Man In The Mirror

One of my all time favorite songs.  Michael Jackson released Man In The Mirror in January 1988; it was the fourth single from one of his best solo albums, Bad.  See (includes detailed information about the song).

[For all of you from Beachwood, I wonder if you are thinking the same thing…. I would be remiss not to give a shout out to my old buddy Shane Simon, who to this day covered Michael Jackson for his bar mitzvah better than any Michael Jackson cover I have heard in the 25 years since.  Granted Shane sang “This One’s For the Children” on the tape that was handed out at his party.  But if he covered Man In the Mirror, I undoubtedly would feel the same way.  Shane, if this somehow makes its way to you, I hope you are well.  Ran into your brother last summer in Margate — was awesome to see him.  And I know my parents saw your folks in Florida.  I am going to get in touch.]

I think everyone remembers this song.  But have you ever listened to the words?

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
(Change his ways – ooh!)
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself and then make that…
(Take a look at yourself and then make that…)

Do you remember the video?  I sure didn’t.  It was one of the only Michael Jackson videos that he did not star in (I learned this from Wikipedia).    [Click on the link below that says “Watch on You Tube.”]

This song has deep meaning.  Just watching the video gives you that sense.  But it all starts with the person you are looking at in the mirror.  And if you don’t like what you see — or don’t like what you see around you — you need to make a change.  You need to stand up and do something about what is bothering you before an impact can be felt more broadly.    You need to change your ways, and then the ways of others.  Hmmmm.  I just watched a video with flashes of Martin Luther King Jr., JFK, Hitler, Ethiopian famine, and the Iranian hostage crisis, among other notable historic events and people, but the takeaway is we each need to do our part to make changes and it all starts with the person you are looking at in the mirror.  What bothers you?  What do you constantly think should change to make this world a better place?  What have you have done to help effect that change?

There are a lot of things I am planning to change and do after I beat cancer.  [In fact, there are so many things about me that have changed in the six weeks and one day since a mass was found in the middle of my chest that I truly feel like a different person — mostly all for the better.]  In addition to being better at everything (husband, father, friend, son, lawyer etc.), I am going to help people — both personally and financially — with the same type of cancer that I am dealing with (I have been researching (and in touch with one) charitable origination).  All that being said, and knowing this is going to sound selfish and incredibly vein, I do not like what I see when I look at the man in the mirror.  It may be temporary.  Nonetheless, it still sucks looking in the mirror and not seeing yourself.  And its not all because of the treatments over the last 6 weeks (which have been intense).  Some of this isself inflicted…..

Granted I was bald to begin with (I started losing my hair my freshmen year of college).  But my face is still swollen from the steroids (I think I even see a double chin).  I have bags under my eyes from a lack of meaningful sleep.  My beard grows in patches.  But all of these things I can manage one way or the other.  What gets me the most, however, is how my body looks.

I have been working out for 23 years.  Other than getting sidelined for the flu (last year), a staph infection in December of 1999 (likely from a dirty gym mat in NYC), a terrible allergic reaction to an antibiotic in college (which, other than this past February and the last 30 days, is the only other time in my life I ever ingested a steroid), and the March of the Living trip I took my senior year of high school to Poland and Israel (where I still did push-ups nearly every day in the hotel), I cannot recall taking more than 4 days off from the gym in a row during this 23 year stretch.

We moved from Cleveland to Florida in 1993.  About a month or two before we moved, the Markowitz family (they bought our old house), asked if they could store their universal gym in our unfinished basement.  My parents said of course.  That is when I started screwing around with weights.  Mostly with upper body (particularly biceps) of course.  I remember some of the older guys in Beachwood who used to lift weights and thought putting some muscle onto my frame would be useful.

When we moved down to Florida, I took working out to the next level.  I remember seeing a few seniors (at the start of my sophomore year of high school at Spanish River in Boca Raton) that were body builders.  And for whatever reason, I wanted to pack on muscle.  I ate like a pig and worked out every day.  I remember living at my grandparents’ place when we first moved down to Florida and eating a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese together with a box of 10 pizza bagels for a snack — all before dinner.  My junior year of high school I added supplements to the mix.  I even worked at GNC for a brief of period of time.  But I didn’t make any money because I used nearly every dollar on supplements at the store.  I ate protein bars during the 8 or so hours (a few days a week for maybe two months) of my shift at the Regency Court location (where maybe three or four customers would venture in during the entire day).  [I have wondered whether all the over the counter creatine I took over (still remember vividly my father throwing out a container when I pierced my ear) could have a link to cancer, but my research so far does not suggest that is the case.]

The lifting continued through my Syracuse years.  At one point I was over 200 pounds.  By the end of college I had introduced some light cardio to the routine, which I kicked up a gear through law school.   I was probably in the best shape of my life during law school.  All I did was study, work out and eat right (at least I thought I was eating right).  The days of going out 4 or 5 nights each week during college had ended.  Eating healthy, combined with cardio, had me feeling like a million bucks.  Working out simply became part of the day no matter what.  Whether it was finals, my summer associate job, being an associate at a big firm, having 3 kids, being a partner at a big law firm and traveling — I always made time to work out.  [Another thank you to Jen, who understands that I need this time for mental health.]  The work-outs have definitely changed over the years, but the 1-2 hours a day at least 5 days each week has been a constant.  At least that was the case until 6 weeks ago.

Yes I walked around the hospital floor a ton and even had an exercise bike in my room that I used for a few days, but today was the first that I went into my basement and used some light weight bands.  It was only for a few minutes, but it felt good.  Because for the last 6 weeks I totally let myself go.  When I should have been more focused than ever, I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and other than a few very slow walks over the first 10 days at the hospital and a few days since I have been home (before this weekend), I did nothing.  All notwithstanding that I was told I could work out at home (not in a gym) so long as I did not over do it (especially with the picc line being removed after a grand total of 3 days).  I am very disappointed in myself and realize I am responsible, in large part, for feeling the way I do when I look in the mirror. [And I think Michael Jackson was on to something when he said we had to look ourselves first…..]

But after a much needed weekend away with the family at the shore, and about 15 miles of walking and nutrition discussions with my father in law (I also walked another 4 miles today), I woke up this morning with new resolve.  I went to the grocery store with Jen and the boys and stocked up on healthy alternatives.  Jen made a bunch of different things this afternoon that I can eat all week (thank you, Jen).  I actually got dressed for the first time in 6 weeks tonight for dinner with the Newman’s at Beachpoint (where we were joined by the Rumbold’s).  Not only did I eat healthy, but I felt so good being out with friends and feeling “normal” that I was at peace with the four days of chemo starting on Wednesday and the possibility of feeling like shit all over again.  I am going to do yoga tomorrow and walk if my calves are not as sore as they are right now.  Jen and I are going to go to Whole Foods in the afternoon to pick up a bunch of different things that I have been reading about that help reduce inflammation in the body (which leads to cancer).  Are there going to be bad days?  Of course.  Are there going to be days where I feel like doing nothing?  I’m sure.  But I am not going to be unfocused or otherwise cavalier about how I treat my body.

My father in law sent me an e-mail today that makes me cry every time I read it.  We talked about a lot of things during the 15 miles we walked on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (even on Friday afternoon when my feet and legs were so swollen that I could barely tie my shoes).  We talked a lot about taking care of me over the next several months.  His e-mail concluded with the following: “I want to just leave you with a few more thoughts: be good to yourself, take care of yourself and remember what Ace Adler told that 17 year old tough kid from Brooklyn, play within yourself (taking control of one’s emotions and appropriately channeling them to the fight ahead).”

When you think about it, and albeit with a selfish twist, this is not much different than what Michael Jackson was saying in Man In The Mirror: if you want to make the world a better place, you have to start by changing the ways of the man you are looking at in the mirror.  Before you start helping others, you need to help yourself (and change your own ways).  I lost my way for the last 6 weeks when I should have been more focused than ever.  Not again.  I am going to help myself so that I can be in a position to help a lot of other people in the future.  But it needs to happen in that order.


I knew it would not take long before I had to add to the Thank you, Jen list (which I did a few times already in this post).  Tonight, after putting Brandon to bed (and going back and forth to the grocery store for me on her own because we forgot a few things), she spent 2 plus hours with Ryan at the urgent care getting an x-ray for an arm that we both knew was not broken (after a fall down the steps late this afternoon).  Easy for me to say I don’t want to take any chances.  Jen knew Ryan was fine but took him anyway because I was worried.  And I sat here and watched the Warriors game with Ev.  Jen, thank you (again), I love you.

