Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Today's thought.  Click to view.  H/T to Diane B for finding it.

This is a day of found treasures. 

Thank you to Mike M and his son and new daughter in law for this:

Falling in love is like owning a dog
an epithalamion by Taylor Mali


First of all, it's a big responsibility,
especially in a city like New York.
So think long and hard before deciding on love.
On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
when you're walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain't no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
Who knows what love could do in its own defense?
On cold winter nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breathes
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.
Love doesn't like being left alone for long.
But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.
Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.
Love makes messes.
Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Sometimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know Don't you ever do that again!
Sometimes love just wants to go for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise.
It runs you around the block and leaves you panting.
It pulls you in several different directions at once,
or winds around and around you
until you're all wound up and can't move.
But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.
Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.

Monday, September 27, 2010

That coat again (for Jay)

Now that I've brought up the memory of the sealskin coat, there's another story that goes along with it. 

My last year in college, my mother got a bee in her bonnet to have the sealskin coat cut down to a more modern style for me.  After some discussion and some convincing, I took it to Dayton's for the alterations.  I made sure to pick out the color of lining that I wanted.  Electric green.  Very fashionable at the time.   So the coat was cut back and I found that I could no longer wear it around campus like a big bear blanket, because it was now stylish and it would have looked way too pretentious. If there was one bugaboo on campus at the time, it was looking pretentious.  The PETA folks had not been invented yet.


There was this large bag of all the fur remains that had been cut from the coat in the alteration phase.  As an inveterate saver, I had stored them in my closet at Kirk Hall and they were just gathering dust.  Then, in the spring of '73, inspiration hit.  What if we took those scraps and lined jock straps with their soft fuzziness?  We could make and give them to our guy friends!  What a great idea! What guy wouldn't want a little extra 'protection' from the cold during those freezing winter months?

I rounded up a group of women friends.  Not to name names, but there was Margaret, Chica, Holly, Susan, and a few others.  We dubbed ourselves the Women's Underground Sewing Society and guerilla group and opened for business.  We must've spent several days sewing the  fur into the jockstraps.  By hand! We even added sew on decals to the fronts of the jockstraps to personalize them.  Then we waited.  Til one night when all of us were gathered together for dinner at the dining commons (otherwise known as Saga) and we made an awards ceremony out of it.  The guys were so touched that, when we had finished dinner, they put their jockstraps on over their pants and boldly strode out of the dining commons in true runway fashion to the delight and bemusement of all in attendance at dinner that night.

Let them try to make a Mastercard memory out of that.

Marion Nellermoe

Marion Holst Nellermoe, seen here at my parents' wedding in Little Falls, MN in 1951 with her husband, Platt, seemed very exotic to me.  What I learned later in life, was that she came by it the hard way.

Marion was the daughter of my grandfather's brother and medical partner, Burton Holst.  Born in 1899, she went to the University of Minnesota, where she pledged Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.  When my grandparents married in 1920, Marion was the maid of honor.  Matt Werner, my grandmother's brother, who I've written about earlier, was the best man and Gaga (what we called my grandmother Regina) tried to fix them up but it didn't work.  Matt was destined for Sheboygan and Marion gravitated to the Twin Cities, where she eventually married Platt Nellermoe (also a Minn grad, member of Beta Theta Pi), who became an executive for one of the big grain companies in Minneapolis,

Marion and Platt did not have children.  They lived in a beautiful house in Wayzata, MN on an outlet of Lake Minnetonka.  The grounds flowed down to the water.  My mother told me that she and Platt planted hundreds of gladiolas every spring and dug them up each fall to protect them from the Minnesota winters.  Because they loved gladiolas.

I'm not sure what comes next.  But at some point in the '50's Platt disappeared. He just up and vanished. No forewarning, no word.  Marion might have already been working at the florist shop at this point, but for sure she was working after he left.  It was a large, successful florist shop and she became a very popular designer.  At some point, she wanted to leave and strike out on her own after Platt disappeared because she needed the money, but she had signed a non compete clause with the owner.  So she opened a shop in Wayzata that sold high end tchotchkes.  She named it Marion Nellermoe.  It was quite successful because Marion had an eye for beauty.  She went all over the world collecting initeresting, graceful things for her store.  Marion went to Japan before it became popular, and brought back screens, fans, porcelain and many other unusual trinkets.  Of course, she travelled to Europe as well, but the Far East was her special love, one she enjoyed regaling us about when she would come to visit during Christmas when we lived in Kentucky.  For by that time, she truly was all alone.  Platt had been found 3 years after he disappeared, in Mexico.  He had an undaignosed brain tumor that had completely altered his personality.  He was brought back to Wayzata and Marion nursed him until he died, but he was an invalid and the end wasn't long.

