The Physical

I have come to the age where a trip to the doctor is accompanied by a ‘punch list.’ I ask about nagging little problems that need attention. Every year the list gets a little longer.

I saw Steve today. He’s my doctor. Today was my annual physical. Steve’s the only friend I get undressed for! Neither he nor I look forward to that.

I have come to the age where a trip to the doctor is accompanied by a ‘punch list.’ I ask about nagging little problems that need attention. Every year the list gets a little longer. I am obviously out of warranty.

My cholesterol is at an all-time low. Thanks Lipitor.

I don’t eat a lot that’s bad for me. I just eat a lot!

My blood work was good. My PSA number has fluctuated over time, but it’s OK.

Recently we’ve been told not to fixate on that potential cancer marker. Fine. One less thing to worry about.

A few years ago Steve looked at something on my skin and said, “It’s not cancerous.” Even when used in a comforting fashion having cancer in a sentence about you is sobering.

He asked about medication I take. I knew some, not others. There are seven unmarked pills on the counter when I get home. I just swallow and move on.

I’ve got to have a colonoscopy sometime soon. This will be my second. I’m in no rush to do it again. It’s not the procedure that bothers me. It’s the prep.

He took my blood pressure and noticed it was high. He told me we’d try again in a few minutes. Does he also retouch X-rays?

As Steve cuffed me to run the test a second time he said, “Relax your arm.” Oops. BP was normal. There’s a reason he’s the doc!

All things considered I’m in good shape for my age. I just wish I wasn’t my age.

Ask Me Anything–Are You Related To Dr. Mel?

Mel tells me Arlene gets upset when people ask–as well she should

I’m currently answering all your questions. Read more about it here.

Here’s a question I get all the time. It comes from Andy. “Geoff…What is your relationship with Mel Goldstein?”

The rumor started a few years ago. People began saying Dr. Mel was my father-in-law! I have no idea how it got started.

Nope. Not true. Dr. Mel and his wife Arlene have two daughters, but they’re married to others.

Mel tells me Arlene gets upset when people ask–as well she should. She’s much too young to be my mother-in-law!

I’ve known Mel since I came to Connecticut. Early on we had a rocky relationship. That’s been behind us for a very long time and we get along famously. Our skill sets are different and each is willing to help the other–and we often do! Dr. Mel even came to the JDRF Gala to present me with my award.

Thirteen years ago Mel was diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer. He never accepted that diagnosis. There is a lot to learn about life from Dr. Mel!

He realized early on he had to be his own advocate to get the treatment he needed. Dr. Mel became an expert in multiple myeloma so he could help guide his own care. When he heard of groundbreaking research at a hospital in Arkansas Dr. Mel called and spoke to the lead researcher. After a lengthy conversation the voice on the other end asked, “Dr. Goldstein, are you a physician?”

Though his cancer is currently responding to treatment it’s an ongoing battle. The disease itself has caused irreparable harm to his spine and back and left him a half foot shorter and in near constant pain.

Instead of kvetching Mel has dedicated himself to helping others with cancer. He’s raised a fortune for research, lectured and personally counseled others often giving hope to those who’ve lost theirs.

When my friend Kevin discovered he had pancreatic cancer Dr. Mel called heavy hitters at home in the middle of the 4th of July weekend. This way Kevin would have the best treatment as soon as possible. I’ll never forget that kindness.

You could do worse than having Mel and Arlene as your in-laws.

Pretend It’s Your IQ

For those who don’t know, an annual physical has a lot of simple tapping, touching and listening and the… well, let’s just say one part of the exam is extremely unpleasant.

The sign on the scale at my doctor’s office says, “Pretend it’s your IQ.” Mazel tov. I’m smarter! The increase in my weight was less than I feared and the only bad news with today’s trip for my annual physical (14 months–but who, except my physician is counting).

These exams started a few years ago for me. Mainly the results are fine. I have the typical changes an aging boy sees. From time-to-time some tests have had to be repeated, but the second result is always within reason and I’m patted on the head and sent on my way.

