Writer/Director Nora Ephron Has Died

I always read the last page of a book first so that if I die before I finish I’ll know how it turned out.— Billy Crystal to Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally”

This is just one of the memorable lines penned by three-time Oscar-nominated writer/director Nora Ephron. The successful movie hits included Sleepless in Seattle , When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, and Silkwood.

She is also the author of of several books, including I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman and Heartburn, a book written about her marriage to Bernstein

The 71-year screenwriter died of pneumonia, as a complication of acute myeloid leukemia according to her son Jacob Bernstein (his father was Ephron’s second husband Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein).

Her NY Times obituary points out that Ephron distinguished herself as “a journalist, a blogger, an essayist, a novelist, a playwright, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and a movie director journalist, a rarity in a film industry whose directorial ranks were and continue to be dominated by men.”

Her friend, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, revealed that Ephron had been diagnosed with  the blood disorder myelodysplasia six years ago. This is the same diagnosis ABC anchor Robin Roberts recently received.

What is Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)?

Acute myelogenous leukemia (also called acute myeloid leukemia or AML) is a disease of the white blood cells and the bone marrow.

Cells in the bone marrow, called stem cells, can become any one of the different kinds of blood cells (see diagram below).

In AML, these stem cells become myeloid blast cells (now called leukemic cells).

They do not go on to become red blood cells, platelets or certain white blood cells of this myeloid line (cells within the blue box right).

This can lead to:

  • anemia (low red blood count)
  • blood clotting problems
  • increased risk of infection (low white cell count).

Symptoms of leukemia include:

  • unexplained fever
  • night sweats
  • weakness and fatigue
  • frequent headaches
  • easy skin bruising
  • decreased appetite and weight loss

Treatment options include chemotherapy, biological therapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow (or stem cell) transplant, as well as new and innovative treatments that are beginning to be used.

For more information:

Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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