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Sangha News - Darlene Cohen

 Interviews with Darlene

Darlene's website    Her meditation groups

1-12-11 - Darlene died this morning

10-23-10 - Recent messages from Lisa Hoffman and Darlene Cohen about Darlene's condition

3-17-08 - Well-being ceremony for Darlene Cohen at the BPZ near Occidental. And here's the Well-being service itself.

October 2006 - Darlene Cohen just had surgery for a growth which has turned out to be malignant - ovarian cancer which her doctor is confident can be successfully treated. Here are a some email reports on how she's doing. - DC

10-12-06  Report



10-15-06 - Two emails

Sonoma County updates from Elizabeth Sawyer





10-31-06 -

11-03-06 -

11-06-06 - This is the last update I'll put on this site for now. To keep up with Elizabeth Sawyer's reports, email her at
"Rev. Elizabeth Sawyer" <> - DC

Tony and Darlene are in San Francisco (yesterday and today).  Yesterday they went to see her doctor and today they will be teaching her Wednesday night class.  Tony will teach and Darlene will contribute.  This way she does not have to miss something that she loves and at the same time does not have to carry the evening.  She had a big practice weekend which included going to Point Richmond for the Suffering and Delight class and also went to the regular Crystal Springs Sangha meeting.  Sunday there was a practice day at RRZ led by Darlene with a small group of women. 

Tony presided over a well-being ceremony last Saturday at RRZ, Speaking of RRZ.  IF you would like to see Darlene or be with her or contribute or receive something from her, may I suggest that you join us any Saturday for zazen, tea, and informal talk/discussion?

Despite rumors to the contrary, T & D ( being characteristically Zen frugal) are financially secure. Even though Darlene is not & will not be working, they are doing OK, good enough. This is due in no small part to the incredible kindness of Sangha.  Over the past month generous dana has been given to both them personally & to RRZ.  There has been a rumor going around that Tony has to “get a job,” but do note that Tony is already more than fully employed as: Darlene’s personal attendant, Darlene’s medical social worker, & head priest at RRZ.

T & D are rapidly learning how to live in the world of cancer.  Small problems ( ex:  not being able to drink enough fluids) can suddenly become costly both in terms of suffering & of precious [strength] that is lost & must be regained.  They are learning, with the help of friends & fellow cancer survivors, the ins & outs of the medical bureaucracy, & a visit to the doctor this week may result in re-scheduling the five remaining chemo treatments. Darlene told some of us that she is going to shave her head before treatment #2 since she was told that the hair falls out after this one. Why not?

They will continue to need ongoing assistance with household chores, driving to appointments, etc. Please telephone or e-mail me if you can help or if you wish to be on call. I will put your offer, name, and number and times of availability down on the master calendar. 

A reminder: Darlene’s white cell count is already extremely low. Please do not visit or offer your kind services if you are sick, have recently been sick, or if you have been around sick people.

Tony: "It will be a long, long winter, but the consistent & practical support of friends & Sangha will render it not only bearable but pleasurable as well". And "Many bows to all for engaging in Suzuki Roshi’s practice, our practice, of “just this’” warm hand touching warm hand. This practice that we all share is in full, healthy bloom at RRZ".

To all,


This Saturday at Russian River Zendo, we will be doing and learning the well-being ceremony as it is practiced at the San Francisco Zen Center.  Tony will be present.  Darlene is going to teach her regular monthly Saturday morning pain class in Richmond. In fact she gave a Dharma talk to her Crystal Springs Sangha in Burlingame last night (see Tony's quote below). 

From Darlene to us all:

"I continue to be sustained by the enormous kindness and outpouring of healing we have been receiving from you all.  I don't know where this cancer came from, I don't know where this staggering generosity came from.  I don't know any of it; I only am awed by it.  Of course it was there all the time, this Bodhisattva activity, but now like Master Baoche, I am fanning myself w/it.

Thank you all so,



Darlene asked me to tell you that she is out of "chemo hell".

Quote from Tony this morning:  "Last night's trip to Crystal Springs was, predictably, a great success.  Keith [ RRZ Board member and D medical advocate Dr. Keith Wiley] told D to go to the ER today & get hydrated, so as soon as she does her exercises we're off to Palm Drive [hospital]. Then she should finally be on the road to recovery from the chemo".

