Thursday, June 20, 2013

UTHSC Southwestern Medical School 30 year reunion tribute written by Lisa's dear friend and classmate, Cynthia Fowler, MD....spring 2013

Lisa Ellen Woody, in memoriam by Cynthia Fowler Nicknamed “Ma” by Scott Turpin freshman year, Lisa Woody was someone you noticed. She was funny and fun, with a smile and a laugh that drew people to her. She was six feet tall and beautiful. Lisa and I lived together during medical school in a duplex 3 blocks from Greenville Avenue and the bar, Snuffers, where she worked as a waitress during college (SMU) and early years at SWMS. In many ways we were the odd couple. Lisa saw the world in absolute terms, black and white. She was energetic and sociable. She was on time, even early. She could cook. She was neat and organized. She got up every morning and made her bed. When I moved in she warned me that sometimes she would be compelled to scrub the baseboards, but with a laugh said she did not expect me to share her compulsion! Our house became a gathering place for fellow classmates. We held an annual Christmas ornament party. A few surviving ornaments are on my tree each year. She had a cute dog that for some reason known only to her she named Sleezy. She played the piano. She was an accomplished seamstress. She made a gorgeous wedding gown for Jan Elder in the middle of medical school! (And 25 years later she made the wedding dress for her eldest daughter.) She made beautiful silk shirts for many of her friends. She had a great piecrust recipe. Quiche and apple pies were staple fare at our house. Lisa’s hometown was Albuquerque, one of my favorite places on earth. She took me home for a magical weekend during the annual Balloon Fiesta. What fun to see the balloons take off in the crisp desert morning and then eat Indian fry bread. Lisa’s family was like her, gracious and welcoming. Lisa was a good student and teachers loved her. Lisa’s favorite parts of medical school were the clinical years. During our fourth year, she traveled all over the country doing rotations, looking for that perfect place to do a residency. Her plans to intern at Bellvue Hospital in New York City were derailed when her brother Bruce was killed in a hang gliding accident. She went home to Albuquerque to be with her family. She worked for a few months as a medical consultant at a law firm specializing in defending physicians in medical malpractice suits. Within a year she had started a residency at University of New Mexico Hospital. She went on to practice Occupational Medicine, living mainly in Chicago and Connecticut. Lisa married three times, with the third being the charm. Robert was the love of her life. She had four children with her second husband Ron. In early 2008, soon after the marriage of her eldest daughter, she sought medical care for back pain. Work up revealed metastatic adenocarcinoma of the lung. She was 49 years old when she got the diagnosis. She moved quickly through the tears and the anger. She faced her diagnosis with courage and grace, humor and humility. She became active in the National Lung Cancer Partnership and appeared on the Rachael Ray show. She did everything she could to beat the disease, then to keep it at bay, then finally, to let go. She wrote a blog, “What’s Up with the Doc”, to keep friends and family updated. 85 postings with pictures document her journey. The blog has been archived and I urge you to take a look ( You will find her obituary there as well. Lisa died on Martin Luther King Day 2010. She was a good doctor, a devoted mom, a loving wife, sister, and daughter, and a good friend. She pops into my head at odd moments: when I quilt, when I pick up the knitting needles, when I see a hot air balloon, when I eat apple pie, when I wear silk, on those rare occasions when I make the bed. I wish we had more time together. I would have liked her company and support in navigating mid-life and beyond. I am grateful for the time we had and I am a better person for having had her in my life. Carpe diem Lisa, where ever you are!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Our beloved Lisa

My beloved wife Lisa Woody, MD, passed away on Monday, January 18,2010, in the Connecticut Hospice facility in Branford. It is fitting that she was released from further suffering on the day we celebrate Dr. King ("Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I'm free at last.) Should readers of her blog need more information they can contact me, her late husband, at the e-mail address given below. I can also be reached via snail mail at my new address:
1414 Laurel Ave.
Apt. L403
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Phone 612-345-4518
Cell 210-422-4424

Thank you all for loving her. I miss her more than I can possibly say.

