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Roger Ebert and Thyroid Cancer

Roger Ebert was the Chicago Sun-Times film critic who joined the Chicago Tribune film critic, Gene Siskel, in hosting a nationally-acclaimed show on PBS television. He was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for reviewing movies and the first film critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame....

Erich Segal: Parkinson’s Disease

At age 33, Erich Segal wrote his best-known novel, Love Story, that sold more than 21 million copies, was the top selling work of fiction for 1970 in the United States and has been translated into more than 33 languages. He was on the track team with me at Harvard and ran the Boston Marathon with me several times.

David Bowie’s Liver Cancer

David Bowie died on January 10, 2016, of liver cancer just two days after his 69th birthday. Popular musicians have lifestyles laden with risk factors for liver cancer, heart attacks and other causes of premature death: drugs, heavy smoking, alcohol, and crazy schedules that make it impossible to eat healthfully, exercise or sleep regularly. Early Life

Natalie Cole and Hepatitis C

How would your life have turned out if you: • were the daughter of music legend Nat King Cole and famous singer Maria Hawkins Ellington, • were raised in the affluent Hancock Park district of Los Angeles, • were surrounded by incredible wealth (in a family called "the black Kennedys"), • socialized with...

William Coley, Quack or Prophet?

I love stories about quacks who become prophets. Medical breakthroughs are often made by doctors who are first ridiculed by their peers. In 1890, Dr. William Coley, a bone surgeon in New York City, found the medical records of a patient who was dying from cancer that had spread through his body and he...

Kurt Masur, Conductor and Hero

The world lost one of its great orchestra conductors when Kurt Masur died this week at age 88. He helped to prevent a massacre in East Germany in 1989, and helped to sustain American spirits after the attack on New York's World Trade Center in 2001. On October 9, 1989, after the fifth successive Monday...

Bret Michaels and Juvenile Diabetes

Bret Michaels is the lead vocalist of the metal-band Poison that has sold more than 45 million records , including their most famous song, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn". He has also written, directed, and appeared in several TV shows and movies such as "A Letter from Death Row". He has done all...

Ron Clarke and High Altitude

Australian runner Ron Clarke died this year from an event that occurred at the Olympics in Mexico City 47 years ago. Clarke was one of the greatest distance runners who ever lived, even though he never won an Olympic gold medal. He was my hero when I competed in long distance races in the 1960s,...

Ingrid Bergman’s Breast Cancer

Ingrid Bergman was one of the best actresses ever. She won three Academy Awards, two Emmys, four Golden Globes and a Tony Award for Best Actress. Many of her more than 50 films are among the most popular films of all time: Intermezzo (1939), Casablanca (1942), Notorious (1946), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1950), Spellbound...

Jerry Quarry: Dementia from Head Injuries

Jerry Quarry was one of the toughest fighters who ever lived. He was never world champion, but: • He fought main bouts from 1965 through 1975, a time when there were arguably more good heavyweights than at any other time period. • He was never knocked out in his 66 fights even though, at only...

Waylon Jennings’ Years of Pain

Waylon Jennings was a country singer and songwriter who rose from poverty to great wealth and fame, with 54 albums and 96 singles listed among the top sellers between 1966 and 2002. He gave concerts and recorded with most of the popular artists of his time including Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Bobby...

Tchaikovsky’s Death: Cholera, Suicide or Murder?

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was the first Russian composer to become known throughout the world. He conducted major classical orchestras in Europe and the United States, and was elevated from commoner to nobility by Czar Alexander III. How He Became One of the Greatest Composers He was born in 1840 to a successful engineer father and a...

Ty Cobb: Anger in Athletes

Ty Cobb was probably the most aggressive baseball player who ever lived. He was better than everyone else at almost every baseball statistic except fielding, for which he still holds the American League record for errors (271) by an outfielder. During his baseball career, he set 90 major league baseball records and today still...

Did Roy Orbison Work Himself to Death?

Roy Orbison was one of America’s top singers and songwriters from 1957 to 1988. He sang his emotional ballads while standing still and wearing black clothes and dark-framed tinted glasses. Between 1960 and 1964, 22 of his songs placed on the Billboard Top 40. Elvis Presley said that his voice was the greatest and...

Paul Prudhomme: The Perils of Morbid Obesity

Paul Prudhomme died Thursday, October 8, 2015, at age 75. He was an internationally famous chef and restaurateur who, in the early 1980's, used blackening and spicing of fish and chicken in the Cajun and Creole traditions to build a food empire. He started a cooking craze that spread worldwide through his...

