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Chemotherapy School

One day last week, I spent an hour and a half at chemotherapy school, given at the OHSU (Oregon Health & Science University) clinic where my chemo will be administered.

They handed out a large Powerpoint deck at the class and I already been given a giant binder the week before with pages and pages and pages of lists and commentary on what to expect, what to do and other instructions to follow during chemo treatments.


Huh? Why didn't you guys who've been through this (and according to your comments here, there are quite a few of you) tell me that chemo is a full time, 24/7 job for the next six months?

Until now, I thought it would make me tired and maybe sick for a couple of days after each treatment. But oh no. All kinds of terrible things can go wrong and there are a dozen or more preventive measures plus a lengthy list of side effects a few of which require immediate emergency attention.

For that last item, they prepared a page to post on the refrigerator door for easy reference. Oy. I had no idea.


Of course, these are generalized documents meant for all chemotherapy patients and which side effects an individual is subject to varies with the chemo formula. Some people escape with none or hardly any difficulties. Nevertheless, it is daunting. Among the possibilities:

Decreased blood clotting ability
Irritation of the entire gastrointestinal tract
Nausea and vomiting
Constipation or diarrhea
And my personal favorite (that's snark, folks), Hand-foot syndrome

That's when the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands become red, can crack and develop blisters. The prevention, they tell me is to take tepid, not hot baths and showers, and to wash dishes in tepid water.

That goes with the admonition that chemo compromises the patient's immune system so to avoid infection, one must wash, wash, wash hands constantly.

All that washing, of course, exacerbates hand-foot syndrome so there is a specific kind of lotion to gently rub on hands and feet several times a day. I can't wait – recall what I said above about chemo being a 24/7 job.

All right, I know I'm whining and I shouldn't. For someone with one of the scariest of cancers, I'm incredibly lucky. I am among the only ten percent of pancreatic cancer patients eligible for the Whipple surgery I had.

And now that I am facing chemotherapy soon, they tell me my “dose” will take about an hour to administer. Some people need six or eight hours each time. I am so grateful for these two pieces of luck.

Plus, all these and many more additional instructions, warnings and admonitions come with the care and concern of the medical staff based on their collective years of experience with chemotherapy patients in one of the best cancer centers in the United States.

But still, you could have mentioned this stuff to me. Okay, I'll shut up now.

Notes on Coping with Cancer

You, dear readers - in your generosity in commending my attitude toward this cancer and my “honesty” in writing about it - have given me a lot to think about.

The thing is, however, I don't know what else I could do differently. Not that I want to make it the central experience of my life, but cancer will not be ignored so one might as well pay attention.

Plus, it is mostly a disease of age so it makes sense, at a blog about “what it's really like to get old”, to include a first-person account.

Every cancer is individual to the patient but I'm trying to - well, what? Lift the veil? Talk about the reality of my experience and let it inform people as they see fit? Or not? Maybe something like that.

Cancer is a devastating event that upends not just the life of the patient, but his or her family and friends too. It is a word so fraught that in yours and my young adult years, you might recall, it was rarely mentioned by name – or only whispered.

What I have discovered, however, is that even though having cancer can be time consuming, you do go on living your regular life – or mostly so.

After surgery recovery, when not engaged with the disease via testing, seeing doctors, organizing the prescription drugs, reading and marking up the book-size binders they give you to study for chemo, you clean house, do the laundry, shop and cook, play with the cat, see friends and neighbors, read books, watch TV, write a blog post.

That was before and then there is now and sometimes, for me, there is not a lot of difference.

As my primary care physician keeps telling me, "You're very healthy, Ronni, except for the cancer" and except for some occasional minor pain, I feel that way most of the time so that I wonder if I'm not taking this seriously enough.

Except, I haven't been able to imagine what that means or what I would do if I WERE taking it more seriously.

Reader Ian Bertram left a message on Facebook a few days ago:

”Your attitude to this is the best – everything is new so treat it as a learning experience.”

In a comment on a post here last week, Joseph Pearce left this note:

“What an amazing journey this life is!!”

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Dozens of you last week, complimented my new hair style in a photograph I posted. Joseph Pearce, who owns the salon Hair Architects in Portland, Oregon, is the stylist reSponsible for it.]

I was intrigued by Joseph's comment and we discussed it further last week at lunch one day. Joseph – who was diagnosed with leukemia six or so years ago – sees our predicaments similarly to Ian, as an adventure and maybe I'm flattering myself but I am pretty sure I was heading in that direction in my own thinking when Joseph (and Ian) clarified my thinking.

In the three months since my diagnosis, it has never been about “fighting cancer” or “beating cancer” for me. Not that I don't want to survive this but I don't know how to do those things.


With many years of schooling and more of clinical experience, it is the doctors – not I – who are qualified to do the fighting. They are the experts and I defer to their judgment in all but the smallest matters.

The treatments – surgery and chemotherapy – will or won't succeed but like Michel de Montaigne, the 16th century essayist I mentioned last week, I believe that chance and caprice rule our lives so I cede control to, in relation to the cancer, the doctors, and otherwise to the universe.

Meanwhile I am fascinated with the cancer itself, the treatment and how cancer is changing me.

How can one not change when the circumstances of life do. We expect marriage, divorce, parenthood, death of a loved one, losing a job, retirement, etc., to change us so certainly a life-threatening disease also does.

With great kindness, many of you have indicated how that these cancer posts are valuable to you. But believe me, I do not feel brave or inspiring or gutsy or amazing.

What I do feel is deeply curious about this unexpected turn my life journey has taken. It's still new to me but I am trying mightily not to make it my whole life while paying close attention too.

Montaigne again from Sarah Bakewell's book about him, How to Live, which, Bakewell says, is the closest Montaigne came to a final or best answer on the question about how to live:

”Life should be an aim unto itself, a purpose unto itself.”

(Sorry about all the Montaigne lately; it's just that I'm currently caught up in the Essays themselves again along with Bakewell's excellent book about them.)

ELDER MUSIC: A Bit of Jazz

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

It's time for some more jazz. It may seem to you that these performers were chosen at random. You wouldn't be too far from the truth.

I was wandering through my jazz catalogue in search of something interesting and when something struck my fancy I put it in. Actually, I had about 30 tracks so I had to go through and take some out again, see which fitted best. This is the result.

Of course, those other tracks will turn up in another column one day. Waste not, want not.

CURTIS COUNCE was a bass player who was best known for playing bebop and hard bop (whatever that is).

Curtis Counce

Unfortunately he died of a heart attack when he was only 37. Before that (well, of course before that, dummy) he recorded several albums as leader of his group and a bunch more as sideman.

Here with his own group that included Jack Sheldon on trumpet, Harold Land on Sax, Carl Perkins (presumably not the rock and roll singer) on piano and Frank Butler on drums. This is a tune you'll know: Stranger In Paradise.

♫ Curtis Counce - Stranger In Paradise

CHUCK WAYNE was a jazz guitarist, one of the first to play bebop.

Chuck Wayne

He played with and was greatly influenced by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. His first major gig was with Woody Herman and he was the first guitarist in George Shearing's group. Later he was musical director and accompanist for Tony Bennett.

His style was a major influence on later jazz guitarists. Chuck plays Taking A Chance On Me.

♫ Chuck Wayne - Taking A Chance On Me

Bill Evans wrote the tune Waltz for Debby and it became one of his best known compositions. Later Gene Lees put words to it and today, singing those words, we have the incomparable JOHNNY HARTMAN.

Johnny Hartman

On this version Hank Jones played piano, rather than Bill, and he does an admirable job.

♫ Johnny Hartman - Waltz for Debby

TEDDY CHARLES was classically trained at Juilliard as a percussionist.

Teddy Charles

His main instrument as a jazz player was the vibraphone but he also played piano and drums. From one of his least known albums "Coolin'" we have him smacking those vibes, with the help of several others, with Reiteration.

♫ Teddy Charles - Reiteration

LOU DONALDSON is yet another alto saxophone player who was influenced by Charlie Parker – well, most of them were.

Lou Donaldson

Later Lou was also influenced by rhythm and blues but he still seems more bebop to my ears. Before he went in that direction he recorded an album called "Lou Takes Off" that the record company didn't like but the public and the critics for once agreed that it was a fine piece of work.

From that we have Dewey Square. Along with Lou there's Donald Byrd on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone and Sonny Clark playing piano.

♫ Lou Donaldson - Dewey Square

The MODEST JAZZ TRIO shouldn't be confused with the similarly named Modern Jazz Quartet. It seems they are so modest they don't want their photo taken. I know someone else like that. This is the only one I could find of them.

Modest Jazz Trio

The MJT was the brainchild of the late great guitarist Jim Hall. The other two are Red Mitchell on piano (who is best known for playing the bass) and Red Kelly on bass. It's the same instrumentation as one of the greatest groups of all time, the Nat King Cole Trio but without a singer of Nat's quality.