I asked for a lollipop as I left today. They have none.

A few years ago as my doctor and I were talking about some minor bump he blurted out, “It’s not cancer.”

Until that moment the thought of cancer had never entered my mind–never. Now I can’t not think about it.

For those who don’t know, an annual physical has a lot of simple tapping, touching and listening and the… well, let’s just say one part of the exam is extremely unpleasant. Other than that my blood pressure and lungs seem OK. My legs pop forward when hit with a mallet. I have no unexplained aches and pains.

Actually, there’s still one more piece of this medical puzzle to come. Tomorrow I’ll skip breakfast and head to the lab to get blood drawn. There are vials to be filled so more tests can be taken. I’m confident those will be fine as well.

To paraphrase my doctor I’m in excellent shape for someone of my age. Though, honestly, who wants to be my age?

All The Dirt That’s Fit To Print Or Broadcast Or Browse

If Obama cured cancer, Drudge would find a downside.

As I write this a Chris Shays for Congress ad is on during the Emmys. Even Republicans are running against the Republican Party. Shays is. Everyone’s a rebel.

I’ve read a lot about this presidential race being the meanest, dirtiest ever–and then I’ve read it’s not. Who knows? There’s no shortage of bullshit available on both sides.

This is probably our most partisan election as far as media goes.

There’s Fox–strongly Republican, though publicly in denial. Rupert Murdoch was on Fox last week saying what awful would happen if Obama is elected.

MSNBC has turned sharply Democratic and otherwise left-of-center with Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. It’s a little less comfortable for MSNBC. Unlike Fox, there is an affiliation with a non-partisan news organization (NBC) and no Roger Ailes. They’d do better with a Roger Ailes to run interference.

I am most intrigued with politically slanted coverage on the net. I’ve been a big Drudge reader for years. He is heavily out in support of McCain/Palin. Tonight on Drudge:



If Obama cured cancer, Drudge would find a downside.

Drudge is now balanced by Huffington Post. Wasn’t Arianna Huffington once a conservative? On Huffington McCain can do no right.

Obama: Bailout Plan Must Address “The Crisis On Main Street And Around Kitchen Tables Across America”

Here’s the problem with all this vitriol. Once the election is over there’s going to be a huge segment of our population unhappy and ready to hatchet whomever wins. No matter what the result, this promises to be the most divisive (and derisive) election I can remember.

Best Christmas Gift – Guaranteed

What are you getting for Christmas (or Chanukah)? No matter what it is, I’ll bet I can tell you about someone who getting something better. It’s my friend Kevin.

Kevin was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in early July. It came out of the blue. He has been undergoing vigorous chemotherapy treatment, but this is a terrible cancer – maybe the worst.

The one thing that struck me about Kevin is, he has remained positive. I don’t think I could pull that off. His determination and his spirit have not wavered one iota.

The opening rounds of chemo were ineffective. The cancer continued to spread from his pancreas to his liver.

You’ve got to figure, after two failed chemo formulations things were pretty bleak. After all, the ‘best’ drugs are administered first.

Then on the third go ’round, Kevin wrote…

My Friend Kevin Is Very Sick

I am writing this in early July. When I’m finished composing my thoughts, I will hit the save button, but instead of publishing, this will be a saved draft. If you’re reading this, something tragic has happened in Kevin’s life.

Kevin’s a ham radio buddy, though neither of us are active ham radio operators anymore. I met him around 15 years ago, probably over-the-air first. He and another friend, John, offered to come over and help me erect a wire antenna over my house.

I didn’t know Kevin or John at the time. They offered to slingshot this wire between trees because… well, because they did nice things for people. I grew to better understand that as time went by.

Kevin is in his late 40s. He has four daughters, one still at home and in school, and a granddaughter. He and his wife are the kindest, sweetest people you would ever know.

This isn’t BS. I’m telling the truth – they’re so nice, I can’t think of anyone else even in the ballpark.

