By Yvonne Lee
Q&A: Randy Pausch’s Legacy
Jai Pausch talks about life and loss—and continuing her husband’s work
By Yvonne Lee
CR: It has been two years since Randy’s death. Does it help to continue his work?
Pausch: I know it’s been two years, but I still grieve and it catches me by surprise. It’s helpful for me to be at events with other people who have gone through the cancer experience and perhaps have either lost a loved one or who are survivors. Meeting with survivors gives me a sense of hope that … we’re going to be able to find some type of drug regimen or treatment or early detection that’s going to help a lot of other people who are out there fighting the fight that I went through two years ago.
CR: Only 2 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s research budget goes toward pancreatic cancer. Have any lawmakers told you they would commit to more funding?
Pausch: I hate to say it, but I didn’t hear that. I didn’t hear anybody say that they were going to pick up the charge and make this a priority. … Congress people are resistant to the idea of supporting one particular disease over another for reasons of fairness. The argument that we made is, well, it’s the fourth-greatest killer among all cancers, and it gets the least amount of funding [among those four]. For the cancers that have gotten a lot of money, you can see the correlation between the amount of money given for research and the outcomes being successful.
CR: How was Randy able to live beyond his diagnosis?
Pausch: I think through the whole process, Randy just never allowed himself to become morose, and he never gave up. I was so surprised at times when he would look at a potential treatment … and I would say, “There’s only a 7 percent chance this is going to work.” And he would say, “Wow, I’ve got a 7 percent chance this is going to work.” And he saw it as reaching for the brass ring. So even though the odds were, in my eyes, completely stacked against us, he saw it as, there’s still a chance; there’s hope there. He was always willing to reach for that ring.
CR: Was it difficult to share him with the public?
Pausch: I’ll be honest with you, it really was, because we were told he had three to six good months to live. And I felt very selfish in that I wanted him to spend that time with his children. They were so young … every day with him was precious, absolutely precious. I didn’t want to lose any of that time with him. … Every time he did a cancer treatment and he was sick for three days in bed with flulike symptoms, it was three days less that we had him. … But that was the balance that we were trying to strike, because for Randy, reaching out to other people, bringing about awareness of the disease, was incredibly important to him. And it helped give him a sense of purpose, which in turn made him feel more positive about life. So that was a win-win situation.
(photos: Courtesy of Jai Pausch)