That doesn't matter as they play really well and nobody sings, as you'll hear on I Remember You.

♫ Modest Jazz Trio - I Remember You

MAX ROACH was another classically trained percussionist, and he was the drummer you had to have if you were playing bebop in the fifties and sixties.

He played with everyone at the time – Diz, Bird, Monk, Miles, Bud and on and on. He has also led his own groups over the years. One of those recorded the album "Jazz in ¾ Time".

Max Roach

He had the great Sonny Rollins on this one playing sax and Bill Wallace tinkling the ivories. Blues Waltz.

♫ Max Roach - Blues Waltz

ELLYN RUCKER was classically trained on piano.

Ellyn Rucker

Like many others she discovered jazz and switched to that style of music. She not only plays piano, she's a pretty marvellous singer as well. Her piano playing reminds me of Bill Evans, and there's no higher praise then that.

On this track she has the help of Pete Christlieb on tenor sax. The track is The Night Has 1000 Eyes - not the Bobby Vee pop song.

♫ Ellyn Rucker - The Night Has 1000 Eyes

Amanda Petrusich, writing in The New Yorker, reported that jazz fan Jeff Caltabiano wants to rename the Williamsburg Bridge, the SONNY ROLLINS Bridge. That probably won't happen – even Jeff admits it.

He did say, however, that there should be a plaque on the bridge celebrating Sonny's music. This is because for about three years, back at the turn of the fifties into the sixties, Sonny used to practise playing his sax on the bridge rather than disturb his neighbours. Apparently there was less pedestrian traffic back then.

Before that time, Sonny recorded an album called "Way Out West" and from that we have the old tune, I'm an Old Cow Hand.

Sonny Rollins

Sonny seems an unlikely cowboy, but he sure can play that saxophone. He has the help of Ray Brown on bass and Shelly Manne on drums.

♫ Sonny Rollins - I'm An Old Cowhand

Is it just me, or does ANDY BEY sound like Tony Bennett? Could do worse.

Andy Bey

Andy started out in a trio with his two sisters. They were reasonably successful, toured Europe, performed with Chet Baker and made a couple of albums. As a solo performer, Andy has worked with Horace Silver, Stanley Clarke and (a surprise to me) Nick Drake.

He's made more than a dozen albums, including "The World According to Andy Bey" from which The Joint is Jumpin' was taken.

♫ Andy Bey - The Joint Is Jumpin'

INTERESTING STUFF – 26 August 2017


It's all over now but let's have one more go at the 2017 total solar eclipse. This video was shot from the shores of Palisades Reservoir, Idaho:


By comic strip artist Dan Dougherty, this series features a dad and his daughter growing up and beyond.It is charming. A sample:




Visit Bored Panda for the entire strip and keep scrolling for the full effect.


I've seen this video before and can't recall if I've posted it so, what the hell. Maybe it's the second time around. Here's the intro from the YouTube page:

”Locked behind black steel doors in Northumberland, England, the Poison Garden at Alnwick Castle grows around 100 infamous killers. From deadly nightshade to hemlock, the only way a plant can take root in this garden is if it is lethal to humans.

“Created by the Duchess of Northumberland, this is one garden where you won't want to stop and smell the flowers.”


Although I've been reading the 16th century essayist, Michel de Montaigne for as long as I can remember now, I have discovered a marvelous companion volume I'm reading now.

In How to Live or A Life of Montaigne, Author Sarah Bakewell makes strides toward answering that universal question about how to live based on her years-long study of Montaigne's essays.

Montaigne isn't the only person to discover that paying attention to the present moment is the secret to a good life; he's just the first (if you don't count the ancients he studied).

Here is Alan Watts take on the same issue:


I didn't even know there was such a thing as a alphorn, let alone an international competition. Here's what the YouTube page tells us:

”The Valais Drink Pure Festival in Nendaz, Switzerland, is an international meeting of alphorn players where the best of the best come to play the iconic elongated horn in its traditional Swiss setting.

“While 16-year-old Tim Lin might seem like an unlikely alphorn enthusiast, he is quite the prodigy. Born in Germany to a Chinese father and a Belarusian mother, Lin took home last year’s top prize in the youth category, and hopes to do it again this year.”


Although President Trump has no legislative accomplishments to brag about, he frequently insists that he has surpassed all previous presidents' accomplishments in his first six months. It is simply not true:

What Trump HAS done, however, is reverse a lot of important rules, tools and policies and it can make you cry. Washington Post reporter Philip Bump has compiled a comprehensive list of them. Here are a few of the most terrible:

⚫ Withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership

⚫ Repeal of a rule allowing states to create retirement savings plans for private-sector workers

⚫ Withdrew from the Paris climate agreement

⚫ Blocked the Clean Power Plan

⚫ Ended a study on the health effects of mountaintop-removal mining

⚫ Reversed an Obama ban on drilling for oil in the Arctic

⚫ Rescinded a limit on the number of sea animals that can be trapped or killed in fishing nets

⚫ Ended a rule banning dumping waste from mining into streams

⚫ Removed a bike-sharing station at the White House

⚫ Withdrew federal protections for transgender students in schools

There are many more that will break your heart and even if we could stop Trump now, it would be years before we could restore these important policies. Read the entire list here.


These are the Burlington Beadles which YouTube tells us is “possibly the oldest and smallest private police force in the world.”

”For nearly 200 years, the beadles have stood guard over one of London’s most exclusive shopping centers, preventing shoppers from committing brash acts of rudeness—such as whistling, singing and hurrying.

“Dressed in period clothing, head beadle Mark Lord still makes sure that people mind their manners in this most (proper) English way.”


Mental Floss has compiled a list of the smallest town in each one of the 50 American states. A surprising number of them boast states with just one resident.

In my state, Oregon, the smallest town, with a population of two, is Greenhorn which also has the distinction of being at the highest city at 6,306 feet.

Greenhorn oregon sign

The town was founded during the gold rush and today

”...serves as a vacation retreat and hunting outpost for a handful of part-time residents. Two people, Joyce Pappel and Ron Bergstrom, account for the town’s entire permanent population. Greenhorn collects no taxes and has no sewers, power lines, or police.”

You can look up the smallest town in your state at Mental Floss.


Have you ever heard of these? Fainting goats? I never had until a house guest, my friend Jim Stone, showed me a couple of videos. Here's another video about them from National Geographic. They make me laugh every time.

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.

Being a Professional Patient

As I have mentioned once or twice since my pancreatic cancer diagnosis, I have always said I never wanted to become a professional patient. Nevertheless, here I am doing just that and there is a surprise: some aspects are quite pleasurable.

One of those is visits to the hospital.

On Tuesday, in preparation for my upcoming six months of chemotherapy, I underwent a short, minor surgical procedure to implant a port, sometimes called a port-a-cath, under the skin of my upper chest through which the chemo medications will be administered.


(It's hard to tell in this photograph, but the port raises the skin about a quarter of an inch. I have no idea what that bruised area on my neck is although it is related to the placement of the port.)

The surgeon who performed my Whipple procedure in June was there on Tuesday to lead the team and I was glad to see him; I feel safe in his hands.

In addition, even though the nurses, CNAs, two anesthesiologists and other caregivers who looked after me were not the same people who did so in June, they were equally patient, kind, caring, knowledgeable and expert at their jobs.

Each one carefully explained the parts of the procedure that were in their bailiwick, answered all my questions in layman's language I could understand and in a situation where just about any patient would be apprehensive, even frightened, their manner made it seem almost like we were just having a friendly visit. As it was the day after the eclipse, we shared our stories about that in between the medical information.

Given the ambience they created, if it hadn't been 6AM I might have expected drinks to be served.

With this diagnosis, I entered a world almost as different from my life's experience as landing on another planet would be. It is fascinating, if you pay attention, in a way that is similar to reading Studs Terkel's book, Working, from years ago for which he interviewed many dozens of people about what their jobs were like.

A hospital is a self-contained universe expressly designed to give aid and comfort to people whose bodies have betrayed them in some manner. The people who work in that domain have their own language, their own tools, rules, rituals, practices, customs, protocols and codes of conduct.

And when you – the patient – are lucid enough, you get an intriguing peak into this alien environment. Safety is, as you would imagine, paramount. About nine or ten people came to talk with me in the curtained pre-op room on Tuesday. Every one of them first asked me to repeat my full name and birth date which they checked against my computer record.

Undoubtedly that is to ensure they don't amputate the wrong leg, as it were.

I am impressed that although my legal name, listed on all my records and documents is Veronica, they had taken the time to determine that I prefer to be called Ronni – also in my records – and not one ever missed that nicety.

