Pausch Last Lecture

Dr Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture –

Life Lessons

How many times have we taken things for granted – paying scant attention to the things that matters most in our life like – our health, our family and all the little gifts of life. Sometimes it takes a personal crisis – be it an illness or accident – before we finally begin to get our priorities back into focus.

Dr Randy Pausch did just that in his Last Lecture. He showed us how we can live a meaningful life filled with hope and fulfilled dreams. How to laugh at ourselves and be grateful for each and every day that we are alive. Unfortunately, 46 year old Dr Pausch, do not have much time to live. He is terminally ill with pancreatic cancer (he has 10 tumors in his liver and his doctors gave him only 3-6 months of good health) so Pausch’s Last Lecture could well be his very last public lecture.

For a person who is terminally ill, there is no emotion or self-pity in his farewell speech. Instead, we are treated to fascinating stories of his childhood dreams, how he achieved them and lessons he learn from them. His farewell speech is upbeat, entertaining, thought-provoking and peppered with jokes. Randy gave us many insights of his life that can only inspire and give us all great hope.

Dr. Pausch’s speech was taped so his preschool children, ages 5, 2 and 1, can watch it when they’re older. His last words in his last lecture were simple: “This was for my kids.”

He showed us that even through failures, we can learn useful and endearing life lessons that will help us throughout our lives. He also highlighted the need to enshrine even your most smallest achievements eg. Randy is proud of winning giant stuffed animals in local carnivals.

In Dr Randy Pausch‘s Last Lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” in September 18, 2007, he talked about his lessons learned and gave advice to students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals. Dr Randy Pausch is an energetic, captivating and flamboyant speaker and delivers, what the Wall Street Journal describes as, “a lecture of a lifetime”. His farewell lecture will, in the years to come, be a model presentation format for many public speakers.

Quotable Quotes from Dr Randy Pausch’s Last Public Lecture for those who want a quick review of the lecture:
  • “Don’t Complain, Just Work Harder.”
  • “It is not about Achieving your Dreams but Living your Life. If you lead your Life the right way, the Karma will take care of itself, the Dreams will come to you. “
  • “Never underestimate the importance of having Fun. I’m dying and I’m having Fun. And I’m going to keep having fun every day, because there’s no other way to play it.”
  • “We can’t change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. If I’m not as depressed as you think I should be, I’m sorry to disappoint you.”
  • “Brick walls are there for a reason. They are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop people who don’t want it badly enough.”
  • “No one is pure evil. Find the Best in everybody…. Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you. It might even take years, but people will show you their Good side. Just keep waiting.”
  • “Experience is what you get when you Didn’t get what you Wanted.”
  • “Never lose the child-like Wonder. It’s just too important. It’s what Drives us. Help others.”
  • “How do you get people to help you? You can’t get there alone. People have to help you and I do believe in karma. I believe in paybacks. You get people to help you by telling the Truth. Being earnest. I’ll take an earnest person over a hip person any day, because hip is short term. Earnest is long term.”
  • “Show gratitude. Gratitude is a simple and powerful thing.”
  • “Having Fun for me is like a fish talking about the importance of water. I don’t know how it is like not to have Fun… I will keep having Fun everyday I have left.”
  • “It is Important to have Specific Childhood Dreams.” He wanted to play football in the NFL; he wanted to write an article for the World Book Encyclopedia; he wanted to be Captain Kirk from “Star Trek”; and he wanted to work for the Disney Co. He also wanted to experience the Weightlessness of Zero Gravity;

However, Randy, as a kid, knew that he did not have the necessary physical prerequisites to be an astronaut. So he focussed on the dream of being able to float in zero gravity. He got his wish when he and his students earned the privilege to use the KC-135 (also known as the “vomit comet”) – a modified Boeing 707 four-engine turbojet that NASA uses to simulate conditions of weightlessness.

  • “Be Good at Something; it makes you Valuable.”
  • “I’m sorry I won’t be around to raise my kids. It makes me very sad but I can’t change that fact, so I did everything I could with the time I have and the time I had to help other people.”

Pausch recently took his 5-year-old son to Walt Disney World to swim with the dolphins. As his oldest child, the boy will be the only one who may have clear memories of his father.

  • “I’ve never understood pity and self-pity as an emotion. We have a finite amount of time. Whether short or long, it doesn’t matter. Life is to be lived.”
  • “If someone rides on you for 2 hours, you know they care for you” (on his experiences in baseball training)
  • “To be cliché, death is a part of life and it’s going to happen to all of us. I have the blessing of getting a little bit of advance notice and I am able to optimize my use of time down the home stretch.”
  • If you want to achieve your dreams, you better learn to work and play well with others. Tell the Truth. That means you got to live with integrity.
  • A good apology has three parts: 1. “I’m sorry”; 2. “It was my fault” and 3. “How do I make it right”. The last part tells about your sincerity.
  • On Education: “Mark Twain says, “Don’t let your schooling get in the way of your education.” I always tell my students that they should spend their time in whatever way helps them learn. I’m perfectly happy if they cut my class because they were doing something that was a better use of their time” – Time, 10 April 2008.

