The Healing

I have enjoyed a largely healthy life, with a few exceptions. I had the common tonsilectomy and an uncommon bout of pneumonia as a 5-6 year old. Later I got overly enthusiastic about jumping and after months of competitive broad jumping in my basement, I had injured my heels so badly, I was given a forced two year prohibition on running and jumping (impossibly hard for an 8-year-old). When I was 15, a significant amount of neck and upper back pain led to the discovery I had a secondary scoliosis (spinal curvature), that would keep me out of the military draft, but would also affect my energy and health in significiant ways. Becoming a dancer in my late teens, and later studying T’ai Chi and Yoga, became indispensable tools in managing this condition.

In my adult life, my health remained strong. I followed a healthy mostly vegetarian lifestyle, and I had learned many skills for managing stress. My career had moved from New York actor/singer/dancer to California publisher and marketing executive and eventually to HeartMath “founding director”, and throughout this time my health remained a strong foundation for me.

On a family vacation in Maine in the mid-2000s

Having lived what some would call a charmed and glamorous life, the three-year series of “unfortunate health events” (as I’ve whimsically called the period) which began in late 2009 was nothing i could have prepared for. It tested me to the core of my being — to look deeply within my heart to live my values and principles like nothing I had ever experienced in my life.

It’s Definitely Cancer

The first chapter in the story was uncomfortable, scary symptoms, leading to tests and a meeting with a surgeon who firmly told me I had a tumor, “and it’s definitely cancer.” A plan of surgery, biopsies, and “immunotherapy” treatments was outlined that would cover several years. My doctor was guardedly optimistic. Based on my general health, and even though the tumor was considered large, he maintained an optimistic body language as we spoke. I entered the process fairly optimistic as well, believing the plan was doable and hopeful. The surgery went well, the biopsy a few weeks later confirmed the tumor was isolated and had not spread, and the treatments began. They were uncomfortable (as anything involving the treatment of bladder cancer happens to be), but when a few weeks later I was told I had a staph infection, I had no idea that this problem would plague me for the next six months. The scariest moment was when I received a call from my family doctor telling me a test revealed the staph had spread to my blood, this was “life-threatening”, and I would need to go to the hospital immediately. That got my attention!

The PICC line through which flowed a strong antibiotic to kill the staph infection.

A hospital visit and the implanting of a PICC line so I could infuse a very strong antibiotic into my blood for the next six weeks, provided a sudden and stark change to my lifestyle. I was now in daily treatment for a life-threatening condition that was a side effect of the treatment for the cancer. This irony was not lost on me, but I determined to remain positive through it all.

This period had a surprising and unpleasant side effect: as I was prohibited from sweating during the six-weeks of the daily antibiotic infusion (which lasted about six hours per day), I was therefore unable to do any significant exercise. This led to the deterioration of conditions in both hips, arthritis in both hip joints that had found me after a very physically active life. Within  a few months the staph infections had stopped, but now the hip pain was considerable and worsening. Several therapeutic attempts to avoid surgery over the next few months failed, and I was forced to consider the “ultimate solution” — total hip replacement surgery. I had both hips replaced during a three month period in the summer of 2011.

One hip down; one to go.

What makes my heart sing?

I have been a self-reflective person most of my life, thanks to very thoughtful parents who deeply considered global issues such as war, civil rights, social justice. The three-year health journey brought these skills to the forefront. I couldn’t escape some uncomfortable conclusions as I pondered my life over the months. Finally healing and optimistic in late 2011, I had become convinced I needed to step down as CEO of HeartMath and transition to a variety of new roles more closely matching my passions. I needed to live this idea of “what makes my heart sing?” Since late 2011 I have been Global Director, HeartMath HealthCare. In 2012 I took on two new roles as founding director of both HeartMathUK and HeartMath South Africa.

My great passion remains singing and creating beauty in every aspect of life, and I have co-founded “What Makes Your Heart Sing?”  with my dear friend the Emmy-award winning composer Gary Malkin. This work involves a range of programs including our flagship “keynote performance” called What Makes Your Heart Sing?, on the power of aligning your life and your work with what is most alive in your heart. (See the tab describing What Makes Your Heart Sing?)

It was the three year period navigating my way through all these health challenges, and the accompanying anxiety, fear, frustration, and gratitude, that showed me how deeply I value beauty and inspiration in all aspects of life …beauty in communication, in art, in relationships, in nature, in product design, in customer service, in poetry, in spirituality. To me beauty is about inspiration, and if I can inspire others with a photo I take, a song I sing, or I post I make, this is my greatest fulfillment.

