Michael Robert Milam, MD (19 Nov. 1973 – 3 Jun. 2015)

So, this has been a rough month.  My only brother, and indeed my best friend in the world for all but the first two years of my entire life was suddenly taken from us.  Cancer sucks, people.  It came out of nowhere and took him in just one month from the date of his diagnosis.  One of the cruelest jokes in the universe is an oncologist getting the very disease he has dedicated his life to battling.

After his passing, I decided to Google and see if I could find where others had mentioned him, and I was pleasantly surprised to find this video clip on YouTube from last year describing his new practice at St. Thomas Medical Center in Nashville.  It’s nice to see him and hear his voice.

One moment we shared sticks out for me.  I was trying to make sense of this diagnosis, and asked Mike:

“So, you’re telling me this was just a crappy roll of the dice? You just rolled a natural 1 on a saving throw vs. cancer?”

“Yeah, pretty much. Sometimes, you just get a crappy roll.”

This exchange demonstrates a little-known fact:  Mike was a sci-fi and fantasy geek like me, but his later professional life and fatherhood made it harder to keep up with it all.  Despite this, we always made time to see the latest comic book movies together.  Regretfully, we never did get to see Avengers: Age of Ultron as we planned.  I still haven’t seen it, but  I will when I’m ready.  Mike would want me to see it and would want to know what I thought about the film.

His loving wife Ashley wrote his obituary, which I think captured his spirit well:

Michael Robert Milam, MD, age 41, passed away peacefully from stage 4 gastric cancer in the company of friends and family on June 3, 2015 at Alive Hospice in Nashville, TN.

Professional headshot of Dr. Mike MilamMichael was born in Philadelphia, PA on November 19, 1973. Charismatic and driven, he grew up in Oshkosh, WI, where he made many friends, was elected student congress president, and excelled on the Oshkosh North High School wrestling team. While earning his bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University, he was involved in the athletic program as a cheerleader, mascot, and athletic trainer. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. Michael completed an internship in obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis, a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Vanderbilt University, and a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of Texas-M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Michael served as assistant professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Louisville from 2009 to 2012 and practiced at the Norton Cancer Institute in Louisville, KY from 2012 to 2014. In 2014, he moved to Nashville, TN to establish Saint Thomas Gynecologic Oncology Specialists and to serve as a clinical and research mentor to resident physicians from Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee.

In all the stages of his life, Mike was a leader who drew people to him and inspired others to perform to the best of their ability. He loved his family and was a tireless advocate for his cancer patients. He endured terminal illness with bravery and composure and his trademark sense of humor, unwavering in his devotion to friends, family, and his work.

Survivors include his loving wife of 14 years, Ashley Milam, and children, Jack (9) and Ben (6) of Nashville; parents, Dr. Robert and Carolyn Milam of Hopkinsville, KY; brother, Charles Milam of Hopkinsville, KY; aunt and uncle Helen and William Newton of Shepherdsville, KY; aunt Shirley Milam of Shepherdsville, KY; aunt Jane Milam of Paris, KY; mother-in-law Donna Lile of Nashville; sister-in-law Joanna Lile of Lexington, KY; and twelve cousins.

The family will receive friends on Friday June 12 from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm at Woodmont Baptist Church in Nashville and on Saturday June 13 beginning at 12:30 pm. A celebration of Michael’s life will be conducted immediately following at 2:00 pm.

In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may take the form of donations to the Foundation for Women’s Cancer (in honor of Mike’s profession) or to Alive Hospice of Nashville.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

This year, I’m thankful for where I am and where life has taken me. Is there room for improvement? Yes. Are there some regrets and mistakes to be corrected? Of course. Stay tuned for those. This could get interesting!

In general blog news, I’m going to try to be less of a frustrated perfectionist and just publish something here from time to time. I mean, if I’m going to take the time to keep the blog software up-to-date and managed, I should at least use it for the intended purpose and actually publish some content.