Kevin and Melanie are the most religious of my friends. They are observant Mormons. Kevin is an elder at his church&#185. Their religious beliefs are reflected in how their daughters were brought up.

Kevin is my friend who can do everything. Whether it’s physical labor, electronics or computer related, Kevin always has the answer. He doesn’t look like a jock, and I’ve never heard him express any interest in sports (a continuing trend with my friends), but he kayaks and camps and is generally at home in the outdoors.

He would give you the shirt off his back. He would. End of story.

A few months ago Kevin had some back trouble. Who knows why these things happen. He had surgery. Back problems don’t go away all at once, as Kevin found. We really hadn’t discussed the surgery in a while and I assumed he was healing.

Last Thursday I spoke to Kevin, first on Instant Messenger and then on the phone. He was in the hospital.

His symptoms were back pain and nausea. When he went for medical treatment, he was told he needed to be in the hospital right then – they literally walked him over.

Doctors had discovered a blood clot in his pancreas. Blood clots are serious stuff, so he went to have it ‘fixed’.

After we got off the phone, I did what most people do in 2006, I went to the Internet to research his trouble.

Enter “pancreas blood clot” in Google and the first citation’s headline is: “ACS :: How Is Cancer of the Pancreas Diagnosed?”

It had never entered my mind. It had probably never entered Kevin’s either. He’s not even 50. He doesn’t smoke or drink. He’s easy going and non-stressful. He has lived the observant life and, religion aside, he’s still a wonderful person.

I went to visit Kevin on Thursday. He was in a pleasantly bright room with the door open and a curtain giving him a modicum of privacy. He had his laptop and cellphone at the ready. He was lying in bed, over the covers. There was a currently unused ‘port’ for intravenous fluid on his wrist.

If Kevin was sick, I couldn’t see it.

We talked about my Internet project. Kevin was my go-to guy when I ran into problems and he was designing the backend interface to the database.

I told him to forget it. But he said it would be a good way to pass the time.

We spoke again Friday. He was originally supposed to be leaving, but some tests had come back and he had pancreatic cancer. He said it like you might say you had peeling paint at home. He was relaxed… unphased.

From Wikipedia: Patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer typically have a poor prognosis because the cancer usually causes no symptoms early on, leading to metastatic disease at time of diagnosis. Median survival from diagnosis is around 3 to 6 months; 5-year survival is 5%

Kevin came home Saturday evening.

&#185 – I apologize, because I don’t think it’s actually called a church and elder might be an inaccurate term. He is the lay person who runs the services.

Addendum – It is January 24, 2008. While installing new software I found this entry. I treaded lightly when I wrote this. Unfortunately, our worst fears were realized and Kevin died from the cancer on June 1, 2007.

He was everything I said he was and more. He really should still be alive. That would be the fair outcome.

Thrilled It’s an Infection

A few years ago I visited my family physician for something… I can’t even remember what it is now. He’s a great doctor and a good friend. I trust him with my life. Is there any greater endorsement?

After his examination, before anything else, he turned to me and said, “It’s not cancer.”

Cancer had never even entered my mind. This changed things. As of that moment, everything was cancer.

This weekend a pea sized lump formed on my upper gum. It didn’t hurt, it wasn’t bothering anyone. It just didn’t belong there.

I knew in my heart-of-hearts it was an infection – not good, but certainly commonplace. But all I could think of was, “It’s cancer.”

I know, this is ridiculous… and yet there’s nothing I can do. I see my own mortality. I don’t like the idea.

As soon as I woke up Monday I called my periodontist&#185. This morning I went for a visit.

Of course, it was just an infection. Unfortunately, that means I’ll need root canal… and as it turns out, I also have an endodontist. The fun begins early (for me) next Tuesday morning.

In the general scheme of things the prospect of root canal is a relief. Isn’t that a sad state of affairs?

&#185 – If you have a periodontist, life is already cruel. He’s a nice guy, but I’d rather see him socially than dentally.