Marian Anderson, a Voice that Made History

In 1930, 33-year-old Marian Anderson responded to this discrimination by going to Europe where she was acclaimed as one of world's greatest singers. Back in the United States in 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) would not allow the now world-famous contralto to give a concert in Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. Because of this, Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR and asked her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to have Harold L. Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior, open the Lincoln Memorial for Anderson to perform a concert on Easter Sunday.

Al Capp’s Li’l Abner

From 1934 to 1977, Al Capp wrote the most-read comic strip in North America, Li'l Abner, about hillbillies in the fictional town of Dogpatch, Kentucky. It had 60 million daily readers in more than 1000 newspapers in 28 countries. Li'l Abner Yokum, a stupid but good-natured hayseed, was the son of...

Moses Malone and Darryl Dawkins, NBA Giants

In the past month, two former National Basketball Association giant centers died of heart attacks: Daryl Dawkins on August 27 at age 58 and Moses Malone on September 13 at age 60 . Both were 6' 10" tall, weighed more than 250 pounds, and went directly from high school into professional...

Oliver Sacks and Melanoma of the Eye

Oliver Sacks died this week at age 82 of a melanoma in his eye that was diagnosed 11 years ago and recently had spread to his liver. He was a neurologist who wrote more than a dozen popular books that sold millions of copies, making him probably the most-read physician-author in the world. His...

Frank Sinatra, Voice of the 20th Century

Frank Sinatra was the most famous popular singer in the world from the 1940s on, with every performance accompanied by screaming and swooning teenagers. His countless friends included presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, members of Britain's royal family and Princess Grace of Monaco, as well as other famous entertainers: Dean...

Linus Pauling and Prostate Cancer

Linus Pauling died at age 93 of prostate cancer, a disease that affects virtually 100 percent of North American men over age 90. He was one of the most influential chemists of all time, and also a peace activist, author, and educator. He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954 and the...

Emile Zola and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Emile Zola was a famous French writer of the late 19th century and perhaps one of the most honorable and courageous men of all time. He repeatedly risked his life to defend Alfred Dreyfus, an innocent man who was falsely accused by corrupt French military and government officials of spying for...

Mike Pyle: Head Injuries and Dementia

Former Chicago Bears tight end Mike Pyle died this month of a brain hemorrhage at age 76. He had been one of the smartest players in the National Football League. In 1960, he was captain of the undefeated Yale football team that destroyed Harvard 39–6, and received the Lambert Trophy as...

E.L. Doctorow: Tobacco Claims Another Victim

E.L. Doctorow was a best-selling author whose stories often showed how past experiences influence present behavior and how people fail to learn from their mistakes or the mistakes of others. On July 21, 2015, he died of lung cancer at age 84, after a lifetime of heavy smoking. Nearly 90 percent of...

Rachel Carson: Is Breast Cancer an Environmental Disease?

Rachel Carson was an environmental scientist and writer who alerted the world to the health dangers of pesticides and fertilizers. Her best-selling book, Silent Spring, led to formation of a presidential commission that recommended banning DDT, and to creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 1964, she died of breast cancer.

Amy Winehouse: Sudden Death from Alcohol Poisoning

Amy Winehouse was a British jazz singer and songwriter who won five Grammy Awards and had an album, Back to Black, that became the best-selling album so far in 21st century Britain. The BBC called her "the pre-eminent vocal talent of her generation." Her rise from poverty to wealth and fame was such a burden...

Blaze Starr’s Flaming Couch

On June 15, 2015, 83-year-old Blaze Starr, probably the most famous burlesque stripper in North America, died of heart failure. She was famous because she: • had a 38DD bra size, a 24 inch waist and flaming red hair • was the prime tourist attraction of "The Block" in Baltimore in the...

Dr. Michael DeBakey’s Famous Surgery

If you were a heart surgeon, would you operate on this patient? • He is 97 years old • He will certainly die in the next few days if you do not operate • He invented the surgical procedure that he now needs, more than 40 years ago • He did research that has saved millions of lives •...

Al Oerter: Weak Heart in a Strong Body

Al Oerter won the gold medal in the discus throw in four consecutive Olympics over a span of 16 years. Each time he: • was not the favorite to win, • was beaten by another American in the Olympic trials, • beat the world-record holder and broke the Olympic record for the discus. His winning throws were 184'11"...

John Kerry: Hip Replacements and Fractures

On May 31, Secretary of State John Kerry fell while cycling in France and broke his right femur (upper leg bone). He was riding slowly on level ground and struck a curb with the front wheel of his bicycle. His long history of competing in sports means that he probably has strong...