Friday, November 27, 2009

28th Annual International Barbie Dison Day

Barbie and I dated for only three weeks in August of 1981 before she left for Ricks College (Now BYU, Idaho) in Rexburg, Idaho. Our courtship then occurred mostly through written correspondence. (Yes, real live letters requiring postage stamps) The first time I would see her in three month would be Thanksgiving. So in an effort to justify spending the entire Friday with her I wrote the following story of "International Barbie Dison Day." We have been celebrating this personal holiday now for 28 years.

The Legend of International Barbie Dison Day

Once upon a time in a land where the oaks were fair there was a province called Cordova. Every year the people of the land would have a great feast on Thanksgiving day and, as was customary, they would also take off the following Friday to relax and digest there food. Everyone knew what a 'drag' it was to go to work that following Friday and hoped they would never have to.
There was in the land a king who was a very austere and tight man. As a matter of fact, many gave him the nickname of "King Scrooge". Well, old King Scrooge decided that it was a great waste of time for all of his subjects to loaf around that one Friday of the year if they were not celebrating something, so he decided to put an end to it, unless the people could find a good reason for celebrating.
Well this created no small stir among the people. What were they going to do? If they couldn't come up with a good reason for celebrating the forth Friday of November they would lose it forever. The elders of the town decided to hold an emergency council to see what could be done. They put their heads together and came up with numerous ideas such as National Digital Watch Day, Ground Squirrel Day, Opening Day for the Zebra Rodeo, etc … none of which seemed a feasible reason for celebration. They were stumped.
Just when they were about to give up a young lad named Ray ran into their chambers and exclaimed, "I have the answer!" Immediately the room was silent and all eyes were focused upon Ray. The chief elder broke the silence and asked, "What is the answer, pray tell?"
"Come with me and you'll see," was his reply.
Little Ray then took the council to a beautiful field near the edge of town. When all of the sudden he stopped a whispered, "Listen."
As they listened they could hear a beautiful sound. It was the singing of a young girl. The elders turned to see where it was coming from and as they did they saw a lovely young girl of pure countenance. Suddenly she felt their presence and stopped her singing as she turned to see who was there. The chief elder then came up to her and asked,
"What is your name?"
"Barbie," she replied,” Barbie Dison." Then the chief elder had an idea.
"Come with us”, he asked.
She innocently followed them as they took her to see the mean ol king Scrooge.
When they arrived at the palace, immediately the chief elder told Barbie to sing once again her beautiful song. As the strains broke the silence and floated up through the castle windows a strange sensation came over the king. He immediately went to his window to see what it was. As he did he saw that it was this fair lass, Barbie Dison, who had created such a wonderful noise which miraculously made him feel mellow. He then declared in a loud voice,

"From this day forth, the province of Cordova will recognize the forth Friday of November (for that's the day that this all occurred) as International Barbie Dison Day to commemorate all the happiness which she has brought into the world.

Then all at once the people cheered for they would continue to have the day after Thanksgiving as a holiday. And they all lived happily ever after.
As told to Kevin Anderson by Ray - November 24, 1981

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Soundtrack of our lives

Music has the amazing capacity to express our emotions and can trigger them as well. I have written before on how certain music may evoke specific memories; where were you when you heard it? The following may be a bit narcissistic, but I did it anyway. I made a CD of the songs that define some of the moments on our recent journey. I then played it on our stereo and was transformed into a blubbering mass of nostalgia. As Barbie said, it took her to places she has not been in a while and wasn't really ready to return.
If these songs are familiar to you, just hum them in the background as I catalogue their relevance:

***WARNING*** Listening to music in the car can be dangerous to your emotional stability

1: 100 years by Five for Fighting
It is March 2004. I had just told my boss, Dr Weiss, that I was leaving Yale to return to California. While driving to Hartford, I experienced something I had never really felt before; doubt. I knew we needed to move, but I really did not know why. This song came on the radio to punctuate this mid-life crisis.

2: Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber
I was at our annual church girl's camp. Two days prior I learned that I had a serious heart condition that gave me a prognosis of 5-10 years. The word amyloidosis had yet to be mentioned. All year I had planned on going on the back-packing trip with Barbie and Caitlin, but I wasn't strong enough. I remained in camp after they left for the 2 day back-country trip. I figured that at least I could go canoeing. However, to take out a canoe, the camp rule required that I pass a BSA swim test. I couldn't do it. I pleaded with them to let me go out in the canoe; but a rule is a rule. I walked away a broken man. All of my favorite activities were slipping away one by one. A few days later, the waterfront director had mercy on me and said that I could go in the canoe if I had a partner that was a swimmer. Barbie has an aversion to cold water, but bravely took the swim-test so that she could accompany me. It was a beautiful moment in an otherwise painful week. My sister-in-law Rachelle, while walking along the shore, saw us and took a picture. It hangs here in my office and reminds me of that moment as the swelling of the strings reach their climax in this adagio.

