Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Webinar tomorrow on Exercising with Multiple Myeloma

Follow this link to register for an hour long webinar tomorrow Sept 13 at noon west coast time/3 eastern. The topic is:

Exercising with multiple myeloma.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Tom Brokaw's Myeloma Journey

Brief, good read...


Thursday, August 31, 2017

56 Yikes

I'd like to think there is an old fable about an old man who is constantly trying to push a large rock up a hill. Every day he is struggles and pushes and each day he gets little a closer to the top. Eventually he reaches the top where other folks are just hanging out. Someone says he had been watching the old man push rock for weeks and he asks why he kept at it. The old man draws a blank and shrugs his shoulders.

See where I'm going with this? I'm not sure this fable exists, but it's kind of a decent metaphor for where I am at currently. I'm nearing the end of week 5 of retirement. It's great. While my job wasn't hugely stressful, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I'm relaxed and more energetic. Having my myeloma at a great place I'm sure helps. I'm keeping pretty busy. Volunteering on Mondays at the LLS. I was in Chicago to talk myeloma and darzalex. I go to Philadelphia next month for more myeloma stuff.

What has surprised me is the serious decompression, both physical and mental, that hit me. As I've told people, I think over the last 6 years I was running on adrenalin. Keeping up with my health, kicking ass at work, maintaining relationships and so on. I was so focused on these things that perhaps I lost sight of me and who I am and what I'm about. This is a possibility. So much of myeloma is mental, focused on staying strong and perhaps forgetting about life before myeloma. I'm working to remember. Also with the decompression is the desire to do nothing serious. I want to keep everything light.

I visited my old office for the first time the other day, albeit to pick the order for our fantasy football draft. For the first time, I got the number one pick. It was my job to go home and update the yahoo app with the new draft order. Who forgot to do it? Me. I tried about 45 minutes before the draft but yahoo had cut off any changes. I screwed myself and others with that one. It's not a serious league but I feel bad for forgetting. And this brings me to my next point. I'm starting to think chemobrain is kicking in. Six plus years of non stop chemo might be impacting my synapses. I forget things, am absent minded and am finding if I read something once, with something as simple as a tv show description, that my brain often inserts a word that isn't there. I have to double and triple check. I'm half way wondering if there are brain tests. It wasn't bad visiting the office. Seemed the same. Quieter with me gone. But people in cubes, in front of computers. It was only 5 weeks ago that I was doing that. Not judgment here, just observational.

Yesterday I went to downtown LA to have lunch with a couple of attorney friends I worked with. We went to the Arts District downtown and ate at a restaurant in an old converted warehouse. Super cool. I walked around the area a little bit but it was hot as fuck, so I didn't get too far. I did see some chickens though. I do need to go back with Leslie and get my Mom down here from Berkeley to take her to the area.

In October I turn 56. Yikes. I'm closer to 60 than I am 50. How'd that happen? Considering that making it to 50 was iffy, this is a pretty good accomplishment. How to celebrate, how to celebrate.

Lastly I follow a group called Growing Bolder on facebook. It's inspiring stories about older folks accomplishing cool things. Today I read about a guy who was a long jumper in college. Now as he nears 60 he is in masters track and field and is again long jumping. Very cool. hmmm.

I'll close with some pictures from the past couple of weeks.
Flying home from Chicago to John Wayne Airport

The bean in Chicago. It's even more impressive in person.

Getting ready to talk myeloma and darzalex.

Took a Chicago bike to check out Wrigley Field.

All that's left from a Chicago deep dish Za.

Summer in the LBC with Leslie.

The shoes I ceremoniously left at my desk on my last day. Everyone was afraid to touch them.

FF draft order with me at number 1. Brain fart. 

Gracie kicking it. 


Lights with assorted underwears.

