Posts Tagged ‘Dr Terry Hollenbeck’


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Since a previous article concerning my relapse with multiple myeloma cancer and the effects of chemotherapy, and after much thought and soul searching, I have decided to retire from the practice of medicine.

Having just turned 70 years old and having practiced medicine for the past 43 years (28 of those years in my current practice of urgent care medicine in Scotts Valley), I think it’s time to move on.

At this time I do feel very well, all things considered. I look forward to having some more time to spend with my wife Beth and my daughter Emma, as well as to pursue other interests, such as restoring my good old ’71 Volkswagen bus.  Beth is a musician and music educator and I’m sure I’ll spend more time as her “roadie”.

Being a doctor is something that I had wanted to do since childhood, and it was an honor to follow in the footsteps of my father and grandfather. I have never regretted my decision to enter the medical field. I can’t imagine having pursued a more personally  rewarding and satisfying career.

The difficult part of this decision is that up to this very day, I have thoroughly enjoyed practicing medicine and never really thought about retiring. However,  besides the health issue, there is also the struggle with the time consuming and impersonal electronic medical record, the seemingly daily burdensome rules and regulations coming from a variety of sources, and the constant concern of  malpractice, all of which I will not miss.

But, what an honor and privilege it has been to practice medicine. I have found tremendous satisfaction in treating patients,  being able to alleviate suffering, curing illnesses of all sorts and even saving lives. I have enjoyed the one on one interaction I’ve had with patients and having the opportunity of getting to know them and appreciate them for who and what they are.

I’ve been in Scotts Valley long enough to have taken care of children who are now coming to the clinic with their own children. I’ve been saddened when people whom I have come to know have passed away but,  on the other hand, I’ve enjoyed watching families grow and witness their changing dynamics. In    the past 28 years at Scotts Valley, I figure I’ve had over 100,000 patient visits and therefore have been able to treat a significant number of people from Scotts Valley, the San Lorenzo Valley, and surrounding areas. I’ve always enjoyed walking into a local store or event and seeing the familiar face of a patient and be able to talk with them  and to see and know them outside of the medical setting.

I will miss my wonderful supporting clinic staff with whom I have spent much of my recent life and who had become like a family to me. I am also honored to have been associated with as fine a group of physicians as there could ever be, 30 of them when I first began my work with the Santa Cruz Medical clinic in 1987, and now numbering some 210 physicians with our Palo Alto Medical Foundation affiliation.

Most importantly, I want to thank each and every one of you patients who trusted me and allowed me to care for you over the years. It’s my interactions with you that I will miss the most.

However, I am not going away completely. I will continue this medical column as I have many more topics to share with you and much more to say. As I have previously mentioned, I plan to publish a book  incorporating the most interesting articles. I’m excited about continuing this work.

Since I won’t be seeing you in the clinic, I look forward to seeing you out in the community.

My very best wishes to you all and remember, life is a gift, gives thanks for each and every day.

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Wow, what a year.

Early this year, I was told that I was in remission from the multiple myeloma cancer which had been diagnosed late last year. Two and a half months of chemotherapy did the trick. I didn’t have the stem cell transplant in February as was originally planned.

I spent the next 8 months dealing with the neuropathy in my feet, the persistent but much-improved back pain which was my initial symptom, a new heart problem from the inflammation that developed around my heart, and now hip pain as a late side effect from the chemotherapy.

Most of you have heard all of this before and I’ll spare you the details. Needless to say, I’m hoping 2015 will be a bit better.

What I realized the most through this experience was how different it is to be the patient and not the doctor. I was the one who had to take the medications, the therapy, the surgery, and the imaging studies. This time it was other doctors taking care of me. I’ve gained a lot of insight and understanding about how patients deal with and feel about their medical problems.

From the first moment I heard that dreaded word “cancer,” to eventually hearing the word “remission,” I knew that I was in very capable hands and had a fighting chance to overcome this disease.

I have a strong faith and knew that if God wanted me to survive, that I would. I have to admit that I know some people who also had great faith and yet didn’t survive, a mystery that I believe we will understand someday.

I’m back to work and am so happy to see the faces and to receive the heartfelt greetings of those patients I’ve come to know over the past 28 years. I love working with my wonderful staff and fellow providers. I hope to continue practicing medicine for as long as I am able to do so.

I just looked at the summary of all my medical expenses for this past year. Boy, am I glad I’ve got medical insurance.

We’ve come a long way in treating and overcoming diseases, but it ain’t cheap, and, unfortunately, it’s not going to get any less expensive.

We all, (that is to say, doctors, patients, administrators, drug and medical device manufacturers, and legislators) need to come together to devise a more affordable health care system.

This will only happen when these groups put aside any selfish interests and work toward a common goal. Obamacare is an attempt to improve the cost and delivery of health care but falls far short of what’s needed.

All that aside, I’m excited for the near future of medicine. I see the rapid development of new drugs, cancer treatments, surgeries, and cures for all sorts of diseases.

I think and hope these will be available to us in the very near future. We’re seeing the results already today. My being alive is a testament to this.

I think we have a very bright future in medical care, but it has to be made affordable and widely available.

Here’s wishing all of you from the bottom of my heart, a happy and very healthy new year.

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hollenbeckAs many of you know, I was diagnosed this past October with a cancer called multiple myeloma. This is a cancer of the plasma cells which are found in the blood and produce antibodies for our immune system. These malignant cells multiply rapidly and can cause damage throughout the body, especially affecting bones and kidneys and ultimately lead to death within two years if left untreated.


