Episode #17: Joe DiNardo

 
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Joseph DiNardo, Esq. is the CEO, director, and founder of Counsel Financial and author of A Letter to My Wife, an intimate story of love found and lost with his late wife, Marcia. Prior to founding Counsel Financial in 2000, Joe practiced mass tort and personal injury law for over 26 years, securing multi-million dollar, high-profile settlements or awards on cases tried to verdict. He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School and has been featured several times in Best Lawyers, the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession.

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On one seemingly normal day in 2005, Joe DiNardo ended up in the emergency room with a debilitatingly painful headache. This headache was one that, despite having migraines for the better part of two decades, was worse than any he’d ever experienced. After giving him a CT scan, doctors discovered that Joe had a tumor and needed surgery--even though brain surgery carried serious risks. During the days leading up to his procedure, Joe contemplated his own mortality through the meditation practice he’d been cultivating for years. The strength of his meditation practice would prove immensely valuable when, several years after his surgery, his beloved wife Marcia was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. On today’s episode, Joe and I discuss why brain surgery was life-changing, what impact meditation has had on him throughout his life, and how a feeling of unconditional love was at the core of his experience as a caregiver for Marcia.

Brain surgery is life-altering. It just is. You never come out of it exactly the same.
It would be wrong to say I don’t experience the pain. I just feel I don’t suffer with it.

Here are some of the things Joe and I chatted about:

  • His severe migraine headaches, which would periodically land him in the emergency room

  • Undergoing a risky brain surgery, and how he felt indescribably different afterward

  • How his brain tumor, and the surgery’s after-effects, strengthened his meditation practice

  • Why he expressed to his surgeons that he would rather die with his tumor than from it

  • The almost out-of-body experience he had when he heard his wife’s cancer diagnosis

  • The unconditional love and compassion he felt for Marcia throughout his time as a caregiver

  • Why he felt he needed honest answers from the oncologist — not for Marcia, but for himself

  • The moment, near the end, when Marcia asked if him if he believed she would get better

  • How his book, A Letter to My Wife, evolved out of a eulogy he wrote for Marcia’s funeral

  • His work to help develop a mindfulness program at Roswell Park Cancer Institute

  • The authors he recommends for people who are beginning to explore meditation: Jon-Kabat Zinn, Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield, and Pema Chodron

Caretakers need to understand, it’s the other person that’s dying, not them. Now they’re suffering their own suffering — I get that. But what the person with the diagnosis is going through is completely different.
Mindfulness practice — being in the moment — is not something you can read about and talk about and then think you’re doing it. You have to do it. You have to sit on the cushion or on a chair and do it.