What I remember most about Marion was how she commanded attention with her upbrushed gleaming white hair and imperious presence.  Her fingers were always festooned with huge rings, many of which she had designed herself.  She had a charm bracelet made of a variety of jeweled hearts that she had found on her travels.  And then there was her needlepoint.  She had designers in New York make up the needlepoint designs to her specifications.  She needlepointed the runner that ran from her basement to the first floor and the rugs that were in front of her fireplaces.  She may have been alone, but she was never lonely or not busy.  Once when I was at Macalester, my mother took me to her house and Marion gifted me with a sealskin fur coat that had been hers back in the '30's.  All big shoulders and hanging straight down, almost to my ankles.  It was huge and so very soft.  I wore it with enthusiasm during the cold Minnesota winters and it kept me toasty warm, especially as I walked a lot since I was living off campus at the time.  Here's a picture of me at Macalester in the coat:

Sadly, Marion developed Alzheimer's and the last years of her life were spent in nursing homes.  She died in 1991 and the Marion Nellermoe shop is no more.  But I did find this label from a sweater she sold on the internet:

She was a character and an independent woman who made something of and for herself when it was very difficult.  I admired her then, but even more so looking back.

Felled by the Flu

With the advent of fall weather, it should not be a surprise, but I was an early victim at the end of last week, and spent the weekend tethered to home.   I had all the usual symptoms, i.e. fever, congestion, cough and runny nose, but when you have lung cancer, the fear is that this will devolve into pneumonia and create major complications.  With all the continued success from the current chemotherapy regime, I'd slipped back into my comfortable belief in my own immortality, but the past few days has shaken it up.

We don't do death very well in our society.  Of course, there are the headline deaths--murders, accidents, natural disasters.  But there is very little said, beyond what you can read in the obituaries of ordinary people about the deaths that occur by aging or gradually through the disease process.  And I think that this failure, if you will, gives us ordinary humans, a skewed weltanschaung or point of view.  Death for us, is an outlier. Unless we're in the medical or related profession, we don't deal with death on a regular basis anymore. And when we do, we treat it, as I have recently, with denial.

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but when my paternal grandmother, Helen, died in 1994, one of the items that was passed down to me was a 5 year diary that she kept  faithfully from 1953-57.   Every day in the five year period was on one page, so she had 4 lines to capture the essence of  each day.  All the pages are completely filled.  I was and am in awe of that sort of dedication.  I have numerous notebooks that have half or less of the pages filled from my diary efforts that petered out along the way.  I have read my grandmother's diary all the way through once and have read parts of it numerous times.  One of the things it conveys is that death was a more constant presence in my grandmother's life then than it is in mine now.  She mentioned visiting terminal friends, deaths  (her father in law, my great grandfather Cullen, died during this time),  funeral home visitations and serving at receptions on a regular basis.  And this was when she was younger than I am today.  Grandmother also wrote about going to the farm and killing, plucking, and preparing chickens for the Sunday night social at church.  So she was aware of death on many levels, levels with which I am not acquainted.  I wonder if her familiarity with death had any effect on her approach to life.

My daughter, the 4th year med student, also has a familiarity with death that I do not possess.  Her current rotation, which ended Friday, was in the Intensive Care Unit at UW hospital.  Her last week there was extremely stressful with 3 patients dying in her last three days.  She didn't tell me much about this (she can't because of privacy concerns), but we did spend some time talking about how these deaths made her feel and what is a comfort to her during these times. She is young and strong, but I could see that these deaths were very, very taxing to her. I wished that I had some words that could have eased her pain, but I realize that this is something that she ultimately will have to come to peace with for herself. 

