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Random Acts Of Kindness


Norman Yeamans is a 72 year old retired physicist who worked for the U.S. Army Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, NJ. In 1972, in competition throughout the Army's Research and Development laboratories, he was an award winner of the 12th Annual Army Research and Development medal. In 1996, he had a total proctocolectomy (surgical removal of the complete colon and bowel). Following surgery, he underwent a half year of chemotherapy. At the conclusion of his chemotherapy, his oncologist, Dr. Susan Greenberg, prescribed follow-up CT scans of the abdomen, pelvis, and chest. In March, 1998 his CT scan revealed a large size left pleural effusion. A thoracentesis was performed, and the fluid (approximately one and a half liters) was examined. The results were inconclusive. X-ray films two weeks later showed that the fluid (approximately one liter) had returned. The doctors drained the fluid (thoracentesis) and performed a fine needle biopsy. Again, the pathology and cytology results were inconclusive.

The fluid continued to accumulate. In June, 1998, Dr. Lyle Gorenstein, at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, performed a bronchoscopy, (a video-assisted thoracoscopy) with a parietal pleural biopsy, and a talc pleurodesis (a procedure in which sterile talc is introduced into the chest to produce adhesions to prevent pneumothorax [the collection of air or gas] and effusions). The microscopic description of the biopsy material taken from the pleura showed multiple tubulopapillary structures appearing with fairly uniform cells consistent with mesothelial cells. The abundance and irregularity of the structures, and their apparently infiltrative pattern extending into the adipose (fat) tissues were features consistent with the diagnosis of mesothelioma.

Dr. Roger Maxfield and Dr. Robert Taub, also at Columbia-Presbyterian, were consulted. They confirmed the diagnosis.

It was not until the diagnosis of mesothelioma that Mr. Yeaman's doctors begin asking him about his asbestos exposure. This was the first time the doctors talked to Mr. Yeamans about the possibility that his colon cancer, too, was related to his occupational exposure to asbestos at Fort Monmouth.

At this time, Norman has declined to pursue surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Dr. Taub has recommended that Norman have CT scans every three months for eighteen months to determine whether the mesothelioma is progressing. At that time, Norman will reassess his treatment options. Since Norman has had a talc pleurodesis, a pleurectomy may not be an available option. If surgery is ruled out, Dr. Taub has recommended chemotherapy (possible inclusion in a clinical trial with Gemcitabine/Taxol or with ALIMTA (R) (pemetrexed disodium), before receiving the Adriamycin/Cisplatin combination, depending on the clinical picture).

Norman and his wife Blossom ("Be") have been married for forty-five years. They reside in Monmouth County, NJ, where they have lived in the same house for the past thirty-eight years. They have 3 children and 4 grandchildren.

Norman attributes his otherwise good health to exercise, which he states has been his "saving grace". Several years ago, he attended a seniors "fit for life" clinic, where he learned to use many of the cardio-vascular and muscle toning machines at his local gym. He tries to use this equipment at least twice a week. A few years ago, at the urging of his son, he took up golf, which he tries to play with contemporaries or his son on a weekly basis in good weather. He performs all of the hard physical chores of a home owner, such as grass cutting, leaf raking, snow shoveling, etc.

Mr. Yeamans enjoys vigorously playing with his grandchildren. For the last year and a half he has also kept very busy as commander of his veteran's post. Norman understands that his disease is incurable and fatal. For a long time, he thought that his life span would be the same as his father's (at the time of his father's death - 64 years was a normal life span for an American male). When he passed that milestone, a recognition that the normal life span was more to be expected (now closer to 75) years, even though the bible would give an expectation of 3 score and ten (seventy) years. Having now almost achieved a normal life span, and satisfied with his life, he can look sanguinely to his fate.

He believes that throughout his life, he has benefited from the counsel found in Ecclesiastes: "Cast thy bread upon the water". In retrospect, he attributes much of his good fortune in life to specific acts of kindness which, at the time, he considered insignificant.

*** POSTED MARCH 26, 1999 ***

An Update -- 3/26/01

Dr. Robert Taub placed Norman on a Phase 1 trial for 6 weeks with CT2584 which has contained the newfound tumor on his left side. Three months ago Norman started feeling tingling in his right arm and started losing feeling in his right hand. Dr. Taub became concerned about this and after several tests discovered a tumor on his right side. The tumor is pressing against some nerves which is giving him the tingling sensation in his right arm and loss of sensation in his right hand. Norman is undergoing radiation treatments for the tumor on the right side.

An Update 8/13/01

Norman Yeamans was busy until just a few months ago, in May, and two nights ago, he was honored for it. In the process of renovating their facilities recently, the Jewish Community Center in Ocean Township, New Jersey tore down much of the existing structures before rebuilding them. One of the pieces that fell in this category was the Jewish War Veterans Room. Fortunately, it was rebuilt, but it was a shell of its former self. Norman Yeamans changed all that.

He worked selflessly - planning, designing, redesigning, organizing the right people, the right materials, the right ideas, and getting them all to come together at the appropriate times and places. He was able to see the project almost through to completion - severe deterioration of his femurs necessitated surgical insertion of rods in his thighs in May -- and when all was said and done, everyone at the community center knew who was responsible for the new and finished and enviable look of the Jewish War Veterans Meeting Room - Norman Yeamans.

The honoring ceremony and the presentation of the medal to Norman is probably the last time he'll get out for a while. He's been pretty tired, sleeping about twenty-three hours a day, and is taking a combination of Duragesic and roxycodone to alleviate the pain, Dexamethazone to address a tumor in his right shoulder, and Prevacid and Vioxx to help him digest the pills that make his stomach want to reject them and anything else. After disappointing results with his last cycle of chemotherapy, and now unable to walk, Norman is now cared for by his wife, Be, and hospice who are working tirelessly to keep him comfortable. Norman remains, as always, realistic about the outcome.

Mr. Norman Yeamans passed away on September 2, 2001