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Around the Table

Elana Miller

Elana Miller is a psychiatrist based out of Los Angeles, California. She writes, she surfs, she meditates, and she plays ukulele. Elana is passionate about integrating western medicine, eastern philosophy, and holistic approaches to help people live richer and fuller lives. You can learn more about her on her website, Zen Psychiatry.

Elana received her undergraduate degree in psychology at Harvard before studying medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, where she graduated with highest honors.

For the last several years she has written about how we can integrate Eastern philosophy and holistic approaches with Western medicine to not just medicate away mental illness, but strive for happiness, joy, and fulfillment of our greatest human potential.

Then, on December 17th, 2013, while in her last year of psychiatry residency at UCLA, she was diagnosed with Stage IV Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. It was as much of a punch in the gut as you’d imagine it would be to get cancer when you’re a young, healthy woman with no family history, who eats well, exercises, meditates, juices, etc., and who like most of us, didn’t really believe she was mortal, and fragile.

Believe me, she was afraid — but more than she felt afraid, or sorry for myself that she was dealt a shitty hand, she was struck by how much kindness the world showed her at a moment when she needed it most. She was struck by how much she wanted to live, because she felt she still had important work to do. The love that others showed her started to heal her. The meaning that she gets from her work, and her resolute determination to get well so she can continue doing what she loves, started to heal her.

Remission, while hugely reassuring and encouraging, was only the beginning, though — the total chemo regimen for her rare tumor, which has a nasty tendency to relapse even after remission, is three years. Since her diagnosis she has continued to write about her experience and path to healing, as honestly when it is hopeful as when it is sad.

Living an authentic life requires both reflection and action. It necessitates both examination and experimentation. Elana appreciates you joining me here and she looks forward to helping (or at least entertaining) you along your journey.

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