San Antonio doctor, author talks about his journey with cancer

November 14, 2019

For most people, a cancer diagnosis is about the most negative thing that can happen.

Dr. Richard Senelick isn’t most people.

“I have had many more positive things from having cancer, from going through chemo and having a transplant, than negative things,” the San Antonio-based neurologist told members of The Blood and Tissue Center Foundation board of directors at their November meeting.

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Dr. Senelick was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and he wound up having a stem cell transplant using his own modified cells as part of his treatment. He currently is in remission.

His treatment was similar to the hundreds of adult stem cell transplants GenCure helps make possible every year through its apheresis center and its donor recruitment programs.

One of the positives about going through chemotherapy, for example, was that it is the great equalizer.

“I liked going to the chemo, because it didn’t matter who you were, how much money you had, it didn’t care what race you were or what religion, what color you were,” he said. “Everybody was in this thing together.”

He said “intentional acts of kindness” were common among the patients. One family bought blankets for every patient, and another bought socks. Dr. Senelick’s contribution was a special coin.

On one side was the word “resilience.” The other side included the date of his stem cell transplant and a special message.

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“It says ‘Everything I have ever done in my life was worth the effort,’” he said. “I gave my internist a supply of these, and he keeps asking for more.”

He said his goal with every presentation is to leave the audience with three principles to live by: resilience, gratitude and empathy.

“Resilience is the key to grow from an experience and not be defeated by it,” he said. “Be grateful for what you have.”

And the final piece of advice is empathy, based on something he learned early in his medical career. The best thing you can say to someone undergoing a struggle is simply “I bet this is difficult.”

“And you know what? You’ve validated their experience,” he said.

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Dr. Senelick is the Medical Director of the Rehabilitation Institute of San Antonio and Editor in Chief of HealthSouth Press. He also is a blogger, author and public speaker. Learn more about Dr. Senelick at GenConnect.com.