23 Responses to The Healing

  1. nada abbassi November 14, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    so inspiring, you are a strong man full of energy and hope, you have learnt from every event that happened in your life, and even hard times made you believe that nothing is impossible, you deserve much respect.

    • coherentbruce November 17, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

      thank you dear …. it has been a rough ride but I’m so grateful how things have worked out. love always <3

  2. Lynette November 15, 2012 at 1:28 am #

    The need to express beauty in every moment and in every way, resonates deeply with me. Our world is hungry for it, isn’t it? Imagine a world where our greatest shared desire is to bring as much beauty to it as possible?!

    • coherentbruce November 17, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

      Yes I imagine that each day Lynette, and try my best to live it. Nice to find a resonant soul! :))

  3. Sally Ganci November 17, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    very inspiring , thanks a lot for sharing all this !

    • coherentbruce November 17, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

      thanks so much Sally. It’s great to know you

  4. Holly Thomas November 17, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    I was delighted to be able to read your post/blog. I am a huge fan of HeartMath and of you:) It touches me deeply to be let into your world in a way that touches some of the struggles I am dealing with as well.

    I can relate deeply to your desire to want to inspire – to touch and reveal beauty. I honor your path and process of discovery, Bruce. Thank you so much for your vulnerability.

    Holly

    • coherentbruce November 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

      wow Holly what a beautiful comment. It’s not always easy to be so vulnerable but i decided early on in my journey that i needed to share what was going on, knowing that others could be helped if i did. And yes we share that deep impulse to inspire and to share beauty. What a joy to have that gift! much love always Bruce

  5. Josh Freedman November 18, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    Hi Bruce – thank you for sharing your story, and the strength of your optimism and “awakeness” – it seems to me you’re someone who actively looks for opportunities to see more clearly, to look deeper, to discover and connect. I hope your story helps all of us remember that even in the midst of darkness, we have choices…. and those choices matter.
    Love,
    - Josh

    • November 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      Hey Josh, Really great to hear from you and your words go straight to the heart. Yes I’ve always been a pretty self-reflective person and the events of the last few years presented many opportunities to look honestly within to uncover my deeper feelings and intuitions. It has also been through the love and support of friends like you that the journey was made much easier.
      On a separate note, I have become friends with Pieter van Jaarsveld in Cape Town, and he has become involved with the new HeartMath South Africa business there. He has invited me to keynote the March 2014 EQ conference, so we’re discussing what that would mean. AS I am a partner in the HM business there, a visit for me to SA makes a lot of sense. Thought you’d like to know our paths may cross again.
      with gratitude and love
      Bruce

  6. Loretta November 18, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    Dear Bruce,

    The gift of “you” has just become deeper and more profound that ever before.

    I so appreciate you and your sharing.

    Thank you and much love,
    Loretta

    • November 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

      Wow Loretta I’m really touched by your expression of support and care. It has been a labor of love for sure these last years, and many days were incredibly challenging. But I also knew i needed to keep sharing anything i could, especially those things that inspired me, in hopes that others would be uplifted.
      much love always
      Bruce

  7. Deb Leonard Kosits November 22, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    Bruce,
    My heart sank reading your story. It saddens me that you, who have worked your entire life to release others from pain and to empower joy, have been confronted with such challenges. I too had back to back hip and knee replacements and two other surgeries in the past year – tough to get those quads back and oy…the drug management…another story. But Bruce, the cancer is too scary. I’m so relieved that you are on a real path to full recovery and back to you being you – changing the universe for the better. It’s your calling and I know you embrace it. You will be in my prayers for continued healing and I hope we get to see each other again one of these days when you journey back east…be it Maine, Boston or NY…or New Hampshire. Love you.
    deb

    • November 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

      HI Deb, Your comments really touched me. It’s been quite a “journey” for me that’s for sure, but fortunately i’ve come out the other side stronger, healthier and happier than i’ve been in years. But boy having back to back knee and hip replacements (same leg or both?) must have been really trying and challenging as well. I’ve heard knees are more complicated and slower to recover than hips. But pain management is crucial! I also found getting the quads consistently strong and flexible a continuing challenge. Fortunately improvement does happen and i’m hiking and dancing again! I’ll be back in DC/NYC the first week of Dec and in NYC Dec 5-7. Any chance you’ll be down that way? Would be great to connect again :) Much love always Bruce

