Posted by: jility | November 26, 2013

The Producers

Having great friends is a HUGE perk in my life. I am so blessed I can’t believe it. Two such friends are Greg and his partner Roger. I have known Greg for almost 40 years. He was a young teenager when he first started hanging around our place in Simi Valley. He was horses crazy (still is) and was so easy to be around (still is). He is like a son to us.

Fast forward 38 years to my colon cancer diagnosis in October. When I told Greg, he said to let him and Roger do some research to find me a great oncologist in southern California. Roger had had his own experience with cancer and they searched and searched until they found the right place for him to be treated. That was Dr. David Quinn, Medical Director of the Norris Cancer Hospital at USC.

They asked him for a referral for my cancer and he recommended Dr. Heinz Josef Lenz:

With his very impressive resume and high praises from Dr. Quinn, how could I possibly go anyplace else? I trusted Greg and Roger to be the Producers of my cancer treatment.

When I first told Mel that I wanted to drive a couple of hours to USC for treatment, he lived up to his nickname. More than forty years ago, he commuted in that traffic disaster every day. It took him hours to drive short distances and he still has nightmares about it. Needless to say, we both had concerns, but in the end, I won (big surprise).

Yesterday was the big day for me to meet with Dr. Lenz. It has been four weeks since my surgery to remove a very large tumor from my cecum. I feel pretty dang good other than the incision hole that is still oozing and getting drained and hosed out twice a day. I thought it was healed, then last might as I was getting ready for bed, it broke open again and drained a bunch of stinky crap all over the place. It wasn’t as stinky as a pig farm this time; perhaps just a chicken farm. I wish it would get better! I am sick of this! I knew it was coming back because I felt like I was getting the flu. That is my telltale sign the abscess is returning.

But I digress.

We left Temecula about 12:30 to make the long drive to USC. Actually, traffic wasn’t bad at all that time of day. We arrived about 2:20 and parked in the covered parking garage. We have to bring Isabella and Crush with us whenever we go anyplace. Isabella because she can no longer get in and out of the Global Warmer by herself to potty and Crush because she is evil and will cause trouble of some kind while we are gone.

My appointment with Dr. Lenz was at 3 PM. We checked in and took a seat to wait to sign in and do paperwork. It was almost 3 by the time they called my name. By that time, Greg and Roger had arrived. They made the drive from Simi Valley to come see us! They arrived bearing gifts too! I got lovely flowers and Roger’s homemade almond butter and wonderful lemons from their trees! It was super to see them!

20131125_210212Greg and Roger's flowers

The beautiful flowers Greg and Roger brought me

We made our way to the next waiting room where we sat for quite a while before being called into an exam room. It was nearly 4:30 by the time we saw Dr. Lenz’s nurse practitioner. Greg and Roger were in the room with Mel and me. I told everyone I brought my entourage. It was like old home week for Greg and Roger. They spent a lot of time there when Roger was being treated. They chatted with lots of the staff and I got to meet Dr. Quinn as well. He has a thick Aussie accent and a GREAT sense of humor to go with it!

This place just felt right. I had met my “peeps” of the cancer treatment world and I knew I had made the right decision thanks to Greg and Roger!

Dr. Lenz’s nurse, a very attractive, slightly built brunette with stylish shoes,  asked me a lot of questions. She had obviously done her homework on me. I was quite impressed! She also had a good sense of humor to go with her good looks! I love a good sense of humor and the USC Norris Cancer Center is full of great minds and great senses of humor! A perfect combination for me!

I had no idea what to expect with Dr. Lenz. Dr. Quinn told us he was in a very bad mood that day and he was being stereotypically “Germanic.” That scared me as I do not like stern, angry men! They irritate me to no end! My orthopedic surgeon was a stern German. When he told me I needed surgery to repair my broken kneecap I cried. I did so because I knew I would miss out on a lot of agility! His response was, “I don’t know why you are crying. It is not like you have cancer!” Little did he know LOL.

So I waited apprehensively for my German oncologist. It was an easy wait because Greg and Roger were so entertaining and interesting! Even Sir Cussalot enjoyed their company. How do I know? Well, Greg said it best, “He laughed and even smiled a few times.”

After a long while the door opened and this short, stocky, round-faced man with a thinning flattop haircut walked into the room. I took one look at him and his face broke into a huge welcoming grin. It was then I knew that Dr. Quinn was pulling our legs.

Dr. Lenz said a couple of words and I knew immediately that I LOVED him! He was hysterical! His very thick German accent and his bigger than life reactions and gestures made him incredibly interesting and delightful. He would talk seriously, then throw back his head and laugh and get loud, then get quiet, then loud. He was unlike anyone I had ever met. Obviously brilliant and caring, but most importantly, his sense of humor was amazing and irreverent. I truly connected with him.

When he left the room briefly, I looked at the guys and we all started laughing. I said, “HE IS PERFECT!!! I LOVE HIM!!!!THANK YOU!!!”

Greg said he reminded him of some movie character. Then it hit me! He looked like he would be perfect for the Mel Brooks movie, The Producers! I expected him to break into the song from the movie, Springtime for Hitler and Germany at any moment.

Here is the real Dr. Lenz in a video.

