“Don’t call no doctor when you just feel like cryin’…”

Its song of origin (“Goodnight Vienna”) isn’t much, but that line is one of my all-time favorite John Lennon lyrics.

I’m about to burrow deeply into the next *Doctor Fate* script, and it may be a week or so before I resurface, but I wanted to get that post about my health out of the way first. This is it.

There are, shall we say, a few problems:

First, as some of you guessed from earlier posts, I have a condition called ulcerative colitis. I’ll spare you a long (and extremely gross) description of the condition. You can read what the Mayo Clinic has to say about it here. For those who’d rather not, just think of UC (coincidentally, also the initials of my high school) as the nuclear version of irritable bowel syndrome. That sounds like a joke, I know, but when it’s in a “flare”, UC can be utterly debilitating. Fortunately, mine has been almost completely under control for the past year or so.

Second, as I’ve related here, I have coronary artery disease — built-up gunk in the arteries, basically — which was treated late last year by the insertion of stents to clear the blockage and let the blood flow freely again. All indications are that the procedure was successful. On my recent trip to L.A., I underwent a cardiac stress test and an EKG, and the results were good.

What I haven’t mentioned is why I underwent the angiogram
that discovered the blockage.

I also have a disease called pulmonary fibrosis. It’s a progressive condition which, over time, essentially turns the inside of the lungs to scar tissue, rendering the patient unable to breathe, resulting in — well, you know, that thing that never quite happens permanently in comics anymore. In about 40% of cases, the cause of pulmonary fibrosis is unknown. I’m one of the 40%. (Irony of ironies, mine has nothing to do with smoking.) There is no cure. Detected in its earliest stages, some forms of pulmonary fibrosis can be slowed by medication, but the doctors think mine, which was diagnosed in September of ’05, has been working its nasty little magic for at least seven years. Though it’s now in its final stages, it’s remained fairly stable since it was diagnosed. It may continue to progress very slowly, or it may suddenly become much more aggressive; there’s no way to predict which course it will take.

Although the condition is incurable, some pulmonary fibrosis patients make good candidates for lung transplant surgery. The folks at UCLA’s Lung Transplant Center seem to think I’m one of those. I’ve passed all the tests so far. I need to get some dental work done before I can be put on the transplant list. (I know. That sounds like a joke, too, but oral infections can be extremely virulent, and any transplant procedure involves severely damping down the immune system to prevent rejection of the foreign tissue.) After that, of course, it becomes a waiting game.

I’m going into these matters at such length for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I promised I would. For another, I want to acknowledge the help I’ve received from several sources during what has been, as you might imagine, a stressful time. I’m hugely grateful to friends like Mary Skrenes, Harris Miller, and Bret Walker, who’ve assisted with everything from keeping landlords happy to getting me to and from airports on time. I also want to thank The HERO Initiative, “the first-ever federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need”, according to the organization’s website. HERO, whose board is composed of people who’ve spent their careers either in comics or loving them, has helped not only myself but many, many other creators. It deserves your support. Check out the website for more information.

I debated with myself whether or not to allow comments on this message. I decided yeah, I would, but please folks — don’t get morose or teary — and above all, just in case anyone’s tempted, do not accuse me of courage in the face of adversity. I’m scared shitless. (And no, it’s not because of the colitis.) So let’s all keep it real, okay?

Okay, that’s it. I’m digging in on *Doctor Fate*, and I’ll see you all when I can come up for a little daylight again.

42 Responses to ““Don’t call no doctor when you just feel like cryin’…””

  1. Fred Chamberlain Says:

    wow… just wow. I am sorry to hear about your struggles over the past few years and hope that your focus on the creative work of Dr. Fate has been helpful in allowing you to put your energies into something positive and fruitful.

  2. Brian Spence Says:

    Thankfully you have some options. My father lives immuno-suppressed from a transplant, and while there were many ups and downs for about a year, he’s doing much better now (he’s in his 60s). Hopefully it will be a step in the right direction for you.

    I don’t really know what else to say, but I did want to let you know that I just made a donation to the HERO Initiative. What a great industry this is to have such an organization.