  8. Grissel Hernandez November 24, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    Bruce, Beautiful story… Amazing the clarity that awakens when your heart and mind are opened. I share in your lessons, reading your story reminded me that my decision to be open and share my own “the healing” cancer story to others has been the right decision. I too was inspired to follow my passion. Once in a while life takes over and those lessons are forgotten, yet stories like yours and my scar are nice reminders of these valuable gifts and pearls of wisdom. I thank you for sharing your story and reminding me to never stop living my passion. Namaste and good health. With lovingkindness, Grissel

  9. coherentbruce November 24, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    Thank you so much Grissel for your touching response. I wasn’t aware of your “story” and would be very interested to hear more. I notice you’re a nurse living on the Jersey shore (I grew up in Short Hills). How are things there after Sandy? Would love to connect in any ways i can to support you. Are you connected to Jean Watson’s work? As you may know HeartMath and Jean Watson are very connected. Let’s keep the conversation going!
    with much appreciation,
    Bruce

  10. kathleen December 9, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your story…you are an inspiration…..I’m told I am too….but lately I just want to bury my head in the sand….10+ years still fighting cancer (there is a long story for another time) stage IV…..things were OK, not great but OK…I was working but was having difficulty and the economy really impacted my paycheck. I recently found out I have advanced Fibromyalgia and Myofascial Pain Syndrome. Something I had and didn’t realize I had it because I just fought through the pain, the exhaustion and all the other things that go along with it, as well as targeted chemo every 3rd Friday since 2005. I’m frustrated because there is so much I still want to do and see…..and I would love to chase my dreams of working in the music industry even though I dont play or sing….I want to see beautiful places….I dont need things, I need memories and I dont want them all to be where I live. I’m being treated for the two new things but nothing is getting better, and it upsets me….in fact it makes me mad as hell…if you knew all of my story, you would be amazed I made it to 46 without losing my mind….I still have dreams that I am beginning to think wont come true….I was never like that, but I also made a decent paycheck and was never facing the possibility of going on disability. I hate that I have to do that, I was raised to work and I can no longer do that not as an accountant….I’ve been terribly ill from the Fibromyalgia and Myofascial since the end of July and I dont leave my room mainly because I feel like I have the flu all the time, and then there is the pain, the lack of concentration, losing a thought mid sentence….While I have OK days….thats all they are is OK…I want to go back to Aruba and just enjoy the beauty….or walk through a rain forest or even see the grand canyon….but I dont think those things will ever happen….I’m normally upbeat and very driven, but this has given me a major blow….I dont know what to do

    • Maniurtulusp January 18, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

      Natasha Posted on Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry you are in pain, it’s very very dffiicult. Try to stay positive and move forward. Peace and blessings, Natasha

  11. Alesha March 29, 2013 at 4:21 am #

    This is awesome!

    • March 30, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      Thank you Alesha! Please subscribe to this blog if you like and share with your friends :)

  12. web site January 14, 2014 at 3:00 am #

    Hi! I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and finally
    got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Dallas Tx!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the great work!

  13. Sue Tupling March 30, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    Dear Bruce, I had no idea, and I don’t feel sorry for you. I am pleased for you that you have had such great suffering and such great learning. You are more alive than ever, I feel your pain and I feel your great victory and jubilation. And this is another call from the universe to ditch my MD job in a PR Agency and fully drop into and bring to life my yoga and psychotherapy business. I have a client with the most aggressive form of breast cancer, yet she is at peace with the cancer, the cancer is teaching her ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ , it is teaching her to be alive. She told me before the cancer she would have never sought out or been able to listen to, what I am teaching her, she is grateful for the cancer. And many people don’t get it, they say ‘ahh poor thing’, and they don’t truly see us because they are consumed in their own fears of illness (or death). When I tell people about my own tumour (benign) and what is has taught me, maybe 1 in 50 get the real message. I don’t ask for cancer or other suffering to come knocking at my door, but these days I know that, when it does, it’s gonna crack me open to a new level of consciousness, of being alive! Xxx

    • April 2, 2014 at 6:13 am #

      thank you dear Sue! It’s lovely to hear from you again. And yes, no need for pity or sorrow for this guy. I’m thriving, and when I’m not, there’s no one else to blame. Take care xxx

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