We fear what we don't know.  And fear can become paralyzing in its power.  Hopefully my bout of flu will continue to fade quickly and without further event.  It has, however, given me the opportunity to stop and reflect and reconsider.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Happy Anniversary

My one year anniversary of my lung cancer diagnosis was Saturday, September 18.  Then it was marked by  the marriage of the daughter of good friends of mine.  This year, September 18, was  the funeral of a long time member of my small church.  He led a quiet life but was remembered with fondness, something that is a worthy aspiration.  I am grateful for the past year for many, many reasons, chief among them the love of my children, my family and my friends.  I am so very fortunate.

I even had a surprise gift to mark the occasion.  This came from friends of mine with whom I share a special bond--Dorothy Dunnett.  I well remember first reading her books back in the 1990's and being completely captivated by her writing, which injected fictional characters into a perfectly realized vision of Scotland during the time of Mary Queen of Scots (The Lymond Chronicles) and then in a later series, the rise of the merchant class during the late middle ages (Niccolo) .  I recommended both of Dunnett's series  to Margaret, a college friend living in Corvallis, and she returned the favor a few years later by introducing me to the yahoo group, marzipan, which discusses the Dunnett oeuvre.  I followed as a lurker for a while, intimidated by the level of analysis demonstrated by  many of the members.

A number of other fora spun off from marzipan, and one them, the open forum, offered a chance to discuss modern day events with folks from around the world. I was not quite so shy in expressing my opinion there.  Sharp differences of opinion, particularly around the Iraq War and the Middle East, made for exciting conversation, and I made fast friends in the marzipan open forum. 

A year and a half ago, I was able to host a dinner for the moderator of the fora, Simon, who hails from England, when he and his significant other were on a tour of the west coast.  It was a wonderful evening of wide ranging discussion, made all the more serendipitous when I discovered, that Amy, who drove up from Portland for the evening, was a Macalester graduate! 

At any rate, my dear Dunnett friends, led by Olive, sent me not one, but two boxes of Leonidas pralines from Belgium (my absolute favorite) and a lovely necklace and earring set (which I promise to model when my daughter can wield the camera next).  Thank you all for a true day brightener, when I needed it most!

And for those who have not read the comments to my previous post, Max came home from surgery on September 18.  He is doing very well, albeit sleepy because of the pain killers I administer to him 3 times a day.  But he is no longer exerting himself  just to breathe normally, and that is such a relief.  I am trying to figure out what he will eat, and so far he has enjoyed ground turkey and rice meatballs and buttered toast (butter being his very favorite food because he can't have chocolate pralines from Leonidas).  Thank you for all your kind prayers and wishes for him. 

I wish that I had something more significant to say as a marker for this milestone, but I don't.  It's been a very intense year and I look forward to what comes next.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Max will have his surgery today

Max goes in at noon today for the operation to improve his breathing.  The surgeon will tie back one of his vocal cords, which will open up his airway and permit him to breathe normally.  There is around a 10% risk that there will be complications, such as the vocal cords will be too soft to tie back, or that he will develop pneumonia as a result of the surgery.    Fingers crossed that he comes through and  can resume a more active lifestyle. 

I've been combing through the family pictures looking for more of Max and I have found very few that really show him--partly because of his dark color but also because of his personality.  He has always been a rather retiring personality, not given much for hogging the limelight.  Max  barks (no longer an option after surgery) to let me know one or both of the dachshunds have taken over his bed and he wants me to shoo them off so he can lie down.   He even gives them first choice on food, if I don't step in and supervise.  

He was the Christmas puppy in 1997, which made it the best Christmas ever for me.  I think I was more excited than the kids were.  Let's hope he has a few more Christmases to share with us.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Medical Student Battles Cancer

I thought this article was so interesting that I wanted to pass it on to you.    Health care reform has made a start, not perfect but it is a beginning, albeit fragile.  We could lose this all with a change in the majorities in our Congress this fall. 

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Holst family

My knowledge of the Holst family--Claude Frederick Holst was my maternal grandfather-- is even more limited.  He died shortly after I was born and I have no independent recollection of him, nor did my grandmother Regina ever tell me many stories, though she spoke of him quite fondly and with great respect.  He was known as Dr. Fred.

