well, while you instead have to go through both radio and chemo. At the same time I feel comforted by the fact that one, as you write, the tumors didn’t seem to come from anywhere, two that you seem to be under excellent medical care and three that, with the limited oncology knowledge I have, it seems they are implementing a harsh course of chemo and radio to rule out any teeny weeny eventual possibility of recurrence.

I can only hope that you remain the super positive and bright person that you are while facing this hard time, because I am sure your good energy is the best medicine. But your email alone tells me that you are.

I am thinking of you from sunny Florida and sending you some sunrays for the coming days.

Marc Martin: I’m sorry to hear about the tumors being aggressive. The good news is that they were caught in time and the chemo/radio is always done as a precaution.

I’m sure everything is going to be perfect after treatment. Please let me know if you need anything. I’m here to help.

I am sure you have lots of friends willing to see you. I’d like to see you too but I understand if you are busy. I’ve just got back from Barcelona. Let me know when it’s convenient for you and I can pay you a visit soon

Eric Sawyer: I love you honey and I’m here for you if I can be of help! Stay strong!!

Albert Naglieri: Alan my thoughts are with you at this time.I’m sure you will pull through this. I’ve been reading your updates. Sending you lots of LOVE!

Look forward to seeing you on the beach this summer.

Sheri Marshall: Alan, you have what it takes and a support system that is so rich, to get through this process. I will do whatever I can do including spending time with your father. Once it’s done, it’s done, and you can put this nasty business behind you.
Love you cuz.

Mark Leydorf: I’m so sorry to get that piece of news about the tumors – but I’m encouraged that you will handle this next challenge with just as much grace and strength as you have phase 1.

As you know, I am in town and not working on Mondays, so if there’s anyway I can help you and Antonio, please let me know. I’d love to see you and give you a hug.

Mark Domann: Keep me on the list! Keeping you in my thoughts and healing energy vibes. I just wish I had been the one to get to insert and remove the catheter.

Seriously, if I was there I’d give you some gentle massages. I’m almost graduated from my massage program! I’ll be in NYC by the way, May 26-30 to dog sit for my friends Wes and Gary.

Katia Fisch: I am in shock!

Bruce Silverman: Treatment will work

Victoria Tang: I’ve been reading your very personal, candid updates and thinking of you immensely.

Just wanted to let you know that you’re going to beat these temporary disruptions with flying colors! The human body is extraordinary and can heal from within. I am sure of it. As you follow the next procedure to regain your health, trust me on this…let go of fear. Let modern medicine and holistic methods work their wonders; let faith in something more powerful than all of us ensure you’ll be okay…because you will be.

I send you a thousand hugs and wishes for a speedy recovery!

Lance Witt Ozier: Alan, I can’t wait to see you on the beach soon this summer. Thinking about you every day and missing you. Let me know if you can stand a visitor since my office is just a block away from you. We missed you at Carlos’ opening and you would have been so proud. I hope your Passover on the island was a special one.

Carlos Motta: Sweetheart I just read your update… I’m sorry you’ll have to have more treatments but it seems like it’s really a good place to ensure your healing process.

I will make sure to be there if you want me or need me after any of the sessions, just let me know please. Also to give Antonio and Miguel a little relief!

I hope your spirits are high and you remain enthusiastic! This is all just a little hiccup and you’ll be on your old self soon!

Can I keep you company in the city more often? I’m here for you!

Susan Letteney: Hi sweetheart. I read your email and I am here for you as you go through this next phase of healing. Is there anything you need that I could drop off on Friday? are you up for a visit or can I just being you lunch and give you a quick kiss then leave? And no is ok too. Love you.

Ellen Saad: Read your update last night and was thinking about all the things I could say. I am not as eloquent with my words as you are. I am looking at all the positives. The problem was identified, successful surgery was performed and now the healing begins. It is just a bump in the road and since you are surrounded with so much positive energy you will come through all this with flying colors. Fire island will be your paradise to retreat to. Down the road you will look back on this and it will be just a distant memory.

With much love. Lots of hugs and kisses. And to good times !!!!!

Francesca Capellini & Family: We are sorry to hear you need to do therapy at the end … but we know you have a great attitude and this is so helpful!

Looking forward to see you soon, a big hug!

Ludo Bok: I’m so sorry to hear that. At the same time I am sure that with your positive outlook you will see this one through as well and come out glowing at the end of it. You are truly an inspiration how you have dealt with this so far and never under estimate the power of optimism.

Long time ago my sister was given three months to live unless they would amputate her leg. She decided to go out with a bang, went on holiday to Portugal and when she returned the cancer had been incapsulated and the doctors were able to remove it. They had no idea how this was possible. And this was 30 years ago and she is still with us.

Hang in there and let yourself be showered with love and attention.

Tight tight hug.

Nancy Raphael: I am so sorry my dear Alan that you have to go through this. If there’s anything I can do to help throughout this journey please let me know. With love.

Michelle Dannemiller: This is one of the rare times in my life when I’m struggling to find words. While your diagnosis is clearly scary, I’m taking comfort in the fact that you are one of the strongest men I know. If anyone can beat this, it is you!

I know that you have great confidence in your medical team. Nevertheless, if you decide that you want to get a second opinion, please know that Jim & I will do everything we can to facilitate a visit to MD Anderson Cancer Center here in Houston.

We are sending up prayers for your complete healing and holding you close in our hearts.

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One thought on “First day of acupuncture

  1. Can't stop reading your posts. I'm so inspired by your courage and willingness to share the experience. Always the teacher showing the way. My sister just finished her round of chemo and radiation for lung cancer. Her surgery to remove what's left of the tumor is 23 May. We share a house and I'm grateful to be available to support her through this journey. I'm also grateful for the love and support you have while you work through this. One day at a time.....


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