Dr Pausch is a Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction and Design at the Carnegie Melon University (CMU). He has done consulting work for Disney and Google, written over 70 books and is the creator of the Alice Interactive Computing Program – which allows students to easily create 3-D animations. It had one million downloads in the past year, and usage is expected to soar.

The “Last Lecture” series is a common title for talks on college campuses today. Schools such as Stanford and the University of Alabama have mounted “Last Lecture Series,” in which top professors are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and to give hypothetical final talks. For the audience, the question to be mulled is this: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? At the CMU, the Dr Randy Pausch’s last lecture was far more than hypothetical.

Randy Pausch Medical Update:


25 July 2008 – Prof. Pausch has died of complications from pancreatic cancer after a two year uphill battle with the disease. He passed away in his Chesapeake, Virginia home in the early morning of the 25th.  The Pausch family moved to Chesapeake last fall to be closer to his wife’s relatives. He was 47 and leaves behind a wife and 3 young children.

On August 15 2007, doctors told him they had found 10 inoperable tumors and he had up to six months of good health left. That will be followed by a sharp two-week decline into pain, immobility and death.This deadly disease kills 95%  of the victims within months of the diagnosis.

Pausch noted that although pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths, no progress has been made on pancreatic cancer research in the past 30 years due to lack of Federal funding. You stand a  far greater chance of living with AIDS than pancreatic cancer.

We are going to miss your infectious humor and unfailing enthusiasm. Even with your passing, you have given us so much hope.  You did not beat the Reaper, but then no one does:

“We don’t beat the Reaper by living longer,” Pausch said. “We beat the Reaper by living well.”

Randy did not believe in natural healing.

Below are some of Randy’s last public appearances, most in support of projects he truly believed in:

24 June 2008 – On Thursday, an unnamed friend of Pausch’s had posted on his behalf to the news page of Pausch’s personal area on the Carnegie Mellon Web site.

“A biopsy last week revealed that the cancer has progressed [sic] further than we had thought from recent PET scans,” the posting read in part. “Since last week, Randy has also taken a step down and is much sicker than he had been.”

16 June 2008 – Randy’s condition continues to slowly improve. However, his PET scan showed that his cancers continue to grow though at a slower rate. He current thinking is that more chemotherapy may not be wise. The benefits of chemotherapy vs getting sick may not be worth the slight reduction of tumors.  He is studying  some immunuotherapy-based options that would presumably come with little or no side effects.

Pausch received a Congressional Record commendation on 21 June and a nice letter from President George Bush on 10 June.  Not bad for a sick man.

20 May 2008 – Pausch returned to chemo treatment on 20 May but by 28 May, the adverse effects of the chemo resulted in Randy having a high (101) fever and vomiting for 3 days and therefore he had to stop treatment.

2 May 2008 – Cancer spreads to Randy’s lungs and lymph nodes in his chest. There are also some metastases inside his abdomen. His priority right now is to recover from heart and kidney failure first which is a relatively more serious problem. When he is strong enough, he will resume the grueling SIR-Spheres or some systemic chemo treatment to tackle the liver and non-liver tumors. It’s Catch-22. Let’s hope Pausch recovers from the heart and kidney complications soon.

28 April 2008 Randy put up a Time Management video which he did some time back with the help of Gabe Robins in November 2007 at the University of Virginia. To watch this 2007 time management video by Randy Pausch, click on this link:

27 April 2008 Pausch continues to get his strength back as his blood pressure gets under control. With BP under control, he can cut back on the medication which causes fatigue and makes him weak. Well wishers have expressed concern about his tumor marker readings (which is CA19-9 (tumor marker): 404) but Randy say he’ll not worry about it just yet. Fight one battle at a time. You can’t be fighting at all fronts without exhausting your precious resources.

19 April 2008 – Randy is recovering more quickly (this time) from his 2nd congestive heart failure but the HB medication side effect – fatigue – is taking its toll on his body.

17 April 2008 – Pausch’s newly released book “The Last Lecture“, written with Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Zaslow, made to the top selling books lists according to most book retailers including Amazon etc. This was reported by USA Today, Time etc. Congratulations on this amazing feat, Randy.

15 April 2008 – Pausch’s cardiologist said that Randy “is technically back in heart failure” for the 2nd time with his heart pumping at 30% its optimal levels. 24 hours later, the high blood pressure medications brought his blood pressure down to normal and diuretics “shed 4 pounds in water weight”. Unfortunately, the high blood pressure medication has resulted in fatigue.

12 April 20088 – Randy’s is accepted by the University of Maryland for the SIR-Spheres treatment – a experimental treatment in which tiny spheres of yttrium-90, a radioactive substance, are injected into the liver to treat cancer – sometimes referred to as “brachytherapy“. He will check into the University of Maryland for the treatment when he is sufficiently strong enough to undergo the treatment.
2 April 2008 – Pausch’s CT and MRI scans show new, 11th, tumor (though small and negligible). The old tumors have not grown “like crazy” even though the doctors had to stop his chemo treatment due to heart / kidney complications reported earlier. Next step is to deal with the tumors in his liver. Chemo for liver specific treatment is said have “very low rate of side effects” compared to systemic chemotherapy. Randy is hopeful of a successful treatment.