What I do have of him comes from a one page autobiography he wrote late in his life.  That, plus some information obtained sleuthing on the internet which is appended below.   The bracketed words are my comments

Claude Frederick Holst Autobiography

"I was born near Red Wing, Minnesota in Goodhue County on February 8, 1874, the third of 9 children.  Father was Henry [Hinrich] Holst and mother was Margaret Damann [or Damman].  Bertha was the eldest then John Burton, Claus Frederick, Margaret, Henry, Clara, Lilian, William and Alwyn.  One child born after Henry died in infancy.

When I was about 41/2 years old the family moved to Mower County where father bought 3/4 section of land.  The nearest town was Dexter, about 5 or 6 miles from the farm.  The chinch bugs were so bad that Father Holst sold the farm after only a few years on the place.  The family then moved and Father bought the first lot in what is now Stevens [County?].  There he built a small hotel which he operated and also 160 homestead and a tree claim of 160 acres (you had to plant trees on it).  I went to the village school through the sixth grade.  John [Burton] and I often went with the threshing machine and cut bands.  We also ran the farm while the folks managed the hotel.  When crops were in we would go back to Stevens to be with the folks.  One year we planted potatoes on July 4th and had a wonderful crop.  In Stevens the folks had a barn and often kept horses for the other people.  Here Father also had a little store and when he sold out he moved his goods to Elkton where he also built another little store.  We only stayed a few years and moved to Claybank and started a store there (I was about 15 years old).  Went to school and finished the 8th grade and then went to business college in Red Wing.  Father was a ticket agent at Claybank so every night I came home on the train (12 miles) and went back again on the morning train. I went there to school for 2 terms (years) and afterwards taught country school 3 miles from home.  I rode to and from school on our horse Mollie.

I taught only 1 term ($50 a month) and went to Boxrud Brothers in Red Wing to work as a bookkeeper for $25 a month as second bookkeeper.  I helped wait on trade when we weren't too busy.  During the summer before teaching I worked for my uncle Jacob Wohlers on a farm near Austin.  They had no children.  Aunt Wohlers was mother's sister.

After leaving Boxrud's (21 yrs old), I went to Hauge Seminary at Red Wing for 2 years until 1897.  In the fall of 1897 I went to the U. of Minnesota Medical School and spent the next 4 years studying.  After graduating in 1901 I went to Hendrix, Minn. for 2 years. It was a Scandinavian community and I did not care for it.  Went to Chicago and did Post Graduate work in eye, ear, nose and throat.  Burton [his older brother] sold out at Lake Benton where he had been for 5 or 6 years and went to Chicago Post Graduate school with me. 

After finishing our course in Chicago we went about the country looking for a location and because of Arloine's (Burton's wife) friendship with Mrs. Herb Snow we decided to locate in Little Falls.  Here we practiced from 1903 until we retired from practice in 1947.

In 1899 Father Holst sold the store in Claybrook, gave up being postmaster and bought another farm at Claybank near Red Wing.  Here he lived until he died about 1924.  Alwyn later sold the farm and Mother went to live in Red Wing.

I belonged to the Upper Mississippi Med., State Med., and American Medical Association[s]."

My grandfather and his Uncle Burton  were friends with a young aviator, Charles Lindbergh, son of the US Representative (R) from their congressional District (now held by Michelle Bachman--the district is rock ribbed Republican).  Lindbergh used to buzz his plane over the clinic and tip his wings so the Drs. Holst would come out and wave at him.  Grandfather was an accomplished sock darner and darned his own socks.  He also played a mean hand of bridge.  The Holst's closest friends were the Mussers, who were associated with Weyerhaeuser in the timber trade.  The Mussers and the Weyerhaeusers had huge mansions next to each other, but Charles Weyerhaeuser moved from Little Falls in 1920 after Weyerhaeuser purchased a huge tract of timberland in Washington state. 

My mother went to the Mussers for piano lessons when they engaged a teacher to come from St. Cloud to teach the girls.  I met one of the Musser girls, Laura Jane Musser, when I was quite young.  She was a formidable woman.

Musser house above, Weyerhaeuser house below

I find it interesting that there is no mention in Dr. Fred's 'autobiography' of his marriage on June 19, 1920, to my Grandmother, Regina.  He was 46 when they married, and she was 24.

