Good Blood, Bad Blood

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.