Dr. Larry Sheingorn

Dr. Larry Sheingorn

September 11, 1952 — May 6, 2005

Larry's Esophageal Cancer Diary

Sadly, on May 6, 2005 Larry's struggle with esophageal cancer came to an end. His death was quick; he simply collasped while talking on the telephone with his mother and brother. I was two feet away. I am so happy that the last voices he heard were those of the people he loved most in the world.

Until the end Larry held out hope. He refused to give in to his cancer. He was scheduled to meet with his oncologist at Johns Hopkins the following Tuesday to discuss a new, experimental treatment. Larry loved life so much that he was willing to keep on trying even though his body was starting to fail.

Until the end, Larry's calendar was full and he had no intention of easing up. He spent his last afternoon with one of his dearest friends, and later spoke at length on the telephone with another. He fixed his friend's car horn, and then fixed a screen door at our home. After that, he met with our landscaper! Larry died truly living his life to the fullest.

In ending Larry's cancer saga, I'd like to share two things: a rememberance of Larry that his mother, brother, and I wrote for his memorial service, and a special obituary that the Washington Post published on May 29, 2005. Although it is impossible to capture Larry's personality, drive, passions, and accomplishments, I hope you will get a glimmer of what a unique human being he was. We love and miss him beyond words.

Beverly Rollins, Larry's loving wife


Larry A. Sheingorn, M.D.

Dr. Larry Sheingorn was born September 11, 1952 in Washington, D.C. His parents are Helen Frank Sheingorn (whom he affectionately called Tombi), and the late Abe Sheingorn. His brother, Bill, is his closest friend.

Larry's wife is Beverly Rollins, whom he married on June 23, 2003. They had been together since February, 1986, and shared a deep commitment. They bought a beautiful home in Boyds, Maryland and Larry spent the last year of his life working on the house to make it his castle.

Larry was an ophthalmologist in Rockville, Maryland for over 20 years. Although he was diagnosed with cancer in 2001, he continued to work until December, 2003. He was an extremely dedicated, diligent, hard-working eye physician and surgeon. When he was healthy, his work was the main focus of his life; he often logged in 14-hour days. He greatly enjoyed his practice, and had great empathy and sympathy for his patients. He loved his patients, and his patients had respect and appreciation for his treatment.

Larry was very active in Montgomery Community Television. He directed, produced, and hosted a number of public access television programs, including Grins, The Doctor's In, and 45 Questions. He also worked on several other MCT productions. Larry loved all aspects of television work--camera operation, filming, editing, and hosting. As an amateur in the field, he quickly gained the respect of the regular MCT staff.

In 1999, Larry was cited in Washingtonian Magazine as one of the Washington area's top doctors. He also received numerous commendations for his television work. In addition to his local productions, he won national acclaim for an anti-smoking public service announcement that he conceived, directed, and produced called, "Got a Light?" In the late 1990s, he was recognized by the Montgomery Medical Society for his work for patient and physician's rights with regard to HMOs and health insurance companies.

Possessing an innate intelligence and native scientific curiosity, Larry had always been interested in the way things around him worked, from toilets to television sets to computers. As early as age 4, he developed a fundamental understanding of the mechanics of "gadgets," which continued and grew in adulthood. He repaired his family's toilets at age 4, and fixed television sets before he became a teenager.

Larry was a genius with a sense of humor, and had the energy to pursue his myriad interests. In addition to his television work, those interests included inventing and computer programming. He held a number of patents, mostly on ophthalmic equipment, and he wrote the computer program that ran his office.

Larry thought he was blessed to have so many interests and hobbies, but thought it unfortunate that there wasn't the time to pursue them all as thoroughly as he would have liked. He often complained that he needed at least three lifetimes to do everything that he wanted to do.

When diagnosed with esophageal cancer in February, 2001, Larry devoted a portion of his Internet website (www.drsheingorn.com/ec) to his experience with his disease. From the time of onset until weeks before his sudden death, it simply, but elegantly, and powerfully, captured what it was like for him to deal with cancer. By reading it, one comes closer to understanding his courage, determination, insights, sensitivity, and devotion to, and appreciation of, his family. There were updates every 2-3 months, with pictures included. Whether one is a family member, friend, or has never even met Larry, the pictures and prose describing a life interrupted by and eventually ended much too early by cancer are extremely engaging and effective.