Searching the internet revealed that his father, Hinrich  (Henry) Holst (b. July 23, 1842, Ravenehe, Germany, d. Oct. 7, 1925, Belvidere, Goodhue County, MN) came over to America in 1866 on the ship Allemania from Hamburg (depart 14 Apr 1866, arr. NYC 30 Apr 1866).  He was married to Margaretha Damman (29 Nov. 1852-2 Dec. 1932).  Minnesota census shows the following:

Census 1880 Marshall, Mower Co., MN:

Henry Holst,37
Bertha K.,10
Claus F.,6
Henry G.,2
John,2 months

Census 1900 Goodhue, Goodhue, MN:

Henry Holst,57
Fred C.,26
Maggie S.,24
Henry G.,22
Clara A.,18
Lilian M.,14
William F.,12
Alwin R.,2

Interesting to see that the names over the ten year interval have become more Anglicised.  In 1897, Henry Holst and several other parishioners, founded an English language Lutheran church, St. Luke's English Evangelical church.  Henry served as president of  the church and the early services were held in the LK Anderson hall above the post office.  Attendance was about 85.  In 1903 a "neat frame church" was built at the cost of $2,000.  In 1908 a new steeple was erected, housing a 1,000 lb tin copper bell at a cost of $1,000.  At this time attendance at the church was 150.

 Besides his brother Burton, the only sibling I have learned anything about was Alwyn.  This is from the Hamline University (St. Paul, MN) website:

Alwyn R. Holst '20
Inducted 1966. While being a fine all-around athlete in his own right, Alwyn Holst will perhaps be best remembered for the great number of students, many of them athletes, that he encouraged to attend Hamline. Besides lettering in basketball, baseball and track at Hamline, Holst participated in drama, was sports editor of the Oracle and was on the Liner yearbook staff.
Holst pitched semi-pro ball in two minor leagues in Minnesota and was one of the first coaches in the American Legion junior baseball program. He received a doctorate degree in education from New York University. Holst headed Hamline's department of education for four years and served as superintendent in seven Minnesota school districts. He also maintained active membership in thirteen professional and fifteen civic and fraternal organizations. Deceased 1964.

Also found on the web from the U. of Minnesota President's Report, 1944-46:
@ p. 25:
Alwyn R. Holst, assistant professor and head of Center for Continuation Study, effectiveat close of 1944-45, to accept a position at Hamline University, St. Paul.

@ p. 29:
Alwyn R. Holst as assistant professor and head of the Center for Continuation Study.
B.A. 1920, Hamline University; M.A. 1934, University of Minnesota.

My mother told me that her father and Uncle Burton paid for Alwyn's college.  He never married.  Alwyn was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed and was put in charge of the Red Cross there for a period of time.

As mentioned above, the Holsts were devout Lutherans, including Dr. Fred.  It made his marriage to Regina highly unusual for the time, as she was strongly Catholic.  However, they seem not to have let their religious differences interfere with their marriage.  Towards the end of his life, Dr. Fred converted to Catholicism so that Regina would not worry.  Interestingly enough, it was my mother who was the catalyst for his conversion.  She was home from college at some point and asked him why he wasn't a Catholic.  "Well, no one ever asked, me,"  he responded.  Mom said that the bishop himself came to confirm Dr. Fred after he converted.

My grandmother, Regina, and my grandfather, Dr. Fred at my parents' wedding in Little Falls, 1951.

The Werner side of my family

I'm afraid that my father's side of the family has dominated my genealogical discussions so far.  That's because I grew up in Ohio and knew them far more closely than I did my mother's side of the family, which was located in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  But they too have stories to tell, so I'm going to start in the middle, with the wedding of my Great Uncle Matt Werner to Dorothy  Elizbeth Bowler, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin on October 15, 1924.  The reason that I'm going to begin there is because I am so very fond of the wedding photographs that my grandmother Regina had in her possession.  Here they are:

Great Aunt Dorothy wrote to me in 1982 about the folks pictured above.   The adults from left to right.  Henry Schilder, Mary Cannon, Lee Meany (Dorothy said that he was a 'handsome rascal'), A. Matthias Werner, Dorothy Bowler Werner, Marci Etteldorf, Laura Plange (maid of honor), Ed Clemens (Matt's law partner), Josephine Schroeder Edmondson, Dr. Cannon.  The ring bearer was Werner Wolf, and the flower girl was my Aunt Florence.  My mother was just a baby at the time.