Each one, too, is careful never to overstate the bounds of his or her area of expertise. When I asked an RN if it would be possible to insert the port on the left side of my chest, she deferred to the surgeon – it was his call, not hers.

When a couple of physicians were explaining the release I needed to sign, a group of nurses just outside my room were having a coffee klatch and getting quite loud. The doctors stopped our discussion, went out to quiet the nurses and when they returned, started from the top to be sure I knew what I was signing.

Some hospital personnel apparently have prodigious memories. As I was wheeled toward the operating room, the woman at the desk where I had checked in an hour earlier waved and said with a big smile, “See you when you get back here, Ronni.”

How many people had she checked in that morning? And she remembered my name?

All this accommodation is to the good and is a result of the relatively new doctrine of “patient-centered care”, a concept physicians' offices, clinics and hospitals have been developing over the last decade or so. Quite successfully as far as “my hospital” is concerned.

So if I must become a professional patient, I'm having a fine ol' time investigating hospital culture.

In that regard, here's a nugget of information worth knowing: at this hospital, operating rooms are numbered 1 through 25 but there is no number 13. Even in a place where cutting edge medicine is practiced every day, superstition remains.

Are Children an Elder Hazard?

In the nature of callow youth, when I was a teenager - and maybe a young woman too - I noted with some disdain that the homes of old people I knew were often in need of a design update.

If the décor fashion of the day was Danish modern, for example, I felt a kind of contempt for the people who were not keeping up.

It's not that their homes hadn't been cleaned but threadbare upholstery, nicks on chair legs and permanent stains on table tops pointed up some shabbiness. Oh, my disdain knew few bounds.

I've noticed through the years that a lot of children can be as judgmental as I once was and on some reflection, I wonder maybe that it's okay – as long as they aren't rude about it.

It takes a long time to form one's tastes and discernment and young people generally prefer the new to the old – and maybe that applies people as well as furnishings for them (I THINK that's a joke).

And, of course, there are a lot of understandable reasons an old person's home can seem dated to the young. It's expensive to reupholster an otherwise perfectly good sofa and money is generally tighter in retirement.

My latest reason for not spending much time thinking about replacements for whatever is worn is realizing that it probably isn't worth the effort for whatever time is left to me on earth. (I THINK that's half a joke.) Here's an example of one thing I won't be replacing.


When Ollie the cat first came to live with me 13 years ago, from day one he used a leg of my desk to hone his claws. It was a new desk then and I was concerned about what he was doing. At least he wasn't shredding the sofa upholstery, I told myself, but it was a nice desk that he was ripping into.

When I asked a friend what she thought I should do, she had a couple of questions: Is the desk an antique, Ronni? Are you planning to leave it to me in your will?

No to both. And my friend said, “So why do you care?”

She was right and I have not cared ever since nor do I have any intention of replacing the desk even if there are young people who, like me at one time, would see the desk leg as a sign of senile neglect.

All that is leading up to a more serious issue with children, mostly younger ones in this case.

At the hospital where my surgery took place, there is a long, wide hallway between the check-in lobby and the exterior stairs. A nurse was pushing me in a wheelchair as we navigated that space on the day I was leaving.

I was still shaky, in some pain, and acutely aware of my sore midsection where the long incision is. As we moved forward, an old man using a cane with one arm while holding the arm of woman I guessed was his adult daughter, walked past us in the opposite direction.

Suddenly, two boys – maybe seven, eight or nine – ran full tilt down the hallway, brushing the old man's cane arm as they scooted by and then, making a course correction, nearly bumped into my wheelchair.

I don't recall any previous time when I was frightened in just that way. I immediately pictured myself and the wheelchair tipped over on the floor of the hallway, my incision ripped open with blood pouring forth.

Okay, perhaps I was being dramatic but I was hardly myself yet with the effects of 12 hours of anesthesia still muddling my brain. And anyway, in the circumstance it was not an inconceivable accident.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago while shopping at the Saturday farmer's market an almost identical situation took place: I was wandering the stalls when a couple of young boys, playing tag or running just for the fun of it, almost set me off balance as one of them brushed my arm in passing.

I wasn't as vulnerable that time as I had been in the hospital hallway, but it frightened me in the way that pretty much all old people are afraid of falling (as we should be at our age: one-third of Americans 65 and older fall each year. Some of them die from the fall).

These two almost-accidents are a new phenomenon for me. Before them, I had never thought of young kids as an elder hazard.

It is one thing for young people to ridicule how old people live in their homes – most of them, like me, will outgrow it. It is quite another for them to endanger the lives of old people - and you cannot help but wonder where their parents are.

In my case, I came to my newfound feelings of vulnerability via a massive surgery but in time it would have happened anyway with the normal debilities of age.

But I know that from this moment forward I will give all young children a wide berth. They are not safe for an old person to be around.

Eclipse Day Reveals Some Personal Changes


I don't know about everyone else but if, like me, you live within the path of today's eclipse or within easy driving distance, the event has been a local news story to rival President Trump.

All right, that's not quite true but it was the second or third lead many days during this past month and it has been a common topic of conversation.

A week or so ago, at a gathering on the deck of a neighbor one lovely evening, we discussed the upcoming phenomenon. We live about an hour's drive from the path of the total eclipse and not one of us had plans to make that short trip to experience it.

Even those of us who had never seen an eclipse shrugged. “A partial eclipse is fine for me,” or “I'll watch it on television,” we said. Certainly the expected 1.5 million visitors from out-of-state who are clogging the roads affected my decision.

All of us at the gathering are retired, ranging in age from about 70 to mid-eighties and our relative disinterest in the eclipse got me thinking about how age has changed my behavior. Maybe yours too.

There was a time when I would have weathered any amount of traffic to be on the spot when the mother of all lights goes out but that was a long time ago. Because I can, I arrange my life now to avoid being stuck in traffic, among other annoyances.

In recent years, I have become a dedicated homebody under most circumstances. Even two or three hours away from the house for a restaurant meal, a doctor appointment, a meeting or errands and I'm eager to return.

And although I enjoyed all my business trips throughout my work years to almost every one of the United States along with world destinations and saw places I never otherwise would have, airline travel has become so dreadful, I am not sure what could compel me to do that now.

Not to mention that travel generally doesn't fit in my retirement budget.

Many people use their retirement for travel. Some go on cruises (have you seen those prices?). Others buy RVs to take their homes with them. Those vehicles interest me in the same way that boats and tiny houses do (so clever how every inch of space is used well) but not enough to live in one, and certainly not enough to drive it.

Obviously we slow down as the years pass. When I worked, I could clean the house (well, a New York City apartment) from top to bottom in one, three-hour swoop on Saturday mornings. Now I spread it over an entire week.

It's possible that I could still get it done in one go, although not three hours, but I just don't want to. So it's a room or two a day.

One of the oddest developments for me in old age is that as my time on earth becomes demonstrably shorter, the more willing I am to put off all kinds of things until tomorrow and beyond whether it is an onerous chore or a pleasure. I don't understand that but it feels like there is always more time.

In today's case, it's not as though there will be another total eclipse in my vicinity during my lifetime, but I'm staying home anyway.

Years ago, I believed elastic waists were for old people. Now that I'm an old person, I thank god for stretchy waistbands.

I also don't try to hold in my tummy anymore. I sleep when I'm tired. And before this newly enforced meal schedule thanks to my recent surgery, I ate when I felt like it which often had nothing to do with the three usual meals a day.

It's been a couple of years since I watched a movie in a theater. The last two or three I attended, in different theaters, punched up the audio so high it actually hurt my ears. Suggested ear plugs are useless – they either don't work or irritate my ears. And sitting farther away from the screen doesn't help since there are speakers all along the walls.

So I watch movies I am interested in after they show up on television via Netflix, etc. and I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

There's more but you get the idea.

As with today's eclipse, very little feels compelling enough these days to require that I discompose myself by leaving home for too long. And anyway, there is so much to do here: books, movies, cooking, the cat, this blog, good neighbors, visitors and there is a lovely park along the river just steps from my door. Even the weekly farmer's market is only a five-minute walk.

I wasn't always like this but I'm pretty sure I am not alone in my cleaving to hearth and home in my dotage. Nevertheless, I am equally convinced that plenty of others feel differently. How about you?

ELDER MUSIC: The Jealous Kind

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

"O beware my lord of jealousy! It is the green eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on".

That, of course, was from the greatest play about jealousy, Othello. So, the green-eyed monster rears its head today. Actually, I've always had a problem with that phrase as my eyes are green and I always think they are talking about me. Okay, that could be so, but let's skip over that and get to the music.

Possibly the most famous song on the topic was by JOHN LENNON.

John Lennon

From his best selling album as a solo performer, "Imagine", we have the song Jealous Guy. This was later covered by Bryan Ferry and Donny Hathaway. Donny's version wasn't bad, but neither is as good as John's.