3: You Are Loved (Don't Give Up) by Josh Groban
Four days later I finally agreed to let Barbie tell others what was happening to me. I had no idea how alone she felt having to handle this by herself. She sent an email to family and close friends. The response was immediate and overwhelming. The resultant communication of love, concern, prayers and friendship sustained us through are most difficult moments, and continues to do so today.

4: Viva la Vida by Coldplay
As we drive home from Santa Clara for the first time, this is the song and album we listen to. The heart biopsy was just done and I was told by Dr Weisshaar that my heart only pumps at half capacity. When I ask her if I need a heart transplant she responds, "Only if you are healthy enough."

5: Better Days by The Goo Goo Dolls and
6: Make This Go on Forever by Snow Patrol
It is August 12, 2008, a Tuesday. After a month and a half of never leaving my side, Barbie departs for San Diego to celebrate Samuel and Michelle's wedding. I sit alone in my hospital room with a constant infusion of Dopamine to keep my heart going while I wait for a new heart. As I listen to random songs from, these two songs play one after the other. I immediately write a blog of how much I miss Barbie and she writes her response. The feeling of loneliness is then augmented to surreal proportions when 3 hours later I am offered a heart at the Mayo Clinic. I know that if I accept, I will be there alone. At this moment I give up complete control of my life to others and rely solely on prayer.

7: Waiting by Caitlin Anderson
Fast forward one week. The heart at the Mayo Clinic is turned down. Two days later I am at Stanford receiving a new heart. August 20, the day after my 49th birthday, Caitlin and Rebecca come to visit me and Caitlin sings this song, accompanying herself on guitar. She wrote it for my birthday, thinking that I would still be waiting for a heart. Now I am only waiting to go home.

8: The Riddle by Five for Fighting
No one memory in particular; this one shuffles up on my I-Pod on our many drives to the Bay Area and I like the message.

9: Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap
While driving Caitlin to piano lessons I get the call that I am in heart rejection for the 3rd time in one month. I fear that this will prevent us from traveling to Utah to see Coldplay and have Thanksgiving with our kids.

10: Death and All his Friends by Coldplay
I am sitting in the car at Lincoln High School waiting for Caitlin. As I listen to Death and All His Friends I think of the bone marrow transplant that will begin the following week. I know the risks, and I accept them, but I still feel an anxiety about what might happen.

11: The Moment I Said It by Imogen Heap
The song hit me as I crashed physically last June. I thought it was my untreated amyloidosis, but turned out to be a very bad cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection from which I recovered.

12: Home by Marc Broussard
I heard this on Barbie's I-Pod on one trip home from a doctor appointment. I loved it. Turn it up loud and enjoy. It reminds me of all of the good times which greatly out-number the tough ones.

13: True Companion by Marc Cohn
This is dedicated to Barbie, my true companion; enough said. You'll have to listen on your own.


Thursday, November 12, 2009


A few years back, while living in Connecticut, I was given a new calling in my church after being released as a bishop. This involved serving on a regional council in our Stake. During one evening, the clerk had the assignment of determining the vocation of each member attending the meeting. When he got to me I simple stated, with all of the dryness that I could evaporate from my voice, "I am a plumber." He flatly accepted my decree and moved on to the next person. This is actually not that far from the truth. I fix pipes, albeit human pipes. (It is interesting that much of human disease is a result of clogged or leaky pipes.) For years when people ask what a urologist does, I often answer, "I fix old men who can't pee and old women who can't stop." However, in addition to alleviating issues with the yellow stuff, I also work at increasing the pressure of the red stuff. As has often been reported in our specialty, 'A hard man is good to find.'
Of course, my work in erectile dysfunction goes back to my days at Yale where I not only treated hundreds of men, but was instrumental in developing both the lectures to the second year class on impotence, but also the core curriculum course of Human Sexuality to the fourth year class. My approach, the pragmatist that I am, generally focused on normal heterosexual male issues longitudinally. I focused on changes over time.
I took a very different approach yesterday as I gave a lecture to the heart transplant support group at the Santa Clara Kaiser. The title, "Intimacy after Heart Transplant" I felt this was apropos as a heart transplant both improves things through the increased flow of blood/min.; it also has inherent complicating factors. I felt that by naming these often avoided issues, the couples present might begin difficult dialogues. This particular lecture, however, was unique for me in that while speaking, I never lost cognition of the fact that I was also a member of the audience.
There are many things in life that we avoid speaking of because they a hard and require risk. Sometimes, though, it is essential to begin the discussion if we are ever to fix the problem. I hope I helped someone onto that path. The proof is in the pipeline.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Stress-Free Life