Great Uncle Matt, who was an attorney, the editor and publisher of the Sheboygan Press and a Regent of the University of Wisconsin, died in 1977.  Matt and Dorothy had 5 children, but I don't recall meeting them or their 26 grandchildren (!) who would have been nearer my age, except for once.  In 1980, when I was working as Special Assistant to the General Counsel at DoD, I did meet one of the grandsons, Matt III.  Matt III, who was in law school at the time,drove to my apartment in Old Town, Alexandria, VA one snowy winter evening, and introduced himself, pointing out that the high top leather shoes he was wearing, he had inherited from his grandfather. 

In addition to her older brother Matt, my grandmother Regina had two older sisters: Madeline (Magdalen), who married John Knopstein.  Dorothy wrote that she died in childbirth. And Lillian (Margaret Elizabeth), who married Harry Wolf and had, in addition to Werner Wolf, a daughter named Jarlath.

Below is a photograph of the Werner brothers.  The father of  Madeline, Lillian, Matt, and Regina is seated at right.  The brothers are from bottom left to right: Henry and Anton (my great grandfather), and top: Jacob and John Werner.

And here is another, earlier photograph of Anton Werner together with  his wife, Emma Deutsch Werner.  Anton was born in 1860 and died in 1912, while Emma was born in 1870 and lived until 1957.  Both were born in Washington County, Wisconsin.

Anton Werner was named for his father, Anton. The elder Anton was born on March 8, 1835 in Hunsrick, Germany.  His father died before he was born, and his mother, Elizabeth Schoen (April 7, 1808-Nov. 1, 1879), remarried.  The elder Anton's stepfather was Jacob Harwig (March 8, 1811-May 4, 1893) and the Harwigs had three other children, Eva, Simon, and Jacob.  Anton, his mother, and his step family emigrated to America in 1851 and settled in Washington County, Wisconsin. 

The elder Anton Werner married Philomena Diehls who was born March 2, 1839, at Schwalbach near Niesbaden (Wiesbaden?)  in Germany (d. May 24, 1923).  According to my grandmother Regina, her father was a real estate dealer and a farmer in New London, WI.  The internet shows that an Anton Werner also was a proprietor of Eagle Hotel & saloon in Kewaskum (1892), a saloon in New London, Wis. (1897 to 1905), and a  saloon in Appleton, Wis. (1906) (Stubler research).  Both Antons, father and son, died in 1912, the elder dying on February 11, 1912.   Anton, my great grandfather, developed a hernia from lifting heavy boxes and died of complications resulting from its strangulation and cirrhosis of the liver while enroute to the Mayo Clinic for treatment. My grandmother, Regina, the youngest of the four Werner children, told me that her father's death affected her greatly.  She was 16 at the time.

Regina, Lillian, and Madeline Werner

Saturday, September 04, 2010

CT Scan preliminary results look good

a CT scan with left lower lobe lesion (not mine)

My daughter had a day off from her ICU rotation, so she drove with me on Friday to SCCA for my CT scan.  They only did a chest CT and without contrast.  Perhaps that's a sign of progress--that my neck is no longer a cause for concern.

Dr. M, emailed me the preliminary report from the radiologist yesterday afternoon with the comment "good news for your weekend (preliminary)".  I've highlighted what I think are the best parts of the report.  Here it is:


Lungs: An ill defined spiculated lesion is seen in the posterior basal segment of left lower lobe abutting the descending thoracic aorta. It measures 2 x 2 cm on image 3/87, previously measured 2.7 x 1.8 cm on that CT dated October 6, 2009 and 2.8 x 1.8 cm on CT dated
September 16, 2009. 2nd pleural-based ill-defined lesion in the posterior basal segment of left lower lobe measures 10 x 9 mm on image 3/59, previously measured 17 x 11 mm (October 6, 2009) 14 x 12 mm (CT study dated September 16, 2009).
Multiple calcified nodules are present in both lungs. No new pulmonary nodule.

Mediastinum: Multiple small mediastinal lymph nodes, unchanged. Tip of the Port-A-Cath is seen at the cavoatrial junction.

Heart size is normal.