Bernie C. Milam, Oct. 28 1928 – Feb. 19, 2011

My Uncle Bernie, my father’s last remaining brother, passed away this weekend.  Uncle Bernie loved staying in touch with family, often calling just to “check in.”  Sometimes, he would call my cell phone and claim he dialed the wrong number while trying to reach my dad, but then want to talk to me anyway.  I suspect he did it on purpose.  The night before he died, he left a message on Mom & Dad’s answering machine, just another one of his “checking in messages.”  I digitized it and saved it.  It’s one of those priceless things.

Uncle Bernie’s Last Phone Message

Uncle Bernie was also a big fan of the Internet, but never really got into those newfangled things like facebook.  He loved E-mail, especially forwarding jokes.  He also was one of about four regular readers of this blog, back when I actually used to update it.  Therefore, it’s only appropriate he gets a mention here.

Headshot of Bernie Milam
Bernie C. Milam

Bernie C. Milam, 82, husband of Jane Anderson Milam, died Saturday, February 19, 2011. He was born October 28, 1928 in Shepherdsville, son of the late Bernie B. and Bertha Wise Milam, and was a graduate of Shepherdsville High School. He was also a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a B.S. degree in Agriculture and M.S. degree in Extension Education. He was drafted in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict and was honorably discharged at the rank of Sergeant. After completing his tour of duty in Korea, he returned to the University of Kentucky to complete his degree. He taught Vocational Agriculture at Meade County High School before going to work for the U.K. Cooperative Extension Service. He went to Nicholas County as a 4-H agent until December 1957 when he became the 4-H agent in Bourbon County. He served the people of Bourbon County for 36 years before retiring on his 65th birthday.

He is survived by his wife Jane Anderson Milam and three sons, James, John, and Robert (Sonya). There are 10 grandchildren; Christopher, Daniel, Elizabeth, Josh, Adam, Lauren, Alexandra, Justin, Conner, and Matthew. He is also survived by one sister, Helen Newton; and one brother, Dr. Robert Milam.

Funeral services will be 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, February 22, at the First Baptist Church of Paris, KY. Visitation will be 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Monday at the church.

Casket bearers will be his nephews, Mike Milam, Charles Milam, Steve Milam, Todd Milam, Kevin Cundiff, Eric Cundiff, Mark Cundiff, Mike Anderson, and Brad Newton.

Donations in lieu of flowers are requested to First Baptist Church Building Fund, Hospice of the Bluegrass, or one’s favorite charity.


Going From MJ’s Death to a Life Lesson

This morning, I read an early movie review that needed to establish when it was written, because the review was on an unfinished rough cut of the final film. The author chose to establish his time frame in a somewhat novel fashion by using a “where were you when you heard about” time reference.  In this case, the occasion was Michael Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009.  That got me thinking about last summer and just where I was and what I was doing at that time, because I remember it being somewhat of a blur.  I do remember I learned of MJ’s death on twitter first (thanks, iPhone!), then listened to the car radio on the way home from work that afternoon.  Then, I remembered some other things, and I had to look back at my calendar to figure it all out.

Wow.  Simply put:  June 2009 was a crazy month.   No wonder I remember it as nothing but a blur.

My relationship with the cute hockey fan girl was just a month old, and we had gone from zero to serious in no time flat.  I was spending a lot of time in Nashville already, and for the most part was loving every bit of it—even if I was still a little conflicted about being away from the farm so much right as the chore season started ramping up.

Early in the month, I flew to Houston for my brothers “graduation” from his fellowship.  I ended up driving one of his cars back home for him, the next day, which was a LONG day trip to make in the Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi sun.  I remember hitting Birmingham and feeling drowsy around 11pm, so some caffeine was in order.  When I got to Nashville, I stopped for the night—and then couldn’t sleep until after 2am.  Thanks, caffeine.

I think I did father’s day with Dad at the lake.  I know I skipped ARRL Field Day Weekend in favor of hanging in Nashville with the girl.  In fact, I figured out I skipped a lot of things last year, which I kind of regret now.  That’s not a dig at our relationship.  It’s a dig at myself for sacrificing things when I really didn’t need to.  I understand why I did:  New girl, honeymoon phase…totally understandable, but my advice to self for next time is:  Enjoy the things you love, especially those things that only happen once a year.  Know the difference between compromise and sacrifice.  One is good, the other not so much, if done to excess.