Summer Reading

Sunday, May 29, 2016.  I have been threatening to a read a book for a long time.  I have been making this threat for so long that I truly cannot remember the last time that I read a book.  In fact, with the possible exception of a book on a  vacation (I cannot recall with certainty whether I actually read a book on any vacation), I have not read a book since I took Law and Literature in the second semester of my third year of law school.   And I graduated law school in 2003.  This is embarrassing.

Do not get me wrong, it is not as if I haven’t tried to read.  This past February, on my way back from Houston to NY after a contested hearing, I bought the latest John Grisham novel in the book store at the airport.  I wanted to relax and read it on the plane ride back (I would be captive for 3 plus hours).   By the time I got to page 6, the announcement was made that it was now safe to use portable electronics.  So I fired up the lap top and checked on and replied to emails (followed by organizing all emails in their own special files).  I intended to go through the emails quickly and get back to Grisham.  But that did not happen on that day or any day since.  And notwithstanding that the Grisham book itself has traveled both domestically and international (true story; this Grisham book has been to San Fran, Houston, Corpus Christi, Delaware, Philadelphia, LA and St. Lucia) , I am still  “stuck” on page 6.

Today I finished a book entitled “10% Happier.”  It was written by Dan Harris — the co-anchor of the weekend edition of Good Morning America and a regular reporter for 20/20 and World News.  I started the book at my last chemo infusion (this past Monday), but only finished a few pages before dozing off.  I effectively read the book over the last 24 hours.  I really enjoyed reading it.  There was also an enormous sense of accomplishment when I finished it (a bit pathetic, but hey it’s a start).

The book itself is about mindfulness and meditation.  The cover reads “[h]ow I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works — a true story.”  Setting aside whether I ultimately decide to meditate (I downloaded the app “Headspace” on my iPhone at the suggestion of a few colleagues from work; like the Grisham novel, I have been “threatening” to utilize the app since I downloaded it over 5 weks ago), or otherwise engage a breathing coach (a good friend from high school recently put me in touch with a breathing coach that works in the NY area and I owe her a call), the book was illuminating.

Two passages in particular stood out:

“In a world characterized by impermanence, where all of our pleasures are fleeting, I had subconsciously assumed that if only I could get the weekend GMA gig, I would achieve bulletproof satisfaction — and I was shocked when it didn’t work out that way.  This, as Joseph pointed out on retreat, is the lie we tell ourselves our whole lives:  as soon as we get the next meal, party, vacation, sexual encounter, as soon as we get married, get a promotion, get to the airport check-in, get through security and consume a bouquet of Auntie Anne’s Cinnamon Sugar Stix, we’ll feel really good.  But as soon as we find ourselves in the airport gate area, having ingested 470 calories’ worth of sugar and fat before dinner, we don’t bother to examine the lie that fuels our lives.  We tell ourselves we’ll sleep it off, take a run, eat a healthy breakfast, and then, finally everything will be complete.  We live so much of our lives pushed forward by these ‘if only’ thoughts, and yet the itch remains.  The pursuit of happiness becomes the source of our unhappiness.”  Page 165.

“Whatever the cause, in the months after I started adding compassion into my meditation practice, things started to change.  It’s not that I was suddenly a saint or that I began to exhibit extra-virgin extroversion, just that being nice–always important to me in the abstract, at least–now become a conscious, daily priority.   I instituted a make-eye-contract-and-smile policy that turned out to be genuinely  enjoyable.  It was like I was running for mayor.  The fact that my days now included long strings of positive interactions made me feel good (not to mention popular).  Acknowledging other people’s basic humanity is a remarkably effective way of shooing away the swarm of self-referential thoughts that buzz like gnats around our heads.”  Page 187.

I have made every excuse over the years to avoid reading.  Too busy with work.  Needing to spend any free time I have with the kids.  Not sacrificing exercise time.  I could go on and on and on….Yet all these excuses are weak.  I am better for reading Dan Harris’ book and you will be too, even if you don’t decide to start meditating tomorrow.  Put it on your summer reading list.  And make sure you actually read it.  I am not going to analyze what Harris wrote or otherwise sit here and tell you the deeper meaning.   Who am I to be the judge and jury.  You can do that on your own.   But I will say — for me at least — mindfulness starts with actually being mindful.  And being mindful includes reading about something other than a company that needs to restructure.   So thank you Dan Harris for being so honest and making me better for having given up “my time” to read your story.   It was worth it.

I’m exhausted from not sleeping last night (I didn’t take Ambien for the first time in nearly 6 weeks), walking 4 miles with Lenny this afternoon, and going for a late swim with Jake and Ryan.  But I am worried I am not going to fall asleep.  So I am going to get in bed and start a new book.  A lot has changed in six weeks..:.





Thank you, Jen

Saturday, May 28, 2016.  Can you ever say “thank you” enough?

Do we ever stop — breathe in the moment we are actually living in — and appreciate (and give thanks for) what we have?

Whether I call it a speed bump, a curve ball or a wake-up call, I have certainly learned over the last 5 weeks (among many other things) that I am not invincible, I took way too much for granted, my family and friends are unbelievably supportive, I have been so fortunate (and lucky) both personally and professionally (there are many people, including my parents and extended family, that will be separately thanked on this front), and the best decision I ever made was marrying Jen.  And I don’t say thank you to Jen nearly enough.

So in the midst of what has been a fantastic and much needed weekend at the shore, I thought it was appropriate to thank Jen.  After all, I don’t think  I would be at the shore this weekend if not for Jen (although you never know…)!  [Disclaimer:  the list below is non-exhaustive and I reserve all rights to add/supplement this list at any time since it would be impossible to thank Jen for everything (hence the lack of semi-colons or an “and” before the second to last bullet followed by a period after the last bullet).  But it is worth a shot to thank Jen for everything she is/does, so here goes.]


Jen — thank you for……

  • our three incredible boys 
  • being a superhero of a mom and always going above and beyond for the boys
  • being my doctor, psychologist, rabbi and biggest fan
  • letting me be me
  • supporting me in everything
  • being my best friend
  • giving me a second set of parents
  • sharing Kim and Brad (and then Justin and Julie, and Joey and Jordan) (who are truly my brothers and sisters)
  • always being honest
  • forcing us to move (and then agreeing with me on Scarsdale)
  • always knowing what I need (whether it is a workout or some alone time)
  • being so independent
  • not caring what other people think and simply doing what you think is right
  • putting up with me
  • dealing with my temper
  • making me laugh
  • teaching me what it means to be happy
  • giving me shit when I deserve it
  • keeping me grounded and focused
  • taking care of everything so I can focus on work
  • taking care of me (after all, I am your 4th child)
  • trusting me and knowing that you and the boys come first always
  • loving me unconditionally
  • putting up with my silly diets and workouts (but telling me (correctly) that the diets are stupid)
  • telling me when I am being selfish
  • knowing how to have a good time
  • being the most responsible person I know
  • getting up with the boys in the middle of night (always)
  • being tough
  • never being afraid to speak your mind
  • standing by my side at all times (especially now)

Jen, I don’t say thank you nearly enough.  Please do know that I have always appreciated everything you do and who you are.  This speed bump/curve ball/wake-up call, however, really forced me to stop and take a breath deep in the here and now.  I have stopped and taken a deep breath.  And I am certain of this:  you are the best person I know.  Thank you.






Walks at the Shore

IMG_0420This is the “gateway” to Margate.  I had been looking forward to paying the toll for the last several weeks.  The price actually went up over the winter (now $1.75).  And Jen bought the equivalent of an easy pass so I didn’t even get a chance to pay!  But it still felt good when the gate went up and we started to make our way to the house.

