Sophia’s First Game

Introducing our little Yankees fan.

Never mind that the Yankees are off to a terrible start (save A-Rod’s brilliant April). Never mind that the Yankees can’t seem to learn the lesson that you can’t buy World Series rings without cultivating home grown talent. And never mind that knocking down Yankee stadium so Steinbrenner & Co. can build some fancy sky boxes has Babe, Lou, Joe, Mickey, and Thurman rolling over in their graves.

Friends Stu and Ruthie accompanied us to the game yesterday.
Jeez, do I look like crap! Stu is a Mets fan.
Never forget that one of the Yankee greats,
Willie Randolph, manages the Mets!

Never mind all that for yesterday was Sophia’s first trip to the “House That Ruth Built” to root, root, root for the home team. Unfortunately, they didn’t win and it was a crying shame, especially since we were playing the dreaded Red Sox, her mom’s home team, and the long-time enemies to Yankee fans across the globe. During the game Sophia wouldn’t even take her mother’s milk, saying that if she was a Red Sox fan it must be tainted with the nasty chemical fillers from Fenway Franks.

Even at such a young and innocent age, my little Sophia knows the truth!

When Sophia and I walked into the stadium together, she tethered to my chest on the baby bjorn, she was greeted by everyone from the ticket taker to the NYC policeman to the hat store saleswoman with a smile and a cheerful Yankee stadium greeting of “Go Yanks! Red Sox Suck!” It was, to Sophia’s great disappointment the Yankee pitching that sucked yesterday, and the Yanks got clobbered. But as Sophia and all Yankee fans know, tomorrow is another day and we’ve never waited eighty-odd years to win a World Series.

I love my mommy even though she roots for the Red Sox.

While sitting in our great seats behind home plate, I told Sophia about all of the great times I shared with her Grandpa Allen at the stadium over the years, and how together (despite the vociferous objections of her mother) we would carry on the Yudell family tradition of rooting for the Yanks. I also told her how much her Grandpa would have loved to have taken her to her first baseball game, and how much he missed her. And just how much we missed him.

Feeding Time

Today our little Sophia had her first non-boob milk meal. Teaching a 5-month-old to eat a slice a pizza like a New Yorker was a challenge, so we had to resort to the food processor and mush it up so we could spoon feed it to her. Needless to say, she loved it and asked for more.

We ran out of pizza quickly so we had to feed her organic rice cereal sweetened with Jacqui’s milk. Yum, yum. When we fed that to her, she had this “why are you feeding me this crap!” look on her face. But she ate it anyway, washed it down with some of Jacqui’s magic milk, and promptly took a nap. Now we await the gift she will give on the other end…

Like a mad scientist, Jacqui prepares the concoction of rice cereal and boob milk.

Daddy was the lucky guy to feed Sophia her first meal. By the look on her face, I think she is wondering just what the heck am I going to do to her with that tasteless crap in the blue bowl.

Hmmmnn, not that bad!

Finger looking good.

Where’s the beef?

What is this mush?!?

Cycle 5A

It has been 3 weeks since my last chemo admission, and today I am scheduled to start cycle 5A. I am waiting for the call from the hospital to see if they have a bed for me, and it will be another weekend getting pumped full of toxic chemicals.


Ding, dong the witch is dead…

My recovery from almost 8 months of chemo is progressing, albeit slowly. My marrow is so devastated from 8 rounds of HYPER-CVAD that I feel hollow, and as a result my hemoglobin and platelets are low and will remain so for another few weeks. Because my hemoglobin is low, and because I’ve been through hell, I tire pretty easily and require at least a nap a day.

I have gotten back to work, but my time in the office usually lasts for just a few hours. On Monday I spent half a day at work and then in the evening sat on a panel about science and ethics at the Wilma theater downtown. It was the first time I really had to use my brain in a very long time (other than to decide whether I’d have vegetable or tomato soup for lunch), and with my hemoglobin low I was nervous that I’d just stare blankly into the theater lights in response to a question, or else embarrass myself by uttering something completely stupid or nonsensical. My response to the first question was a bit rambling, but I managed to summon some extra hemoglobin for the evening, and things didn’t go so badly after all.

So no more chemo folks and that, I have to admit, feels a bit strange. I’ve been actively fighting lymphoma for all this time, and now, even though I am lymphoma free, and even though the future is bright and filled with hope, there is something unsettling about the transition to normalcy. Normalcy is not what it once was for us. I am a cancer survivor, and with that comes so much. So much, in fact, that I am going to save those thoughts for tomorrow.

The Pep Talk

For my entry today, I wanted to share with you an email exchange with Lisa Downs, the nurse practitioner who is the coordinator of the Lymphoma Program at Penn, and is a partner of Steve Schuster, my doctor. She has been my number one source of information and support as I’ve gone through chemo.