Gentle reminder:  Chemo therapy  #2 begins on November 13 & 14.

Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo
Kan ze on       
Na mu butsu
Yo butsu u in  
Yo butsu u en                             
Bu po so en
Jo raku ga jo
Cho nen
kan ze on
Bo nen
kan ze on
Nen nen ju shin ki
Nen nen fu ri shin
Jisho Warner Translation: 
Kanzeon Cry Regarder
turn our hearts to Buddha.
We are one with Buddha in cause,
One with Buddha in effect,
With Dharma and with Sangha.
Realizing our true nature
Boundless joy for all life
Morning be one with Kannon
Evening be one with Kannon
Thoughts are one with big mind
Thoughts arrive at pure heart.
Robert Aitken Translation:
Veneration to the Buddha!
With Buddha I have origin;
With Buddha I have affinity;
with Buddha, Dharma, Sangha;
Constancy, joy, self, and purity.
Mornings my thought is Kanzeon;
Evenings, my thought is Kanzeon.
Thought after thought arises in mind.
Thought after thought is not separate from mind.

Towards Endless Awakening,


10-31-06 - Monday October 23 was the first of the prescribed chemo treatments. Darlene was in the hospital from Monday to Wednesday. Last Saturday a few of us met up with Darlene at the door outside the Zendo for the usual 10:00 A.M. sitting. Jenaii said, "There you are!". Darlene responded, "Here I am, fresh from chemo hell." Darlene looks well, so we joked and quoted Billy Crystal's character Fernando from a Saturday Night Live's television cast of the past. Anyone remember Fernando's Hideaway? Fernando was a shallow affected fashionista lounge lizard who said to people as they passed by his booth in a restaurant hang out, "You look Marvelous". He also instructed at the end of every skit, "And remember, it is better to look good than to feel good"... Darlene looks good but admittedly does not feel good.

Today's quote from Tony: "The presence of an actively engaged sangha is crucial & invigorating for both of us. It remains the primary context in which we are now living out our lives". And "There is no question that the chemo is & will continue to be very difficult". The kind of chemo that is being administered gives much better odds than the courses of the past so it is undoubtedly worth the trouble. Both Tony and Darlene are taking it as it comes, living in not knowing. They are also learning more than they ever wanted to know about how to deal with a cancer diagnosis and chemo therapy.

Last Saturday Darlene and Tony joined us for zazen and discussion. Ken gave the talk. This Saturday at the Russian River Zendo, we will teach the same Well-being ceremony held at the San Francisco Zen Center every morning at 8:00 A.M., word for word. All are welcome to come and learn it. Darlene will not be present. The Zendo is open and the Saturday sitting continues rain or shine, feel free to come any or every Saturday. Zazen begins at 10:00 sharp.

Today is Darlene's birthday. Halloween Baby. Double Scorpio.



10-21-06 - Several Sangha members including RRZ board members sat with Darlene in the Russian River Zendo this morning, for the regular Saturday morning sitting. Darlene was lithe and calm.  It is very comforting to see her because she is looking lively, thinking clearly and moving smoothly.

Tony gave a pithy and spirited Dharma talk.  He emphasized the current topic:  Not letting "signs" distract us and not letting fears and labels supersede direct experience.  He asked "What do I know, right now?", He also asked, us to look at this particular case.

Darlene added to his talk and reiterated what she expressed in the hospital, that her experience from pre to post-op has been a seamless continuum.  She was asked if the Sangha support made this so.  She thought for a moment and said quietly, "Yes". 

The quote for today is "Tony and I have been moved to tears by the gifts of beautiful objects and sentiments expressed in cards, by offers of help, $, the astonishing meals people have brought by.  Tomorrow (Oct 21 Sat) I will tell people who come to sangha some of it, but the gratitude I feel is beyond expressing.  Its beyond comprehension.  I had intended to write a book on dana paramita [the perfection of generosity] called "The Way The World Works."  This experience so surpasses anything I could say about dana paramita, I'll probably never [be able to] write this all down."