After getting more sleep last night than I had any night in the last 4 weeks (6.5 hours thanks to a combo of Ambien and Benadryl, which I just took again), and going back to Quest Diagnostics for another blood test first thing this am (thanks much for the lift and ice coffee Tauber), the five of us were in the car and on our way.   Jen drove as I am still incredibly swollen from the steroids and should not be behind the wheel after my recent gaffe with Jake in the backseat.  It was a really nice ride.  The boys each watched a movie and/or television and were very relaxed (except for a few minutes at the end where it was clear Jake was ready to get out of the car).  I was able to catch up on some emails and calls, hang with Jen and really just relax as Jen drove.  With the exception of having to walk approximately one mile from the gas station to the rest stop bathroom (with Brandon on my shoulders because he didn’t want to walk), it was one of the most peaceful rides down to the shore that I can remember.

[By the way, someone asked me if there was any rhyme or reason/pattern to these posts.  It was a good question.  Because sometimes I talk about my day.  Other times I talk about a day(s) or experience in the past.  The answer is there is no rhyme or reason.  There is no pattern.  Just whatever I feel to like putting down.  Some days I have more to say than others.  And I am sure at some point soon there will be a day where I don’t have anything to say at all or I simply fall asleep at a reasonable hour.  But I have been keeping a journal (never done that in my life) and writing down all sorts of stuff.  I think it is because I don’t want forget any of this.  From the day I was sent to White Plains Hospital when they found a mass, to the day they tell me I am cancer free.  Plus everything in between…..]

After getting settled and enjoying Dino’s for lunch (the tuna is amazing), I ended up crashing.  First on a lounge chair and then on the couch on the porch.   Chalk it up to the steroids wearing off.  I was really disappointed and upset to have effectively missed the afternoon as the boys swam and played with water balloons for hours.  And I was snappy, shouting a few different times when Jake was yelling or splashing me with water, and feeling irritable (and then guilty for saying anything at all).  I even felt guilty when I was showering earlier (which takes me a long time) and noticed Jen had yet to unpack.  I of course had to unpack and get settled immediately (as Jen, I am sure, got each of the boys settled, fed and sun screened).  First all my clothes and bathroom products, then organizing the office that Lenny and Helene built for me (which no one else uses).  I can be a selfish person sometimes.  Only now when I am selfish I feel awful about it.  Yet everyone is telling me to be selfish.  It really is a proverbial Catch 22.  I want to spend as much time as I can with Jen and the boys, yet I feel like garbage at times and really need to rest.  I guess it is just something that I will need to get used to.

The reality is I am so happy to be at the shore with Jen and the boys, Lenny, Helene, Brad, Julie, Joey, Justin, Kim and Jordan.  [I of course would love to be with my parents, Drew, Alexis, the girls and the rest of my family too…..].  And the good moments of today undoubtedly outweighed the bad.  From our standard happy hour (even if I am not drinking); seeing my nephews; tucking Brandon into bed and getting the best hugs and kisses goodnight; watching the first half of the Cavs blow-out win with Jake and Ryan; dinner with the adults (even if we only all sat together for 45 seconds before one of the kids was crying or needed to be re-tucked in); and just sitting around and hanging out.   I found myself watching everyone at times (a bit of a creep move) and thinking about how lucky I am to be part of this family.   I gave hugs a few times to Jen and Helene for no reason — I just felt like giving them a hug.  And I need to do it more often.  It is really good to be at the shore with my family (sorry Jule, you kind of got blocked out of this picture by Jen who realized I was snapping photos….).


But the highlight of my day was a walk I did not even want to take.  Lenny motivated me.  After a snack of cabbage, egg plant and a little egg salad that I had to add for taste (Lenny is in the process of moving me to his diet over the course of the weekend), we were off on a 3 mile walk along the water in Longport.  Notwithstanding that I could barely tie my sneakers because my feet and ankles are so swollen, it was an awesome walk.  For the first time that I can remember, I wore a hat and left my cell phone behind.  Lenny and I have walked many times in the past but today was different.  It was more meaningful.  I was more appreciative of the conversation.  And I realized just what an unbelievable relationship I have with both Lenny and Helene.  Not many people are this close with their in-laws.

As we talked on our walk about all sorts of life lessons, including Lenny’s path from poverty in Brooklyn to being one of the top pediatric ophthalmologists in the world, I found myself thinking about a comment that we often hear regarding women marrying men that remind them of their father.  I would be truly honored if that was case.  Passionate about his job and dedicated to his family, I am hopeful to follow in Lenny’s footsteps in so many ways (except of course some of his quirks, which I know Jen will want me to leave behind!).  After our walk, and having heard from Lenny some of the stories that put him on the path to where he is today, he shared with me tonight — for the first time — the dedication he included in a medical text book he authored/edited in 2012.  Here is the link:       

I was so honored and humbled to read what Lenny wrote (and after our walk today, I now know why Henry Coleman and A. Stone Freedburg are so important).  Family has obviously always been important and I am thrilled that Lenny believed that I embodied the meaning of family back in 2012.  But today, after my late April wake-up call, I can say with certainty that I know the meaning of family; and family is something I will never take for granted.  I can’t wait to hang out with everyone tomorrow!

Lenny, I love you man.  Looking forward to walking tomorrow…..




Thursday, May 26, 2016.  I have not been to the office since April 21st.  That is 35 days (if you were counting).  One of the first things my doctor discussed with me was that there would be no work.  Instead, I needed to be completely focused and dedicated to getting better over the next 6 months or so. [I asked her again about working at a follow-up appointment a week or so ago, questioning whether any patient being similarly treated had worked, and hoping that maybe I could figure out a way to go back even part time.  She responded that no patient in this condition had ever worked.]  My partners (who really are my friends) and the firm generally have been incredibly supportive.  So supportive in fact that I sit here often and reflect on how lucky I am to be affiliated with such a great law firm and have partners jump into matters on a moment’s notice to lend a hand.

Although I am still copied on some e-mails and have dialed into a few court hearings (just to listen in),  the lack of constant action, travel, court appearances, phone calls and meetings has really sunk in.  And I miss all of it — a ton.  This is because I love what I do.   I also love the people that I get to do it with.  All of which makes getting out of bed in the morning and getting to the office that much easier.

Today I got to spend some time with a few of my partners and other close friends in the restructuring community.  [The restructuring community itself is so incredibly tight nit that it is hard to describe to someone that is not a card carrying member.]  With a lot of alone time over the last 35 days, I have been able to reflect on the special relationships that I have developed through work over the last 14 or so years.  And while it is unfortunate that it took cancer to really open my eyes and fully appreciate the depth of some of these relationships, I am so excited about the prospect of getting back to the office and making the most of each day with partners and friends (at various firms, banks and consulting businesses) that I now have a new found appreciation for how lucky I am to both enjoy what it is I do and the people that I can get to do it with.

I have been threatening to go to Dick’s Sporting Goods for 2 weeks to buy some equipment for my home gym.  Having discontinued my health club membership at the doctor’s suggestion (for fear of germs), I had thought I would be working out at home constantly.  Hopefully I will have the energy and desire to make that happen soon.  Only time will tell.  But it was fitting that Chris came over this afternoon, drove me to Quest Diagnostics for my blood work, and then took me over to Dick’s and helped me get what I needed.  In addition to having worked together for most of the last 14 years, Chris and I also have worked out together at various points during the same run.  From Sports Club LA, to Crunch to Equinox, I still remember going to the gym with Chris at 9 pm (we were neighbors on East 63rd St.) after eating turkey burgers in the office for dinner (also fitting that we had turkey burgers for lunch today).  I even remember talking to Chris about my move to Kirkland (that he ultimately made too) while were we doing the stair master one night at Sports Club LA.  For some reason I knew to wait until today to get over to Dick’s so that Chris could lend a land in getting me organized…


I woke up from a short nap and found Nicole at the kitchen counter with Jen.  The equivalent of a sister, Nicole and I have been working together every single day since I started practicing law in 2003.  In fact, Nicole and I literally moved to Kirkland on the same exact day.  [I still remember having breakfast with Paul and Nicole in February 2007 on very our first day at Kirkland and I know Russ will never forget the Chinese food take in night when I convinced the Greenblatt’s to move to Kirkland (no need to discuss the near head fake I pulled on the day it went down).]  As crappy as I felt today, when Nicole said that she was taking me to meet Shai at Lusardi’s for a quick bite, I knew it would be good to get out.  I said I needed to check with Jen, although Nicole assured me that Jen was OK.  I should have known something was up when Jen told me I needed to change.