29 March 2008 – Getting back his energy. Pausch’s CA19-9 blood marker is showing better numbers than before.

26 March 2008 – Randy suffers from “a lot of fatigue” caused by his blood pressure medication. Has to spend most of his day in bed. Pausch’s kidney function has improved with creatanine levels down to 3.1 from a high of 3.9. However, the tumors readings went up from 103 to 170.

13 March 2008 – Paush is out of hospital though “still a little wobbly from the heart / kidney issues”. Had a car minor accident driving home. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

8 March 2008 – Randy is hospitalized for treatment particularly the clearing the fluid in his lungs and abdomen. Doctors are confident that there is no long-term damage to Randy’s heart. However, kidney damage is less clear at the moment.

5 March 2008 – Pausch suffers major setback against his fight against cancer, though tumors are contained. Major side effects of chemo drugs this time:

  • kidney performing under 50% of efficiency
  • blood pressure skyrocketing to 200 over 100
  • build up of abdominal fluid (a result of kidney dysfunction) causes difficulty in breathing and sleeping.

Randy is hopeful that the planned blood pressure medication, diuretics and blood transfusion will do the trick.

15 February 2008: – Pausch celebrates his 6 months survival from his cancers through palliative chemotherapy – beating the doctors’ predictions of his survivability to less than 6 months. Randy remains fitter in spite of his illness – biking and running faster than most people.

6 February 2008: – Pausch fighting hard as CT scan in beginning January showed signs of “creeping growth” of tumors. His doctor gave him a less aggressive drug Avastin (Gemcitabine+Tarceva+Avastin) which had “stopped the growth (and even showed some signs of shrinkage)” for now. If Avastin starts to fail, he will be given a more stronger (downside = more bad side effects) drug. One of the more worrying side effect of this treatment is that his “kidney seems to be weakening, though not dangerous yet”. Hopefully, a stronger drug won’t be necessary. Hang on in there, Randy.

23 Dec, 2007: Pausch wrote that his cancers are stable and “on hold” probably for another 2-4 months. As the performance of such cancer drugs have a bell shaped curve, it is difficult to say if things will get better or worse after it has past its peak effectiveness. If the drugs’ payoff starts to dip, Pausch will look to other “longer shot” options which work for only about 10-15 of the patients.

1st Oct 2007 : Pausch reported “I had a CT-scan, and a follow-up PET-CT scan on Oct 13th. Both confirmed that we are willing: The cancer tumors in my spleen are now gone, and the dozen or so cancer tumors in my liver are all either stable or slightly smaller.

19 Oct 2007, elated Randy reported in his website that his latest medical condition is encouraging: “Palliative Chemo is working!, I am a winner. I have bought an extra 2-4 months of good health. Said another way, I may have just doubled my life expectancy.”

Background to Pausch’s Medical Condition:

In September of 2006, Dr. Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Hoping to beat the odds, Dr. Pausch underwent a bold treatment plan to defeat his pancreatic cancer. Doctors removed Dr Randy Pausch’s gallbladder, portions of his stomach and pancreas and several feet of his small intestine to increase his survival odds to 15%. He enrolled in an experimental treatment offered in Houston that combined chemotherapy with highly toxic radiation, boosting the five-year odds to 45% against pancreatic cancer.

Unfortunately, in August 2007, the cancer returned to his liver and spleen. (See our Medical Update above for the latest developments in Pausch’s medical condition). The overall five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is just 5%. Even the one-year rate is only 26%. The reason for this low survival rate is because pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect and is usually detected at a very late stage when the cancer had already done a great deal of damage to the body.)

Pausch has said that he does not believe in Health Supplements because of lack of clinical data. So he is going to put his faith in a drug cocktail. That is OK, he is entitled to and I respect his opinions on this. But I’m sure he would agree that that the remission of some of his tumors is not entirely due to conventional medical intervention. Natural healing plays a great part in determining whether a person survives or succumbs to the disease. People who are Happy and Optimistic, have a better chance of surviving a major illness than one who is Unhappy and Pessimistic.

In ” Mind Medicine “, Uri Geller says: “The most brilliant medicine in the world cannot cure the body if the patient’s state of mind refuses to cooperate, just as a person’s state of mind can have a devastating effect on physical health. .. We know that if a patient does not believe he will be cured, a cure will not take place. The whole of the mind needs to heal to effect a full recovery.”

And now, finally, the last part on Randy Pausch’s Farewell Lecture:

Here are two YouTube video highlights of some of Pausch’s most poignant reminders of how to live out your dreams to the fullest. If you are interested in viewing Randy Pausch’s full farewell lecture (is about 70 minutes plus though other testimonial speakers clock up time making it a 1 hour 44 mins video) go to YouTube or Google Video to watch “Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture


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One thought on “Pausch Last Lecture

  1. I’d like to know how Randy discovered his cancer. Did he have pain or was it a standard blood test? If he had pain, how long did he have it before going to see a doctor about it?

    I’m also curious as to why he dos not believe in supplements?

    I thank Randy and his family for their courage and inspiration.

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