    My thoughts and best wishes are with you.

  3. Starocotes Says:

    It’s hard to say anything about all that without sounding either to mushy or to hard. The one thing I can say it that apparently you are not one of those people who crawl into a corner and roll themself into a ball, not accepting what’s hapopening. It’s great that you continue to work on Dr. Fate and you just HAVE to stay healthy enought so we can read as much Gerber Fate as possible.

  4. Bob Kennedy Says:

    I think and hope you still have some miles in you yet, Steve. I’m a bit curious, though: What would you, a writer who takes justifiable pride in his writing, want your last story to be like?

  5. Alex Krislov Says:

    Shit, Steve, there’s nothing much I can say except, well, you know: if there’s anything I can do–anything at all–to help in any way, you’ve got my number. And I owe you.

  6. Stephen Abrams Says:

    I have kept you in my thoughts ever since I knew of your illness and I hope for nothing but the best of health in the future. I recently made a donation to the HERO Initiative and I bought their “Marvel Then and Now” DVD so I hope that a significant portion of that money goes to you. Take care.

  7. Jim McLauchlin Says:

    As always, good luck and godspeed, Steve Gerber!

    Jim McLauchlin

  8. Jack Holt (Bgztl) Says:

    Good luck Mr. Gerber. I know you’re plate is full but we appreciate your work and look forward to more of it.

  9. Jack Holt (Bgztl) Says:

    Wow, great post, except I mispelled “your”.



    Harvard educated, too.

  10. Scott Andrew Hutchins Says:

    Good luck, Steve, I truly hope it either doesn’t flare up for many years or you get a transplant.

  11. James Hill Says:

    Hi, Steve

    Not posted a message before, but have been keenly logging on for some time.

    I’ve had an extremely bad day with some sensitive negotiations not going particularly well. I logged onto the internet just to ‘rest my brain’ and your news brought me up short…

    I’ve not had a bad day, at all. So thanks for reminding me of that! Life is about so much more than who owns what and for how much. I intend to make a donation to HERO and, as I think we’ve seen, lots of other people will do the same.

    Strangely, I started re-reading some of your Defenders last night. I’m on issue 27 with the sex-crazed female Badoon… can you imagine what that did to me as a nine-year-old back in the day?

  12. Tom Walker Says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us, SG.

    We all have bodies that crap up on us eventually, one way or another, sometimes with entirely curable or maintainable conditions. But we dont often talk about this and maintain the illusion that if we follow the latest health rules, we should never get sick, or old.. which is clearly bullshit and opens up potential channels of social blame from the healthy towards the unhealthy.

    What you’ve described of your various conditions suggest there are excellent odds for you to keep going for a good few decades yet in hopefully reasonable comfort. I respect your honesty, here, and wish the very best for you, and your body!

  13. Stephen Payne Says:

    As per your request, I won’t break out into tears or scream “You’re my hero!” I’d just like to commend you for dealing with your condition in a rational, reasonable way and getting on with your life.

    All too often we as humans turn into whiny victims at the first sign of adversity, so much so that we overcompensated when people choose not be a victim causing us to confuse perserverence with valor.

    Be that as it may, I’ll just say to you “continue.” Continue enjoying life, continue writing comics, continue being human.

  14. Steve Gerber Says:

    Tom: “What you’ve described of your various conditions suggest there are excellent odds for you to keep going for a good few decades yet … “

    Uhm, not really. The survival rate on lung transplant recipients is about 43% at five years; ten years is considered a phenomenon. This is because the lungs, unlike other transplanted organs, are, of necessity, in constant exposure to the environment.

    On the bright side, the lung transplant specialty is making advances all the time. It’s not at all inconceivable that some drug or procedure could emerge during my lifetime that would greatly extend expectations for survival.

