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Tsoltim N. Shakabpa

My Life Before Diagnosis

I am a Tibetan-American, currently living happily in California.

I was leading a high flying life as a senior international banker and Chairman and President of an investment bank in Texas. But  in October 1990, at the age of 50 in Bellevue, Washington, the drama and tensions of life at the top finally caught up with me and I was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

Diagnosis Day

What else could my wife and I do but pray and pray the day I was diagnosed with stomach cancer. I immediately went into surgery the following day followed by several weeks of chemotherapy and radiation.

My Experience with Treatment

The chemotherapy and radiation were simply unbearable. Food tasted like mud. I was throwing up constantly and feeling very, very weak. I could barely stand on my own. My hair was falling and I was a mere 90 lbs in weight compared to my 160 lbs before therapy.

Despite my prayers, a feeling of despair surrounded me and I felt that if I remained this way and in this place, I would surely die.

Life as a Survivor

Then one day, a light of hope came over me and I told my wife that I would like to get out of this depressing environment and go overseas to be with our old friends and visit the places that had given us so much enjoyment.

My wife and family thought I was crazy to do such a thing when I was so weak physically and in the middle of my treatment. But I was insistent; and finally one fine day my wife and I got on a plane to Hong Kong. The minute we landed in Hong Kong and saw our dear friends, with whom we stayed, I felt lively and invigorated.

From then on, I meditated twice a day for half an hour each time and we went on to visit other dear friends in Singapore, Bangkok, New Delhi and Manila. For two whole months  we leisurely toured and did the things we had enjoyed in those cities in the past. We met old friends, who wined and dined us and when we were alone, we'd eat on narrow streets filled with hawkers, who served delicious but cheap meals on banana leaves. We visited temples, museum and danced to disco music. Each day I got better and stronger, so much so that when we were returning to Bellevue, WA I didn't need the support of a wheelchair.

A couple of days later after we returned home, I went for checkups with my surgeon, chemotherapist and radiologist and they were all totally surprised to find that there was no trace of cancer in me.  They even asked me if I taken some non-traditional medication and treatment and I told them I hadn't. I simply told them I had meditated and changed my environment from a depressing state to one in which I enjoyed being. My doctors were truly all struck with awe.

Then in December 1999, I suffered a debilitating stroke which has left me semi-mobile. But I refused to give up and turned devoting myself for the freedom of Tibet and to writing poetry, which had always been a hobby of mine since childhood. I wrote about my experiences and gave vent to the trials and tribulation of the Tibetan people under Chinese rule. To this day I have had 7 books of poems published. I am just about to complete my 8th book, titled BEING TIBETAN.

All I can say is that I thank the Divine Being, the Enlightened One, for showing me the light to have a longer and more meaningful and tranquil life.


Ride your illness as you would the wind
Let it breeze through the crown of thorns
Coolly, gingerly, softly and gently
With a burst of freshness and hope

See your illness as you would the light
Let it light your way to health
Radiant, glistening, beautiful and awakening
With a rainbow of colors and anticipation

Imagine your illness as you would a dream
Let it bring hope into your life
Elysian, promising, optimistic and tranquil
With wishes come true for you and yours