Stanyan Street

The Oakland Gang: niece Tillie, me, nephew Joey, my wife Marilyn, and Noah our oldest son.

I dislike flying: the herding, the depressing bag of pretzels, and the claustrophobic cabin. It’s a perfect environment for disease transmission and my immune system can’t protect me. Yet, the opportunity to spend the holidays with our oldest son, my brother, and nieces and nephews compelled my wife and I to fly to the San Francisco Bay Area.

We stayed in Oakland at a hotel on Broadway, close to where our oldest son lives. I’d arranged to re-schedule my twice monthly infusions so as to not interfere with our activities. My treatment also includes oral drugs, which can continue when I’m on the road. I take a chemo type pill once a day and a steroid once a week. I’ve become inured to the daily pill. Its side effects blend into the general fatigue syndrome that characterizes my blood cancer. The steroid, though, radically alters my mood, my energy, and, perhaps, my personality.


We dined at a number of excellent restaurants: Itani, brunch at Lake Chalet, The Berkeley Social Club,  a morning snack at The Rotunda on the first morning, the hotel’s restaurant for breakfast Christmas day, then Farley’s East on the penultimate morning. Prior to seeing the movie, Little Women, we ate Thai street food at IMM and finally a goodbye meal at Tay Ho, a French/Vietnamese restaurant.

The highlight, however, was Christmas dinner at my brother and sister-in-law’s house in San Francisco. The Oakland gang merged with the San Francisco gang.

Brother and Sister-in-Law’s house on Stanyan Street

The house sits near the top of Stanyan Street above Golden Gate Park. It is of Victorian vintage, built early in the twentieth century. (1904)

There are three levels situated on a steep slope adjacent to Sutro Forest. My brother and his wife live on the top floor. Their daughter and son-in-law and 12 year old grandson occupy the main floor. A laundry and storage, as well as a small studio apartment finish out the dwelling. There is also a two car garage, quite a luxury in parking starved San Francisco. They bought the house for $75,000 in 1973.

Oakland street art.

They admit to initially being anxious about the mortgage. At the time, my brother was a San Francisco fireman. His wife worked in medical research. She then chose to get a law degree and eventually became a patent attorney. Along the way, she also bore a child. By investing in their ingenuity, they were able to persevere through those early busy years. The house is now worth much, much more than the purchase price.

Lake Chalet

Christmas day was my steroid day. Under the influence of the drug, I sometimes jabber too much. I have also been known to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Such are the perils of the steroid high. My faux pas filter, however, managed to keep me out of trouble. The convivial conversation even  prompted me to toast the three family lines in attendance. 

But, the enduring star was the house itself. Nurtured by my brother and his wife through the years, it has hosted numerous events commemorating family passages. Decades ago, when we immigrated to New Zealand, there was a going away party for my wife and I. Then, in the not too distant past, a support reunion party for me prior to my stem cell transplant.

Tay Ho

Furthermore, two of their granddaughters lived there while launching into adulthood. And, my SIL’s mother spent her final days in one of the downstairs apartments. Birth, death, and all the transitions in between: such is the legacy of the Stanyan Street house.

When the evening ended, my wife and I returned to Oakland with our son. The lights of the Bay Bridge glittered with holiday flair. Thanks to the steroid, my slumpiness from the myeloma vanishes temporarily. Though the day’s activities had drained the jolt of energy caused by the drug, I still floated in its groove. I mused, without judgment, as to how my body is no longer entirely my own. It is managed, to a degree, by pharmaceuticals. That’s ok. They keep me rolling along the bumpy road of life.

10 thoughts on “Stanyan Street

  1. So interesting to hear about your holiday. Both Keith and I were born in the Bay Area, S. F. And Richmond. I’m curious about your drugs. Keith takes 2 Venclexta a day and 5 Dexamethisone one day of the week. I will try to observe what it does to him after reading about your experience. Dr. says this is the last treatment for him. He’s tried everything else and, barring a miracle has months to live. We are in good spirits, though, knowing we’ve fought the good fight. I look forward to reading your blog for a good long time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ann. You can read about my current treatment under the menu item for I receive Darzalex once a month as an infusion. I take 10 mg Revlimid pills 21 days out of 28. I take 12 mg of Dexamethasone once a week orally.

      Does Keith have Multiple Myeloma? Venclexta has a complicated history when used for MM, though it is FDA approved for some Leukemias.

      I have been using Darzalex since May of 2016. Throughout that time, the disease has been stable. Far from cured, but stable. My QOL is decent. Dex gets me comfortably high: I have energy, which sometimes makes me talk too much. LOL! The crash from its artificial energy used to trouble me a lot. These days, though I look forward to Dex day.

      Glad to hear your spirits are high. There are some very promising treatments awaiting final FDA approval. Might be this year or next as trials are ongoing. My best to you both in the days ahead.


      1. Hi, thanks for your reply. Keith has had just about everything there is, including Darzalex. Pomalyst worked the longest, 4 years, but eventually stopped, too. Yes, he has multiple myeloma. Dr. said the Venclexta would be worth a try as a last ditch effort, and it has seemed to, though we’ve changed the dosage several times and even stopped for a couple weeks every so often because it makes his platelets and white count way too low. Apparently it is the last drug Dr. had up his sleeve. Myeloma numbers hover around 1.8 – 2.1. I will watch on Dex day to see if Keith acts differently. He is 80 and suffers quite a bit from chemo brain or just plain dementia. It sure is a complicated and nasty disease, isn’t it? By the way, several months ago you wrote a beautiful description of a great blue heron which I memorized. You have such a gift with words! Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Ann for clearing up Keith’s situation. Yes, the disease is relentless. There are many options for treatment but MM resolutely finds a way. I am 73. I was diagnosed at 61. Thus far, I am one of the lucky ones with respect to enduring.


  3. Oh, Tio Juan, thank you so much for making the journey down to us in the Bay and for merging our families under the nurturing embrace of Stanyan Street. I’m so glad to be on this bumpy road with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved your account of your holiday. You have such an optimistic strength! I loved the “I still floated in its groove” phrase. Thank you for your observations and your wisdom.


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