Noah, the oldest, contributes to our lives on the macro-level. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. There, he works as an associate attorney with the Environmental Protection Agency at their Southwest Regional Office. Specifically, he is part of a team that deals with the Clean Air Act.
Marilyn and I believe in strong regulatory environmental policies. We met and were married in Yosemite National Park. The treasure of our country’s National Park System testifies to the whys of good environmental planning. We must preserve and protect our natural resources. And nothing is more precious or endangered than the quality of the air we breathe.
Isaac, who is two years younger than his brother, sees to our well being in more immediate ways. When not flying around the world filming ski videos for Nimbus Independent, he works as a house builder. He is busy but occasionally has an idle day while waiting for inspections, etc. When free, he shares his skills with family and friends.
Last week, he re-structured our woodshed, spending an entire afternoon beefing up the roof. He repositioned poorly placed posts and added knee braces. Together, we moved the seasoned fir left by the previous owners aside, cleaned the interior, and then re-stacked everything. Finally, we hauled out the wood splitter and cleaved a truckload of hardwood Isaac had salvaged from one of his work projects. The sweet and sour scent of Big Leaf Maple filled the air. We took a moment to admire our work, and left the fresh splits in the open to cure for winter.
Even though I’d acted mostly as the “gofer,” there were instances when I had to rest my fluttery heart. These kinds of activities test the low-grade anemia associated with my cancer, multiple myeloma. My back is not as young as it used to be either, which gives me yet another reason to appreciate my son. If I’d had to act alone, this work would not get done. After his departure, I retreated inside to rest.
Any hint of back pain immediately puts a myeloma patient on red alert. The insidious nature of multiple myeloma weakens the bones. Small pinhole lesions lead to fractures and, often, collapsed vertebrae. Some of my acquaintances in the support group I attend have undergone khyphoplasties to alleviate pain caused by crumbling spines. Others receive monthly infusions of bone strengtheners to help prevent damage.
I’ve been fighting my own back problems for well over a year. Skeletal surveys each January have, thus far, not revealed any bone involvement. That’s good but a bit inconclusive. The lesion must penetrate 30% of the depth of the boney surface before an X-ray detects the problem. So, when back pain such as mine flares up, it is reasonable to consider more precise imaging such as a PET/CT scan.
That’s the thing with MM: patients must bring rigor to managing their health. Gilda Radnor said it best, “It’s always something.” Recently, I had to treat a case of cellulitis with antibiotics. A painful red swelling appeared on the back of my leg. I feared a blood clot, one of the risks related to my drug cocktail. Though it turned out to be “just” an infection, those too can be dangerous to myeloma patients. Infections thrive in suppressed immune systems. As to my back, I exercise and strengthen it with regular stretching and swimming. I also utilize chiropractic adjustments, massage, and …well, I leave the heavy lifting to my son.
Fatherhood is the best thing that ever happened to me. I believe that most of the important work with children occurs early on. My wife and I read to them every night when they were little boys, then sang them to sleep when their eyes drooped. Noah and Isaac entered young adulthood confident that they were well loved and important. However, the operative principle after that period resembles decision making I apply to my cancer: less is more. We’ve been there for advice and support, but they have had to figure things out on their own.
I have good sons. I am proud of their life choices. They make the world a better place.