Honest Abe and I forgot the old time broadcaster outside WGN Radio in Chicago.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The long and the short of it

While in college I went over a year without having to wear long pants. All shorts all the time. I'm definitely not a fan of long pants (or ties). Since retiring about 3 weeks ago, I've gone the whole time in shorts. That alone makes retirement worth it. I do still need to add to my Hawaiian shirt collection. There's a place here in Long Beach that is always selling second hand shirts for ten bucks. Leslie and I have been meaning to get some.

This week coming up I am off to Chicago for a couple of days to sit on a panel to talk about the patience experience taking darzalex. Should be fun. The only downside is that it is business casual, meaning I have to break out the work slacks and a long sleeve shirt (also known as a full hands shirt per my buddy Shashank).

Week 3 was pretty nice. Where I did think about work a bit weeks 1 and 2. There was none of that week 3. Of course I was bit occupied. Monday was another MOHS surgery on my forehead. This one was a bit deeper and longer and was pretty darn painful Monday night. Friday was my monthly chemo. 5 hours no problem. Snoozed almost the whole time.

Still pondering what is next for me. I've got time to figure it out.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Complete Remission

Dr B made the call the other day. No sign of myeloma in my blood or urine. He'd like to do a bone marrow biopsy to confirm. In the past he has poo pooed bone marrow biopsies as not telling us much. When diagnosed I had 80% plasma cells in my bone marrow. It would be interesting to see what it is now. I see Phan this week, so let's see what he has to say.

And what does complete remission really mean? I will keep doing my monthly darzalex and 21 days of pomalyst. No change there. But it means I am doing pretty darn good. It's funny that I hit this point two weeks after retiring. I retired to take care of my health and enjoy life while I feel good. But it did cross my mind that perhaps I could have worked longer. But I was done. All my energy went to work and not towards embracing life. I will say that two weeks of retirement and now the no visible signs of myeloma have led to some mental challenges and self evaluation. It's probably time to see the therapist to discuss.

I do feel great. I went on a short hike today and I am definitely not in the shape I was just a few short months ago. Still need to drop some pounds. Tomorrow I get my forehead stitches out, but I have another spot of my forehead that requires the MOHS procedure*. We'll have that done tomorrow as well.  Friday is chemo. Next week I go to Chicago for a couple of days to sit on a panel discussing the patient experience with darzalex.

* MOHS Procedure

Friday, August 4, 2017

Week One in the Books. Success

One week of retirement down, more to come. Monday was a mental challenge. It hit me that since being diagnosed this is truly my first real down time where I can process what cancer means to me and my life and what happens in the future. For six plus years, I've been hustling and busting my ass to keep things going. Now I can slow it down and check out life. It's an awesome and exciting and interesting and scary time. It could be a mid life crisis combined with a welcome to the world.

Sunday we celebrated at Hamburger Marys, a brunch/drag show here in Long Beach. Monday I spent a few hours at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, helping with their First Connection Program, which matches newly diagnosed patients with experienced patients. Tuesday I did my monthly myeloma labs in preparation for two doctor appointments next week; Berenson and my kidney doctor. Wednesday I kicked it at home and squeezed in a couple of naps, then went to a friends to swim and test out a retirement beer mug. We had three Matts in planning at the port and I was M1, which absolutely only represents that I was the first Matt there. Thursday I had another squamous cell carcinoma removed from my forehead. It's a non problematic skin cancer resulting from my lowered immune system and damage done as a youngster. Amazing how much of our younger days come back to haunt us later in life. It hurt like shit overnight, so tonight I rest and take care of some personal business. Oh then there's the bruised hamstring.

And that's the summary.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

All Done

That's it. All done. The counter reached zero. I'm retired. Today I'm working on my social security disability (SSDI) application. That is step 2. Step 1 was retirement. Multiple Myeloma is an automatic qualifier for SSDI. Nonetheless the on line application sure does ask for a lot of information.

My last days at work were good. I wrapped up what I could wrap up. I said goodbye to people, although I worry I missed a few folks. I'm thinking perhaps there is some kind of thank you that I can leave in the lobby of our..check that.. my old building.

