Today’s my little brother Henry’s birthday – Happy Birthday Hank!  Henry lives in Atlanta, and I kept thinking about all my friends and family there, and in Nashville and Memphis having to deal with the rains and flooding.  I hope you are all OK.  Bill Schaffner is certainly right that when the Weather Channel is broadcasting live from your city, it was time to leave 24 hours ago.

Status: 9.0/10.   And the Scottish poet laureate Bobby Burns was right (somehow he got hooked up with Murphy).  After deciding to give me platelets early yesterday in order not to keep me up all night with vital signs, they ordered blood transfusions late last night.  So, yep, didn’t get a decent night’s sleep.  We’ll try again tonight.  [Best corollary to Murphy’s Law: Murphy’s Law wasn’t named for Murphy, but for someone else with the same name.]

Events:  A relatively quiet day.  Walked downstairs with Lisa to the beautiful first-floor lobby, a sun-lit, 3-story expanse with Steuben glass-filled display cases and a grand piano.  A sign atop the piano invites anyone who wishes to play (softly).  I sat down and played a little Liszt for Lisa.  Walking out, a visitor said how much he had enjoyed it – a nice lift.

   Visited the salon and got a haircut.  Hadn’t had one in about 5 weeks (been a little busy) so now it’s much easier to deal with.  Soon I’ll go down there to get about the shortest buzz cut there is.  As I told my 11-year-old Ethan, it’ll grow back.

Comments: Dr. Bill Schaffner of the Nashville Noahs was one of the most influential people in my life, a gifted physician, mentor, health communicator, and friend.  Bill led me to the Epidemic Intelligence Service and then on to fame and fortune – well, forget the fortune part, I guess if I wanted that I would have gone the music route in Nashville.

   While getting my haircut, I, of course, thought about my soon-to-be next visit down there – a haircut with the trimmer set to “full.”  The issue for most people I would think (perhaps women more than men) is the sudden shock to their long-established body image.  For me, and I think for most others as well, it’s also the indelible branding – the mark of Cain.  That you are observably different – apart.  Especially jarring when you are actually feeling physically well at the time.  When I was walking with Lisa I was wearing a shirt, slacks, and loafers.  If it weren’t for a surgical mask and toting an IV pole, I would’ve looked like any other contestant on American Idol.  Shave your head, and you’re in a special group. [Note to my cousins and friends with their Telly Savalas-like handsome pates – we’ve had a chance to get use to you over the years.]

   Tomorrow (Day 14) I have a bone marrow biopsy scheduled.  They hope not to see any leukemic cells, and that will be the first sign of a good chance of remission (a confirmatory bone marrow to nail that down is scheduled for several weeks thereafter).  Now, I should clarify that oncologists talk in an optimistic vocabulary, which can be confusing to mere mortals, but a glass half-full outlook is one that can be understood when thinking about the diseases they have to face.

  When they say “complete remission” they don’t mean cure.  They mean that the grossly observable disease has remitted, in the sense of the Latin root of “remit” meaning “to send back.”  In other words, to put you back where you were before your leukemia exploded, but when you obviously began with some leukemic cells in your marrow.  If the confirmation bone marrow again shows no cells, then your remission is “complete.”  The analogy they use here is, “We take you from a gallon of leukemic cells to a teaspoon.”  And you get to go home feeling better than you did when you walked in.

   At that point you have options, which depend on more factors than you can almost deal with, especially at this stage.  You can have what’s sort of standard practice in the business, another round of chemotherapy, called “consolidation”, which takes you from a teaspoon to virtually none, then going on to transplant – the potential cure, or go right to transplant, or all sorts of choices in between.  But that all depends if this round has been successful, which we’ll have a hint at in a few days when they exam the marrow.  But right now, one day at a time.

 I hope your day today was good one.