He told me that I was at high risk for a return of my cancer and for it to metastasize. That is because the tumor was so large (several pounds he said!) and the fact that is was in seven lymph nodes and had grown through the wall of my colon. I also carry four genes for cancer. I told him I was such a dumb ass for not having a colonoscopy at 50!!! He agreed! I told him Mel has never had one either and he yelled, “YOU KICK HIS ASS!!! YOU KICK HIS ASS!!!”

He said I need to have ct scans every three months for a year, then they would reevaluate the plan.

He also said that chemo wouldn’t start until six weeks after surgery. I am scheduled for my first chemo treatment on December 12th. I will need chemo once every two weeks for six months. They will put a port into my chest near my shoulder so I won’t have to get poked a billion times. I will go there every other week and they put some poison in me, then send me home with a pump in a fanny pack. That will pump chemo into me for 48 hours, then we disconnect it (they show us how). The whole process takes about 6 hours each time, plus the nearly two hour drive up and four hours in rush hour traffic for the drive home.

I am not looking forward to the next six months. It is going to be a lot of driving and a lot of unknowns. He said my hair might thin but he doubted it would fall out. He also said I would get very tired and nauseated three to five days after treatment. I think I am going to do GREAT!

I told him I wanted to live another forty years. He threw back his head and laughed loudly. I also told him I wanted to get a puppy to train. He was already in shock from learning we had seven dogs and lived fulltime in an RV. He threw up his hands and screamed, “NO PUPPY UNTIL YOU FINISH CHEMO!!!” Then he went on to yell, “ZAY PEE AND POOP EVERYVERE! HOW VILL YOU CLEAN ZAT UP? NOOOOOO PUPPPPYYYYY!!! NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!” He shook his head vigorously.

I laughed, Mel laughed, Greg and Roger laughed and he laughed. It was awesome!

We talked about diet and being vegan. He thought that was a good thing. He stood up to leave and I reached out to shake his hand. He said, “NOOOO! I VANT A HUG!” which I gladly gave him. I told him I loved him. He smiled and left the room. We all just sat for a minute smiling and shaking our heads. I could not have found a more perfect doctor for my personality.

We left the Norris Center about 5:30 and headed north to Pasadena to Charm Vegan, a vegan Thai place, for dinner. Greg and Roger (not vegans) were very nice to go along and eat vegan food with us. I keep trying to turn them vegan but I fear my efforts are falling on deaf ears. I only try to turn those I love.

We didn’t get home until after nine at night. It was a very long, but MOST EXCELLENT day!


  1. Sounds like a wonderful day with the perfect doctor for you (minus the traffic). You’re lucky your hair won’t fall out. Mine fell out twice, and now it’s so thin that I almost need a wig again. But there are worse things! Good luck with your chemo. Hopefully, the side effects won’t be as bad as he says. Mine never were (except for the hair). I know you’ll do great!

  2. Praying for you and your doctors!! I’m battling Stage 4 lung cancer so empathize with what you’re facing … and am loving your irreverence and your fight!!! I’ll be following your journey closely. The best of luck to you!

  3. Sounds like you have the perfect team (doctor and friends) to get you through the next 6 months. My brother-in-law had some weird slow-growing cancer that practically filled his abdominal cancer and went through 6 months of treatment; so far his scans are clear – yay! You’ll do the same, Helen. And, I think that you need that puppy NOW for company and as a distraction.

  4. My husband had the same treatment and we had a 3 hour round trip – worth the drive. The success rate is high. My husband was not nauseated, but he felt weak for a day after each treatment. He had his Irish Terrier puppy snuggled right next to him until he was finished each 48 hour pack. (We only have two dogs.) I trained her so no problem there and she calmed him so I was happy about that~! Looking back he says his treatments were easy.
    Best Wishes, Kay & Pat

    • Thank you. I love the positive outcome stories!

  5. Helen, so good to hear that you have a GREAT doctor to work with and get well with. Kick *ss!

  6. What an amazing account…Many thanks to your friend’s Greg and Roger for loving you so much and helping to light up the road at the beginning of this journey. I believe you are already on the path of healing and feeling better than you have in a long time. ! What a rantastic doc.

  7. I am SO glad you found a Dr that will help you get through this with lots of laughter and positive thinking. So often when we get a diagnosis of an illness doctors are way too serious and stern…….as a patient you know you are going through serious stuff….so why not have a doctor that will inject a little humour into your day and have a great bedside manner. Seems like you have a great support group in California too. You and Mel will need them. Take care and know that we are all thinking of you. Wish I could do more than just send an email. xoxo

  8. Thinking of you my friend. Looking forward to hearing about that new puppy when you are done. I am sooo glad you are being treated by the best!

  9. In forty years when someone asks you how colon cancer was, you can say, “It was a laugh riot!” Good to hear things are moving forward well and you are happy with your doctor.

  10. Helen, you are amazing, thanks for the update with your usual sense of humor.

  11. Hi Helen & Mel,

    Man, it sure sounds like you have a great doctor ! I sure hope the next six months go by well, and, you’re over this . . . Man !


    • Thanks Ron. It is an amazing place!

  12. I’m so glad you found someone you like. That’s important.

  13. It sounds like a match made in heaven… you and Dr. Lanz! I watched his video and he seems wonderful. A perfect blend of brilliant genius, lovingly stern mixed with humor and caring! What more could you ask for? That really is a rhetorical question. And “Thank You” to Greg and Roger for being there for you and much, much more!

  14. Well Shit, I think you are going to make it. I may be on the other side of the country, but let me know if there is any way I can be of help.

    Sent from my iPad


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