Yesterday rummaging through a pile shoes for my last day, I somehow tweaked my left hamstring. The darn thing felt like it snapped and almost took me down to my knees. Feeling a bit better today. Of course, my first thought was that it figures as soon as I retire to maximize feeling good that my body starts to give out. Oddly the day before while sitting at my...old..desk my work id/lanyard broke. Curious timing.

It hit me last night and continues to hit me today that I'm done. Very odd feeling.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

1 Week, 5 days, 44 hours

This is it. Basically I'm done already . This week will be lunches, saying thanks to lots of people, continuing to leave files in an orderly fashion and on Thursday something is planned for me. Last week it hit me that I'm leaving and some emotions started to peculate up.

Early on in this cancer journey, battle, challenge, scare, what have you, I tried to keep going to work just to have a slice of normalcy and to not think about cancer. There were weeks where I'd be lucky to work 10 hours and that was a struggle. I've been back to full time for probably 3 years. It's time to hang it up. Right now my energy goes towards work and I need to redirect it towards myself. It'll be interesting and great. High 5!!!!!!!!

Friday, July 14, 2017

10 working days and it's gotta be Fran Tarkenton

The Vikings played and won their first game ever on September 17, 1961. This is 3 short weeks before I was born, hence the lifelong connection and love of the Vikings. They were led by Fran Tarkenton, one of the all time great quarterbacks.

I'm definitely winding down at work. Deleting files, organizing, transferring information, going to lunch, etc, etc. It's getting very real. It's a strange feeling, but it's the right thing. I can say myeloma-wise and energy-wise, I feel better already knowing that I'm going to be able to focus on health, fitness and enjoying life. I'm becoming a gooey blob, losing muscle mass and barely able to get more than 3 inches off the ground when I try to jump into the air. I've decided one of my retirement goals is to improve my vertical leap. As a youngster and at 5 foot 10 inches I was able to touch the rim on a 10 foot high basketball hoop. A big deal for a non athletic jewish kid. I doubt that can be replicated, but it is humbling when I leap now that I am barely able to create a gap between my feet and the ground.  So I'll strengthen the legs and drop some pounds and see how I much I can improve. I'm guessing the 6 years of dex is playing a role in losing muscle mass and gaining fat mass. Well, the dex and the ice cream.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017


13 working days.

- 13 is when a Jewish youth becomes an adult. I never had a Bar Mitzvah, which might explain some things.
- Apollo 13
- Dan Marino
- Baker's Dozen
- Wilt Chamberlain

Friday, July 7, 2017

Hyman Roth Godfather Part II

I'm a retired investor living on a pension.

15 Working Days

Recall that back in mid April 2011, I was already not feeling well. I'd been undergoing various tests to determine why I was so fatigued and weak and having horrible night sweats. My blood work looked not normal, but nothing jumped out at my primary care doctor. In the midst of all this, I went to Vegas for a friend's birthday. P.C. (pre-cancer) I went to Vegas about twice a year. Since my diagnosis, I've been twice and am way over due for a trip. I lasted half a day in Vegas on that trip at which point I broke out in a cold sweat, then was burning up and then had terrible shivers and shakes. I went to bed and rescheduled a flight home for the next morning. That second day, I was walking through the casino to get something to eat and had this powerful feeling that I was dying. It was overwhelming and so definitive. I'd never felt that before. Suffice it to say, it left me dazed and concerned. Back home, I was hospitalized, had a bone marrow biopsy, met Dr Phan and was diagnosed with myeloma. And there you have it, a life altering event.  As I approach retirement, I am realizing that this is the first time I've really slowed down long enough to ponder my life going forward. Up to now, it's been about staying alive, seeing doctors, working and being normal. But now I'm going to have time to do what I want, to be healthy and think about what comes next and where I have been.  Whew Wee, it's turning out to be a lot to mull over.

Note that I have made the same $100 bet every year since 1995 on the Vikings to win the Super Bowl. Sadly it has yet to hit. 1998 should have been the year. I actually had $100 on them to get to the Super Bowl and $100 on them to win. All I can say is I hate the dirty bird and I hate the falcons.

