A Transition to My New Normal

Almost exactly one year ago I was diagnosed with appendix cancer. It had unfortunately spread into my abdominal cavity — a disease called pseudomyxoma peritonei. It’s an extremely rare form of cancer and without a massive open abdominal surgery and associated chemotherapy, I’d be dead in a few years. The diagnosis, prognosis, and recommended treatment were agonizingly painful, in part because I’ve always tried to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. I work out every day; I try to eat well; I enter 100-mile bike races; I’ve never smoked; and I have older parents and a younger brother with no history of cancer. Until that fateful day last August, my health was a non-issue. 

Just a few months ago, on February 17, I had a nine-hour open abdominal surgery, intended to remove and hopefully cure me of the disease. The scar goes from my breast bone to below my waistline and I’m now without a handful of organs. Fast forward to today, six months later, I am nearly recovered. In fact, so much so, that I have just returned from my annual Grand Teton climbing trip with my eighteen-year-old daughter! 

And while I’m grateful for my recovery, the challenging part about cancer is that I don’t know if I’m completely cured. Only time will tell… and herein lies my new, augmented mindset. 

During the run-up to my surgery, I told friends and co-workers that I planned to get through the surgery and return to “normal”: that I’d go back to work—making investments, working with entrepreneurs—and continue to teach at the Stanford GSB, work out, and spend time with my family. I had assumed that “normal” before was going to feel like “normal” after. Of course, there was a flaw with that thinking. I am no longer pre-surgery “normal”. I’ve changed and internalized that life is so precious and perhaps too short to be cannibalized and framed by my career. Family, friends, experiences are now, even more so than before, the priority in my life landscape. Call it my “new normal.”

The conundrum, of course, is I love what I do and I get to spend my time with an amazing group of people. I’ve now been at a16z for nearly ten years and I finally kind of know what I’m doing! It’d be very difficult to just leave this all behind. 

Taking all of this into consideration, I’ve decided, with the full support of my partners, that I will not actively be making new investments at a16z. However, in the spirit of maintaining intellectual balance and stability, I will continue working with my current portfolio in the same capacity I always have. I will still be a general partner in our existing funds, and will continue to advise and work closely with our team and entrepreneurs.

With more “free” time, I’m going to double-down on life experiences. I’m blessed to be surrounded by incredible friends and family, and it’s pretty clear that my focus will be spending more time with them. I’ve entered the next phase of my life and will be pursuing a more consistent and necessary work-life balance. 

2020 has been quite a year and it has certainly made clear to me what’s really important. While my new normal was influenced by a terminal illness, this clarity is propelling me into the next chapter in my life. I want to thank everyone for supporting me through this transition and beyond.