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…

5 thoughts on “The Pep Talk”

  1. Hi Michael!I am still around, silently keeping track of your progress. Fortunately, I have never had cancer, but I spent several years dealing with recurring foot surgeries, leading to a partial amputation of one foot, followed by a total hip replacement and other on-going nonsense related to my progressive neuro-muscular disease.We have no idea of the future. No one can predict our fates. It is simply not possible, but there are always those thoughts and, yes, fears, in the back of our minds as to what the future may hold in store. Once you have battled a disease, you know that you are not invincible, like it or not.When you have been fighting a battle, such as you have just finished fighting, and the battle is now over, there suddenly is a void; a big emptiness that used to be the “center piece” of your existence, like it or not. And now suddenly it is gone and as crazy as it seems, in a big way, you miss it. I don’t mean you miss the agony of everything you just endured, but suddenly there is this great big hole in your life. Like the loss of your father, not that long ago, you are now dealing with another big loss, the loss of your disease. I honestly know this from first hand experience. You are suddenly going through a mourning period for your battle with cancer and what you dealt with all of these months. I truly understand this, having experienced it myself, several times. If I am wrong about this in your case, then so be it, but I am quite sure that this may very well be what you are feeling,Hang in there, Michael. This is a good time for a support group, and I believe that you started one, if I am not mistaken. If not, start one or join one and just be a participant. That is my best advice. I know you feel best when you are sharing your feelings, or you would not have started your blog. So, I do suspect that it would help.All my very best to you and your family! Enjoy your life, your wife, your baby and maybe try to shift your focus back to your work when you are ready.You are in my thoughts.Linda Phillips


  2. Thanks for sharing that honest exchange. Your special quality of openness both to yourself and the blogosphere-at-large is unbelievable. Lisa — so sorry I haven’t met you yet. I’m so glad Michael and Jacq have you for your stellar pep talks and care. I don’t think anyone could’ve responded so perfectly (including myself). Michael’s sister, Andrea


  3. so i have made arrangments for you to spend a few nights here and there on rhodes 6 or 7. with food delivered as per your choice. family will be there as usual, jacqui, sophia, your mom, andrea, deb, alan and friends. does that sound better??? deb and i think you have postpartem chemo blues. so stop having “The Thinker” mentality and give your head a rest. you will be just fine. i know it. and who knows best??? your mother of course. don’t worry, be happy. enjoy life. it is so beautiful with all that you have.


  4. Dear Michael,You’ve fought the disease so powerfully and obsessively (I mean that in a good way), maybe you can now turn that intense focus towards living your life.As always, wishing you, Jacqui and Sophia well.Love,Rachel


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