Folks, the link below is to an article in the NYTimes today about a cancer conference taking place in Chicago that is touting the importance of the immune system in fighting cancer and some breakthroughs that are happening. This appears to give strong credence to the statement that the immune system can play an important role in fighting cancer. This is what I have been doing for the last 32 months.

A LITTLE BACKGROUND: I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer on September 20, 2010 in Chicago. The very next day, at an appointment with a Chicago oncologist, the doctor told me that if I didn’t start his suggested cocktail of chemo drugs that day, I would be dead by Christmas. Well, it’s June 2013, and I am writing this, not some impersonator.

I got a second opinion from MDAnderson, a cancer center of excellence in Houston shortly thereafter. MDAnderson was not as adamant about the speed for starting the chemo as they were certain that neither surgery nor radiation would help me. Chemo would extend my life perhaps a couple of months or so.

Over the course of the next few weeks or so, Patti and I met with five oncologists. We were living in Dallas by then (having left Chicago behind to be closer to family). Every oncologist recommended chemo, but every one differed on what the chemo drugs should be used. Gemzar was somewhat universal.

My brother-in-law, Bill, suggested that I meet with a holistic practitioner to supplement whatever decision I made about pursuing chemo. Bill was fighting melanoma, using Julia, the holistic practitioner, to supplement his periodic visits to MDAnderson to monitor his fight. Julia said to me after a few initial visits: “If you are so committed to going the chemo route, can you at least give me three months to build up your immune system before you start the process of introducing chemo poisons to your system?” As a holistic provider, Julia was certainly no fan of chemo drugs.

Something about what she asked and the following conversations just made sense to me. I put off the chemo and began pursuing the building up of my immune system and following my faith. This involved quite a variety of vitamin and nutritional supplements, changing nutritional habits (swearing off red meat and carbonated beverages), experiencing a variety of light therapies designed to disrupt cancer cell duplication. Sometimes this meant 4-5 trips to visit Julia a week, some visits lasting from 30 minutes to a few hours. And, absolutely none of this was covered by any insurance.

But, Patti and I were fortunate to have enough to pay for these treatments. We are blessed.

THIS ARTICLE TODAY: At the conference in Chicago, various doctors and researchers are saying that it could be the immune system is more important than originally thought in fighting carcinogenic cell reproduction in the body. Of course, the article mentions that a few of the most powerful drug companies are working on clinical trials with a variety of immuno-related drugs that could replace chemo drugs. One researcher even went so far to mention that immune-related therapies could even replace chemo — certainly not without major pharmaceutical help.

When I read this article, I was near tears. When I was going through the immune build-up with Julia, it just seemed obscene that I could not get any of her treatments approved by insurance. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is a role for the drug companies, but there are roles for a variety of different approaches. I am just ecstatic that these clinical trials, while self-promoting drug company solutions, may soon find a place nestled comfortably among cancer-ridding solutions. Thank you, Lord!

I am also including here some links to some other recent articles about this latest development,

If you read the NYTimes article below, be sure to read the comments about “cancer tails.” God bless you all and your families

Promising New Cancer Drugs Empower the Body’s Own Defense System


The drugs work by unleashing the immune system to attack cancer cells, much as it attacks bacteria or other foreign invaders in the human body

Related articles

A year ago today, I learned from my Chicago doctor that I had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. As Patti and I were sitting in an examining room, the last question I asked him before we left his office was: ‘Is this fatal?”

He got a blank look,  like maybe I just was not comprehending what he was telling me. Then, he said, “Yes.”

In my BC (before cancer) life, I then did what I would always do. I went back to work. The diagnosis had not settled in. There are times even today when I wonder whether the implications of that conversation a year ago have sunk in today.

Then, I think about it a bit more and realize that, yes, it has sunk in, and, yes, I would like to think that I am a different person today than the one that sat in Dr. MacCreary’s office a year ago today.

On that day a year ago, I went back to work. Today, I no longer work and am retired. I don’t have the work stressors that I had a year ago.

A year ago, Patti and I were adjusting to the “empty nest” on the 48th floor of a downtown Chicago apartment with gorgeous views of Lake Michigan, the Hancock Tower, the Navy Pier and downtown Chicago. It was beautiful. Today, we live in a small ranchhouse on the ground with excellent views of the rear ends of horses.

