Lymphoma-Free/Chemo-Free 5k Run/Walk/BBQ

The First Annual Lymphoma-Free/Chemo-Free 5k Run/Walk/BBQ was a great success this past Saturday. We had 10 runners, 25 walkers, and about 60 or so BBQers who enjoyed many delicious kabobs.

Thanks to all of you who joined us for a fun-filled afternoon. Here are some photos from the day…

Me and the most incredible woman…ever!!!

I am soooo happy my daddy is allllll better!!!

Note: Several of the runners waited for me and my slow,
lame, recovering-ass to run up the steps together.

I am supposed to be out of the sun for a whole year!!!

Three great women–my department chair and friend
Lisa Ulmer, my mom, and my Aunt Bette.

NY Traffic Makes Me Put My Underwear On My Head

We celebrated my first father’s day with a trip to NYC. We had intended to go to my hometown as a way to feel close to my dad, but 4 hours of traffic later and only so far as Brooklyn, we detoured to a lovely dinner in Manhattan where Sophia’s Godfather Kelvin joined us for a father’s day fiesta and some yummy grilled lobster. It was a nice night, but boy do we all miss my dad.

My Golden Apple

Last night was the end-of-the-academic-year awards ceremony for our graduating Masters students, who sadly, will be leaving us in just a few days. One Donna Shalala graduation speech and a cap-and-gown later, our students will be heading off into the public health sunset to make the world a healthier place. And I don’t need to tell you that we could really use some of that just about now.

This is a group of students I will really miss. They have been wonderful towards me during delyphomatization. One student, Pam Kohol, raced a triathlon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team-in-Training program with me as one of her team “heroes.” And many other students stopped by for visits, wrote emails, and stopped by my office when I was around just to check in on me.

The event last night was special for me for a few reasons: it was the first night I was healthy and recovered and got to spend some nice time with both students and faculty, and, the students honored me in a few special ways.

First off, three of my students showed up at my table wearing “I Wanna Be Like Mike… Yudell That Is” t-shirts to honor me and my struggles this past year. I was totally shocked by their wonderful show of support, and I am deeply touched by their beautiful gesture. Thank you Linda, Deka, and Kelechi. They even printed up a wee-little shirt for Sophia.

The night ended on another high note when I was awarded the Golden Apple award by the student body for excellence in teaching during their two years at Drexel. The student who presented me with the award, Andi Rosso, read the following to the audience:

“Class of ‘07 Top 7 reasons why Prof. Mike Yudell deserves the Golden Apple Award

7. Getting us to attend Grand Rounds with Top 10 lists.

6. Giving us a copy of his book ‘Welcome to the Genome’ to impress our friends with.

5. Teaching a class in our first quarter as graduate students that didn’t require weekly learning issues and that wasn’t Biostats.

4. Being that young, cute professor.

3. Leaving NYC to come to the backwaters of Philly where you can’t even get a good bagel.

2. Sharing the trials of chemotherapy and the joys of his new daughter with us through his Bald Mike blog.

1. Despite his ups and downs, always being there for our ups and downs.”

Thanks Andi and the Class of 2007. I am honored by your honor.

Needless to say, I have been extraordinarily touched by the love and support my students have shown towards me this past year. I am truly lucky to have gotten to know all of them, and I wish them well in all of their endeavors.

Godspeed Drexel MPH class of 2007. Go kick some public health ass!!!

Neil Schwartz: Don’t Forget Your Passport

I forgot to post this photo of my mom and Sophia from our trip to the Caymans. So cute.

Also, June 23rd is the Lymphoma Free Run/Walk and Chemo-Free BBQ at our home at noon. I’ve sent out an evite and general email, but I am afraid it got lost to spam for many of you. Email me for details if you have not heard from me and can make it. Unless, that is, you are one Mr. Neil Schwartz. If your name is Neil Schwartz, you will not be allowed in to the State of Pennsylvania that day without a passport and visa.


Hairy Mike Returns. The End of Bald Mike.

With chemo and lymphoma behind me, with baby Sophia and Jacqui deserving every moment of my attention, with the Yankees just generally sucking, and with a daunting manuscript and some articles ahead of me this summer, I’ve been wondering what I should do with this blog?

