Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Wasn't she beautiful!
Today is our 35th wedding anniversary.  I don’t know what else to add.  I miss her terribly.  So do many of you.  She was something special.
Progress is being made against cancer; my hopes are rising.  But ovarian cancer seems to be one of the toughest nuts to crack.  I put most of my paltry charitable contributions toward ovarian cancer research.  It may not make much difference, but it makes me feel better.  Maybe you should, too.
Our 45th President has proposed a huge reduction in the NIH budget.  That cannot be allowed to stand.  Contact Congress.
Check out Linda’s new Tribute site:

Saturday, March 18, 2017


Never happier

The Death of Cancer, by Dr. Vincent DeVita
I reviewed, and presumably read, this book last year (, but now I wonder if it truly WAS the same book.  This time through I encountered so many important passages, topics and zingers that I didn’t remember that at one point I checked to see if I was reading a second edition!  (I wasn’t).  I’m afraid the explanation is that my power of concentration has slipped a little in the 50 or so years since I left school.  Ya think?
Anyway, the bottom line is that you really should read this book if you possibly can.  If anybody exists who has more right to an opinion on these subjects than the author, he or she must be a hermit sitting on a sunny rock outside a cave high in the mountains, in constant communication with God!  I can’t do justice to the book without writing a very long review, which neither you nor I would enjoy, so here are some highlights:
The pace of drug development currently is such that most cancers can be rendered non-fatal by converting them into chronic diseases, or cured outright.
It almost always is a mistake to “give up” on a cancer patient, because that fast pace of drug development may spew out an effective remedy at any time.
The FDA is in great need of reorganization.  Too slow, too cautious, too bureaucratic, too like a mass of roots clogging a sewer line.  According to the author, Obamacare will make matters worse – but the Donald will fix that, won’t he?  Ha!
Two things that disappoint me about this book:
1)       No discussion of where the money for all this will come from.
2)      No discussion of ovarian cancer, at all.
But, anyway:  Thank you, Dr. DeVita, for a valuable book, and a lifetime well spent.

Friday, March 10, 2017


It's a good flower season here in Borrego right now,
and half the world is here to enjoy it
However, this is about platelets, not flowers
This is encouraging news, and a good use of Moonshot money.  Platelets are the little cellular firemen who dash in to combat problems; they cause blood clotting.  Some smart guys have figured out how to combine platelets with immunotherapy drugs.  That way when a solid tumor is removed surgically these platelets, eager to help, surge to the sight of the wound, and in the process cause any escaped cancer cells to croak.  Not a breakthrough, but progress.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Ho Hum: Cloning and stem cells

Linda and my Mom, 1982
Mom was 84 at the time
Taken in Cherry Valley, CA

I’m not exactly recommending this article; more like bringing it to your attention.  If you want a painless, science-free summary of the development of cloning technology and the politico-ethical war over stem cells, waste a few minutes on this.  Otherwise, take a nap.  I usually rave about Economist articles, but not this one.  It appears possible that Donald Trump has thrown the Economist into a tizzy.  Not only can they write of little else, and without their customary touch of irony – they are sending me the magazine here in Borrego, while simultaneously informing me by increasingly frantic emails that copies sent to Bellingham are being returned and that they will have no option other than to suspend my subscription.  It is said that “elections have consequences”.  Who knew this might be one?

Monday, March 6, 2017


On cancer mortality: A personal view.

Serious warning:  This blog will be depressing well beyond anything I have ever written.  I won’t post it anywhere other than here.  If you are having a happy day and don’t want to spoil it, stop reading r now.

What, still there?  Well, you have been warned.

I have been wallowing in gloomy thoughts today.  Why, I don’t know; my aches and pains are no worse than usual, my bird feeders are aswarm with little creatures of a dozen descriptions, and the weather is warm, clear – and, of course, windy.  I get to go home to PNW weather in less than a month.  Joanne is feeding me tomorrow.  I’m having dinner at the Moaning Mongoose next Thursday with Paul and Mary.  So what’s the problem?

Hell, I don’t know.  Whatever it is, I have devoted most of the day to thinking about my good friends who have died of cancer.

First there was Dr. Norman Watkins, way back in the 1970s.  He died of colorectal cancer in his 40s.  Norm was a pioneer paleomagnetist, making big waves.  He was fearless, and he made some enemies.  We will never know what he might have done, given the time.  Lots, I think.

And then there was Dr. Robert Speed, a geologist mostly associated with Northwestern University.  Bob was one of a very few go-to guys where Cordilleran geology was concerned.  I met him at Stanford, and worked with him in Nevada and the Caribbean.  Bob was the only guy I have ever met who could really enjoy a very hot beer at the end of the day – hot because we had forgotten to stick the beer in the ice chest that morning.  Bob died of melanoma at about age 70.  He had just retired.

My golfing mentor, Dr. Richard Levin, died at about that same age (70), of a kind of cancer I cannot characterize other than to say that it was recurrent and affected the mouth.  Rich was a math professor at my university, and perhaps the nicest, most patient, gentlest man I have ever met. 

Next came my lifelong friend, Dr. Samuel J. Sims.  I first encountered Sam on a high school football field.  I went to Caltech and Stanford with him, down mines with him, into drinking establishments, low and high, safe and unsafe, with him.  He may qualify as my best – long-term – friend.  Sam died a few years ago, of what I believe may be called soft-tissue sarcoma.  He was a great guy.

And finally comes the death of Dr. Robert Keller a few days ago, of something called “Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation”, a very rare, and invariably fatal, condition most often caused by cancer.  Bob was a history professor at Fairhaven College, a part of WWU.  He also was the person who introduced me to   mountaineering in the Cascades, and with whom I first explored the Wind River Range of Wyoming.  He was a unique and enigmatic (to me) character about whom much more should be written.

So, five good friends dead of cancer – and all younger than me!  I am approaching 84.  Somewhere I think I read that a person’s probability of dying of cancer roughly doubles with every decade of life.  If so there may be dozens of cancerous mutations lurking in my DNA, waiting to pounce.  I have written nearly 500 blogs about ovarian cancer, but OVCA can’t get me.  If some other cancer does, I hope I have the courage to spit in its eye.

But I would rather be hit by a bus.

You will have noticed that I made no mention of another cancer death above, that of my beloved wife, Linda, at only 65 years of age.  The guys enumerated above were important friends; Linda was an essential part of my core existence.  I have been stumbling on without her for almost six years now, often wondering why it was that Fate took her and not me.  Hell, I was 78 and good for very little; she was just beginning a productive, creative, joyful retirement.  If fate had spared both of us, what fun we would have had!  And now, as I stumble toward helplessness, she would have been here to help.

You have much to explain, Fate.  Get started.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Aspirin and the USPSTF

                         Borrego was a lot more fun then

If you don’t know what the acronym USPSTF means, you haven’t been taking me seriously.  It stands for United States Preventative Services Task Force and I have written about it frequently, with usually a negative twist.  I also have discussed evidence that indicates, fairly convincingly, that a daily small dose of aspirin significantly reduces the probability of contracting cancers of various sorts, including ovarian.  Well, the USPSTF – which generally tosses wet blankets on prevention/early detection protocols because of cost, false positives and the like – has surprised me by recommending the aspirin regimen.  See below:
Now it simply remains for you to pester your doctors about this new medical wrinkle.