October 9, 2013
Abbot Steve Stücky Diagnosed with Terminal Cancer

Letter from President Susan O’Connell

Dear Friends:

Ten days ago our beloved Central Abbot, Myogen Steve Stücky, received a medical diagnosis of stage-four pancreatic cancer. He shared this news with his family and a few Zen Center leaders, and then wrote an inspiring letter, which was sent out to a few more of his close friends and colleagues. A copy of that letter is below.

Photo: Renshin Bunce

Photo: Renshin Bunce

We are stunned by this news, and challenged to find ways to accept it. Needless to say, we are offering our complete support to Myogen and his wife Lane and his entire family. The exact steps that will be taken to meet the cancer are still being determined, and this site will include updates on his condition and allow you to leave messages.

Myogen continues to be engaged in key decisions that are part of his role as Central Abbot, while also expressing his commitment to studying deeply the needs of his body. He gave the Dharma talk last Wednesday at Green Gulch Farm, and is scheduled to give the talk this evening at the City Center.

A group of us—including Abiding Abbess Eijun Linda Cutts, City Center Abiding Abbot-Elect Rinso Ed Sattizahn, Zen Center Board Chair Mary Morgan and Zen Center President Zesho Susan O’Connell—are meeting weekly and are prepared and fully committed to support Myogen, and Zen Center. We will be absorbing some of the duties Myogen has so beautifully cared for, as the need arises.

We extend our thoughts of compassion to Abbot Steve and hold him and his family in our hearts.

Deeply Bowing,
Zesho Susan O’Connell

Letter from Abbot Steve

May this find you all healthy. My news is not good:

Today, after two weeks of increasing pains and weakness, Lane and I reviewed the results of last Friday’s CT-scan with Dr. Zhang, oncologist at Kaiser, Santa Rosa. The symptoms and visual evidence are consistent with pancreatic cancer stage four. There are lesions in the lungs, liver, spleen, and a mass on the lower end of the pancreas.

Biopsy results will be forthcoming with more precise detail, hopefully by the end of the week with chemo-therapy beginning next week.

Dr. Zhang believes that if left untreated, I could expect to live three to six months. Effective chemo-therapy should improve quality of life and perhaps double life-expectancy.

My extended family has already been informed of the situation and I look forward to your support as I rearrange my planned activities to take the best care of this body and all the relationships that are so important and rewarding . . . especially those with each of you.

Please address any questions to my assistant, Mary Stares, and we’ll do our best to respond. Perhaps we’ll set up a a site for regular updates.

to what shall I liken this life?
moonlight, reflected in dewdrops
shaken from a crane’s bill

I got trouble in my mind lord, I believe I’m fixin’ to die
I got trouble in my mind lord, I believe I’m fixin’ to die
Well I don’t mind dyin’, I just hate to leave my children cryin’
—Blind Lemon Jefferson

Love to each of you,
myogen steve

Subtle Eye on Abbot Steve

This new dedicated blog begins to follow Steve’s condition and progress as he works with illness and its implications for his relationships with students, colleagues, friends and supporters. The Subtle Eye site, named for the translation of Myogen, welcomes your comments during the process.

In addition, a Facebook page set up by one of Steve’s students, Renshin Bunce, has been collecting comments and photos from many students and friends.


The Dharma event this evening at 7:30 pm at City Center will be focused on Abbot Steve. The latest report is that although he very much wished to be present to give the Dharma talk, he will not be able to due to his condition today. Instead, the community is invited to listen to a playback of his recorded Dharma talk at Green Gulch Farm last Wednesday, with the opportunity for comments and sharing afterward. All are welcome.

His talk last week at Green Gulch Farm is now available on the main SFZC website.




  1. Daniel Dickens

    I’ve never met someone with such a warm and welcoming presence as yours. The few times I encountered you during my short stay at Tassajara and City Center affected me like nothing else. You’ve lived in my heart and mind since, and always will.

  2. Patrick Morgan


    I have heard you speak and teach the Dharma a number of times at SFZC and I have great appreciation and respect for your sharing Dharma wisdom — it has benefited me greatly. Thank you.

    I am writing because I have not had the opportunity to sit zazen with you and was wondering if there is any times that you plan to sit with the Sangha in the SFZC zendo. I would only show up at the zendo, bow and sit zazen with you and the others — that is all. This, I believe, would be beneficial to me and others.

    Of course, I understand you have a busy schedule and may not be sitting at the SFZC. But, please let me know if/when you plan to sit at SFZC. Thank you.

    With Great Respect and Deep Bows,

    Patrick Morgan

  3. Adra Ross

    Dear Steve,
    I’m so sorry to hear the news of your pancreatic cancer; you are such a blessed being and have done so much for so many. I only feel fortunate that our paths crossed and I got to know you, albeit briefly. I have benefited greatly by your presence and energy.
    I am sending you love and gratitude and wishes for peace on your journey.
    Adra Ross

  4. Jim Hare

    I received this news last week – now it is part of what I carry each day. Steve is among the great beings that Zen Center has been so fortunate to attract over the years; his Mennonite upbringing no doubt contributing to his “native” feeling for Zen practice and life. I count myself lucky to have spent 2 years in the mid-80’s working with Steve in his landscape construction business. I’ve already sent personal wishes, so here I just acknowledge with the Zen Center community our shared sadness and sense of impending loss. And to Steve’s family, Lane, James, Hannah, and Robin – my heartfelt wishes of love and compassion.

  5. Fran

    I am so sad to hear of your illness. Peace be with you and your family.
    “A drop of dew is a drop of dew, and yet, and yet……”

  6. Chris Lanier


    I am new to the path, and last night, I opened the Zen Center podcast entitled “Gratitude”. I admit that when I learned of your situation, I almost turned off the podcast, thinking that it was too heavy for me. I decided to listen and I am very glad that I did. My worst fear is cancer and the possibility of facing death, but your words and attitude were and are still ringing powerfully with me. I am still not exactly sure what I could possibly say to you other than to show you my gratitude. Thank you very very much, Steve. My thoughts are and will continue to stay with you.

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