Shai, the only person who likes Lusardi’s more than me and the guy responsible for not only hiring me at Weil but introducing me to restructuring when I was summer associate (and whom has served as a big brother and confidant throughout the years), had coordinated a small dinner in the back private room (with Nicole’s help) that included some of my good friends from over the years.  It was great to get out for the first time in 2 weeks.  And it was even better to be able to share a few laughs with, and hear some bad jokes from, people that I have worked with over the years.


A day like today helps me to appreciate how lucky I am to have found a career that I truly love, a firm that goes above and beyond to demonstrate its support, and colleagues/partners/even adversaries that I count as friends and family.  All of which will make getting back to work that much sweeter and more enjoyable even if I have to be patient for 6 months.

Off to the shore first thing tomorrow; can’t wait.





Wednesday, May 25, 2016.  I remember driving down Heathcote Road and taking a right on the Post Road pretty vividly on Sunday morning April 24, 2016.  I took the Post Road straight to White Plains Hospital.  [The only reason I knew where to go — I have a terrible sense of direction — was because Brandon was born at that hospital.]  I remember speaking to Jen, getting choked up when I explained they found a mass, and her telling me that she and her Dad (who literally drove in reverse on the Cross County after having just left our house to head back to Philly) would meet me at the hospital.  But I don’t really remember anything else.  I didn’t make any phone calls other than the initial call to Jen.  I don’t recall what, if any, song was playing on the radio.  I parked my car in the emergency side lot, checked in at the front desk (they were expecting me) and waited.  I knew something was very wrong.

Jen and Lenny arrived quickly.  I have a wonderful relationship with my in-laws and have spent a ton of time with them over the 14 plus years I have been with Jen.  I know when my father-in-law is concerned.  And he had that look on his face.  But thank god he was there.    After getting past the “initial” holding room, where they took my vitals and asked some basic questions, I was put into a room and introduced to the ER doctor on call.  I remember her being very nice and holding my hand as she explained that they found a 4 1/2 inch mass in the middle of my chest.  But the holding of my hand only made it harder to breathe as I could sense an extreme level of concern even on her part.  Out of the gates, the ER doctor indicated that this could be an enlarged thymus gland, which is located behind your sternum and between your lungs.  I was half listening as she explained that the thymus, unlike most organs, is largest when one reaches puberty and then starts to shrink and ultimately becomes fatty tissue.  As a result, if it was in fact enlarged, it could simply be removed.  She indicated she was going to get in touch with the thoracic surgeon on call and have him come check me out.  In the meantime, my blood work came back.  Lenny reviewed the results and nothing stuck out as particularly extraordinary.

I never did see the thoracic surgeon.  In fact, when the ER doctor returned, she explained she had spoken to a few other doctors, including the oncologist on call, and it seemed most appropriate — in the first instance — for me to have a CAT-scan and biopsy on the grapefruit in my chest.   The CAT-scan was next and revealed two spots in my stomach and fluid in my lung, which had been collapsed by the grapefruit causing my diaphragm to be pushed all the way up my side. [This finally explained why I was having trouble running and could not complete a 45 minute spin class on the Peloton bike that I recently bought and barely used because of frustration.]  The biopsy, however, would not happen until first thing in the morning.  But since they were concerned about my breathing and wanted me to see various specialists, I was admitted to the hospital and led to a room upstairs.

Lenny headed out at this point as he needed to get back to Philly.  Helene was home with the boys.  Jen and I checked into a private room after paying an extra $170 to ensure no roommate.  In what seemed like moments later, my brother was there.  He relieved Jen for a bit and brought with him turkey, cheese, my favorite honey mustard and a few oranges.  I was starving (and he was observing passover and a post Mexico trip diet).  And then Justin, Kim, Jordan, Brad and Julie all came to hang out.  My mother was getting ready to board a flight from Florida to NY.  I was still dodging emails at this point and making a few work calls.  But I was distracted and had a strong sense that something was wrong.  When Jen returned, I was finally able to purchase cable in the room; Jen had my wallet and the hospital would not accept AMEX (which is the only card number I know by heart), so I was out of business until Jen handed over my Mastercard.   I also started making a couple of phone calls to friends to let them know what was going on.  And with each conversation — and there were only a few — the possibilities were becoming more real as I explained what was happening.

No specialists came to see me that afternoon or evening.  In fact there was no activity until the phone in the hospital room rang at about 8 pm.  It was the assigned oncologist from the hospital calling.  He commented that my x-ray and CAT-scan were “very interesting,” and he asked if it was OK if he came to see me to explain why I needed a biopsy.  [A bizarre comment — I thought to myself as he said it — as I had sat in a hospital for 6 hours, with plans to stay over night, solely for the purpose of getting a biopsy the next morning.]  He also said he wanted to examine me, but he did not take my insurance and the cost would be $500 (he suggested the nurse was uncomfortable explaining this to me, hence the reason he called on the phone).  I told him to come over.  He indicated he was going to take a shower after walking around his neighborhood and he would be by the hospital in 30 minutes.

When the oncologist arrived he explained he wanted to examine me first and then “talk.”  Jen asked a question and he quickly said we would talk after he finished examining me.  That pissed me off and I made some offhanded comment about Jen getting to ask whatever question she wants whenever she wants.  [I was definitely too polite and probably should have said for $500 we get to decide the order of things!]  His examination of my entire body was focused on looking for other lymph nodes as it was preferable to avoid a biopsy on the tumor in the middle of my chest if possible.  Fortunate or unfortunate (and at the time it was anyone’s guess), there were no other lymph nodes to test.  With the examination phase complete, the doctor sat in the chair at the end of the bed and said it was time to talk.  I will never forget how the conversation started.  There was no dancing or beating around the bush.   He said flat out that “we are praying for hodgkins lymphoma.”  I don’t really remember anything else he said after that.  And I had no idea what hodgkins lymphoma was all about.  But I knew it was cancer and I knew I just heard a doctor tell me he was praying that I had a certain type of cancer (although this type of cancer is one that is heavily curable).  I was still hoping that someone simply took this grapefruit out of my chest and let me go on my way.  I was supposed to be in court on Monday and had a new case filing that next weekend.  The last thing I remember him saying that night was that he was hopeful he could help treat me.  As soon as he left, Jen and I spent time on the phone with Lenny and Uncle Mike, who tried to relax us after the examination and talk (in that order).  My mind, however, was off to the races.

I slept awful that night and was incredibly uncomfortable.  I also could not eat or drink anything post midnight because of the biopsy.  And the biopsy did not end up happening until 1 pm the next day.  But Jen, Helene and my mom were all there in the hospital for the biopsy and ultimately to take me home.  The biopsy itself was pretty dramatic.  While they numb the area where they literally poke a hole in your chest to take out chunks of the tumor, you are wide awake and witnessing a long needle being shoved into the center of your chest.  And I remember the gun shot clicking sound of the doctor actually snipping at the tumor to get the pieces that needed to go to the lab for testing.  But I liked the doctor and thought he was funny.  Plus he was going bald but had a pony tail.  He asked me what I did for a living; when I told him I was a lawyer, he said he said he was going to be careful not to screw this up!  With the biopsy complete, Jen asked about the timing for the results.  It was suggested that we would hear in 3-5 business days.  I remember thinking to myself that seemed like an eternity.  What what I do for the next week?  Before I could open my mouth, however, Jen of course said that was wholly unacceptable.  And then she went to work like only my Jen can.  We got those results in less than 24 hours.  [I don’t know how she does it, but Jen amazes me every single day.  She is my biggest fan and my advocate.  Without her, I would be lost.]

That Monday night is a blur.  I was in a lot of pain from the biopsy.  My good buddies came over to keep me company, but I was definitely out of it.  Lots of friends had sent food over to the house, which was incredibility appreciated, but I don’t even remember what I ate.  Tuesday morning was a PET-scan back at White Plains Hospital.  It took forever and I could not eat after midnight on Monday yet again.  When it was finally over Jen got a call from the oncologist who suggested that we come to his office in the Bronx at 2 pm that day.  He indicated that he was nearly certain he knew the diagnosis and would have the results from the pathology lab to confirm by the time we arrived at his office.  The oncologist was very helpful in pushing the pathology lab to move quickly, and for that I am thankful.