During this time of intensity, many of us feel closer as a group.  Ken Sawyer thanked Darlene for giving us the opportunity to become better Dharma friends.

We are not scheduling visits for the time being and appreciate the way in which people have been present from afar (and near).


Wednesday 18 October 2006 

Quiet day today for Darlene and not too busy for Tony.  Both are adjusting to each day as it unfolds as to what needs doing, what does not and how to take care of themselves, each other and their responsibilities which includes all of us: friends, family and students.  Designating this week a visitor free zone has helped.  A few people have taken someone someplace or sat with Darlene while Tony was gone etc.  But this is by necessity.  The "Meals on Dharma Wheels" are deeply appreciated and enjoyed.  People who have brought meals have been dropping them off w/o visiting.  Thanks for this sensitivity. 

This is also to let anyone in the city know that the San Francisco Zen Center at 300 Page Street will be chanting a well-being ceremony for Darlene and Tony and anyone else we know of who is ill at 8 am daily in Room 10 until Darlene has finished her chemo at least.  All are welcome to participate.  Darlene told me today that she can feel the well-being ceremonies [and prayers, thoughts and well wishes] that are being directed their way.

I will be sending out the updates less often.  Maybe every three days. 

Indra's Net holds us all,


Tuesday 10-17-06 - Sonoma County update #2

The first thing I want to confirm, is that Darlene's doctor has firmly stated that new advances in medicine have made him confident that she will make it through this ordeal  He said "If I thought that she was not going to survive and that I could do no more for her, I would say so.  This is treatable".  He also said "Do not look on the internet, do not listen to what other people say to you, listen to me".  He was emphatic.

I asked Darlene for a quote today.  This is what she said, "Beware of the label "Cancer".  It carries a lot of baggage and could make us overlook the particular"

The Cohen-Patchels need rest and quietude this week.  We are asking people not to visit or drop by until further notice.  Probably next week they will start to have a few visitors, but one gift we can all give them at this time is to let them adjust and rest.  Little by little they will be available to us all and things will open up again. 

Both are enjoying the cards that people are sending.  Their address is:  Darlene Cohen and Tony Patchell, POB # 2234 Guerneville CA 95446

With Gratitude for all that people have done and are doing and will do to help and to hold them.


Monday 16 October 2006

Here is the first Darlene and Tony update from Sonoma County. 

Tony and Darlene arrived at home/Zendo early this after noon.  Darlene walked up a flight of stairs with very little help from Tony and me.  We had a quiet afternoon.  I was very relieved to see how well Darlene looks  and concerned as to how tired Tony is. 

We will figure out what is needed tomorrow.  The "Meals On Dharma Wheels" program is beginning to turn starting tomorrow night.  We need a person for this Friday, this Sunday and possibly next Monday. beyond that I will let people know. 

Here is what Tony said when I asked him to say something to you all, "We're home.  D's in good spirits and is resting [comfortably] .  The local Sangha is organized and ready.  We are extremely grateful and relieved to have so much help when we need it. "  

I want to thank the Marvin and Cynthia and countless attendants and visitors for all of the work they did to take care of Darlene and Tony thus far.  Thank you.  We will take good care of them.



Reports While Darlene was still in the hospital


Dear RRZ Sangha and Friends,

Darlene is coming home tomorrow afternoon, most probably.  I will be there all afternoon (Monday) for them as we figure out the scheduling of their needs and sort out the kind and generous offers of support.

Tony asked that we not start our "Meals on Dharma Wheels" as the house has what it needs for him and Darlene is not eating food yet.  He and I will take turns caring for her and doing errands and her physical care while we figure out what is needed for them ongoing.   

BTW:  I asked Tony if they needed a couple of strong people to carry D into the house in a chair and he believes she will walk up the stairs!!!!

Elizabeth Sawyer

Dear Sangha,

Today was a rich one for Darlene. In addition to many friends who stopped by, her family visited: Ethan, his significant other & their adorable 1 year old daughter (for whom Grandma does have a huge soft spot), her brother David and, of course, Tony.  

David, who is undergoing chemo for a lung tumor, and Darlene spoke frankly about his experience with chemo. Darlene found this helpful.  As she learns more about this aspect of her healing process, her personal goal is to be able to maintain strength & stamina throughout her own treatment. 