10 Responses to “”

  1. Bill Israel Says:

    Dear Bruce:

    I continue to marvel at how well you’re doing, how much your good humor and the love of family and friends sustain you — and how much fun you are to read, even when you’re not feeling great. I learn more each time I read your blog. You’re a wonderful example for the rest of us mortals — and I think you should consider saving the blog, or publishing it, as an educational measure, for others going through the same thing — or looking ahead to it. You’ve probably already thought of that. In any event, you really are an inspiration.

    Very best wishes, from Eileen and me —


  2. joel steinberg Says:

    We can relate to the haircut. Margaret’s hair started to fall out on Thursday, so I gave her the buzz-cut yesterday. She isn’t upset about it. It seems to me that you will be going for a marrow transplant if a matching donor can be found. I truly hope so. For now, just recover from this round and gather your strength. Joel S.

  3. Patti (Dietz) Davis Says:

    Two words, dear doctor:

    Medical marijuana.

    You’d move the AMA forward about 20 zillion light years!

    Keep up the faith, sir!

    Kind regards. Patti

  4. Tom Toftey Says:

    Okay…it’s taken me awhile to get caught up on your blog. Last week, I made the drive to Minnesota’s North Shore Drive to visit my mother — now 101 years old — in my hometown, Grand Marais. This week, we’re visiting Jane’s brother and his wife on Hilton Head.

    So, Bruce, thanks for sharing your progress. You know we’re pulling for you big time.

    I absolutely loved your Dr. Art Ulene signature story! I can just see you forging his name.

    All the best,

  5. Judy Freedman Says:

    I applaud your AMAZING courage and your extraordinary way of sharing and describing your challenging journey. Your ability to find and express humor continues to makes me smile 🙂 I have really enjoyed your memories and stories about your time in Chicago. I recall that you were the only M.D who reported medical news on local TV. Wasn’t the medical reporter on NBC a dentist???
    E-hugs to you and Lisa…

  6. wendy Says:

    to all—-so my suggestion is that we all sing ” gonna wash that cancer right out of his blood and send it on it’s way” Here’s to NO cancer tomorrow.. !!! that’s my prayers…not even a teaspoon… love wendy

  7. Joe Robertson Says:

    Bruce, we are all hoping that this round was successful! And as for the cue-ball look, I find I really enjoy it myself (even if my wife doesn’t appreciate it as much as I do). Of course, it is a lot better to have a clean pate by choice than out of necessity, but I have always believed in looking for the good in any situation. Your blog posts show that you do, too.

    Anyway, I raise a toast to you, your Liszt, your look and your Lisa. Keep your spirits up!!


  8. Kathy Says:

    Bruce –
    Your blog continues to be fascinating and entertaining. I have it on my “favorites” bar so I can get right to it each morning.
    Our very strongest wishes for a complete remission, with a good early indicator of that tomorrow.
    We will be on the Gulf of Mexico next week, becoming certified as Basic Cruisers on a 39 foot sailboat. We will be out of touch but thinking of you, so please, God, let Bruce get on the right track before we go!
    Lots of love and healing thoughts.
    Kathy & Joe

  9. Laurie Samuels Says:


    Glad you found the way to the barber and stumbled onto a piano along the way! I so enjoy reading your blog and learning so much. Thanks for all the insight… Harry and I continue to keep you, Lisa, and the kids in our thoughts and prayers.
    Hope today is a good day, and for heaven’s sake a good night…


  10. Ann Bradley Says:

    Hi, Bruce.

    Deep thanks for keeping the rest of us informed and present in this fight. I have learned much from you over the years but this crash course in courage is the most profound lesson yet.

    As something of an expert myself in the one-day-at-a-time business, I can attest to the truth in some of those silly slogans. As my Atlanta friend Maxie Wells said wisely–I think while I, in an alcoholic stupor, was dating an aspiring axe murderer–“there usually is a reason that a cliche becomes one.” So: Keep it simple, change only the things you can, and let us help as we can.

    Love back,

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