A year ago, my personal behavior was pretty staid — somewhat introverted guy who would rarely talk to the next passenger on the airplane. Today, I have nothing to hide or to pretend to be. I talk with anyone on a plane. And, when I was recently visiting MDAnderson for a followup cancer visit, I sat in a waiting room for my next appointment. While sitting there, I noticed that a woman across the room from me had an iPad just like mine. I got up, walked over to her and said, “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours.” Patti was aghast, but I WAS talking about the iPad, thankyouverymuch!

A year ago, I took my family for granted. Family things worked around my work schedule. Today, family has new meaning for me. I just got back from Austin, where Patti and I helped our daughter move into a new apartment. While the stress of moving may not have been so much fun for Casey, it was just great being around her, even if we were working.

A year ago, it took me forever to read a book because I edited and rewrote sections of books from authors. Today, I go through a book for pleasure. Plus, after all these years of editing other people’s’ work, I have decided to write my own. I am well under way into writing a novel that has been moving around inside my brain for the last two decades. It’s finally coming out on paper and I’m loving every complete minute of it.

A year ago, I flossed a lot. Today, not as much as I should.

A year ago, my father-in-law, Andy, and I were diagnosed with cancer on the same day. Andy is 85 and has esophageal cancer, for which he has undergone radiation and chemotherapy. The chemo nearly killed him, but he’s a resilient and tenacious New Englander who looks like Burgess Meredith in “Rocky.” He’s bouncing back and I am so proud of every step he takes. So far, I haven’t had any radiation or chemo. I continue with the homeopathic journey, which, for me, has worked, Lord willing.

A year ago, a doctor in Chicago told me that if I didn’t start taking his chemo immediately, I wouldn’t be with my family past Christmas. Well, we had a great Christmas, thankyouverymuch. Also, I managed to celebrate two of my children’s birthdays, Patti’s birthday, our anniversary and my birthday this year, so far. Now, every day I get to spend with them is a celebration. Every moment is filled with laughter. We know the stakes.

A year ago, neither Patti nor I would make many plans beyond a week or two. Today, I signed up for a year’s membership in a fitness club to pay more attention to my health. Patti and I are doing this together because we both need to take better care of ourselves.

A year ago, it appeared the future had a pretty wide and far-reaching horizon. While I was working, we talked of retiring on a golf course somewhere. We talked of traveling to Venice.  We talked of vacations on the Outer Banks. Today, I believe the future still has a pretty wide and far-reaching horizon. I just believe that today I don’t need the house on the golf course. If we get to Venice, great. If not, Patti and I can see some pretty remarkable sunsets and beauty right out our window here in Texas. As for vacations, every day I get to spend with Patti is an endless summer of vacations. I don’t need a special destination except to know that we are waking up together, facing each day in whatever it brings, smiling all along the way, and realizing that tomorrow just holds more in store of what we celebrated today.

Yep, it’s a “different” anniversary, and I just hope to have many, many more.

Friday, we had a visit from an air conditioning repairman. His name was Dan Thomas. Since he was younger than me (no gray hair) I resisted the urge to ask him if he was related to Marlo.

Dan did an assessment of our AC needs and then he, Patti and I sat down at the table for him to let us know what needed to be done and what the tab would run us.

When I meet with people like Dan who have very specialized talents, I will ask questions like the following: What is the most unusual service call you’ve made? Have you done work for any celebrities? Part of this is to get to know the person a little better, but over the years, I have found these folks have great stories to tell.

Recently, Patti and I were interviewing movers in Austin in preparation for our move from Austin to Chicago a year ago March. One mover we interviewed told us that he had moved Sandra Bullock’s stuff once. He said that she was very active in the move, took charge herself and did not pass the effort off to an underling. The mover said that she was very nice to them, brought them great food during the breaks, was very personable to them and paid attention to the entire effort from start to finish. He said the crew was impressed and amazed at how much attention she gave them on the move.

So, Patti and I hear stories like this often.

Dan’s story was a little different. He told us about some of his interesting assignments, and, as evidence, he recalled a service call he made in San Angelo, Texas before he moved to Dallas.