♫ John Lennon - Jealous Guy

LES PAUL AND MARY FORD seem quite perky about it all.

Les Paul Mary Ford

Of course, Mary (double or triple tracking herself) doesn't seem to be jealous of anyone in particular, it's more about horticulture and such things as far as I can tell. Les plays his usual splendid guitar but it sounds as if they pinched Lawrence Welk's bubble machine. The song is Jealous.

♫ Les Paul & Mary Ford - Jealous

In total contrast, LULA REED really has the blues.

Lula Reed

Lula started her professional musical career as the featured singer in Sonny Thompson's band. Later, when she went solo, Sonny was still along to supply backing. They later married. Her song is Jealous Love and I assume Sonny is in there somewhere. I hope the song isn't about themselves.

♫ Lula Reed - Jealous Love

To the title of the column. It was a really tough call to determine which version of The Jealous Kind to use. Okay, I'm lying to you as I knew immediately which one I was going to include.

This song, written by Bobby Charles who did his own fine version, has many great covers – Ray Charles, Joe Cocker, Johnny Adams and Clarence (Frogman) Henry all would have been an automatic inclusion if DELBERT MCCLINTON hadn't recorded the song.

Delbert McClinton

Delbert is a superb interpreter of songs (and he he's a good writer of them as well), and that's all I need to say.

♫ Delbert McClinton - The Jealous Kind

From the sublime to the pretty good. Okay, TENNESSEE ERNIE FORD has a technically better voice than Delbert, but I'd rather listen to Delbert.

Tennessee Ernie Ford

I'm sorry if it sounds as if I'm denigrating you, Ernie, I'm not. It's just that someone has to follow Delbert, and you lost the toss. Here is Jealous Heart.

♫ Tennessee Ernie Ford - Jealous Heart

Some of you might be expecting this next one, so I don't want to disappoint you. Here is FRANK SINATRA.

Frank Sinatra

Frank's recorded so many songs that I imagine there'd be one for any topic I could conceive of. In this case he sings Hey Jealous Lover.

♫ Frank Sinatra - Hey Jealous Lover

The song from PATTI PAGE called My Jealous Eyes had one really good thing going for it.

Patti Page

I'm talking about the original 45 release of the song. The thing about it was that if you played it, it means you weren't playing the flip side of the record. On that other side there was a song about a window, a dog and probably some money was involved. That's all I'm going to say about that.

♫ Patti Page - My Jealous Eyes

MUDDY WATERS goes all out with Jealous Hearted Man.

Muddy Waters

That's probably because he was reinvigorating his career when Johnny Winter recorded him, and played on the album, after Muddy seemed to be losing the ear of the public. The album "Hard Again" stopped the rot, as it were, and put him back on the charts and won him a Grammy.

♫ Muddy Waters - Jealous Hearted Man

After all the downers we've had so far I'll end with a couple that will really get your toes a'tapping, and you can't beat tapping toes on a Sunday morning.

There were a couple of good versions of the next song, I had to play them several times to determine which to include. They all tried to sound like Elvis and the backing group sounded like The Jordanaires in each case. Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised if it was them as they were the go-to backup singers at the time. Eventually, I settled on BOBBY COMSTOCK.

Bobby Comstock

Bobby not only sounds like Elvis, the song sounds to me like Teddy Bear. Well, if you're going to rip off someone, go for the best. This is Jealous Fool.

♫ Bobby Comstock - Jealous Fool

In the last years of his life, LEVON HELM, drummer, singer and player of other instruments for The Band, held regular concerts, jams, get-togethers in his barn in Woodstock, New York.

Levon Helm

Musicians who were in the area were roped in to perform. Actually, not much roping was required as pretty much everyone wanted to play with him.

One of the regular members of his group was LARRY CAMPBELL, also its guitarist and musical director. Besides that he sang occasionally, including on I’m a Jealous Man. Levon can be heard singing in the background, and drumming, of course.

Larry Campbell

♫ Larry Campbell - I’m a Jealous Man

INTERESTING STUFF – 19 August 2017

EDITORIAL NOTE: After my surgery in June, I stopped publishing Interesting Stuff on Saturdays. I couldn't spend as much time playing around online for good items nor did I have the energy to write it.

I'm slowly coming back and so we have an Interesting Stuff today. I don't promise to do this every week for awhile so let's just see how it goes.

* * *


The BBC tells us that the London's iconic Big Ben clock will be shut down for repairs until 2021:

Parliamentary authorities said stopping Big Ben - the commonly used name for the Palace of Westminster's Elizabeth Tower - would protect workers carrying out the repairs. It will still sound for important events including New Year's Eve and Remembrance Sunday.”

Here's a little video about the shutdown:


If you are like crossword puzzles, you'll love this excellent profile of Will Shortz who edited The New York Times crossword puzzle for nearly a quarter of a century. He is also a lifelong collector of puzzle memorabilia:

”Mr. Shortz’s collection includes more than 25,000 puzzle books and magazines, dating to 1534, along with pamphlets, small mechanical puzzles and other ephemeral items. It overwhelms the décor of his home in Pleasantville, N.Y., where he lives and works.

“A clock in his office is — well, its face is a crossword puzzle. (The hands? Two stubby pencils.) A display case in the living room holds, among other treasures, the first crossword puzzle ever published — in a 1913 Sunday 'Fun' section of The New York World.”


If you like puzzles, you won't be disappointed by this story at The New York Times.


As the Washington Post reported:

Hans Nilsson has spent three years trying to spot an elusive white moose in the town of Eda, in western Sweden. Last week he got lucky and crossed paths with the ghost-colored herbivore two days in a row.

“When Nilsson saw the moose the first time, he was amazed. On the second day, he was ready.

He whipped out a camera and shot video of the moose, well, being a moose. It waded into a nearby stream. It shook off water. It nibbled on some plants.”

Here's the video:


Bored Panda published these photos of astonishing cakes make by Atelier Soo in Seoul, Korea. Take a look at a couple of them:



You can see many others at Bored Panda.


With his crooked nose, large overbite and humped back, Tiny Cletus Spuckler was destined to a difficult start in life. Then a couple fell in love with him. The video tells the story:


I've lived alone for most of my adult life – decades – and generally I'm happy that way. Bored Panda recently published ten illustrations about the joys of living alone.

The are created by Los Angeles-based painter, illustrator and occasional animator, Yaoyao Ma Van As. Here are three of them.




You can see the whole series of ten in order at Bored Panda.


I've always liked bald eagles but haven't seen more than a couple of them in my life for real and therefore rely on Youtube videos. As the page explains:

"...on this Alaskan island, our national symbol is as common as a beachside seagull. You can find them everywhere—lurking above the post office, inspecting the trash, waiting patiently for the local fishing boats to return with the day’s catch, even hanging out in front of the town church. In Unalaska, Alaska, everyone has an eagle story."

PS: Who new there was a town named Unalaska.


It has been widely reported that retired Late Night host David Letterman will be returning to television before long:

”...for a limited Netflix series. Premiering in 2018, the as-yet-untitled program, which will come out as six, hour-long installments, will find the host interviewing one guest each episode, as well as comedy and 'curiosity' bits outside of the studio.

"'I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix,' the host said in a statement. 'Here's what I have learned: If you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first.'"

There is more at Rolling Stone.


I've been reading stories lately about how smart crows and their avian relatives like ravens are. Nugget the crow, who couldn't fly, spent several months devising an exercise program and teaching herself how to do it. Take a look.

There's a lot more to know about Nugget at Atlas Obscura.

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.

Today is Millie Garfield's Birthday


More people are living longer these days than when we were young but it is still remarkable to have lived 92 years and counting and today we celebrate Millie's birthday here at TGB.

Millie is the first friend I made on the internet after I started this blog. I no longer recall the circumstances but we've been talking and emailing and phoning and keeping in regular touch with one another for about a dozen years.

Millie started her blog, My Mom's Blog, 14 years ago. In fact, she may have been the first elderblogger– she was doing it at least a year or so before me. Here's how she explained the beginnings of her blog:

”It was thirteen years ago when I asked my son Steve an innocent question, 'what is a blog?' He explained it to me and asked if I would like to have my own blog. I said 'Yes.'

He helped me get started, encouraged me and also introduced me to video blogging. I thank him for that!

All this has got me thinking - maybe I could post something once in a while. Life is different for me now. What would I write about? Who knows?”

Millie stopped regularly posting to her blog a year or two ago but she sometimes posts at Steve's Facebook page where you can check out what they're each doing.

