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Home » The Psychology of Beating an Incurable Illness: Bob Cafaro (Transcript)

The Psychology of Beating an Incurable Illness: Bob Cafaro (Transcript)

Bob Cafaro at TEDxCharlottesville

Full text of cellist Bob Cafaro’s talk: “The Psychology of Beating an Incurable Illness” at TEDxCharlottesville conference.

Listen to the MP3 audio here:


In December of 1998, after just having turned 40 years old, I started experiencing a strange numbness in my right leg, and I didn’t think much of it.

Until about a week later, I was at a rehearsal, and I stepped off the riser onto the stage, and my right leg collapsed from under me.

At this point, I saw two doctors, and they both thought it’s probably just a pinched nerve. Nothing to worry about. Good.

Two months later, I started to lose peripheral vision in my left eye, which was now a worrisome situation. And I saw my very first neurologist, and he examined me and said, “You have MS,” and I didn’t want to hear this.

My only knowledge of multiple sclerosis was the great British cellist Jacqueline du Pré, who was forced to stop playing at the age of 26 and later died from complications of the disease at 42.

So you could imagine, a professional cellist being told I have this debilitating disease.

Denial was a river in Egypt. I was not willing to accept this. And then four months later, I started losing peripheral vision in my right eye, which was really scary because my left eye had never recovered completely.

In about one week after that, I came down with what I thought was a stomach bug, but it didn’t go away. It turned out to be a prolonged period of something like motion sickness. I wound up vomiting. Couldn’t keep food or water down for a week, and I wound up in the hospital for severe dehydration.

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