  15. scott Says:

    That’s funny. I sometimes feel the same way about http://www.TNAOBB.blogspot.com

  16. Shelby Gerber Says:

    The older I get the more realize that I dont seem to know ‘as much’ as I did when I was younger. One thing I have learned for certain is that we only have today, tomorrow isnt here yet, and yesterday has gone. Living life everyday as if it is our one and only day, will bring a sense of peace knowing that we have lived our utmost and highest calling. Therefore – no regrets, no unfulfilled wishes and no if onlys. Take care, and know that the answers to our questions are inside us, we only have to take a moment to look for them and to remember them. Shelby Gerber

  17. Charles Bryan Says:

    Steve, thanks for letting us know what’s going on. The sheer stress of worry has to be a hell of a lot; I’m glad that you’ve got people giving you love and support.

    And thanks for the reminder to us all about the HERO Initiative.

  18. Doc Says:

    … [broken URL deleted] …

    that there is supposed to be helpful with some forms of colitis.

  19. Megan Says:

    I found this while I was reserching my illness of pulmonary fibrosis.
    Glad to hear you are going for the transplant.
    I may do the same at some point.
    Hope all goes well.

  20. Roscoe Says:

    You have entertained me for many years. I hope it doesn’t sound lame to say that I’m keeping you in my prayers, but I am.

  21. Steve Gerber Says:

    Megan: Best wishes to you, as well.

    — SG

  22. Steve Gerber Says:

    Scott: Ordinarily, I don’t mind when people plug their own projects in the comments section. Somehow, though, I doubt you feel the same way about http://www.TNAOBB.blogspot.com as I do about pulmonary fibrosis. I’m pretty fucking thick-skinned, but a bare minimum of sensitivity might be called for in this instance.

    Even comic book writers are not expected to sit passively back and catch every piece of shit thrown at them.

  23. Brian Spence Says:

    I don’t know who that “scott” guy is, perhaps it’s a bot or something, Steve. Just something that trolls blogs and adds spam to the comments section. It’s a generic, and in extremely poor taste, piece of spam (I think). The guy’s still an asshole, however.

  24. Brian Spence Says:

    As some more proof, it looks like his blog has ads to some sort of porn site. The internet really sucks sometimes.

  25. Jack Holt (Bgztl) Says:

    Well, I was ready to join the lynch mob until you mentioned the porn ads. . .


    Steve, I hope you’re feeling better soon. Also, we’ve all got our fingers crossed for Doctor Fate in whatever venue it arrives. Doc Fate fans have been waiting a long time for a regular series again.

  26. Steve Gerber Says:

    Sorry — I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I’m okay, just immersed in the work.

    Has DC made any announcement about the book at all?

  27. Dave Phelps Says:

    Haven’t seen anything. Maybe they’ll do something around the next solicit announcement.

  28. Allan Lappin Says:


    If longevity was proportional to the pleasure provided by ones work, you’d be around for a few more decades. I’m on the maximum dosage of Asocol (for Ulcerative Colitis), and can easily imagine what you must have gone through. That on top of the other two alements, though… Christ.

    Good luck with the dental work, good luck with the transplant. Procedures that are commonplace today were miracles 40 years ago. Advances in medical technology research continues to accelerate. In five years, this will hopefully look like an annoyance.


  29. Nat Gertler Says:

    I hadn’t read the blog in a few weeks. I’d not expected this.

    You’d damn well better get through this, Steve. I think we all need some stories written from the perspective of a man who is breathing through another man’s lungs.

    If there’s anything I can do, short of becoming a lung donor (and yes, I’ve got my donor card signed — I just don’t feel like sacrificing my organs just yet…) please let me know.

  30. Steve Gerber Says:

    It could be a woman’s lungs, you know. Cross-gender transplants are very common.

    Actually, I can think of a couple women whose lungs I wouldn’t mind harvesting…

    (I’ve gone too far this time, haven’t I? Okay, okay. Relax, everybody. It’s a joke, not misogyny. And besides, their blood types wouldn’t match.)

  31. Steve Gerber Says:

    Allan: I can’t take Asacol, because I’m allergic to sulfa. My g.i. has me on Colozal, Imuran, and prednisone.

    Sometimes I think the only little round things I’m not swallowing at least once a day are blue M&Ms.