For a long time, Steve produced a couple of video shows with Millie. Here's one from her “I Can't Open It” series:

Steve also shot several Yiddish class videos with his mom. Here's a short one:

Undoubtedly, Steve and his wife Carol will be celebrating with Millie today. Here is a photo of the three of them from a couple of years ago:


The thing about Steve is that I've never seen him – in photos and a couple of times in person – that he is not grinning. He's a really happy guy and he probably owes that disposition to his mom.

For the past two years, we've celebrated Millie's birthday by adding up all our ages in the comments. Here's how I explained it last year updated for 2017:

Take Millie's years, 92. Add my years, 76, and we've got 168. Now, the next one of you, in the comments, should add your age to that, then the next of you add to that total and then the next and so on.

Of course, because more than one will comment at a time, the total will get all screwed up – but that's part of the fun at birthday parties, just being silly. In 2015, the final count was 6,414 collective years. Let's see if we can outdo that this year.

Happy Big Deal Birthday, Millie. I so treasure our friendship and I am privileged to know you.

Random Cancer Thoughts

Several people have mentioned via email and in comments in these pages on their own experiences with cancer, that theirs is a small thing compared to my pancreatic cancer.

Are you guys kidding? It says something about the state of the science in regard to almost all cancers that it is just about the scariest diagnosis anyone can get. Not that there aren't other diseases of age that are equally fraught but we are culturally conditioned to more or less freak out when cancer is mentioned.

I recall thinking when I was quite young, in my twenties I suppose, that I wouldn't need to worry about cancer because it mostly affects old people and by the time I got there, surely science would have learned how to prevent or cure it.

Yes. Well. It didn't work out that way. But I wonder if people of our age expected it to have been so because science was so successful in the 20th century creating vaccines for most of the diseases of childhood: measles, mumps, chicken pox, small pox, diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, etc.

That happened in our lifetimes and is an astonishing achievement – moreso for those of us old enough to remember quarantine signs on homes of neighbors afflicted with one of those diseases before the vaccine was created.


My point, however, is that no one's life-threatening disease is better or worse than another person's. Besides the disease and the (sometimes awful) treatment, we bring our personal histories to these frightening events, our hopes and fears, our spiritual beliefs or lack thereof.

All these and more affect how we face frightening events which therefore cannot, nor should not be compared one to another.

A social worker connected with the clinic where I will receive my chemotherapy treatments telephoned to discuss what her department can do for me.

She said that they are there to help with just about any practical or emotional issues that come up – that over the years, they have seen pretty much everything from something as simple (to them) as arranging transportation to prescriptions, often anti-anxiety medications.

Until she mentioned that last item, I hadn't realized how important it is to me to feel what I feel and how adamant I am about it.

As I mentioned last week, I have good days and bad days but I see both as learning opportunities and it has been my experience throughout my life that almost always the bad times, painful as they can be, are more enlightening than good times, as enjoyable and important as the latter kind are.

Healthy eating is deeply embedded in my daily life. Not that I don't indulge in ice cream now and then but generally, I eat mounds of vegetables and fruit along with fish, seafood and very occasionally, lamb – my favorite of the red meats; I don't miss the others.

Then, along came the Whipple Procedure during which they removed a good portion of my pancreas. Since then, my pancreas does not create enough of the enzymes that are required to digest food properly and I must take a pill to replace those enzymes with every meal.

As it turns out, that's the easy part.

Almost all vegetables – at least for the time being – are verboten for their high fiber content. I'm making sandwiches with white bread now, no whole grains allowed.

I'd been worried about the lack of green things in my diet until I discovered that certain lettuces, cucumbers and zucchini among a few others are low fiber although I need to peel the latter two to keep the fiber content as low as possible.

Most fruit is okay as long as they are peeled too, except, as a nurse noted to me, for grapes and cherries (in high season now and at their best) should be avoided because they are damned hard to peel.

Protein is important so that foods I ate sparingly in the past because of their high calorie count are now essential: peanut butter, cheeses, pasta – but the white kind, not whole grain.

A danger with cancer and the Whipple is weight loss so I am also encouraged to eat anything that is high in calories – ice cream is no longer a no-no but here's the rub: I'm hardly ever hungry and have to force feed every meal. By the time I get to dessert, two or three spoons of ice cream is all I can handle. (This from a woman who, until two months ago, believed a serving of ice cream is a pint.)

There is more but you get the idea.

My entire way of eating has been upended. It is more important right now to allow foods high in calories and avoid those that are hard to digest. I'm still learning how to cook this new way and have not ventured out to a restaurant yet.

Inequities in Elder Healthcare and Myths About Older Drivers

Two important topics in the realm of ageing that I bang on about from time to time turned up in separate, well-researched articles last week and both are important to elders, their families, people who care for them and to public policy. Let's take them one at a time.

And this produces profound inequities in their healthcare compared to children and adults.

Writing in The New York Times yesterday, Louise Aronson, a professor of geriatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, points out that in the U.S. healthcare system,

”There are 17 subgroupings for children from birth through age 18. That makes sense because, of course, a 6-month-old has had little time to develop immunity, weighs far less than an 8-year-old and is exposed to fewer people than a teenager.

“There are five subgroups for adults. But all Americans 65 and older — including the two fastest-growing segments of our population, the 80- to 90-year-olds and those over 100 — are lumped in a single group, as if bodies and behaviors don’t change over the last half-century of life.

“You don’t need to be a doctor to see that this is absurd.”


Although Professor Aronson's Op-Ed is specifically about vaccines, she makes it clear that not differentiating between the young-old and old-old makes all healthcare for elders questionable. Studies have shown, Aronson writes, that some common procedures in urological conditions, acute myeloid leukemia and chemotherapy treatment have much less efficacy in older patients.

”There are simply different risk-benefit ratios for older adults; the frailest and oldest often incur all the immediate harms of treatments, from prevention to intensive care, without seeing the benefits.

The sad fact is that we frequently don’t know how to best care for the old. Treatments rarely target older adults’ particular physiology, and the old are typically excluded from clinical studies.

“Sometimes they are kept out based on age alone, but more often it’s because they have one of the diseases that typically accompany old age. And yet we still end up basing older people’s treatment on this research, because too often it is all we have.”

Hear, hear - the inequities are obvious and can be deadly. Aronson concludes:

”In the 20th century, vaccines conquered many of the deadliest diseases of childhood. In the 21st century, when the number of older adults will surpass the number of children worldwide, we need to similarly target oldhood...

“Life is a three-act play. It’s time our medical system reflected that truth.”

No kidding.

Many states have different driving license requirements for people 65 and older. Among the most common, according to ClaimsJournal website in 2012:

Must renew more frequently, from one to five years, in person only and pass a vision test

Require an optometrist's certification for vision or a doctor's certification that the driver is medically fit

A few states require a road test each renewal

Some states allow health providers, family and in one case even neighbors to report what they believe are impairments to driving


These restrictions on renewals for older drivers have been increasing in recent years because it is widely believed, and hardly ever challenged, that old people cause more accidents than younger drivers.

That is simply not true as Cynthia Kuster, an elder care attorney with the law firm Lamson & Cutner recently reported from her research. Some excerpts:

”Let’s start with question a) – DO elderly drivers pose an increased risk to others?', writes Kuster. The short answer is: Not really.

“Even at their highest rate (for drivers 85 and older), the fatality rate for accidents caused by seniors is the same or lower than that for drivers 25 years old and under. The data indicate that even through the age of 84, older drivers caused fatalities to occupants of other vehicles and non-motorists at about the rate that 30-year-olds do.

“That is simply not a major danger. We’re certainly not stopping 30-year-olds from driving, and drivers younger than 30 are far more likely to cause the death of others than are 84-year-olds.”

As to whether old drivers are a danger to themselves, Kuster tells us that when the driver is at fault, a 76-year-old is as likely to die in an accident as a 26-year-old. But after age 83, driver fatalities rise significantly.

”However, the AAA study I looked at here cites a study, published in the Traffic Injury Prevention journal, that found that increased fatalities in elderly drivers are more common because the drivers are frailer, and injuries sustained in an accident are much more likely to result in death than they would be, were the driver younger.”

As Kuster concludes:

”The AAA study summary states, 'Relative to other age groups, drivers aged 85 and older face the highest risk of their own death, whereas teens pose the greatest risk to passengers, occupants of other vehicles, and non-motorists.

“The Traffic Injury Prevention study cited in the AAA article stated: 'Older driver motor vehicle crashes are not a significant threat to other road users in vehicles or as pedestrians...”

“Focusing on how to make driving safer for seniors – or more importantly, how to make crashing less deadly for them – should be a focus of public safety advocates.”

As the first article above notes and as I have reported here for years, elders age at different rates. An individual 60-year-old may show dramatic signs of incapacity while an individual 80-year-old may not.

We each are reponsible to monitor our vision, reaction times and confidence behind the wheel and long before hanging up the keys, figure out how we will get around without a car.