Robert O. McAlister


Lisa Ellen Woody, 51, of Guilford, beloved wife of Robert O. McAlister, passed away January 18, 2010 after a 22-month battle with lung cancer. She was born June 20, 1958 in Huntsville, AL, the daughter of Marta Medaris Smith of Sun City West, AZ and Charles Kenyon Woody of Annapolis, MD. Lisa was a 1976 graduate of Highland High School in Albuquerque, NM; received a BS in Chemistry from Southern Methodist University in 1979 and her MD from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1983. She completed an Internal Medicine residency at the University of New Mexico Affiliated Hospitals in 1987 and practiced internal medicine for four years before changing her focus to acute care and occupational medicine. She obtained her MPH from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1996 and her board certification in occupational medicine in 1997. She practiced at the William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, Connecticut from 1992 – 1998 and 2006 – 200_. She practiced at the Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois from 1998 – 2006. Lisa loved the mountains where she felt the grandeur and peace of nature were most profoundly expressed and where she was always able to achieve communion with her beloved brother, Bruce Kenyon Woody, both before and after his death. She loved micromanaging her children’s lives, quilts, quilting, baseball, and flowers of all kinds, wild and cultivated (but never indoors, where they inevitably became cat food). In addition to her husband, she is survived by her mother and stepfather Marta Medaris and Charles Smith of Sun City West, AZ; her father and stepmother Charles and Katherine Woody of Annapolis, MD; her children Lindsay Thomas (Jacob Kramer) of New York, NY, Emma Thomas of Ft. Collins, CO, Hannah Thomas of Guilford, CT and Philip Thomas of Guilford, CT; her stepchildren Isaac McAlister of Fort Stewart, GA, Ian (Resa) McAlister of San Antonio, TX and Kaitlin McAlister of Sisters, OR; her sister Faith Myers (Bruce Amos) of Albuquerque, NM; her brother Christopher Woody (Sheri) of Ft. Collins, CO; her stepbrothers Randall Smith (Kimberly) of Arvada, CO, Christopher Smith (Debbie) of Kingsland,TX, William Woody (Beth) of Missoula, MT, Murray Woody (Ruth) of Frankfurt, Germany, Greer Woody (Deborah) of Missoula, MT; her stepsisters Tanis Stewart (Brian) of Reston,VA and Merodie Hancock of Mt. Pleasant, MI; and with a combined 176 years of lifelong friendship, the four women who pushed, dragged, lifted and carried her through her life: Claudia Mora (Los Alamos, NM), Joanne Descher (St. Louis, MO), Lynn Laceky Ward (Dallas, TX) and Cynthia Fowler (Wake Forest, NC) as well as numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. The family would like to thank the administration, employees, and medical staff of the William W. Backus hospital who were so supportive of Lisa during her illness. A celebration of her life will be held at St. David’s Episcopal Church, Rts. 12 & 214, Gales Ferry, CT on February 27 at 11 am with the Rev. David Cannon officiating. Friends of Lisa’s children may call on them at 1310 Alexander Dr. in Guilford on February 27 from 1 pm to 5 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made to the National Lung Cancer Partnership, 222 N. Midvale Rd, Suite 6, Madison, WI 53705 (or online at or to the Backus Foundation, 326 Washington St, Norwich, CT 06360 (or online at

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What's Up With the Doc 85? - Hospice is a Wonderful Thing

I had another miserable day yesterday that Hospice somehow managed to turn around. No pain. Nausea and abdominal distention and fullness as well as overwhelming weakness are my nemeses. I'm not doing very well with the transition from very active to almost completely inactive. I generally don't even have the energy to work on Emma's quilt most days, which makes the chances of finishing it pretty slim - also depressing. We saw both the Hospice social worker and my nurse yesterday and today there is a brand new hospital bed in the family room, ready for when I no longer feel capable of making the trip upstairs for bed.