Jen drove my car.  I rode shotgun and my mom sat in the backseat.   When we pulled off the highway, we went down a side street with a bunch of houses stacked close together and I was confused.  There was no hospital or medical building.  Just stand alone houses.  One such house belonged to my assigned oncologist and I saw his name on a sign in the middle of the lawn.  As we walked inside, I quickly surveyed the surroundings and noticed half a dozen patients.  And they were right out of central casting.  I could swear I saw Gus Fring from Breaking Bad — after his face was blown off — sitting in the waiting room.  They immediately called me into the back to draw blood.  When I returned to the waiting area, all of the patients (including Gus) were gone.  That is when the doctor called us into his office in the back.

I remember the order we sat in (I was in the middle with my mom on my left and Jen on my right).  The doctor’s desk was directly across from us.  Before he said anything, his car alarm went off and one of the assistant’s called him on the phone to make sure he knew to shut it off.  He then talked about doing a bone marrow test on both sides of my back (which he indicated was going to hurt) and asked me directly if he was going to be the doctor that treats me.  I am pretty sure I said politely that I did not know at that point.  It was at that moment that he said I had B-Cell Lymphoma, which is something that he said he treats and has treated many times before.  Jen was typing feverishly on her phone giving real time updates to both her dad and my uncle.  But before he could say anything more, the phone rang.  He made it a point to let us know it was the pathology lab.  And the only thing I remember him saying on the phone was something along the lines of ok/that’s interesting/you don’t say.  I do, however, remember him hanging up the phone and saying to us “erase everything I just said.  You have T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma.”    Without missing a beat, Jen asked if that was better or worse than what he had previously diagnosed.  His answer: probably not better.  But he too did not miss a beat when he said immediately that this was not a cancer he was familiar with nor treated, and so he advised us it would be best if we gave him 10 minutes to do some research.  He asked me to give some more blood; I stood up completely numb and walked out of the room.  Jen literally collapsed on the floor in his office and cried uncontrollably for the first time in 3 days.  Thankfully my mother was there to help her pull it together.

I gave blood and watched Jen through the window cry on the phone to her father in the front of the house.  We then reassembled back in his office 10 minutes later for the follow-up.  This follow up conversation was also a blur.  I remember saying no when he asked about doing a bone marrow test.  I remember him saying he read there was a 50% survival rate for this type of cancer in adults (and I immediately thought that I win jump balls).  And I remember him suggesting a few doctors names that treat this type of cancer, including my doctor.   By this point, Uncle Mike and Lenny were fast at work getting me in front of the right doctor immediately.   We quickly left the office.  My mom had to drive home.  I rode shotgun (again) and Jen sat in the backseat.  It was a pretty quiet car ride back to Scarsdale.

I am certain that the assigned oncologist is a good man and a good doctor.  And he has successfully treated many patients in the past.  Just like lawyers have different styles and approaches to their practice, doctors likewise maintain different styles and approaches.  I am fortunate that I had the ability and wherewithal to find a doctor that was the right fit for me.  I don’t write any of this to criticize or otherwise insult the assigned oncologist’s approach or handling of me over the course of those couple of days.  I am simply recounting the experience that I had and repeating the things that I heard.  And I truly appreciate his efforts in moving everything along quickly.         


I did not feel great today.  That being said, I am living in the present and appreciating each day even if I feel like crap.  I missed the kids this morning (because I didn’t go to bed until 6 am), and I did not get to see them nearly enough.   But I did watch the first quarter plus of the Cavs game with Jake and got some unbelievable hugs from Brandon before he went to sleep.  And Ryan and I got some time together when Jen dropped him off at home.  I watched him devour a buffalo wing and he helped me organize and sample some Hint Waters.

I corresponded with 2 cancer survivors that friends put me in touch with.  I was also in touch today with a young woman that I met in the hospital a few weeks ago who is fighting cancer as we speak.

I was humbled yet again by outreach from friends and colleagues, all of whom are showing support and offering to help in any way they can.  I received cards in the mail and a show downloaded on an iPad from a friend that I am looking forward to watching.  I had visits from partners (who are friends), friends and other colleagues.  It is great to spend time with people and hear what is going on.

So no complaints!


Get a Physical

Tuesday, May 24, 2016.  I remember taking this picture.  It was February 3rd (I only remember this date without looking it up in my calendar because my iPhone is so smart).


I was on a plane from San Francisco (where I had been on business) to Colorado for the annual Zolfo Cooper ski trip in Beaver Creek.   It is a great trip with my partners and friends that gets better every year and I always look forward to it (in fact, I can hardly wait for the 2017 edition).  But I remember taking this picture, and the plane ride more generally, because I really did not feel well.  I had a lingering cold, which turned out to be a sinus infection.  And as I think back and try to remember just when it all started, it had to have been at some point in mid January.  Because I remember feeling like garbage the week before at our private equity client ski trip to Jackson Hole.  I chalked everything up to being busy, traveling and never getting enough sleep —- I still pull all nighters before court hearings for fear of not being prepared.  So when I get a little run down, it is because of my lifestyle not my health.  [This is a long post by the way — and it is one that I have been thinking about and writing in my brain for weeks.  I want to remember every detail forever.  Plus it is my last night on steroids and I am hopeful sleep starts setting in as soon as tomorrow!]

But on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday (February 7, 2016), after taking the red eye back from Colorado (via Los Angeles!) Friday night/Saturday morning to get to Jake’s basketball tournament that afternoon, I went to the Scarsdale medical center.  My primary doctor, who Jen uses too, is affiliated with the Scarsdale Medical Group.  I should have called her and made an appointment to get a physical.  Instead, I went to the place that is open on the weekends — where a doctor from the group is always on call — because it was most convenient for my schedule.  I was leaving town that week and simply went to the doctor for quick peace of mind.  [By the way, I am not writing any of this to complain about the care I received or criticize any of the doctors that I saw over the next 3 months before I was diagnosed with cancer in late April.  I have no ill will, hold no grudge nor think that anyone did anything wrong.  Instead, the point is that we know our bodies and when something is not right we — not necessarily a doctor — need to ring the alarm bell and make sure we keep knocking on the door until there is an answer.   Too often we let everything else get in the way.  But there is nothing more important than our health.]

On that Sunday the doctor on call told me I had a lingering sinus and upper respiratory infection.  He gave me a Z-Pak to help clear it up (I am allergic to several antibiotics), and also told me to use Flonase daily.  As for travel, he explained that I should take Sudafed and use Affirin before flights to help ease any pressure from the sinus infection.   And for those of you that traveled with me in February, March and April, you were witness to my plane ritual: Sudafed 2 hours before the flight and within an hour of landing; shots of Affrin immediately before take off (witnessed by flight attendants and passengers with great intrigue); and the use of EarPlanes (ear plugs) for the entirety of every flight.  I am a pretty intense person generally; by April I had this routine down to a science and there is no doubt people were watching and thinking I was a total freak show.

The week after the Super Bowl I was in Houston, San Francisco and then Houston again (and not back home until that Friday).  And while I didn’t feel great, I was working really hard, out late with clients nearly every night and not getting enough sleep.  So my sense was a little sleep on the weekend would set me straight.  Interestingly, it was around mid February that I recall having trouble sleeping through the night.  Although not a great sleeper regularly, I remember the tossing and turning and the sense of frustration that accompanies a lack of sleep when you know you need rest (which lasted for 2 plus months).  But the status quo continued until February 29th.   That is when I flew to Houston (on a Monday night) for a status conference in one my cases on Tuesday.  Notwithstanding my Sudafed/Affrin/EarPlugs ritual, the pain in my ears on the way down was so intense that I thought I popped my ear drums.  I was so frustrated when my ears would not pop that night or in the morning (and this lasted for about a week).  But I still stayed up most all the night Monday getting ready for that hearing on Tuesday, and I remember being in court and having to turn slightly to the right when standing at the podium because my right ear was working better than my left.