From: Michael Yudell
Sent: Mon 4/23/2007 1:47 PM
To: Downs, Lisa
Subject: Pep Talk


I need a pep talk. I know “pep talker” is probably not in your job description, but given your experience with this nonsense, and given how your talk the other night (at the Lymphoma Research Foundation meeting) was sort of a pep talk, I figured you’d be up for the job.

You guys got me through this in one piece, minus of course, the now vanquished lymphoma.

And I don’t need to tell you what a positive attitude I’ve had about going through this. I know you’ve seen that.

But now that treatment is behind me, and it is time to watch again (a fact Steve reminded me of this morning with his “we need to image you” comment”–couldn’t he have waited a few weeks before he reminded me that this will go on for many years to come) I could use some suggestions on the transition back to being a patient in the clinic again. And I could use some peppy statements about what lies ahead for me, if you think that that is medically appropriate.

I know you guys can’t promise me a thing. That is not what I am looking for. As a matter of fact, I am not sure what I am looking for.

But maybe you know what I am looking for? Other than my hair, of course.

Any thoughts?


From: Lisa Downs
Date: April 23, 2007 2:16:30 PM EDT
To: Michael Yudell

Yeah, this is always a stressful time for people. You have to transition from actively fighting the disease to feeling like you are a sitting duck again. There isn’t much you can do other than try to relax and get on with other things. We have so many people that are years out and getting back to what life is all about. It will be really good for you. Concentrate on what used to make you happy, your daughter and your wife. I think once the imaging is over you will relax again. People always freak out at every scan. Steve could have waited a few weeks to tell you that, he just isn’t as senstive as me!! Remember, this is what you have been waiting for, cancer free and you don’t need chemo. That is what this has all been about. What lies ahead for you is hopefully nothing but what you make. You have a career to think about and a college fund to start for your kid. Pour yourself back into what a young adult would normally think of. As time goes by it will get easier. It will be more real when your hair does come back too. Oh, and plan that vacation!!
I will need to write pep talker into my resume…

The Tank Is Not Mine

At around 5:3opm this afternoon, Jacqui, Sophia, and I walked out of HUP following my final neutropenic fever lock down. We are so happy to have this all behind us. It’s been 7 1/2 months of this. Hard to believe. But we’re done.

No more chemo. No more neutropenic fevers. No more lymphoma.

By the way, I am certainly not looking my best, but the crappy photo above, taken with my phone, makes me look horrible. And the oxygen tank next to the stroller is not mine, so don’t freak out.

Thanks again to the amazing team of doctors and nurses and support staff who got me through this is one piece. I love you all.

Thanks to all of you out there who have been so supportive and loving through all of this. I love you all too.

And thanks to Jacqui, Sophia, my mom and dad and sister, and Jacqui’s parents Alan and Debbie who’ve all been incredible. And, wow, do I love you guys.

Still Here

God, do I miss being at home with my baby girl.

Counts finally heading north. Hopefully I am out of here tomorrow.

Nite, nite.

Stuck in Neutral

My white count showed a little activity and ticked up a notch today, but lacks the spunk needed to get me out of here by tomorrow. Plus, my hemoglobin and platelets dropped again (all normal), so I’ll need more blood and platelets today.

I am really getting my money’s worth from this final round.

Did anybody watch Alberto Gonzalez testify before Congress this morning? What a weasel. Guess it’s time for the President to give him the Presidential Medal of Freedom or something like that.

And check out this nonsense out of Bush’s Justice Department…

Just My Luck

I am at the tail end of my B cycle neutropenia, but in my post-chemo world that doesn’t matter much because methotrexate and cytaribine are still doing a number on my marrow, my counts are still in the crapper, and I popped a fever this afternoon while getting another bag o’platelets and 2 units of blood. BUMMER.

So I am officially locked away until my white count recovers into non-neutropenic territory, a feat that should be on Thursday or Friday once the Neulasta (the drug that builds back up your white count) kicks on.

As a going away present for my patience and success in chemotherapy, the hospital gave me one of the two fancy rooms on Rhoads 6–marble bathroom, wood molding and all. These rooms were built for patients enduring extra-long hospital stays for transplants, but one of them was empty tonight and I was lucky enough to get it. So this is it. The final stretch. Almost there.


Just 48-72 more hours and I’ll be over my final neutropenic hurdle. Unfortunately, I am feeling like crap now, and heading over to the clinic for counts and maybe some blood. My temperature has been hovering close to the red zone, so I am a little nervous that they’ll lock me up for the next few days. That would suck. Wish me luck.