Darlene clearly felt physically stronger today and more lucid.  And is in remarkably less pain than one would imagine. She is off the morphine & taking a milder pain med (darvocet). 

Tonight after eating a most delicious bowl of “blended soup” (the hospital’s terminology, not mine) and having mint tea, she walked a considerable length of hospital corridor. Twice.  Her fondest hope is that her strength will continue to return at this rapid pace so that she will be able to attend Vajrapani later this month. 

While frustrated by her dressing & not being able to access her usual level of energy, she nonetheless seems calm and whole. In fact, if I were to summarize her mood, I would quote her saying “I feel in tact.”  She feels as though she has been able to fluidly move through the recent events of her life - from getting this news, travel to NY, being with the Empty Hand Sangha, travel to Mt Tremper, have surgery and now be recovering.  It is all of a piece.  Or, as Jane Hirschfield might say, “it all gets swept in.” 

Tony will stay with her at the hospital tonight and there is a good chance they will be able to leave tomorrow. As I mentioned earlier, please do contact Marvin before going there 

Elizabeth Sawyer from back Porch Zendo in Sebastopol will be coordinating care for Darlene when she returns home.  We’ll give you Elizabeth’s contact info when the transition north does indeed occur. 

Finally, Darlene has decorated her room at PCMC with all the cards, flowers, gifts of chocolate that have been sent to her. She rearranges them often so as to receive the benefit of everyone’s deepest & heartfelt intentions.  (A strategy that seems to be working.)

With deep gratitude for our dear friend,

With deep respect for her devoted sangha.

Nine bows to all,

Cynthia Kear

10-14-06 - Dear Sangha,.

Let me preface the update on Darlene by providing a few guidelines that have been suggested:

  1. Please hold this experience in the framework of practice, which it is. 

  2. Honor Darlene's belief in “body-to-body”as a core expression of practice.  Therefore be mindful of too much talking.  If you can sit with her and participate in the “suchness” of this experience, vs. thinking of it as a visit, that will be a more helpful framework for her. 

  3. Darlene and Tony find cancer survival stories confusing and unhelpful.  Despite  good intentions, please know they are not beneficial

  4. As we are not coordinating times when people stop by, if there are a large number of others when you arrive, keep your stay short.

  5. Be mindful you are in a hospital environment: wash your hands before you touch Darlene when you arrive. Pls advise coverage person(s) arriving after you to wash hands.

  6. If you are feeling unwell or have even a slight cough or sneeze, please do not jeopardize her health by visiting.



Her color was very good yesterday morning. She is now able to sip water. Her doctor came by and said the goal for now is to get to the point that she can eat before being released to go home. (Monday at the earliest). When she is released she should recover for at least 1 week before coming back into the city to talk with him about what's next.  

 Her automatic morphine drip has ended. She can self medicate as needed every 10 minutes.

In the afternoon she faced a few challenges. She had an allergic reaction to the tape used in the dressing of her incision and developed uncomfortable welts.  She experienced indigestion and is taking Pepcid.  Her IV had somehow become blocked and her hand and arm were filling up with fluid, and a slight ordeal ensued to resolve that.  Finally, she is starting to feel hungry, but can't eat until her bowels are active again. 

Altogether, it was a very full day, with many visitors and various expressions of support & care.  She says she is “resting in the hammock of our love."


Just spoke with Tony who reports that Darlene's bowels have moved and she is enjoy, with a delight heretofore unimagined, clear broth and cranberry juice.  Eureka!

May all beings be free from pain & suffering,

May all beings be healed, whole & happy.

Palms together, C

Cynthia Kear

10-13-06 report on Darlene Cohen's situation.

RRZ sangha people are meeting at the Russian River Zendo tomorrow at 10 am, (Saturday Oct 14th) to do our usual sitting and with Tony present.  Ken will give a short talk and then we will have tea and find out what is going on from Tony's point of view.  After the discussion, we can begin to coordinate what is needed, who can help and when.  Please feel free to come tomorrow.  Please let me know what you are up for and what your availability is and how to get in touch/phone numbers

Many Blessings

Elizabeth Sawyer

Back Porch Zendo

P.S. The following is the second update from Cynthia Kear:. 