I'm currently ensconced in my recliner with Philip's laptop, which has a new keyboard and battery so it can easily move back and forth between his room and the family room. I feel like this will cheer me up, this internet access without having to sit up in a chair.

One thing about staring impending death down is that it has inspired me to get holiday preparations taken care of much more efficiently than usual. No tree this year, which is weird, but the family room is full of greens and poinsettias and stockings and looks very festive.

Even with the equipment delivery this morning, I feel better today, so far, than yesterday. Let's just keep hoping for more of that.


Monday, November 30, 2009

What's Up With the Doc 84? - The Overwhelms

Sorry to be so long away, but it's been a crazy couple of weeks. My energy level continues to decline and resulted in a rather precipitous decision to start my total disability at work last Tuesday. While driving isn't painful, it does seem to take it out of me to drive an hour to work and back and was leaving me little reserve to do anything meaningful. So now I am on total disability. Robert went today to pick up my personal items from work and to drop off pagers, phone and badges. Much paperwork was required - paperwork for the FMLA, paperwork to start a long term disability claim, paperwork for social security. That took up quite a bit of time and energy last week and especially Saturday morning, when I finished the Social Security application. I also saw the oncologist for Zometa on Tuesday and, while we agreed to stop Gemzar, we decided not to do a Hospice referral until I need "help" at home, whatever that is. More on that later.

Emma got in during the wee hours on Tuesday. Lindsay came up later that day and the cooking began Wednesday with turkey stock, cranberry dressing, cornbread for stuffing and desserts. Thursday I sat in the recliner and watched Lindsay and Emma, with help from Hannah, put together one of the very best Thanksgiving meals I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy. Not only was the food great, there were no dustups of any kind and an early meal meant early cleanup and getting to bed at a reasonable time.

Friday I slept in and spent the day with Emma - she studying physiology while I worked a little on her quilt. Her father picked her up at 3:30 am Saturday to head for an early flight and once I got up I hit the Social Security website. I can only imagine that it was sitting in the chair at the computer for all those hours that resulted in the remarkable increase in pain I experienced by Saturday evening. Nothing specific. Nothing I could point to as something new. Nothing to say I had an infection or fracture or anything I could think of except all that sitting.

I was not much better on Sunday except that by the afternoon the pain had localized to my left mid back - a new spot for me. I called the doctor on call and we increased my pain meds by 50% and agreed that I would avoid the emergency department unless something new or different happened. So this morning I was on the phone to the oncologist's office first thing for more pain meds and the Hospice referral. They will be out Wednesday and I am looking forward to relaxing into their fine, always available, supportive care.

Today I feel better from the pain standpoint, although a bit high with the increased dose. That's unusual for me and I don't like it much, but I'm sure I'll adjust. I'm pretty sure Hospice will be changing my meds, anyway, so here's hoping for a smooth transition to the next phase of this disease.

I hope you all had as happy a Thanksgiving as I did with my family and ate as well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What's Up With the Doc 83? - Searching for Some Energy

That's about it as far as what's up with me this week. Robert and I had a lovely trip to Long Island where the food and conversation were excellent. We lost at bridge but had a great time playing. Mostly, I just feel like someone hooked a shop vac up to me somewhere and sucked every bit of energy out of me. I'm not tired - it's not sleep I need - I just can't even describe what it takes out of me to walk across the room, much less climb a single flight of stairs. I've decided to forego that last chemo treatment on December 1st before the scan scheduled on the 8th because I can't conceive of or bear the thought of this getting any worse.

I know I keep saying this and then putting it off, but I suspect that with scan results in hand, both disability and Hospice will be fully in place before the end of the year. And for the first time throughout this entire process, I'm angry and sad at the same time. I want to feel better than I do. I want to be able to do more with whatever time I have left than sit in my wonderful recliner or lie in bed hoping for strength.