Note number two, the Bellagio Sports Book is the best. Plenty of screens and massive comfortable seats. Mandalay Bay is a close second, with the refreshing coconut scented artificial air being pumped in.

There are two ways to get to Vegas from LA. A short 45 minute flight is the best option.  Or you can make a 4 hour drive. This four hour drive can take twice as long coming home if you don't time your drive properly.

Note number three, it took me almost two hours yesterday to go 30 miles from my house to Berenson's office, simply to give research blood. Arghhhh!!!

Needless to say, I prefer the flight to Vegas. But if you do drive, you're taking Highway 15, which today is noteworthy given I have 15 working days left. I think today I work on my retirement to do list.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

More Norm Snead


Norm Snead. 17 years in the league. 5 different teams,. First season 1961...also my first season.  One season with the Vikings...1971.  One winning season...1972 with the Giants. Wore number 16...same number of working days I have remaining. I am Norm Snead.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Work Email from May 11, 2011

I'm down to perhaps 19 working days. I've been grinding since May 2, 2011, trying to balance work, life, chemo, etc.  Myeloma wise I'm good. Otherwise I'm pooped and have had a whole bunch of annoying side effects that I've had to deal with since getting back from Kilimanjaro. It is absolutely time to slow things down.

As I clean out my office and delete or save files and emails, I came across an email I sent on May 11, 2011 to coworkers letting them know what's up. It's quite surreal to read it.....

Good morning,

I am guessing that some of you have noticed I haven’t been around a lot lately.  This is going to be the case for the next 5 or 6 months, where I am working a reduced schedule.  I debated doing a mass email to people and I debated not saying anything. But as a compromise, I wanted to get some of you up to speed.   And you can feel free to share this information.  But also please note that I want this to be low key and somewhat of a private thing.  Plus, believe it or not, coming to work when I can, is a good thing. 

Having said all of the above, here’s the story:

A few months ago, I started to feel weak and fatigued, with an assortment of other weird things going on.  After lots of tests and doctors, I got a diagnosis early last week. I have something called multiple myeloma.  It’s a bone marrow cancer.  I already started chemo….twice a week with every 3rd week off. This goes on for 6 months. So far, I feel pretty good.  If you decide to do some googling, be careful…the typical patient is over 65 and African American male.  So statistics on this don’t necessarily apply to me. I can stay as active as I feel up to.  I am not riding my bike to work though, which sucks. I get too tuckered.

And I think that is it.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Fighting Cancer Is Not Always Hope and Pretty Ribbons, and That's OK



22 working days to go. Yes!

Little known fact, Paul Krause is the NFL all time leader in interceptions. 81. I modeled my 8th grade game at Horace Mann Elementary after him. I too was an interception machine.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Hand me an ax

Myeloma is one thing. And that's our main focus. We have it under control. I'm only doing my darzalex infusion once a month. That's good. But the new schedule and my 100% focus on my countdown to retirement translated into me totally forgetting to do my monthly 24 urine collection a couple of weeks ago. That's key to tracking my disease. With my tiredness, I was curious about how the numbers are doing. I went ahead and collected last week and should hear the results this week. I went ahead and did chemo without the results this past Friday. That's all fine and dandy. It's likely the pomalyst that I take orally that's making me tired. But we can't cut it out, it works in concert with darzalex and dex. And then this is a jacked up thing about health care and insurance and the FDA. You have to follow the FDA's guidelines for the darzalex infusion schedule. If for some reason the monthly infusion isn't enough to keep myeloma at bay and we wanted to go back to once every two weeks, insurance wouldn't cover it. Well that seems like bullshit.