Myeloma’s effect on bone causes extreme osteoporosis (thinning of bones), which brought about my first symptom of back pain. This was due to several of the vertebral bones of my spine collapsing, which is referred to as compression fractures. Blood tests were done to find out why an otherwise healthy guy like myself would have these fractures. The specific test for myeloma was positive. This was shocking news to me as I immediately saw my life passing in front of my eyes. I was reassured, however, by being told by my oncologist that there is great new treatment for myeloma that can bring about long remissions.

The next step was a bone marrow biopsy to determine the severity of the disease. This procedure involved numbing the skin over the back of my pelvic bone and inserting a needle into the bone marrow to obtain a specimen for more detailed evaluation.

I then began a two month course of chemotherapy at our oncology infusion center here in Santa Cruz. I received three drugs. One was given as a shot (not by IV) and the other two were in pill form. One of the pills costs $700 per pill! Not an uncommon price for the new generation cancer drugs. My particular course of chemotherapy did not cause me to lose my hair, make me sick to my stomach, or any other of the common chemotherapy side effects. I was feeling pretty smug about how I was sailing through the therapy when finally a side effect caught up with me. I developed numbness of my feet and my hands, a condition called peripheral neuropathy. It is causing me some difficulty walking and maintaining my balance. I am told this condition should improve with time, but there is no guarantee that it will go away completely.

Regarding the ongoing back pain from my compression fractures, the day after Christmas, I had a procedure called kyphoplasty, done by a spine surgeon at University of California, San Francisco. This procedure involved my receiving a general anesthesia followed by the surgeon inserting a large needle into each of 4 compressed vertebral bones. Through the needle a small balloon is blown up to help open up the collapsed bone. The balloon is then removed and a rapid drying cement like substance is injected into the boney space. This helps to restore some integrity to the compressed bone and keeps it from collapsing further. It also usually improves the associated back pain, which fortunately proved to be true for me.

So I am now with much less back pain, but with numb feet, weak legs and some unsteadiness. I am tentatively scheduled for a stem cell transplant which will take place at UCSF in mid-February. At that time I will be hospitalized for an estimated three weeks, then allowed to return home, and will be on house confinement for another four weeks. After that it should take a few months to return to normal activities.

So, it is at this time that I will take a short leave of absence from writing my column, to allow me to focus in on the upcoming stem cell transplant and recovery. I will resume my writing after all is said and done and describe this experience.

Thanks for the prayers, cards, emails and general well wishes I have received from so many of you. It makes this all somewhat easier for me, as well as for my wonderfully supportive wife Beth and my dear daughter Emma.

I’ll be back!

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Dr. Terry Hollenbeck, Scotts Valley, San Lorenzo Valley

This month marks my 40th year of practicing medicine. I think back to my childhood living in Milwaukee, Wisc. with a father who was a family doctor in a solo practice on call 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week. Our home phone rang day and night and Dad frequently left his comfortable home and much-needed sleep to go make a house call, admit someone to the hospital, or deliver a baby

I remember going with Dad on house calls, hospital rounds, and helping him treat patients in his office, which was conveniently located on the first floor of the duplex where we lived. I was absolutely fascinated by my early immersion into the practice of medicine.

I also heard stories about my Grandpa Hollenbeck who was also a family doctor  in the early 1900s and how he made house calls in a horse and buggy and often accepted chickens and garden produce as payments for his services. Grandpa’s brother, Henry Stanley Hollenbeck was a medical missionary in Angola Africa. He was named after the famous English journalist Henry Stanley who searched the African jungles for Dr. Livingston “I presume.” I heard fascinating tales of him practicing medicine in the remote jungles. With these influences I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a doctor.

After graduating from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1971, I headed to sunny San Jose, Calif., to do an internship at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. I found a calling in Emergency Medicine and stayed there as an emergency physician for almost 10 years. I then had an opportunity through the Christian Medical Society to go to Honduras in Central America, where I spent two years practicing medicine in the jungles along the Caribbean Coast working with the native Miskito Indians. Being the only Caucasian English speaking person within a 50-mile radius, living without electricity or running water and being among those wonderful people was one of the highlights of my life.

From Central America I returned home to California and began a career in the new field of urgent care medicine. I found this form of practice much to my liking and ended up working for the Santa Cruz Medical Clinic when it opened up its first satellite clinic in Scotts Valley. We opened our doors there on March 1, 1987 and I’ve been there ever since. I am privileged to work with a team of outstanding physicians at our Palo Alto Medical Foundation as well as a fantastic support staff made up of medical assistants, patient service representatives, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and medical technicians.

What I love most about my current practice are the wonderful patients with whom I have had the privilege to treat. Having been here in Scotts Valley for the past 26 years, I have become quite familiar with many patients in our locale. I’m now taking care of people in their 20’s and 30’s who I first took care of when they were babies or toddlers. I feel that I have grown up, and older, with many of my patients over the years. I’ve shared in their joys and their sorrows.

It is a tremendous honor and pleasure to continue working with such wonderful patients. To be able to improve health, alleviate suffering and to sometimes save lives, is the ultimate of satisfaction for me. So thank you to all my patients for the privilege of working with you which makes me want to continue practicing medicine for as long as I am able to do so.

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