Larry graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1970, and graduated from Northwestern University, both undergraduate and medical school. His academic excellence earned him a spot in Northwestern University's 6-year medical school program. He was a member of the Montgomery Medical Society and the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

From the May 29, 2005 Washington Post

From a Love of Fixing Things, a Career of Many Parts

By Louie Estrada

Larry Sheingorn went from techno-nerd in high school to a career as an ophthalmologist while never quite letting go of that inquisitive child within. The 52-year-old laser eye surgeon revealed a natural aptitude for all things mechanical when at the age of 4 he managed to fix a broken toilet in the family's brick colonial house in Washington's Barnaby Woods section.

It seemed that from that point on he searched out broken machines, especially anything electrical -- toasters, radios and televisions -- that he could then take apart and peer inside at the layout of wiring, levers, coils and bulbs. By the time he was a student at Woodrow Wilson High School, he was running his own television repair business, Conrad Enterprises, out of his parents' basement.

To this day, some 40 years later, stacks of labeled boxes he filled with television parts remain there untouched, his mother, Helen Sheingorn, said with an approving grin as she reflected on her son's precocious nature.

As a physician, he wrote and licensed a computer software program, FastOffice, to help manage his solo practice in Rockville, where his guiding mantra was "one doctor/one patient at a time." He patented inventions for ophthalmic equipment, including a visual field testing device.

He also made house calls, but not the kind one generally envisions for a doctor. With his bag of tools at his side, he visited his patients to fix their televisions, hot water heaters or whatever electrical appliances happened to need repairs.

"His eyes would light up when he found out a patient's television wasn't working. He'd ask a lot of questions to delve for a deeper understanding of the problem, then go out to the person's house and fix it," Helen Sheingorn said of her son, who died of esophageal cancer May 6 at his home in Boyds.

"He was always trying to understand how things work. That's why he had so many interests and hobbies. He really was able to squeeze three lifetimes into one," she said as she sat at a dining room table at the home in Boyds with Sheingorn's wife, Beverly Rollins, and older brother, Bill.

Given his mechanical aptitude, his family was not surprised when he was accepted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was on track to become a mechanical engineer. Instead, he shifted his scientific curiosity to the intricacies of the human body. He enrolled in a six-year joint undergraduate and medical degree program at Northwestern University. After graduation, he completed an internship and residency in ophthalmology at Washington Hospital Center. After that, he opened a practice in Rockville and saw patients there for more than 20 years until his illness forced him to retire in 2003.

Even as he pursued his career, Sheingorn's fascination with television continued. In the mid-1980s, he enrolled in classes at a community access station, Montgomery Community Television. He studied stage direction, camera work and editing. He then used these skills to produce television shows, including "The Doctor's In," which featured interviews with health insurance executives and medical professionals. That show aired on MCT on Thursday evenings until March.

Sheingorn did not confine his television endeavors to medical subjects. He produced and hosted a public access show featuring stand-up comedians. The thickly mustachioed Sheingorn positioned the show in the time slot before his favorite network show, "Saturday Night Live." In his loud and forceful manner of speaking, he would tell a joke or two before introducing comedians he had met at clubs.

"He couldn't stand to be idle," Bill Sheingorn said. "To him, eating and sleeping were necessary inconveniences." At his office, he often would forgo lunch, sucking on sour balls instead.

In his last two months, Sheingorn learned about locksmithing. And on the day he died, he repaired a friend's car horn as well as a sliding screen door at his home leading to a deck overseeing a rural landscape.


Larry's Diary


Cathy's EC Cafe


Pictures and comments on Larry's battle with esophageal cancer.

The Association of Cancer Online Resources, EC-Group host.

The primary patient-oriented esophageal cancer web site.

The Esophageal Cancer Awareness Association.