Too Old To Die Young

“It’s just … it’s like it’s always right now, you know?”

Mason from Boyhood 

An inversion layer spreads over the Hood River Valley. Temperatures drop to the high 20s at night and creep into the mid-30s during the day. At elevation, upon the slopes of Mt. Hood, sunny skies prevail. But here, in the foothills, no wind, no snow, and no sunshine. Instead, a thick blanket of overcast spreads gloom. Enthusiasm for activity wanes. Last weekend, I stayed home and wore pajamas all day.

Nonetheless, my mood is bright. This December marks ten years since my diagnosis with the blood cancer, multiple myeloma.

An irony of cancer rests in a biological enigma: it destroys the host that sustains it. As it strives to survive it also brings about its death. My disease results from an error in DNA programming, a mutation gone awry. That, being so, and given its prevalence, is cancer the metaphorical equivalent for humanity’s abuse of the environment? Aren’t we destroying our host? Are we, too, a mistake?

While mulling over this puzzle, I step outside to scatter seed for the yard birds. An opportunistic hawk lurks, watching from atop a power pole. I refill their water station, crusted with ice. Sparrows alight and drink a drop or two. They bathe with a flutter of wings; then gather with others in the barren branches of our shrubs.

They sing and chatter while the raptor waits.

In keeping with my lazy weekend, I take a solitary walk on the waterfront. Locals, hurrying along with their dogs, populate the paths. The animals, paragons of pure joy, walk in the  company of the human they worship. To them, the world is alive with scent and love.

On the river, a colony of mud hens convene in monastic silence. Ducks splash when they land. They squabble. A lone heron, the vicar of the waterfront, hunches his shoulders in ecclesiastical contemplation. Geese pass overhead, honking as they proceed somewhere, far from here.

My senses absorb the sights and sounds. Yet, my mind wanders and I wonder … Ten years far exceeds my prognosis. I pursued a workmanlike blue collar treatment program. I moved through the protocols that existed at diagnosis. I added those that emerged during my decade of care. It worked, at least, in getting me to this moment.

Yes, the cancer markers still wade in and out of progression. As to the promise of new treatments in the regulatory pipeline? Perhaps, they will evolve to assist me, perhaps not. But, I don’t dwell on my condition’s persistence. I’ve become too old to die young. What fate put in motion, though, makes me grateful for those ten years, and more so, for each and every right now.

An audio version of this post may be listened to and viewed here. (Music: Tobias Elof performing his composition, Lazy Sunday, on the ukulele.)

Latest lab results may be viewed in The Drill.

14 thoughts on “Too Old To Die Young

  1. I love your writing! I hope you are doing a book. I especially loved this line “A lone heron, the vicar of the waterfront, hunches his shoulders in ecclesiastical contemplation.” As for mm, my husband, Keith, is coming up on 6 years. We keep on keeping on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to tell you…right after I commented on your post quoting the line about the heron, hubby and I went for a walk on a trail along the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula, and we saw a huge heron on the riverbank. I’ve never seen one there before, right in the downtown. It was a gift for me to see the “vicar”.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ann Wilson quoted the sentence that jumped out at me as an example of very fine prose.
    To your point in the second paragraph, I recommend reading Sapiens:a brief history of humankind by Yavul Noah Harari.
    I am so happy that you are still in this world, John. Here’s to another ten years.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your strong appreciation for the natural world comes through in your beautiful writing. I totally get your metaphor about the destructive force of your cancer and humans’ destruction of our world. Yesterday my 24 year old son asked me if I believed in aliens. I said I wasn’t sure what I believed. He answered with, “What if humans on earth here are really aliens? Maybe we don’t belong in this world we keep messing up.”
    I ditto Gary’s sentiments for your continuation of life. I love everything you write.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. With your m-spike that high, are there doctor orders pertaining to limitations on weight bearing exercise?
    I’ve read and heard of stories of people getting fractures around high m-spikes. I’m sure to ask my oncologists (I forgot to this last visit) but I’m curious about it from a patient standpoint.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Bernard. TY for the concern. I have no limitations. Obviously, MM is complicated. The consensus is that my M-spike is not all that high. I receive Zometa to minimize degrading bone. Dara, a MAB, has the potential to falsely indicate poor response to therapy. (i.e. high M-spikes) I feel good, but we are playing defense here. I understand that a fresh approach will be necessary once the current stability wavers. One must cast their fate to the wind a bit.


      1. I started the same regimen you are on this past August with quick results. M-spike went down from 1.5, I think, to .1. Yay, Darza and Pom! Yeah, my docs weren’t alarmed at my M-spike number either, but recognized that new therapy was necessary; I just freak out when numbers start rising. Zometa once every 3 months as well.

        I was diagnosed “only” 3 yrs ago, but, barring new therapy miracles down the pipeline, I know what MM will do– and more or less have accepted it. It’s too bad that many of us have had to fight to stay alive while gov’t policies (ACA repeal/ Tax bill and its ensuing cuts to Medicare/Medicaid) in motion continuously burden us with unnecessary stress– as if we needed more. Bottomlessly enraging, really.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this John! Love your poetry of words, describing your life, and life with myeloma. You’re 2 years ahead of me, as I just “celebrated” lol, my 8 year diagnosis anniversary. Truly a medical miracle we are still here, and as functional as we are, with the Q of L that we have. I feel the same as you with Nature. So invigorating. When I doubt my purpose and will to persevere (which really isn’t that often, mostly when sick or on my med crash), I just look to my horses and other animals, and the old heritage oaks in my backyard, and I am replenished, rejuvenated and ready to battle forward. I think we’re on a similar protocol? I’ve been successfully doing Darza, Pom, Dex since Feb 28. IgA is down to 519 and no MProtein detected. I am beyond thrilled to have this success and so grateful to medical science for saving our lives. Wishing you and yours joy and health for 2018! Thanks for a beautiful, inspiring, word painting post! Julie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We are both using Darzalex and dex, but I am on weekly Velcade. Pom may soon replace that as the neuropathy is a bit troubling and my numbers are stable, not declining.

      Nonetheless, I appreciate my quality of life. I am pleased to learn of your success with Pom. Those oak trees and your horses are also important medicines. Happy New Year!


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