  32. Starocotes Says:

    Nope, DC hasn’t yet made any announcement. I guess they will do that around the 17. since the sunday following the 15. is usually the day they advance solicit the books for the next month (in this case september). The 18. should have the full line up for september online.

  33. Allan Lappin Says:

    Prednisone? Oy. My doctor made an effort to keep me away from that as it’s supposed to do a number of your (I believe) liver.

    Let me echo Nat Gertler. Let me know if you’re A-; I’m a member of the Gallon Club, give blood as frequently as I can, and will come out on my own dime.

  34. Jim Bosomworth Says:

    So, are you saying you’d like some blue m&ms? Let me know and I’ll ship off a case of them (sorted, of course, rock-star style). Thanks for mentioning Hero Initiative. I’ve donated a number of items for their auctions in the past and will continue to do so. Hope today is a good one for you.

  35. scott Says:

    Sorry, Steve. I’m just a frustrated writer. I didn’t mean harm, I just have no idea what to do. My dream is to be friends with you, but that’s a total fantasy. I am sorry to hear about your illness. I’ll go away. Sorry.

  36. scott Says:

    I was going to say no to the porn ads, but my friend said it was a start, so I said okay. I’m lost. I was trying to lighten the mood, but just pissed everyone off. I’m not good with people. Steve, you are a hero of mine. I thought you might laugh at my comment. I was just trying to cheer you up. Any and all medical stuff gets me down, especially when it’s someone I care about as much as I care about you. For that reason, I haven’t been able to bring myself to read anything except the title of your post. I don’t want to think about it. I just want you to get better.

    Please know that you’ve made a difference in my life.


  37. Steve Gerber Says:


    Part of me wants to needle you mercilessly about this, part of me wants to console you, and part of me just doesn’t believe you. I mean, c’mon — faced with a post about an unpleasant subject, is it really your first impulse to bypass the text and express your compassion with a plug for your online project? (Good grief, I hope not…)

    But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

    Quick tip about writing as a profession: curiosity, even about unpleasant subjects — no, especially about unpleasant subjects — is a prerequisite for the job. It’s how you learn. It’s how you grow. It’s how you challenge yourself. It’s how you find stuff to write about. Never avert your eyes or your intelligence.

    One other tip about human relations in general: Keep your mouth (or keyboard) shut when you (literally) don’t know what you’re talking about. This could’ve been a lot worse, you know. What if it had been a post about my best friend dropping dead on my lawn, or my house burning down with all three cats in it, or my grandmother succumbing to Alzheimer’s? (Although, considering she’s been dead for over 20 years, that would actually be a pretty neat trick.)

    Just say “Oops!” and we’ll move on, okay?

    — SG

  38. Steve Gerber Says:

    Allan: A number? Hah. Prednisone does a whole variety show on a host of organs and bodily processes. Fortunately, I’m at a very low dose of the stuff, and in my case, it doesn’t matter anyway: prednisone is one of the immune suppressant drugs used routinely with transplant recipients. I’ll be on a much larger dose sometime in the future.

    Re: blood type. In this, at least, I got lucky. I’m O+, the universal donor/recipient. (Yes, the joke about blood types not matching was just that: a joke.)

  39. Different Scott Says:

    I was very pleased to hear that the HERO Initiative has been such a help and positive force for you. It’s nice to hear that the donations to such an organization are making a difference for those who need the help. I spoke with one of their representatives this past weekend when I was at a convention down in the bay area and I learned quite a bit more about them. Out of curiousity, does HERO typically seek out creators to help out or do creators have to approach them?

    In any case, I’m eagerly looking forward to Dr. Fate and wish you all the best.

  40. scott Says:


  41. Bob Kennedy Says:

    You’re actually in middling luck. We O+ers are universal donors, not universal recipients. That would be AB+. See this link for more fascinating details: http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/Blood-Type-Test Get those suspect monkey organs out of your body now.

  42. Steve Gerber Says:

    Different Scott: “Out of curiosity, does HERO typically seek out creators to help out or do creators have to approach them?”

    It’s happened both ways — and sometimes, as in my case, a third party will approach HERO on behalf of a creator. I’ve actually been that third party in one instance.