Dear Friends an Sangha members,

Apologies in advance for the length of this email.  Included is an update on Darlene, how to help, visiting Darlene and her addresses.


Darlene had a good sleep last nite and woke with considerable energy. In fact she walked the hospital corridor before Tony arrived.

Her doctor, Dr. Shen, stopped by to say he was pleased with how she felt this morning. He did caution her to not respond it all but rather to be quiet, meditate & rest. He wants her to focus on recuperating.

Her voice is hoarse from the tube they put down her throat during the surgery. As Dr Shen didn't want her to have liquids today, she was dipping a sponge-on-a-stick into the melting ice cubes & watering her mouth that way. She also tried to not talk so as to give her vocal chords a rest (some things are more challenging than others).

Sara Theiss was by this afternoon and reports that Darlene, with nurse approval, took another walk and was fairly animated.  To quote, "Well, it was pretty hard to keep her down this afternoon."

Marvin spent the later afternoon with Darlene.  Susan O'Connel stopped by with drum and bells and, with Marvin's assistance, conducted a wellbeing ceremony which Darlene enjoyed & said brought back memories.

Darlene took a third walk while Marvin was present and said she hoped to take a fourth before bedtime.

When speaking with Darlene earlier in the day, she revealed her indomitable spirit (never far from view) by simply stating, "I can't be stopped."  She was disappointed that Dr Shen didn't want to talk at length with her about the chemo regimen yet as she is eager to schedule her trip to WA, her Vajrapani sesshin, her practice period classes, etc., around her chemo treatments.  Who can take issue with those priorities?

Several beautiful flower arrangements were delivered which Darlene much appreciated and massages gratefully received from Jana & Susan O'Connel

Tony departed for RR at about noon. He is quite exhausted and in addition to the RRZ program & cleaning house (something about lots of dust) needs rest.  He'll return on Sunday.

BTW, both Darlene & Tony are very please with & relieved by the quality of care given at CPMC. 


Darlene has requested that someone be present as her attendant during the hours of 8am to 8pm.  This is to help her with myriad tasks (fetch ice, raise her bed, monitor her cell phone, etc). Marvin is coordinating the master schedule for that so please contact him if you can help.  Darlene will be in the hospital to at least Tuesday and maybe to Thursday.

( / 415-863-4933). He would like to set up 2 hour shifts.


Darlene is happy to have visitors beginning tomorrow (Saturday).  As her energy waxes & wanes, we ask that you be mindful of and sensitive to that dynamic. 


If you would like to send a card, here is the address:

Darlene Cohen, Room 101
California Pacific Medical Center.
3700 California St
San Francisco, CA 94118-1697

In G-Ville (after next Tuesday or Wednesday):
PO Box 2234,
Guerneville, CA 95446.

Wishing our great friend continued strength and healing, wishing all beings peace and ease.

Palms together,


10-12-06 - Report on Darlene Cohen's condition

Tony called at 8:30 tonite saying that the surgery was finished and it was a bad news, good news situation.

The bad news is that the tumor was malignant. The good news is that the surgeon was very direct and emphatic that the cancer is treatable.  The surgeon insisted that we not throw up our hands in despair but keep at fore front that this is TREATABLE and that there are many options. 

Because the surgery was more extensive, Darlene’s hospital stay will be longer: 5 to 7 days.  Then she will go home for a week of recuperation before beginning chemo

Darlene was in the recovery room when Tony called. The surgeon said she was alert and feeling good.  They will probably bring her to her room around 9:30 when Tony will see her

Tony will stay the nite in the city and be back at the hospital tomorrow. He will go to Russian River later Friday for the Saturday RRZ program and return to SF on Saturday or Sunday

Marvin will be coordinating the master schedule for Darlene & visitors.  He is setting up a schedule so that someone will be available to help Darlene (and Tony) for the better part of each day that she is at the hospital.  Marvin will provide regular updates and let people know when Darlene is up for visitors & calls.

Please check with him first before going to the hospital

May Darlene have peace and ease at this time. 

May all of us who love Darlene have peace and ease at this time.

May all beings be free from pain & suffering

Metta, Cynthea

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