The pain was worse both during and after the flight back on Tuesday.  So on Wednesday morning (March 2nd) I called my ENT and drove over to his office for his first appointment of the day.  I really like my ENT.  I had gone to him last year after I was told I had wax build up in my ears during a physical.  At my doctor’s suggestion, I bought over the counter ear wax drops and had Jen insert the drops as instructed.  I am still not sure if she used too much!  The drops ended up coating my ear drums.  After two days of feeling like I was under water (and several attempts with friends to unclog my ears in between), I had to have the ENT literally drain and clean my ears to get full hearing back!  I assumed we would do the same thing that morning.  I was wrong.  This time the fluid was inside my ear drums and, as a result, the only way to clear the ears was by puncturing a hole — something he did not want to do.  This caused my hearing to be severely impaired.  The doctor prescribed a steroid (Prednisone), which happens to be the same steroid I have been taking for the last four weeks.  He also suggested that I avoid air travel, especially if it was personal as opposed to business.  So instead of flying that Thursday, I changed my flight to 5 am Friday morning.  The pain was awful on the way down to Houston and during the course of the day, but when I landed back in NY on Friday night my ears actually unclogged a bit.  And on Saturday they got even better.

The next week was intense, with a big hearing in Houston and a new case filing at the same time in Delaware (with a first day hearing on Friday).  While my ears were unclogged, I was still feeling like garbage and the lack of sleep was certainly not helping.  After a day trip to Dallas on March 16th, followed by a night and day in San Francisco (March 17th), I was back at the ENT on the afternoon of March 18th post a quick trip to Delaware earlier that morning.  It was when I landed around midnight on March 17th that the pain had started behind my ear (and ultimately in my neck and collarbone).  My doctor was unavailable so I had to see someone else in the practice since I knew this could not wait for Monday.  I was prescribed a 10-day dose of heavy antibiotics that would hopefully clear up this sinus infection once and for all.  Jen was appropriately all over me, making sure I was hydrated and did not drink alcohol so the antibiotics could run their course.   The pain, however, persisted and I was back at the ENT on March 22 (after a day trip to St. Louis on March 21st) because something was just not right.  My ENT was not sure what was wrong at this point and did not think it had anything to do with my ears.  So he sent me for an MRI to see what else could be going on (and special thanks to Margret (my fantastic legal assistant for many many years) who pushed to get me in for the MRI on Wednesday since I was leaving town Thursday on business and then flying to meet Jen and the kids in Philadelphia for the tail end of their spring break).

I hated every second of that MRI.  And I can still hear that clicking noise.  Margret and I called the doctor dozens of times that Thursday looking for the results.  I just had an awful feeling in my stomach that something was wrong.  I still remember walking out of the mediation session late that afternoon to talk to my doctor, who reported that the test showed a little stress on the nerves behind by ears and a cyst on my throat, but nothing out of the ordinary.  He had no issues or concerns.  The problem was the MRI only imaged the neck up.  The tumor — which has shrunken over the last four weeks of treatment — is in the middle of my chest.  But I had a huge sense of relief after the call from the doctor and enjoyed being out in Houston that night after the mediation session.

With the MRI showing nothing out of the ordinary, my primary doctors (Jen and my father in law) concluded that the pain in my neck and behind my ear was gym-related.  So when I landed in Philly, there was no working out that weekend and it was my job to rest.  I remember fading in and out while I watched Syracuse win late that Friday night with Justin, only to get in bed after the game and be unable to sleep (Justy — I am still sorry I didn’t help you clean up that mess as I was definitely awake!).  At this point I was trying anything to sleep.  Tylenol PM, Advil PM, Aleve PM, Melatonin.  Nothing worked.  This went on for weeks.  But I was busy that last week of March, leading up to a big trial on April 1st in St. Louis (and knowing that a vacation was around the corner on April 5th).   We worked really hard to get ready for that trial and as much fun as it was, I did not feel well sitting in that courtroom all day.  [I also missed a party for my brother’s 35th birthday that night (with my entire family in town), which I still badly about.]

I also felt like garbage on Saturday April 2nd, when I took Jake and Ryan to see Syracuse play in the Final Four in Houston.  But as uncomfortable as I was, those are 24 hours that I will never forget and I enjoyed every second of that day with my boys.


We left for St. Lucia with our most of our closest friends on April 5th.  This is a trip with Jen and friends that I look forward to as soon as the previous trip ends.  And having been really busy leading up to the trip, it was really important to get away with Jen.  [We are so lucky to have parents that are willing to drop everything to watch our kids and let us get some much needed time away.]  I remember going through my standard pre-flight ritual and complaining to the flight attendant that the WIFI was not working (I cannot stand being in the air for multiple hours and then getting inundated with emails when I land — it gives me agida).  I also vividly remember my chest bothering me the moment we landed.  And of course Jen and all my friends knew this because I am not one to hold anything back and can admit that I am kvetch (i.e., someone who is not shy to complain).  My chest bothered me that entire week.  As much fun as I had on that trip, I just wasn’t myself (even though I got some much needed time to relax).  I usually fall asleep anywhere, but on this trip it was particularly embarrassing because at times I was falling asleep at the dinner table mid-conversation.  And although I slept most all of that week for the first time in ages, there were so many signs that something was wrong.  It was on this trip that I figured out I could not run at a normal pace.  Going up a very steep hill with my buddy Evan, I remember him turning to the side and being stunned that I was effectively where we started, unable to run.  I was so pissed off.  I made myself walk up this steep hill to the gym every morning.  The shortness of breath that accompanied my walk was aggravating.  And since I couldn’t jog, I made myself sprint (which probably was not helpful).  I also did not realize I was making noise when I worked out, likely as a result of the lung that was literally collapsing as a result of the tumor.  My buddy Ian was in the gym with me and I think genuinely concerned because the noises I was making were not normal.  This was also about the time that I developed a cough, and I never get a cough.  I was so concerned and worried about the pain in my chest that I wondered if I was going to stop breathing one night when we got into bed (and I am so sorry Jen that I never told you this; I hinted about it to Jeff and Pete one morning but never really came clean).

We got back on Sunday April 10th.  I had another busy week.  But I wasn’t sleeping again and continued to feel like crap.  I should have made an appointment with my doctor to get a physical.  Instead, I waited until Saturday and went back to the Scarsdale medial center for pure convenience.  I explained the last couple of months to the doctor on call, who I really liked.  I remember him hearing me cough and saying there was definitely something going on.  He also knew my ENT well and we joked about getting together for dinner.  He prescribed me a Z-Pak and powerful nose spray.  The nose spray was not ready when I got to the pharmacy, so I did not start on that until Monday.  And things got worse.  My neck was in such pain (now we know from the tumor pressuring my nerves) that Jen was putting a heat pack on me before bed.  I went to the Yankees game with Joff and Nicole on Tuesday night and coughed the entire time (I also remember telling both of them that I felt like garbage and could not sleep.)  I drove to work that Wednesday morning with Paul and told him I thought I had sleep apnea.  I also stopped lifting weights that Wednesday.   And I still couldn’t run at a normal pace so I like an idiot I was doing the stair master with one lung.  I was in such bad shape that I cancelled a trip on Thursday that I normally would take without question.  On Friday, I worked from home and told Jen I would go back to the doctor during the day.  But I got stuck on the phone the entire day and I had promised the kids I would play basketball against them and their friends when they got home from school.  I still remember Jen reminding me that I needed to get off the phone to carry through on my basketball promise before we had to leave for Seder on the early side.  I was in no mood to play basketball, but I did.  It was Ryan, Noah and Daddy vs. Jake and Lev.  Tough match up.  I did not have my A game.  And Ryan was pissed.  He cried like crazy after we lost.

Sedar that night was at the Tauber’s and I remember being uncomfortable the entire night.  I took 4 Advil for the pain in my neck, which I now thought was related to the afternoon basketball session since I had not lifted weights in several days.  I had to stand at various points during dinner because I just could not sit still.  Yet I decided on the way home that I was going to run on my treadmill on Saturday morning and get to the gym to work out with weights in the afternoon because I had not gone in 3 days.  I was so frustrated on Saturday morning when I couldn’t run at 6.0 on the treadmill for more than 2 minutes.  I just could not figure what the hell was wrong with me.  Jen and I went to Greenwich for lunch to see one of my best friend’s from college, his wife and gorgeous 6-month old daughter.  It was so good to see them yet I sat there uncomfortable the entire time.  And I remember telling Michael that I had been feeling like shit and couldn’t work out.  That afternoon we looked a new house in town and had a Seder with my in-laws.  I just was not myself.