As totally excited as I am about not working, I recently it also got me thinking about how I relate to the disease. One of the reasons, falling short of the Kilimanjaro summit bugged me is that it left me mentally feeling like a cancer patient. It was a slap of a reminder that I have limitations. That sucks. When I was younger and healthier, if I fell short of a challenge, I knew I would have other opportunities. When I did my first century bike ride with my brother, I made it about 98.5 miles. At that point my entire body cramped. I hadn't hydrated enough on a hot day. I learned my lesson and made sure that I was prepared and smart doing future rides. But Kilimanjaro, realistically when will I have the chance again? I'll find some sort of challenge that gives me something to shoot for. But you can see how for a week or so after getting home, I was bummed and it was more about the mental "oh right I have cancer".

So when thinking about not working any more, I get a slight emotional twinge knowing that I am retiring because I have this incurable disease. For the past six years, I've worked and tried to live as normally as possible. It's allowed me to feel like a champ and kick ass. It's time to slow things down.  But I don't want to feel like the disease has won. It hasn't of course. I'm excited for the limitless opportunities that now lie ahead of me. And of course, when you think about retiring there is a part of you that wonders how many years you have to live.  I might have a whole lot of years ahead of me. With myeloma you can have the cancer under control, but dealing with side effects can be non-stop. And 20 years of various annoyances doesn't sound super fun. With the cancer and the treatment, my immune system is pure crap. I've got a host of things that pop up. My latest bug-a-boo is my index finger. We've been trying to clear up a couple of warts for months. But with little luck. I have a dermatologist visit in a couple of weeks and we'll talk about how to keep them under control because they are getting ridiculous. And I'll tell you what, I'd be lying if I said I haven't thought about chopping off my fingertip. Do I really need it? Probably not. It's not like it's my big toe which keeps me from tipping over. And I don't mean to say I've thought about it a lot but it has crossed my mind.  I suppose for now I'll keep the fingertip, but we'll see how it progresses.

Epitaph for Cancer's Novelty

Great article from Cure Magazine


Monday, June 19, 2017

Tired, Tired and Tired

Lately I've been so fucking tired. It's getting fucking ridiculous. Berenson tested my thyroid and testosterone which both can be impacted by long term steroids and chemo. Both tested fine. I started pomalyst when I started darzalex and we've lowered the dose twice because it was tiring me out. But I've been on the low dose one meg for a few months and it's only in the past month or two that the overwhelming sleepiness has hit me. It's pissing me off. Thank goodness I only have a month more of work. Afternoon are getting real challenging. This weekend, I don't even know how much I slept, but it was a lot.  My myeloma numbers are great, so I'm thinking this could be the result of 6 non stop years of treatment. I'm feeling like an old man. I'm losing muscle mass, getting flabby and super cranky all the time. Plus my eyes are getting worse, hearing is on a decline, my ability to focus on one thing sucks and I continue to bruise and bleed with the tiniest little bump or scratch.  I'll tell you what, this myeloma is no joke. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Other than that I'm fine. I did blood work today, see Phan on Thursday and have my monthly chemo Friday.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

MMRF Webinar Series

The MMRF has a number of upcoming webinars, including one tomorrow June 14 on clinical advances in immunotherapy.

Follow this link to register.   http://eventcallregistration.com/reg/index.jsp?cid=70442t11pk

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Countdown Continues

I'm pondering pushing up my retirement date a week or two. I need to stick around to train my replacement who starts July 10, but after that I am free. I have been hugely tired lately. I get about 10 hours of sleep a night and it's not enough. Waking up in the morning is a real challenge. I'd be lying if I said it didn't have me wondering what's going on. I'm also on this weird slow weight gain. Granted I'm not working out much, but I watch what I eat. My labs all look good. My kidneys are better than ever. So I'm not sure what is up. It could be remnants of the ear/sinus infection.

I'm on monthly darzalex. Berenson wants to check my blood every couple of weeks because he's not sold on the once a month infusion. But our hands are tied. FDA says that is what we do and insurance will only pay for once a month.

I'm seriously grumpy and on edge. Lately at work people tell me they're jealous or say it must be nice or that I'm lucky. In my mind, I'm thinking fuck off all of you, I have an incurable cancer, that's not lucky. Right now those thoughts are in my head, but I'm edging close to reminding people why I am retiring. That will certainly make for elevator awkwardness.