Attention Readers!
Reduce Your Stress Levels by 100% in Two Easy Steps
Take advantage of this limited time offer and
never worry about anything ever again.

Step 1:
Remember on June 17th, 2007 what happened to you? Of course you don't because it didn't happen. At 2:37 P.M. you were just about to leave to get to your appointment early, but you could not find your notes. You reprinted them which took an extra 7 minutes. Two miles from your house, you drove down a hill without incident. If you had left seven minutes earlier, while swerving to miss a man that drifted into your lane while texting, you drove off the road and hit a tree. You died at the scene.
Of course, you didn't die because on that day you were running late and now remain as 96% of most people who do not truly grasp the reality of their own mortality. Why does this matter? Because when you do grasp this reality, you don't sweat the small stuff, and most of it is small stuff. How many times has your life already been saved and you still don't see it? Next time you feel anger coming on as you coast behind an octogenarian doing 37 MPH in a 55 MPH zone silently say to yourself. "I am in no hurry, I would have lost that time at the next red light anyway," and relax. I probably say the same thing to myself now at least ten times a day and I don't feel stress anymore.

Step 2:
Give your life away. (This actually has some sub-steps)

Sub-step a. Give away your ego
Relinquish your need to be right all of the time and add to your vocabulary phrases like, "You are right." and "I really agree with you." Stop correcting irrelevant flaws in language and logic of the person that is speaking to you. Actually listen without just waiting for the other persons lips to stop moving so you can blind them with your brilliance.
Sub-Step b. Give away your need for stuff
Get rich slow by spending less that you possess. If you are already in debt, make a plan and spend even less. (Debt = Stress)
Sub-step c. Give away your need for total control
Yes, your boss can be annoying; but we all report to someone. Unless you are that rare person that has total control and you end up making a movie like "Star Wars, Attack of the Clones" Let go of that need to control and you might learn something from the most unlikely person.

I lied, there are actually three steps (in addition to the sub-steps of step 2)

Step 3:
Create buffers
Buffers blunt the pain of unexpected situations and give you room to maneuver and recover.

Buffers are essential to avoiding stress:
Financial Buffers (Savings, security etc...)

Good Will Buffers: Kind acts that are deposited in your charity bank so that when you say or do something selfish people will still like you and forgive you.

Trust Buffers: A developed pattern of reliability and responsibility so others will afford you the freedom to make your own decisions.

Space Buffers: Don't drive too close to the car in front of you at 75 MPH on the freeway.

Apply now to follow these 3 simple steps and remove all stress from you life. It is an unproven fact that without stress you will live longer, be better looking and stop over-eating. If you still doubt the veracity of this fool-proof system, I refer you back to step one.
You are still alive. Be grateful for every breath.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Warm November Day

Not much to report. Other than the expected ups and downs from my chemo drugs, life is getting somewhat routine. Isn't that cool. Speaking of cool, it is way to hot for November. It is 76 degrees outside today. I think I'll go for a scooter ride. Barbie took a break from studying anatomy today so that we could go out to lunch. We ate at Crush 29 which is a half mile from my office. The food was quite good. I am a big risotto fan and the seafood risotto special was to-die-for. I am considering dropping my weekly dose of Decadron from 40 mg to 30 mg. I could jump off an 8 foot roof and probably not get hurt. However, a 16 foot drop usually breaks something. That is what I feel like two days after 40 mg. My doctor said there may be no therapeutic difference between the doses, so I might consider a shorter jump.
Jeremy flies to Saint Louis today for an interview at Washington University for medical school. 28 years ago this month, I made the same journey. It was also my first interview. I hope it goes well for him; it is a great medical school. Jeremy knows the place well from when he was six and we lived there when I did my fellowship.
We have come full circle in yet another arena.