A Busy Summer

The summer has been busy with family visits to Hood River. First, my wife’s youngest sister, Linda, arrived. She and her husband have government jobs overseas. They hope to eventually retire here, close to us. Their latest posting, however, is in Pakistan and a farewell peek at our new home seemed appropriate before departing.

Then, my brother Tom, his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and grandson spent six days in town. Three weeks later, our oldest son, Noah, visited for five nights. While here, his Aunt Janet, my wife’s other sister, whose home is in Mexico, joined us on several outings. Now, our niece Tillie, is spending a week, recovering from a broken engagement.

(click on any photo to view the gallery)

My wife and I have spent evenings hosting dinners on our deck. Conversation and reminiscences filled the balmy evenings of our first Oregon summer in town. Fresh Northwest salmon, corn on the cob, and greens from a local organic farm appeared on the table. We also shared meals at some of Hood River’s restaurants, savoring the delights of our small community.

Yes, a busy summer; and my cancer has chosen to visit along with everyone else. Monthly oncology appointments continued amidst the entertaining. Multiple myeloma is a durable malignancy. I have never taken for granted its incurable reputation. And yet, my most recent lab reports disappointed me. In successive months, three markers of disease activity moved into abnormal ranges after years of rest. Doctor L and I agreed to a course of action.

(click on any photo to view the gallery)

Suspicions about a change in the cancer’s stability arose several months ago. Even before blood tests detected the myeloma’s awakening, I’d wondered about increased incidences of arrhythmia, shortness of breath, and the gluey feel of fatigue. Perhaps most incriminating though, not to mention ironic, was the realization that I’d begun to look forward to my steroid dose day. It seemed I felt best while under the influence of their artificial energy. In times past, I complained about their side effects. Now, I anticipate the excitement.

It is what it is. After cycling through disappointment, fear, and resignation, I’ve arrived at a realistic perspective: multiple myeloma typically relapses. The inevitable time to counter punch has arrived. I have numerous acquaintances with the same diagnosis, whose cancer wanders between activity and dormancy. I should not be surprised. In fact, the silver lining to this cloud of relapse shines bright.

(click on any photo to view the gallery)

The steady stream of visitors has helped me to forego dwelling on this turn of events. The best medicine for me, and my disconsolate niece Tillie, I might add, is movement. Together, we scouted out short hikes. We’ve walked two segments of the Indian Creek Trail and yesterday, along with her cousin Ike and his dogs, did the loop at Lost Lake. My summer has been blessed with the company of family as well as the sense of how much comfort we provide one another.

I feel good. My kidneys and bones continue to resist the disease. I have not had an infection or virus in nearly two years. These are good prognostic indicators. Thus far, the sticky web of relapse is detectable in my blood only. I’m confident with the options to suppress this disease. The unknown rests with how well I can tolerate stronger medicine. There is only one way to find out.

8 thoughts on “A Busy Summer

  1. Somehow we’re never quite done with the diagnosis. But you have such an incredibly beautiful and engaging family to put your focus on. Can’t think of anything more profound to say other than keep your hands up, jab, slip, and counterpunch as best you can. Hope keep the good things up and the bad things down…


  2. Tio Juan:

    I don’t like news, but you take it with grace and determination.  Good that you will get into the trial and see if that alternative treatment can beat back the cancer.  I remember you describing the effects of the steroid, so your description of looking forward to it left me a glum as I set off for work yesterday.  I’m thinking about you.  Will tee it up tomorrow and put a bit extra into the drive off the first tee.

    Glad we are coming to HR soon so we can get some time together.  Keep us up on your progress, your photos, and your observations on the world.  We are out on the edge of the earth, so need to be linked to a loving reality.

    And thanks for looking after Tils.  She’s a great kid, but she is very lucky to have you and Mare helping her navigate the ups and downs of life.  We think she is liberated.  Seattle will give her another opportunity to stretch out and see what she can do.  I suspect she will be running something big some day.

    Love you, brother. 




  3. Uncle John – echoing the responses above, we so admire your courage and grace in coping with this disease and are so thankful that you are “family.” We will see you in November. With much love, Linda & Greg


  4. Tio Juan,

    Sending you love and light across the country. You engage with this sad news so mindfully and with such grace, and I hope you know your family is here as you continue to move.



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