Until then, don't let anyone tell you elders are worse drivers than younger people. Not to mention that There is more than a little ageism involved in each of these two issues.

ELDER MUSIC: 1961 Yet Again

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

There's a truism that the period between Buddy Holly dying, Elvis going into the army, Chuck Berry going to jail, Little Richard finding religion, Jerry Lee Lewis marrying his 13 year old cousin and the rise of the Beatles, Bob Dylan and the rest was a musical wasteland.

Today's column will put paid to that in no uncertain terms. Of course, I might be biased as this was the music that was around when I was in my mid-teens, the time when that sort of thing gets seriously imprinted on one's brain.

There's no better way to start the year than with the incomparable BEN E KING.

Ben E King

Ben first came to my notice as the lead singer of the Drifters. He then had a successful solo career. One of his first hits was one of the finest songs from that time, Spanish Harlem.

It was written by written by Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector and produced by Jerry and his usual writing partner Mike Stoller, not by Spector who was more noted as a producer than a song writer (if you can follow all that).

♫ Ben E King - Spanish Harlem

Another great singer from the period is GENE MCDANIELS.

Gene McDaniels

Gene started out as a jazz singer and that's where he ended up. However, around this time he was persuaded to sing some pop songs. Naturally, he did them better than most of the other singers who were around at the time. This is one of his big hits, Tower of Strength.

♫ Gene McDaniels - Tower of Strength

The Beatles had a big hit with this next song, but THE MARVELETTES did it first and did it better.

The Marvelettes

They had other songs that made the charts but the one for which they are most remembered is Please, Mr. Postman.

♫ The Marvelettes - Please Mr. Postman

CURTIS LEE left his native Arizona and went to New York to break into the music industry.

Curtis Lee

He initially found a little success writing songs with Tommy Boyce (who later became hugely successful in that area with his later writing partner Bobby Hart). Curtis recorded some songs under the direction of Phil Spector that became hits.

Later, without Phil's direction, the hits dried up and Curtis left the music biz. One of his biggies is Pretty Little Angel Eyes.

♫ Curtis Lee - Pretty Little Angel Eyes

FLOYD CRAMER was the go-to man whenever a pianist was needed on a country music recording.

Floyd Cramer

Floyd also recorded a few tracks himself, some of which made the charts. This is one such, an instrumental called On the Rebound. He had a distinctive style and you could always tell when he was present on a record. He was one of the great studio musicians.

♫ Floyd Cramer - On The Rebound

Billy CRASH CRADDOCK was a huge success in Australia, much more so than in his native country.

Crash Cradock

Because of that he toured here often. He later became a successful country singer but he will always be remembered in Oz for his many hits from the time. One of those is One Last Kiss. Bobby Vee was another who made the charts with this one.

♫ Crash Craddock - One Last Kiss

CLARENCE (FROGMAN) HENRY is another fine musician from New Orleans.

Clarence Frogman Henry

His first hit, Ain't Got No Home, was essentially improvised in the recording studio. It was from that song that he gained his nickname. He later toured with The Beatles. After all that he had his own club in New Orleans where he'd perform now and then.

He still appears in festivals (as of the writing of this column). A song of his from 1961 is But I Do, written by Bobby Charles.

♫ Clarence (Frogman) Henry - But I Do

My goodness, ADAM WADE had a great voice. Still does, as far as I can tell.

Adam Wade

Adam started out as a lab assistant to Jonas Salk on the polio research team. He left that to pursue a career in music. He had a number of hits around this time and later turned to television and films. One from this year is Take Good Care of Her.

♫ Adam Wade - Take Good Care Of her

I'm rather surprised that I didn't include this next song in either of the previous incarnations of 1961. I'm going to correct that oversight with THE SHIRELLES.

The Shirelles

I'm also talking about their biggest hit, at least it was around where I lived. I've always put them at the top of my list of female singing groups from the time. Will You Love Me Tomorrow?

♫ The Shirelles - Will You Love Me Tomorrow

I don't know if EDEN KANE was known in America, but he had a major success in both Britain and Australia with the song Well I Ask You.

Eden Kane

Eden was born in India and both his parents were classically trained musicians. He had two older brothers (Peter and Clive Sarstedt) with whom he also collaborated. Peter also had success with the song Where Do You Go to (My Lovely).

Eden (real name Richard Sarstedt) was the first of the brothers to hit the pop charts with this song.

♫ Eden Kane - Well I Ask You

I have a bonus track. Quite some time ago I rediscovered a song from my past, one I hadn't heard or thought about for decades, and thought, "Oh, I have to include that in a column". I found that it was from 1961 and as I hadn't created a third incarnation of the year at the time, that'd be where I would put it.

Time passed and I remembered that I was going to produce a 1961 column but I had forgotten about the catalyst for it. It was only later when I finished that I remembered.

Rather than throw something out, I've included it as an extra. Now, once you hear what it is, you might wonder why I bothered. That's 1961 for you. Here is PAUL EVANS with Show Folk.

Paul Evans

♫ Paul Evans - Show Folk

My Introduction to Chemotherapy

Pancreaticcancerawareness160leftWhat interesting, useful and fruitful discussions you - TGB readers - have been carrying on in the comments of posts about my pancreatic cancer. Some of you have been-there-done-that with a variety of cancers and I appreciate your generosity in sharing your experiences – it enriches our understanding.

On Wednesday, I met with the medical oncologist and her team to talk about my upcoming chemo. I had been dreading the meeting since it was booked a few weeks ago.

Despite what you think from my written reports here, my upbeat, optimistic days run parallel with dark, pessimistic, even frightening ones that include horrible images that appear unbidden as I am falling asleep at night or for an afternoon nap.

My mood worsened in the days leading up to Wednesday's meeting with memories of how chemo sickened my father and wasted his body 35 years ago, which I tried to counter with the success my friend Joyce Wadler had with chemo through three different cancers.

It didn't help much and even though I told myself that there was no point in having gone through the terrible recovery period from the Whipple procedure surgery and not follow up with the recommended chemo was just stupid, my gloom persisted.

“Stupid” is the word since, as the experts keep telling me, I am in better shape to beat this cancer than 90-plus percent of patients. To recap:

Because most pancreatic cancer is detected after it has spread, only ten percent of people diagnosed are eligible for the surgery.

The portion of my pancreas that was removed, including the tumor, was “clean at the margins” meaning it has not spread from that organ.

In addition, 17 lymph nodes touching the pancreas were removed and tested for cancer cells; three were positive.

Eighty percent of patients in my circumstance who take the chemotherapy are dead from the disease in five or fewer years.

And you wonder why I'm sometimes morose about this?

On the other hand, there is what my primary care physician said when I saw him a couple of weeks ago: “Ronni, you are very healthy - except for the cancer.” Maybe that is what made the medical oncologist on Wednesday more upbeat about my chemo outcome than some others: that it will be “curative” which means, like many other cancers, it is considered cured if the patient is cancer-free in five years.

To know that, there will need to be regular checkups, tests and scans to monitor the cancer (or – best case scenario – lack thereof) which, of course, leaves me with the life I have always wanted to avoid: being a professional patient.

But what other choice is there? So in mid-September I will begin chemotherapy with two drugs – one intravenous weekly through a port permanently embedded (for the duration) in my chest, and the second drug taken orally twice a day every day, each for three weeks in a row, then a week off before starting again.

For six months this goes on which will take me to March 2018. There are, of course, potential side effects – fatigue, various kinds of sores, peeling and cracking skin but not, in my case, hair loss, or not much they say.

With the intravenous drug alone, 55-60 percent of patients are alive after three years, the medical oncologist tells me. When the second, oral drug, which is relatively new, is included that number is increased by 15-plus percent.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the cancer might come back, usually in the liver or lungs and there is little treatment then.

Those of you who have discussed your chemotherapy in the comments undoubtedly know all about this with whatever differences apply to your kind of cancer.

To me, this is all new and in my gloom, I sometimes lean toward agreeing with those people who renounce these “poisons” in favor of herbs and other “natural” treatments.

My more rational self knows perfectly well that if flax seeds cured cancer we would have heard about it and they would cost $5000 an ounce.

Like me, you have probably noticed through the years, that people are remarkably adaptable to difficult even, sometimes, severe circumstances and once I get started with this new weekly routine in mid-September, I'm sure it won't feel as burdensome as it does now.

* * *

ABOUT THE PURPLE RIBBON: For readers who have commented or emailed objections to my use of the pancreatic cancer purple ribbon, I ask you to consider this advice Albus Dumbledore gives to Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, with which I heartily agree and applies to symbols as well as words:

"Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself."

Crabby Old Lady's Silly Complaints

This post is so silly that Crabby Old Lady almost left today's page blank. Her excuse is that it is all she had time for (it's amazing how busy doctors keep you when you have a serious disease) and she implores you not to laugh or make fun when you realize how ephemeral these are.