Ok, sorry.  I know this rehashing the past makes for boring blog reading—and frankly, it makes for boring blog writing, too.  I guess the whole point of this post was to describe how my thought process went from “Where was I when MJ died?” to a little life lesson and reminder that it’s good to love, but not OK to lose yourself in the process.

Hello Again, Louisville…Much Nicer to See You This Time.

We traveled to my brother’s in Louisville tonight for my nephew’s big fourth birthday party, which is tomorrow.  Everyone else is asleep upstairs.  I’m down in the basement “man cave” watching the Predators game on TV, E-Mailing friends, and waiting for the road coffee to wear off so I can get to sleep.  The setup down here is very nice:  Big HDTV, wireless internet, my own bathroom, and a comfortable queen bed.  I can’t complain.

However, I am reminded of the last time I was here, almost two months ago.  The breakup was fresh, only two days old.  That Saturday morning, on the good advice and encouragement of a friend, I left Clark in good hands and pointed the old, worn-out Jetta east to Louisville.  I had to put some distance between myself and Nashville.

I arrived in time to go to dinner with some friends I hadn’t seen since Mike and Ashley’s wedding, and had a rather good time—mojitos and light chatter did wonders for keeping me distracted.  That night, however, I had all kinds of trouble sleeping.  In fact, I was jarred awake almost every hour on the hour.

Those were not fun times, but those times are in the past.

I’m going to bed now, and I’m going to sleep just fine, because it’s time to start living life again.  It’s my nephew’s birthday tomorrow, and he deserves a great one.

Mom’s Tribute to Fudge, the Original “Best Dog Ever”

On Christmas morning of 2009, we had to take Fudge on his final car ride. This is my Mom’s tribute to his memory. He was a big part of the family for over ten years.  The photo is what I believe to be the last photo in my collection taken of Fudge, shot on Thanksgiving Day of 2009 at my brother’s house in Louisville.  For the record, there are hundreds of photos of Fudge in my photo library.


Fudge with Baby Ben
Fudge and Baby Ben on Thanksgiving

By Carolyn Milam

Late winter in Kentucky—homeless dog and lonely young physician bond as they walk.  Nine dollars seals the deal.  I am yours, Dad, and you are mine.  Do you think Mom will love me, too?  Dad, your red pickup?  LET’S GO!

GO…thousands of miles from Lexington to St. Louis to Virginia to Nashville, to Houston, to the Lake House.  Dad,  I’ll ride shotgun.

CHEESE…string cheese, marbled Colby-muenster, plain old American.  I’ll shake, lie down, talk.  Feed me cheese.  Or turkey, tofu casserole, those luscious bourbon-pecan chocolate brownies…so near the edge of the counter.  Sorry, Mom.  Quick—my elixir—you know—birdbath water.  Hey, Ben and Jack, send a few tidbits under the table.  I’m waiting.  But Ben, peanut butter sticks to the roof of my mouth.

SKUNKED…Old Mike, look at those friendly black and white kitties.  I must meet and greet.  What!  The smell,  stinging in my eyes.  Steak Lady, how long will I be in the garage and how many more peppermint soap and tomato juice baths?

THUNDER…another storm, or the Fort Campbell guns or Uncle Chuck’s target practice.  Quick! safe spot, cover me with the red comforter, play Pachabel.  Together, we’ll make it through.

DREAMS…chasing deer at the creek and through a few thickets, barking away another pesky Harley on Harmony Grove Road, retrieving Old Mike’s Croc from the lake, guarding Mom while Dad’s away, chasing rabbits and chipmunks and blue jays from my territory.

Now my journey changes.  Remember the Eternal  restores all things.  Then, I’ll fetch, leap and roll again.  So, beloved family, until then, maybe soon, until then.