So it was decided that I would go back to the Scarsdale medical center on Sunday morning (April 23rd), at the direction yet again of my doctors (Jen and Lenny).  Lenny thought I needed to be nebulized.  Jen thought I had walking pneumonia.  Nobody thought it was cancer.  Yet after two failed breathing tests with a nebulizer treatment in between, the doctor on call suggested that we take an x-ray.  She was concerned with what she saw and decided to fax it over to the local hospital for someone there to take a look.  She asked me to wait in her office.  After checking my emails, I grabbed an US Weekly and was about to look at the first couple of pages of celeb photos.  But I never got a chance.  The doctor walked in, was a bit startled, and reported that she had bad news.  She told me that the x-ray showed a very large mass on my lung (at least that is what I think I heard her say), and that I needed to get myself to the hospital right away.  I grabbed my phone and my keys and walked out of the office quickly.  I think that I thanked the doctor on the way out.  I dialed Jen immediately in a complete state of panic, explained the situation and drove to the hospital.

I don’t tell this story or share these details because I am looking for sympathy.  If anything, I am incredibly fortunate because I am on top of this disease and already winning the battle as evidenced by the tests from yesterday.  It took a while to figure out what was wrong, but we figured it out and I have a team of incredible doctors that are going to make sure it goes away and does not come back.  Yet so many people in this world are walking around with ailments and diseases that they do not know about and may not find out about until it is too late.  I should have gotten a physical months ago (even thought it is unclear if it would have shown anything out of the ordinary).  The point, however, is we need to know our bodies and when we should be hitting the pause button.  Lack of time to get checked out is a terrible excuse.  If there is something bothering you, it is better to be safe than sorry.  And being safe means going back again and again until you get an answer that not only gives you mental comfort, but actually makes you feel better.


If you are still reading and not bored out of your mind, I had another great day.  The treatment yesterday had me tired until this afternoon (I even took a nap in the middle of the day, which probably explains why I am sitting here at 5:30 am as the sun comes out).  But this afternoon was awesome.  Had lunch and got to hang out with one of Jen’s closest friends from college who came to visit from the City.  I went for a walk and caught up on some phone calls.  I responded to dozens of notes from colleagues and friends who were alerted to my situation at the UJA luncheon.  I played board games with my boys in the basement for an hour (and I was completely captive).


And I had a great dinner (thanks much Rumbold’s, with appetizers care of Tauber) and hung out with a bunch of good buddies from town, which was a good distraction and very relaxing.  I am going to try to sleep a little now, but already looking forward to today.


Monday, May 23, 2016.  Long but solid day.  We left for the hospital right after dropping off all three kids at school (man I love doing that), and got to the city in no time.  Jen drove as I was definitely feeling anxious.  But it was a good ride.

We had to wait a while on the 3rd floor, which just generally gives me stomach pains.  I remember walking in there for the very first time on April 27, 2016, and thinking I was the youngest person there.  And while I have only been twice since, I find myself scanning the room every time we go back.  But Jen figured out that we are better off sitting in a side room where my eyes don’t wander as much looking around at all the different people waiting for treatment or to see a doctor…..

After having blood work done and getting an IV (both of which I can’t stand), we met with Maureen — one of the PA’s who we absolutely adore — and talked about the day and the next phase of treatment ahead.  June is going to be intense.  But it was good (more so for Jen) to hear the schedule and know exactly when the treatments are coming.  Assuming things move according to the calendar they gave us, it looks like the schedule will work well around Jake leaving for camp.  And with no chemo until next Wednesday, the weekend with the family at the shore is fully in tact; I cannot remember being this excited to get down there and take a huge deep breath after paying the $1.50 toll to get over the Margate bridge.

From Maureen we went to the first floor for a cat scan.  Then we were back on the third floor for the infusion.  I started reading a book and actually fell asleep during the treatment.  Jen sat with me the entire time and, of course, grabbed a nurse each time the IV pole beeped or made a strange noise (at least half a dozen times).  And I am sure the women next to me was sick of hearing Jen directing me to drink the glass of water she left on my little table.  That’s my Jen.

From the treatment we went to a different building for the PET scan.  This is short for a positron emission tomography scan, which is a fancy word for an imaging test.  A radioactive substance (called a tracer) is shot through your body and the test looks to determine if all organs and tissues are working properly.  It takes a long time for the tracer to circulate and you have to just sit there waiting while drinking a gatorade like substance every 10 minutes.  The scan itself takes 45 minutes or so.  By 4 pm, having just got the tracer through the IV, I knew Jen needed to get home.  As much as I wanted to drive back with her, she needed to get back for the boys.  [And if it wasn’t for Jen today — and her making sure everything was scheduled and the next person knew that I was on my way from the previous stop — I might still be in the city.]  So Jen called Mr. Reliable, my brother Drew, who continues to amaze me every day, and of course he dropped everything to pick me up at the hospital and drive me back to Scarsdale (and Alexis, I hope it goes without saying, but thanking Drew is thanking you because you guys are a true team and I know you have your hands full).  Jen of course didn’t leave me empty handed.  Neatly packed in a Quaker Ridge Lunch bag was an omelet she made last night and a bagel with cream cheese and lox.  I ate it pretty quickly after my 18 hour fast (and frankly I have been eating ever since (when I haven’t been sleeping), including making Drew stop on the Hutch at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive through for an egg white/turkey sausage flat bread, to which I added bacon).

I didn’t make it to Jake’s baseball game tonight because we did not get back until well after it started.  And I really don’t think I was in any shape to be there in any event, as I have been pretty lethargic.  I even laid down in bed and fell asleep during the first half of the Cavs game [I woke up and it was close, but they blew it.  That said, a series does not start until the home team loses a game…..]  But I did get a funny text from my buddy Evan, who said we lost 17-3 and reported that Jake told him “my dad’s radioactive.”  Jen had told all three boys that I had some tests today and they needed to keep their distance per the doctor’s orders.  I laughed when I read Jake’s comment in a text as I could just hear him singing the song by Imagine Dragons in the back seat of the car.

At 1:22 pm today I got an email from my doctor (who is truly amazing along with the entire team at Weil Cornell/New York-Presbyterian, including everyone who helped me today).  The subject line was “CT Scan” and the text of the email said: “Looks good! Lymph nodes gone, fluid gone, mass much smaller, no clots or lung problems :)).”  How do you beat that?  You can’t.  Tomorrow is my last day on steroids for a few weeks and I am looking forward to feeling back to normal (no more crazy organizing, eating non-stop and swelling) and hopefully having a desire to start working out.  And after a weekend at the shore, I am ready to embrace this next phase of chemo, even though I sense it is going to be a bear.

And yet all I can think about this afternoon and tonight is the 5 year old kid in a wheel chair that was pushed into the elevator by his young father at Weil Cornell.  They got out on the first floor as I was making my way from the cat scan department back to the infusion center.  A cute little kid with glasses, you could hear him in the elevator struggling to breathe.  Jen knew it got to me as his father backed him out of the elevator.  And when I got back to the third floor, for the first time I was not looking around to see if I was the youngest person there.  I don’t know if this little boy had cancer or lung disease, but whatever it is, no 5 year old kid should have to go through that.  5 year old kids should be running around care free.

I was listening to Radioactive by Imagine Dragons tonight and thinking about the lyrics.  I have listened to this song 1,000 times but have I ever really thought about what they are saying?  It has nothing to do with PET scans and tracers, but instead being locked away without a key and suddenly released into an unknown world (I stumbled upon an interesting article analyzing the song.)  And as I better understood what the song actually is all about tonight, I feel lucky to sit here and be numb to this song as it does not define me or my situation.  I am beating this thing for my family and friends and to live a more meaningful life for many many years to come.  I don’t feel like I am behind bars.  In fact, I have never felt more free.  But I just can’t stop thinking about that 5 year old boy and the more 13,500 kids that get diagnosed with cancer every year.  These kids are in prison.  And once I get myself healthy, I really want to do something about it.



Overwhelmed (But I have a favor….)

Sunday, May 22, 2016.  I love Sunday’s.  Sunday’s are about family.  Bagels with lox (as well as cream cheese, onions and tomatoes).  Hanging out at home.  Not rushing.  Pizza and wings for the Sussberg family (although I usually order a turkey burger with no bun because I am a donkey).  Good red wine with Jen (sometimes late in the day if we are feeling wild and crazy!).  Watching sports.  Tucking the kids into bed.  And of course, the Sunday Styles section of the NY Times.