Two of her complaints involve fashion – one she is sorry to have missed and a second that is fairly serious if you like to dress nicely or, maybe Crabby is alone on this one.

Sparkly Makeup
These days, Crabby indulges only in a little blusher and light lipstick now and then but otherwise goes about her business with a naked face. That wasn't always so.

For most of her adult life, Crabby wore a lot of makeup although few noticed. She had the advantage of many years working with top makeup artists to the stars in television and they taught her a lot of tricks involved with enhancing one's better facial qualities and diminishing others without making the cosmetics obvious.

Crabby always liked playing around with makeup but when she retired and was getting older, it seemed excessive. And then, THEN, she discovered one day in a drug store sparkly blusher, sparkly eye shadow, even sparkly foundation.

Wow. What a great idea. It could be subtle for daytime or blatant for night. But it looked – and still looks – fantastic, but on young women, not old ones like Crabby although she might have some fun with it next Halloween.

This is a rare instance of Crabby Old Lady lamenting that she got too old too soon.

Sleeveless Clothing
What is it with sleeveless clothing? For the past few years, this has been driving Crabby nuts. She sees a shirt or blouse she likes, it works for her, the color is nice and then, second look – NO SLEEVES.

If you're shopping for clothes online, you can scroll for pages and pages without seeing sleeves. Even in winter clothes. Worse are those skimpy sleeves that stop just below the elbow – they look sloppy, unfinished.

Crabby suspects that it is just another way – in addition to overseas manufacturing and flimsy fabric (unless you can afford designer clothes) to make a greater profit. Imagine the amount of fabric no sleeves saves.

Crabby wonders if the clothing manufacturers know how much less clothing Crabby buys these days for lack of sleeves. And can she be alone?

Whatever Happened to Saying “You're Welcome”?
Since when, Crabby wants to know, is the response to “thank you” not “you're welcome”?

It is most obvious on the cable news programs when a host thanks a guest for taking time to be there and the guest says, “Thank you,” instead of “You're welcome.”

It has happened to Crabby Old Lady in “real life” too, although not as universally as on television. For example, on leaving a restaurant, she might thank a maitre d' for a nice meal and he/she almost always says “Thank you for coming.”

Can't anyone take a compliment anymore or just acknowledge a thank you with “you're welcome”?

Crabby is the first person to admit that these three old-lady complaints, especially given the problems in the world, are lighter than helium. But if Crabby has learned nothing else in her life, it is that she is never, ever the only person thinking whatever is on her mind.

So maybe you have some silly complaints too. Let us know below. And please forgive Crabby for this – she just ran out of time and brain power for anything more ambitious.

Ageism in Healthcare


This story had been on my “to do soon” list just before my cancer diagnosis and now that my recovery is going so well, it's time to start catching up. Let me start with a couple of ageist profiling stories from Dr. Val Jones at the BetterHealth website:

”Take for example, the elderly woman who was leading an active life in retirement. She was the chairman of the board at a prestigious company, was an avid Pilates participant, and the caregiver for her disabled son.

“A new physician at her practice recommended a higher dose of diuretic (which she dutifully accepted), and several days later she became delirious from dehydration. She was admitted to the local hospital where it was presumed, due to her age, that she had advanced dementia. Hospice care was recommended at discharge. All she needed was IV fluids.

“I recently cared for an attorney in her 70’s who had a slow growing brain tumor that was causing speech difficulties. She too, was written off as having dementia until an MRI was performed to explore the reason for new left-eye blindness.

“The tumor was successfully removed, but she was denied brain rehabilitation services because of her 'history of dementia.'

“Of course, I recently wrote about my 80-year-old patient, Jack, who was presumed to be an alcoholic when he showed up to his local hospital with a stroke.”

These are not uncommon stories. One of the most serious side effects of ageism is inadequate health care. Another example from an important overview of ageism in healthcare was published in Generations, the journal of the American Society on Aging, in October 2015:

”The geriatrician and writer Dr. Louise Aronson (2015) describes a disturbing example of explicit ageism in which a surgeon asks the medical student observing his case what specialty she is thinking of pursuing.

“When she answers, 'Geriatrics,' the surgeon immediately begins mimicking an older adult complaining about constipation in a high-pitched whine. The attending surgeon had a reputation for being an outstanding teacher, yet repeats this parody throughout the surgical procedure.”

Let me pause here to say that the reason I was eager to get back to this topic is the excellent care I received at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) hospital over nine days, which I wrote about here, that is in stark contrast to stories like those above which occur way too frequently.


When health care providers harbor implicit or explicit prejudice against older patients, the possibility of under- or over-treatment increases – and that often starts with poor communication.

As the authors report in the Generations article, in one study doctors were rated as “less patient, less engaged and less egalitarian with their older patients.”

”One way healthcare providers unknowingly patronize older adults,” they continue, “is to use 'elderspeak' - speaking slowly, with exaggerated intonation, elevated pitch and volume, greater repetitions, and simpler vocabulary and grammatical structure.

“Older adults perceive elderspeak as demeaning and studies show it can result in lower self-esteem, withdrawal from social interactions, and depression, which only reinforce dependency and increase social isolation (Williams, Kemper, and Hummert, 2005).”

The authors also note that it is not just the providers who “may harbor or exhibit ageist attitudes. Older adults themselves often possess very negative views of aging, not realizing the potential impact on their health.”

This may be changing, however, among baby boomers who are more likely to be comfortable questioning authority than many of their older counterparts.


Ageism in healthcare is, of course, only one area of prejudice against elders but as the stories above demonstrate, it can be deadly. If you encounter any healthcare professional who is behaving in a demeaning manner or dismissing your complaints, politely explain that you expect and deserve his/her full attention and care.

Or, you could just fire the doctor and find a new one as I did last October when my then-primary care physician dismissed my symptoms that eventually led to the pancreatic cancer diagnosis as nothing but a mild virus an antibiotic would take care of.

Whenever I have written about ageism lo these many years, inevitably there is a pushback in the comments. Invariably one or more will quote the “stick and stones...” adage, insisting that derogatory names can't hurt them. Others deny that ageism is on a par with sexism, racism, etc.

Really? It's not okay to denigrate, stereotype and discriminate against women and people of color but okay for old people? Really?

No, not really. Let me tell you why ageism – in all its manifestations – matters to me. It is about justice, justice for everyone including old people. And because if I don't keep insisting, it will change me in ways I won't like.


ELDER MUSIC: Even More Hooked on Classics

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

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This is really classical music, nothing to do with the dreadful series of records that came out many years ago with that name. The name of the original column was suggested by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist. Over time when I hear something I like, I save it. When I have enough for a column, it magically appears (if only). Let the magic begin.

RALPH VAUGHAN-WILLIAMS was offered a knighthood several times during his life and he refused each time. I applaud him and that alone is enough to get him into one of my columns. However, this is a music column so that will do for my commentary.

Ralph Vaughan-Williams

Ralph wrote some beautiful music - The Lark Ascending and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis immediately come to mind. I'm not using either of those. Instead, here is something out of left field.

The tuba isn't used very often as a featured instrument. Before I found this I wouldn't have been able to name one instance. However, thanks to Ralph, we have a Tuba Concerto in F Minor, the second movement.

♫ Vaughan-Williams - Tuba Concerto (2)

Given his ubiquity these days, it might seem surprising that from soon after his death until the twentieth century, ANTONIO VIVALDI was completely unknown.


Even now new works of his are being discovered in attics and toolsheds (okay, perhaps not those places, but they are being found). One composition that was known and performed in his lifetime is "Juditha Triumphans", an oratorio celebrating the victory of Venice against the Turks, and the recapture of the island of Corfu.

From that we have Juditha’s aria Transit aetas, performed by JOHANNETTE ZOMER.

Johannette Zomer

There's some mandolin work going on as well.

♫ Vivaldi - ‘Juditha Triumphans’ RV 644 Juditha’s arias ~ ‘Transit aetas’ for soprano mandolin & strings

I've never been a big fan of FRANZ LISZT, he's a bit too much of a show-off for my taste. Obviously, many others think differently as he's very popular, but that's alright.


He was the rock star of his day and could show any of the modern musicians a thing or two in that regard. As you all no doubt know, his main instrument was the piano for which he wrote many compositions.

One of his compositions I like a bit is La Campanella in G Sharp Minor, although even this one has a bit too much extreme right hand work for my taste. This is from a series of six études for the piano based on compositions by Paganini. The pianist is Lang Lang.

♫ Liszt - La campanella in G Sharp Minor

GEORG PHILIPP TELEMANN was the most prolific composer in history – he wrote more compositions than anyone, thousands, and they were all at least good, and many magnificent.