Dan got a call to go to a doctor’s house to find out why the AC was not working. When he got to the house, the doctor met him. Dan introduced himself. The doctor said his name was Dr. Alan Whozits.

As the doctor showed him around the AC compressor and other pieces of the AC machinery, Dan said, “Alan, what about …?

Before he could finish, as Dan recalls, the doctor said, “Dan, please call me DOCTOR Alan. I’ve gone through all the education, I’ve worked on hundreds if not thousands of patients and I deserve the ‘doctor’ designation.”

He didn’t skip a beat: “Well, DOCTOR Alan, you can call me DOCTOR Dan because I’m the guy who has had countless calls fixing air conditioners just like yours. And I’m the guy who’s gonna fix yours.”

Dan said that after that day, Alan always used him for his work and they became good friends. Dan didn’t say whether Alan was his doctor there.

As Dan was telling this story, I just smiled and smiled.

See, we don’t need Robin Williams or the Saturday Night Live crew for our humor, it comes to us from all sources, many times our spouses, our kids, pets, relatives and friends. But the bottom line, if it helps us to laugh, it helps to live life to its fullest.

Thank you, Dan!

The iPod family with, from the left to the rig...

Image via Wikipedia

About seven years ago, as a Christmas present, Patti gave me an iPod.  Back then, there was only one kind. During the holiday period, whenever I could squirrel away some time, I would take our CD collection and move it to the iPod. I believe I put just about all our CDs on the little device that holiday.

Since then, as a music junkie, whenever we would buy CDs, or I would buy tunes from iTunes, I would organize the content through the Music Library and keep the tunes on the iPod. After some years of owning this, Patti gave us (really me) a Bose deck to use to play the iPod throughout the house. Love the Bose deck.

A few months ago, when I was working in Chicago, I came to really rely on the iPod. I would wear it when I took the dog for its walks, commuting by foot or bus to work and back, or just wandering through downtown or in the various parks we would visit on weekends. In working in a number of cities over my career, never have I seen such people addicted to the iPod than when we were in Chicago. I understand, really; it’s a city of commuters who walk, ride the bus, or take the trains or El to and from work.

As a result, and trying to keep track of our evolution as a culture, I think the iPod could serve another very important use — a recruitment tool. Maybe it already is and no one sent me the memo.

In the periodic role of a hiring manager that I have had the pleasure to enjoy, I thoroughly enjoy meeting candidates and discussing their resumes and qualifications for a particular job. Listening to others and their work experiences, and of perhaps shared acquaintances, etc., has been very rewarding. Occasionally, at times, hiring decisions have been hard because more than one candidate was ably suitable for the job. While I have never resorted to the “eenie, meenie, minie, moe” of some decision-making, it has been tempting at times.

So much of hiring today is going beyond just qualifications and experience. It is one of fit. Will the individual work well and thrive in our particular working culture? Will others who will work with this individual believe he/she is suited for the culture? Will the individual be able to hit the ground running in our culture, or is he/she  more comfortable in a culture that is different from ours? These are typical questions I have heard, not recently though.

Well, I think if I were hiring today and looking at more than one suitable candidate, I would ask each of the candidates for their iPods.  You see, I think the music that a person listens to says a lot about who they are, what their interests are and what they use for inspiration.

And, of course, I would need to take my copy of Abbott & Costello‘s “Who’s on First” routine or Howard Stern ramblings off my iPod if I even hoped to be taken seriously. I’m just sayin’.

Ernestine is a close friend who has lived in Chicago for many years. With all the cold weather that Chicago has experienced this past week (we’ve seen the TV images of cars stalled on the major thoroughfare, Lake Shore Drive) and the blizzard-like conditions that have stalled the city for several days, it is refreshing to see the beauty that accompanies the cold.

These views are from Ernestine’s condo, which has a beautiful location in Chicago. She is diagonal to the Drake Hotel, on Lake Shore Drive, looking east over the city’s North Beach and Lake Michigan.

As she says, the ice had to be really smooth to get the mirror-like images of the lake and sky. For a lake as large as Lake Michigan, and for the water to be frozen so smoothly, it truly is amazing.

Thank you, Ernestine, for these wonderful pictures.


Hard to tell where the land/lake end and the sky begins












View of North Beach, Lake Michigan's smooth ice and the mirror-like reflection in the sky