Party for Dr. Mel

About 7 years ago, one of the people I work with in the Weather Department discovered he had cancer. Dr. Mel Goldstein, known by everyone as Dr. Mel, had multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells. Mel had discovered his disease after back pain from a car accident just wouldn’t go away.

Today, Mel and his wife Arlene threw a party. They have a home right on Long Island Sound just east of New Haven. The weather was perfect, making their view of the Sound even better. Long Island was clearly visible on the horizon.

I remember going to Mel’s home right after he found out what he had. I was with Jeff Bailey, our webguy at the station. We went to install a PC at Mel’s house so he could track the weather from home. We hooked up the computer and a modem and then proceeded to show him how to search using Google. This was a while ago and not nearly as many people were web savvy.

We reached the site of the Multiple Myeloma Society. It was a good first example, because Mel and his wife were desperate for information. We all read along silently, not realizing that the page contained a reference to the average time from discovery to mortality – how long someone normally lived after finding out he had multiple myeloma.

I don’t remember the number, except it was was under 1,000 days.

Obviously, Dr. Mel has outlived those projections. This is not to say the disease hasn’t taken a toll, because it has. Not only has he lived with the specter of death, but also the physical pain caused by the cancer’s effect on his bones.

He has lost 6-7″ in height and walks with a cane. At the station, we’ve installed a ramp to allow him to reach the studio floor easily. At home, a small motorized chair saves him from walking the stairs to the second floor. I know he is in pain each and every day.

Today’s party was to celebrate another milestone in living beyond anyone’s expectations. But this is not a story of luck. He is alive because of his own persistence. Dr. Mel became his own best advocate for care. Though not a medical doctor, he became an expert on multiple myeloma and was able to help his physicians guide his own treatment.

Without dedication, Mel would be dead. If he had given up, gone through the motions with his cancer treatment, he would be dead. But he chose not to die. He chose to aggressively fight.

There is no cure for multiple myeloma right now. There is therapy which is working. How long this fire hose treatment will keep the flames down is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, today was worth celebrating.

Lung Cancer Cure at Yale?

If true, this is one of the biggest news stories of my lifetime! Imagine, a major form of cancer being cured… and right where they diagnosed Steffie’s fractured finger last week, and where she was born, and where my mother’s cancer was cured, and where they botched an operation and cost my dad an eye.

This headline is so amazing that I just stared at it somehow imaging I was misreading, or it would go away, or this was some sort of ratings stunt (newspapers can be just as sleazy as TV stations when it comes to circulation/ratings).

Yale is an elite research institution and if a discovery was going to come from somewhere, you could certainly assume that Yale would be high on the list. And, over the past few months I had heard rumors of pending blockbuster discoveries.

If true, this discovery will change the world. Seriously.

Continue reading “Lung Cancer Cure at Yale?”

Ivy Update

I took Ivy to see the vet this afternoon. Of course, we’re still worried since her hospital stay last month.

We saw Dr. Gustafson, who looks like she received a pass from high school to be there. She was thorough and friendly. Ivy’s breathing has definitely improved with much less congestion noted. The heart murmur is still there, and that’s to be expected of course. She has growths under her chin which will be checked for cancer.

Ivy’s medication will be reduced. One pill will be stopped altogether.

She’s 12 now. This was pretty much as good as the news could be.

Ivy Comes Home

Ivy is home. I picked her up at the vet early this afternoon. But, she is still not well.

Earlier, on the phone, the vet had run down a laundry list of things that were wrong or could be wrong with Ivy. Heart problems, fluid in her lungs, possible emphysema, possible cancer. It’s too much to fathom. Yet watching Ivy in the hospital cage was cruel and unusual punishment for her and us.

She is not panting like she was when we brought her to the emergency clinic last Thursday. Her breathing is still shallow. She’s now taking three sepearate pills a total of 7 times a day. The pills could help.

We continue to hope and pray.