No pericardial or pleural effusions.

Trachea and bronchi are patent.

Included portions of the abdominal reveal diverticuli at the hepatic flexure. Multiple calculi are also present in the gallbladder.

No lytic and blastic osseous lesions.


1. Interval decrease in the size of left lower lobe lesions.

2. No new lesion concerning for disease progression.

3. Cholelithiasis.

No lytic and blastic osseous lesions means it hasn't spread to my bones.  So to begin with there is much happiness and rejoicing around these parts.

However, I continue to be perplexed about how to really understand the CT scans from my non-medical viewpoint. This may be undue worries on my part, but they exist nonetheless.  Let me try to explain.

I've had 7 CT scans and 1 PET scan in the past year.  They are read by radiologists, who are highly skilled and trained to do this.  I look at the scans and see vague shapes and black and white spots.  Radiologists can make sense of the scans--they can pick out what spots are likely cancerous or not.  Another part of radiologists' training includes learning a highly specialized vocabulary that is not in common usage among non-physicians.  The CT scans are read by the doctor who is on duty that day, so the readings may be influenced by radiologist who is doing the reading.

In point of fact, each of my CT scans reads a little bit differently, with respect to who the radiologist is and what the radiologist has selected to view.  The "ill defined spiculated lesion" at the bottom and back of my left lower lung lobe, identified by yesterday's read, was not mentioned whatsoever in my CT scans of 7/15/10; 4/28/10; 2/19/10;  and 12/9/09.  I'm wondering where this tumor went during those times because it is the largest of all the identified tumors in my lungs.  And the 10/6/09 scan was a PET scan not a CT scan, just to clear the record.

I plan to ask Dr. M about this discrepancy when I see him on Tues prior to my next chemotherapy infusion.  I know that my training as a lawyer, where language is honed to a precise level and consistency is drummed into attorneys in training as a virtue, can clash with the complex and sometimes messy nature of human existence and observation.  And, as this CT scan was the first of mine done at SCCA, the radiologist may not have had all the records from Group Health available for the comparison.  All the same I would like to know why the spiky abnormal tissue seen at the bottom rear of my left lower lung seems to have disappeared from view for 4 of my CT scans.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

CT scan tomorrow

My oncologist wants a CT scan after every 2 months of chemo to check on my status.  It's a bit early but the last one was sort of out of sequence, so not to worry.  Right.

My indefatigable daughter got Group Health to pay Seattle Cancer Care to do the CT scan so it will be a new experience for me.  She also has the day off from her new ICU rotation (which she just loves, "Mom, we had a patient code twice today. It was so exciting!"), so she will drive me.  I cherish these times with her.  They won't last for much longer as her rotations are increasingly demanding and she'll be off interviewing for a residency when they aren't.  She's decided to do a joint residency in Internal Medicine/Pediatrics and most of the good programs are back east.  I am preparing myself for that eventuality as well.

The hair on the top of my head continues on stubbornly.  It's become grayer over the last few weeks, and it's not growing very fast but there you are.  However, I am losing my eyebrows and eyelashes and that hurts.  Never wore lipstick but I really enjoyed mascara.  After all, when I was young, Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy were the fashion idols of the time.

My present life consists at some level of a peeling back of layers, discovering what is truly not necessary--aspects of myself that I had taken for granted and unthinkingly counted on for the whole of my adult life. 

There are grades of vanity, there are only grades of ability in concealing it.

--William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Richard the Second (York at II, i)

Fingers crossed as I go into the void tomorrow.  Some canine humor to help the journey.

Christopher Hitchens joins my brigade

I was a fan of Christopher Hitchens then fell out with him at the time of the Iraq War.  Despite my estrangement with Hitchens over that seminal issue, I have always recognized that he has mastery over writing, one that I admire and envy.  He's written about his experience with esophageal cancer in this month's issue of Vanity Fair.  I recommend it to you--it's non sentimental and again, very well written.  I've linked it on the title of this post--so you can click and read. 

Coupled with the article on Sarah Palin, the September issue of VF is must read journalism.  Which leads me to a question:  why are society magazines such as VF or Rolling Stone doing all the good, investigative journalism these days?  Neither the 'news magazines' nor the  newspapers seem to be publishing any stories or editorials of any consequence.