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 there is a link at the end of this post that will lead you to a page that 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

A new dedicated blog site has begun following 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. Visit subtleeye.sfzc.org (also found under the News and Blogs drop-down menu at the top of this page).

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