I’ve noticed as of late that a) I have not been writing as much (with good reason-how many ways can I describe how thrilled I am to be lymphoma- and chemo-free, and how many times can I thank my lucky stars for that before it sounds hackneyed?); b) that I don’t feel as motivated to write for the blog and therefore my postings tend to feel forced and a little boring; and c) that the blog is increasingly a series of pictures of an ever-cutening Sophia.

For eight months, 4-5 days a week, I wrote about what it was like to have lymphoma, be a cancer patient, have our first child, become lymphoma-free, lose my father, and so on and so forth. It is time to leave this genre of writing behind for a while. You think? Maybe I’ll devote my time to writing a good history book about the development of a modern scientific language of race and racism during the 20th century and its impact on public health. Hmmmmm… Fascinating… What a great idea!

At some point, a year or so down the line, a few scans in and with Sophia scampering around the house, I’ll revisit the blog and think about how I can convert it into a book. But that is for another time. For now, I think that the blog is going to become the homepage for all of you to see, wait for it… endless photos of little Sophia (SFX of everyone heading for the exits?). And I am even thinking of retiring the site, and replacing it with We’ll see. I am after all growing hair so quickly that I can almost braid my back hair.

So thanks for stopping by this past year to read about my life in chemo, to share in the ups and downs, to laugh with me and sometimes at me, to shed a few tears, and to offer me your love and support. It has meant a lot to know that so many friends, family members, colleagues, and total strangers were out there reading about my crazy life. One of my favorite things to do is to go back and look at the live blogging on November 30th, the day Sophia was born. And when I really miss my dad I go back and read some of the postings about him, look at some photos online, or read his eulogy.

So I thank you all. Bald Mike bids you adieu. I’m Hairy Mike now.

The Salmon Mousse

In the hilarious Monty Python film “The Meaning of Life,” the Grim Reaper shows up at a dinner party, his menacing scythe in hand, to claim the lives of several unsuspecting British couples. They argue with the Reaper for a few minutes, arrogantly disbelieving in their fate until he convinces them that they are really dead (with a few parlour-like tricks that only Death could pull off). When they ask him how they died, the skeleton forefinger of Death points to the dinner table and bellows with great comic timing… “the salmon mousse.” The audience laughs. And the joke, of course, is that in life, sometimes death is brought to bear by something as seemingly innocuous as a salmon mousse.

Death has been all around me these last eight months. My father. Jacqui’s Auntie Pam and Uncle Billy. And I will never forget the lives of the sick and dying I saw while in the hospital for treatment.

Through all of this, I never really thought I was about to eat the salmon mousse. But there were times, to be sure, that Mr. Grim Reaper felt closer to me than he had ever. There was the very high neutropenic fever (it peaked at almost 104) that didn’t break for almost 24 hours, all the while my body desperate for platelets and hemoglobin. Then, of course, there were those moments when my father was dying and just after he died that I thought to myself: “If cancer could kill him, why not me?” But then I thought he was supposed to survive only 18 months and lived 10 years. If the same arithmetic works out for me, I’ll live to be a very old man.

There is no place like a beautiful Caribbean beach to think about death. Well, actually, to think about thinking about death, if I want to be totally accurate here. And for moments here and there during my Cayman holiday, I thought about why I didn’t think about death much during my eight month chemo-holiday. And to be completely honest, I can’t quite figure this out?

As I stared out into the emerald blue sea, I thought about possible answers to this question.

Was I so completely focused on life because of Jacqui’s pregnancy and the arrival of Sophia that the possibility of death just slipped my mind? Did I inherit my father’s romantic optimism so much so that I never doubted that I would get through this unbroken and alive? Did my dad’s declining health distract me from the risks to my own? Given the craziness of all that was going on was I in some sort or survival mode where I couldn’t even consider death? Was I arrogant, stupid, or both to think that there was no question I’d survive? Or did I just put my trust in my doctors who said that they’d get me through this now and for the long-term?

I don’t think I’ll ever have a precise answer to this question, although if I had to answer, I would circle the box that said “ALL OF THE ABOVE” to explain why death has NOT been part of my thought processes the last year. Besides, thinking about death only brings it closer, whether it is going to come tomorrow or in fifty years. But just to be safe, I’ll take a pass on the salmon mousse.