This week I have no cancer-related treatments. Next week I get Zometa only and it's Thanksgiving! Emma gets in Monday and the festivities will begin in earnest. I'll take the following week off and then have the scan on the 8th and we'll see what that shows. Until then, all I can do is take this one day at a time, do what I can do and be gentle with myself.


Monday, November 9, 2009

What's Up With the Doc 82? - Up With Steroids

I wish I could say that I understand this roller coaster, but I don't. Last Tuesday I increased my pain meds and decreased my steroids. I was feeling more generally not well than usual, which usually calls for an increase in pain meds. By Thursday I was feeling a bit better overall and had decent days Friday and Saturday. Then at 2:30 am on Sunday the hammer fell and I woke up with really severe pain everywhere I've ever had pain. I took oxycodone every couple of hours until I could get back to sleep and then spent Sunday doing absolutely nothing except lying in the recliner watching TV. I increased my steroid dose back to the highest dose I've been on and the pain is now firmly under control. Nausea required treatment on Sunday, but none since. And I'm weak as a kitten - now having to rest while making the bed in the morning.

Getting to and from work is still OK so I'm still doing that and what I do at work isn't the least physically challenging as long as there is a handicapped spot close to wherever my meeting or office for the day is. So I'm still doing that but don't expect that to continue much beyond the end of November. Now I'm starting to think about the total disability red tape and getting myself organized for that next step in this journey.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching. I think I have the menu finalized and the turkey ordered. I've never ordered from this place before and they haven't confirmed my order yet, but a quick internet look see would indicate that that's par for the course for this local fresh turkey farm so we should be fine.

Applications are in for Hannah and Emma's next educational round and they are in the no fun waiting period. Lindsay is starting work on her applications for her next round and loving every minute of the process - not. She and Jacob were up for the weekend. Great food and good fun were had by all. This weekend Robert and I are headed for Long Island to have dinner and hopefully some bridge with my cousin and her husband.

Tomorrow is the oncologist and more chemo so think gentle thoughts for how it decides to treat me this week.

Friday, October 30, 2009

What's Up With the Doc 81? - A Little Down

After an absolutely delightful trip to New Mexico I returned to my real life in Connecticut on Monday. I saw the oncologist for Gemzar and Zometa on Tuesday and have had no real problems as a result, but my fatigue level is getting worse and worse. I don't know whether it was the travel, the slightly lower steroid dose, the chemo, or a combination of all three, but I'm having trouble getting myself up and at 'em in the morning and by the time I get home from whatever small amount of time I spend at work I collapse into the recliner and don't generally move except for dinner. My pain level is also increasing and I'll have to raise the Oxycontin dose with the next refill and I'm noticing swelling in my feet and ankles and abdomen.

I'm scheduled for two more doses of Gemzar, which will make a total of eight, and then a scan on December 8th. I don't expect anything different from this scan than we have seen with all the preceding ones since August of 2008 - slow but clear progression. And that will mean the end of Gemzar and all active treatment for the cancer (I will continue the Zometa for the time being but it's not considered active cancer treatment). Between now and then I will try another steroid dose reduction next week. If I feel worse I'll bump back up to the original dose and leave it be. If I feel better I'll keep trying small, slow dose reductions until we see how low I can go.

There is still much on my horizon. I've started on Emma's quilt, family will be here for Thanksgiving and Christmas and I suspect there will be other visits from family and friends. I'm just having a little trouble, at this point, seeing more than a few weeks ahead of my nose. I know there's nothing to do but keep putting one foot in front of the other and see where it leads me, but I'd like to get my smile back to keep me company.

This weekend will be graced with a visit from Lindsay and Jacob and a batch of green chile stew made from the chiles I brought back with me from New Mexico. The weather in Connecticut swings wildly from beautiful, crisp and clear to gray, dreary and wet but at least we don't have 2 feet of snow! (Sorry you guys in Colorado.)

More next week when I know how the next steroid experiment goes.