In spite of all that, he only wrote one viola concerto. Indeed, he is the first to have written one of those. His good friend Johann Sebastian Bach obviously listened closely to this as he wrote some violin concertos that sound almost identical, well, to the fourth movement anyway.

That's what we are going to listen to, the fourth movement of Georg's Concerto for Viola, Strings and Continuo TWV 51-G9 in G.

♫ Telemann - Concerto for viola strings and continuo TWV 51-G9 in G (4)

CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS showed early promise, not just as a musician, but in all academic studies - Greek and Latin, literature, mathematics, astronomy and so on. He retained an interest in all these throughout his life.


His musical instruction was at the Paris Conservatoire where he found fellow (later) composers César Franck, Georges Bizet and Adolphe Adam. Camille later taught as well, and one of his pupils, Gabriel Fauré, became a life-long friend.

Camille's best known works are his Organ Symphony and the musical suite Carnival of the Animals. Those don't float my boat.

What does, though, is the Romance for Horn & Piano, Op.67, here performed by two of the finest musicians from the last 50 years - BARRY TUCKWELL on French horn and VLADIMIR ASHKENAZY playing piano.

Barry Tuckwell & Vladimir Ashkenazy

♫ Saint-Saëns - Romance for Horn & Piano Op.67

JOHANN FRIEDRICH FASCH was born in a small town just outside Weimar in 1688.

Friedrich Fasch

Later he travelled throughout what is now Germany and held a number of musical positions in various towns and cities. He was once offered the job of Kapellmeister and court composer in Prague but he turned it down. That went to the second-best applicant, J.S. Bach.

He wrote many cantatas, symphonies, concertos and chamber music but none of his music was published in his lifetime. It's all been discovered since. Not all; it's thought that quite a lot has been lost.

Something that hasn't is the Concerto for Bassoon, Two Oboes, Strings and Basso Continuo in C minor, FWV L c2. This is the first movement.

♫ Fasch - Concerto for bassoon, 2 oboes strings and basso continuo in C minor (1)

It's not surprising that today's musical offering from BEETHOVEN features the piano. After all, he was the greatest composer for that instrument who ever strode the planet.


However, it isn't one of his famous sonatas or concertos. It's a piano trio, so there's a clarinet and cello along for the ride. It was written early on when he was still living in Bonn, where he was born, before he moved to Vienna to become the most famous composer in history.

Here is the third movement of the Piano Trio in B-flat major, Op. 11.

♫ Beethoven - Piano Trio in B-flat major Op. 11 (3)

CÉSAR FRANCK, or to give him his full first name, César-Auguste-Jean-Guillaume-Hubert Franck, was born in what's now Belgium but was then part of the Netherlands. However, he spent most of his life zipping around France.

Cesar Franck

Besides being a composer, he was considered to be a master of the organ and piano. As well, he had a reputation as a great improviser on both instruments. A century later he could have played jazz. He eventually settled down and became a professor at the Paris Conservatoire.

His compositions were the usual symphonies, chamber music and piano pieces. Besides those, he wrote the communion anthem Panis Angelicus. We have the sublime CECILIA BARTOLI singing that with harp, cello and organ playing along.

Cecilia Bartoli

♫ Franck - Panis angelicus

These days, GIOACHINO ROSSINI is best known, maybe only known, for his operas. Perhaps even just for the overtures to those - think "The Thieving Magpie", "The Barber of Seville", "William Tell" (the A.M. insisted I mention the Lone Ranger at this point, but I'm above that sort of thing).


However, he wrote other works, some of which I'm amazed are not more well known or popular. One (or some, he wrote six of these) is what he called a string sonata. This is really a string quartet under a different name, with a double bass substituting for the viola.

He wrote all six of these when he was just 12 years old and before he had started formally studying music. What were you doing when you were 12?

The photo above was taken when he was a little older than that. The third movement of String Sonata No.3 in C Major.

♫ Rossini - String Sonata No.3 (3)

Cutting Cancer Down to Size

At a Wednesday follow-up appointment, my surgeon lifted most of my diet restrictions, “as long as you don't go hog wild,” he said.

If I took that as a sign that this pancreatic cancer won't always be at the forefront of my mind – and I did - a phone conversation later the same day not only confirmed that idea but gave me the determination to make it so.

My friend, Joyce Wadler, had called to check on how I'm doing (fine, thank you). She is a long-term survivor of two separate breast cancers and of ovarian cancer and her advice before my surgery was crucial to making my recovery easier and smoother than it otherwise would have been.

Joyce is the person who told me to make a list of everything I do every day, note which ones would become difficult or impossible after surgery and figure out what I would do about them.

I would never have thought to do that on my own and I silently thanked her every day when I got home. The only important thing I missed was the cat food and water bowls which, as I showed you here, a clever neighbor figured out for me.

Joyce's first bout with cancer took place in about 1990, the others following some years later. On Wednesday when we spoke, I was curious to know, especially after three times, how much cancer still plays a part in her life.

I asked because, as you can undoubtedly tell from the number of blog posts I've written about it over the past two months, my cancer is the central circumstance of my life nowadays. But even with a long road of chemotherapy and god knows what else ahead of me, I'm already tiring of this concentrated, all-day focus every day.

I'm tired of reminding myself to take certain medications before, during or after meals. I'm tired of the work involved in keeping prescriptions up to date. I'm tired of forcing food when I'm not hungry because it is important to gain back the lost weight.

I'm also tired of arranging my schedule for at least one appointment – and sometimes more - with a doctor each week. And all that in addition to physical therapy exercises twice a day, a tai chi routine once a day and at least one half-hour walk per day.

Whew. They do keep you busy, these medical folks. But I am starting to become resentful that it takes so much time that used to be my own to do with as I pleased - and chemotherapy has yet to be plugged into the schedule.

So it was heartening that Joyce's answer to my question about how much her cancers play a part in her life today is “not much.” That's what I want too and I want it sooner rather than later.

Joyce's “not much” has spurred me on to work out how I can cut cancer down to size so it's not my entire life.

In my case, for as long as I live there will be cancer doctors - for chemo, for regularly-scheduled scans to check on the cancer's development up or down, for other checkups. But in between I would like to just live in every other way that doesn't involve personal cancer awareness.

Maybe I can think of the medical appointments as visits with old friends. I like the physicians and their nurses and other assistants a lot and I already look forward to seeing them – just the not the topic of conversation.

Or maybe I can fit those visits in like I schedule a hair cut – a chance for some interesting conversation with a friendly professional I trust that doesn't impinge on my life in between.

And, too, further recovery should improve my appetite and I'll gain more expertise in tracking those pesky medications, so all that should help loosen cancer's hold on my mind.

I clearly recall, with Joyce's first cancer diagnosis so many years ago, that she either started or increased her sessions at the gym. She had to be strong, she said then, to get through the coming treatment. She worked hard at it and my memory of her determination then along with her advice on prepping my home for post-surgery and now her “not much” are my inspiration to keep cancer from defining me.

Joyce has written two books about her cancer, My Breast and Cured, My Ovarian Cancer Story (Plucky Cancer Girl Strikes Back) which are available at the usual book sources around the web.

You can also read Joyce's newspaper column, “I Was Misinformed”, which appears regularly in The New York Times. Hint: Like me, she often writes about the joys - and not - of growing old but she is much funnier than I am.

What Others Say About Death


Compared to how I felt in the first couple of weeks following surgery (which was awful), I am more than pleased with how my recovery is going. However, about once a week, I have a bad night without a wink of sleep.

That happened to me Monday and today (Tuesday as I write this for Wednesday), I'm left with a brain too low-functioning to tackle anything that requires much thought or organization. So I'll let others do the speaking.

A cancer diagnosis certainly does focus the mind on the far end of life and I have been checking out what some people – ancient and modern, well-known and not – have had to say about it. Here are a few I have enjoyed pondering:

“We cannot banish dangers, but we can banish fears. We must not demean life by standing in awe of death.” – David Sarnoff
”Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.” - Andrew Sachs
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Theodore Geisel (Dr Seuss)
“A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist.” – Stewart Alsop
”No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life.

"It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” - Steve Jobs (who died of pancreatic cancer in 2011, eight years after diagnosis)
”To fear death, my friends, is only to think ourselves wise, without being wise: for it is to think that we know what we do not know. For anything that men can tell, death may be the greatest good that can happen to them: but they fear it as if they knew quite well that it was the greatest of evils. And what is this but that shameful ignorance of thinking that we know what we do not know?” - Socrates
”Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.” - George Bernard Shaw
“Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For us believing physicists the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” – Albert Einstein
“I’ll bet in Heaven they have one single word that means ‘back when I was alive’. You know, to save time in meetings and stuff.” – Derek Littlefield

What about you? Do any of these speak to you? Do you have any you want to share with us?