For as long as I can remember, the first section of the Sunday Times I read — and sometimes the only section — is the Styles section and, more specifically, the “Vows.” I just love reading the wedding announcements, finding out where people went to school and what they do for a living, and trying to figure out if I know someone from somewhere.  There have been so many times I have opened the section and stumbled upon someone I know.  And every time I feel like a 5 year old kid, running and grabbing Jen to alert her to the fact that I know someone getting married (Jen knows how much I love it, so she always says “cool” or “awesome,” even though I know deep down she thinks I am nuts every time I point it out).

Anyway, this post isn’t about Sunday’s or the Sunday Styles for that matter.  But like every other Sunday, I did read the Vows section tonight.  And I stumbled upon the story of Jennifer Alden and Kirk Spahn.  [Here is a link to the story….  ]

It is stories like these that make me read (proudly) the Sunday Styles section each and every Sunday.  This is a story about true companions (a song best sung by Mark Cohen, a graduate of Beachwood High School and the author/singer of our wedding song called — you guessed it — “True Companion”).  Jennifer’s and Kirk’s story included a cancer scare and blog experience.  This obviously hits home.  Jennifer and Kirk:  I don’t know you guys at all (although I did see Wedding Crashers).  I did, however, get glimpse into who you are on page 12 of today’s NY Times and for some reason I agree you will together leave the world a better place.  Wishing you both good health and good luck!

Overwhelmed can mean a lot of different things.  You can overwhelm an opponent.  Inundate someone with love to the point of overwhelming them.  Synonyms include bury, engulf, swamp and submerge.  But rarely do you hear the world overwhelmed in a positive manner.  That’s not to say it is not possible for overwhelmed to be used in a positive light.  Because being overwhelmed can be a good thing.  I certainly think so.  In fact, over the last 4 weeks I am not sure a day has gone by without the sensation of being overwhelmed — in a positive way — through the support that has been shown by my family and friends.  It is uplifting and appreciated.  And as much as people tell me to stop saying thank you, I only want to, and will continue to, say thank you more.  I am so humbled that is impossible for me to thank everyone who has reached out and offered support.  From long lost grade school and high school friends, to friends from camp, Beachwood, Temple Beth El, Syracuse, Cardozo Law School, current and former colleagues, extended family members, friends of my parents’ and in-laws’, old acquaintances, adversaries, best friends, old best friends, fraternity brothers, ex-girlfriends, even old friends that I couldn’t be there for when they needed a friend the most over the years (and I was probably too busy).  I am simply overwhelmed each day by the outreach and support.  It makes me stronger.

The outreach (as well as the medication) makes you think about a lot of different things, including why you completely lost touch with some or all of these people, each of whom was so important and instrumental at different points along the way. Maybe I am more comfortable in my own skin and being completely open with people I haven’t talked to in years because for the first time I don’t feel invincible.  Or maybe I am so comfortable in where I am in life, with my marriage and with my family, that is it suddenly only to speak to people that I cared a lot about (and still do care about) and let them know that was/is the case.  Suddenly it seems completely normal to offer an apology when you knew you treated someone poorly or without the real respect deserved.  No clue if there is answer here (let alone a right one).

Then there are family members with whom we may lose touch.  Sometimes there is a reason, a fight or disagreement.  Other times people just drift, and six months can quickly turn into six years.  Yesterday I sent an email to my cousin Jason.  Other than sharing a last name and knowing from the internet that he is a filmmakfer, I am ashamed to say I don’t think I would know Jason if I bumped into him on the streets of NYC.  The same can be said for Jason’s dad, my Uncle, and his younger brother David.  We just don’t have a relationship.  And it really is a shame.

I sent Jason an email because I heard that his brother is not well.  I told him it sucked that I was sending an email under the circumstances and that it was shame we did not know each other.  But I said we were family and I was hopeful to lend a helping hand in any way that I possibly could.  His response was pure class.  In addition to lending his support for our fight, he said he was hopeful we could get to know each other once the dust settled from this nightmare with his brother.  I feel so badly about what they are dealing with and the fact that the lack of a relationship makes my family effectively helpless to Jason and his father at a time they need us the most.  It is just too bad that all this time, and the complete lack of interaction, lead to this impersonal communication and inability to actually make a difference.

My intention here is not to sound like a preacher.  But the favor I have for everyone reading this is to pick up the phone and call someone you lost touch with for whatever reason.  Whether it be family (immediate or otherwise), an old friend or colleague, reach out and touch the people that were part of your life but may have disappeared.  Overwhelm them in a positive way.  We have nothing to lose but more time.


For those of you keeping score, tomorrow is the “make-up” chemo day after Friday’s rain out.  I frankly wasn’t thinking much about it — or the pet scan I am having tomorrow to see the status of the tumor in my chest — until earlier tonight.  That’s because even if I have kankles (from the nearly 4 weeks of steroids) and am feeling anxious, it was still an awesome day.


Jake scored two goals on the way to a 5-2 victory, including off a corner kick (which I unfortunately missed because I was driving very slowly after yesterday’s incident (and of course got lost)). Here is the video of his second goal:  

Ryan went with his best buddy Noah to the red carpet premiere of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2.  And Brandon got to hang out (mostly with his favorite person (his mommy)).



I got this tomorrow (no thinking, just playing)……..Plus I get to ride to and from the city with Jen, and that is making me happy already.



Saturday, May 21, 2016.  When you are distracted, your mind drifts and you cannot concentrate or focus on anything in particular.  It is almost as if your mind is playing tricks on you.

This morning I was focused on one thing and one thing only; making sure I was at Edgewood school with Ryan Sussberg at 8:30 am so I could be in his little league team picture.  This caused me to rush out of both bed (I finally fell asleep around 530 am) and the house, all after taking a fast shower and not having time to completely dry off or otherwise finish what has become my standard shower routine.  Notwithstanding how much I rushed for the first time I could remember, the entire team was waiting — because we were late — and even Ryan noticed that it was well past 830 when we finally pulled in. But we got the picture taken.  And that was all that mattered.

[It’s funny how different life is in less than 30 days.  On Sunday April 24th, on my way to the Scarsdale medical center to get checked out yet again, I was on the cell (in the car on the way to the doctor) dialing around to various people on various deals just to make sure things were moving in the right direction.  Today, I was picking out a new pair of sweat pants  and doing everything in my power to get to team pictures on time.]  

As for the real baseball games today, Ryan played at 9 am and Jake played at 1 pm.  It kills me not to be coaching and really helping out, but I am easily distracted and have trouble staying for the duration of the game.  In fact, I left both games early.  As a result, I missed Ryan’s “second grand slam” and Jake’s legit triple.  It pisses me off that I left early.

But this afternoon I got distracted and frankly freaked out at the same time.  Like Ryan, Jake Sussberg had team pictures today and I was determined to be there.  At 310 pm, I grabbed Jake and my brother-in-law Justin, jumped in my car and we headed back to Edgewood school for one more picture.  Towards the end of Heathcote Road, I either wasn’t paying attention or lost control of my car for no reason, and drove directly into the curb.  I destroyed the rims and need new tires on the passenger side.  And even worse, I was scared, couldn’t figure out why I got distracted, and starting swearing in front of Jake.  What the hell is wrong with me?

Bottom line: I am worried about driving tomorrow.  I could use a good distraction right about now, but all I am thinking about is that I can’t satiate my hunger because of the steroids, I know what highlight they are going to show on SportsCenter before they actually show it, I am getting a “moon face” from the medication, and I’m 24 hours away from more chemo.  And the only song that keeps coming on in my head is the 1991 classic by the Geto Boys, “My Mind Playing Tricks on Me.”

Nonetheless, there is always a silver lining.  The rims and the tires, they will get fixed.  Jackie and Brett got married tonight and it looks like everyone had a complete blast.  I had my family over all afternoon (which is always awesome) and I can’t wait to hang out with everyone at the Shore next weekend. I walked 4 miles with Lenny, and was not nearly as short of breath as I was yesterday.  Corresponded with old friends (who it was incredible to hear from). Had some close friends over for a drink who always make me feel at peace.  I watched the Cavs with Jake and Ryan.


And finally, I got to introduce one of my closet friends and roommates from college to each of my kids.  Welcome back Stu (bottom left) — can’t believe we let all these years go by.  Let’s not do that again.





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