Remission

Recent reads

What I’ve been reading:

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

Take perfect pacing, add quirky characters, a tablespoon of revenge, and a pinch of profanity, then feast on this top-notch police procedural.

Afghanistan by Stephen Tanner

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot put Afghanistan together again. Its geography defies conquest and cultural cohesion since forever.

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Martel’s rhapsodizing on zoos, by itself, makes the book worthwhile. But it’s also a textbook on survival featuring literature’s most remarkable pas de deux.

Dream chimes

Last weekend I scattered wildflower seed in anticipation of spring showers. Thursday night, the rattle of bamboo and the clink of metal stirred me awake. Rain drummed on the skylight in rhythm to the swaying wind chimes outside my window. A storm moved through the valley fulfilling my wish.

In the morning, the sky cleared. The pregnant buds of our lilacs strained to open in the sunshine; scarlet maple leaves emerged like butterflies from the wooden chrysalis of their branches.

Once again, I have no news. Without discernible symptoms, I sometimes wonder about my relevancy as a blogger on multiple myeloma. The adventure of my stem cell transplant seems a distant memory, a fish story that grows larger with each passing month.

The most recent visit with Dr. M. revealed the usual: my disease sleeps. The M-spike, which indicates the cancer’s activity, hovers in the barely detectable range at 0.1 g/dl. Furthermore, the general characteristics of my blood show normal values.

Emerging maple leaf

The lengthy remission I’ve enjoyed dispels any rumors of an imminent relapse. Whatever insecurities I fretted about through the winter months vanished when my doc chirped his happy tune. Nonetheless, the cancer, even though indolent, accompanies me wherever I go. It’s like a treacly pop melody I can’t quite get out of my head. But, the success of treatment reduced it to white noise, elevator music on my ascent to the upper floors of my future.

All of us with cancer want a reprieve, or, better, a cure. Often, we can participate in the process by opting for aggressive treatments. Sometimes though, a virulent strain makes its way unimpeded through the body regardless of any effort. Over the course of the winter I lost two friends to cancer, individuals whose diagnosis occurred after mine. For them, remissions didn’t materialize.

A young redwood tree and field grass on our property

At my age, the goal is to live long enough to die of something else. Any of the arduous regimens necessary to attempt curing myeloma seem a bit much. Perhaps if I were younger… for now, quality of life matters most. The comforts of being drug-free these many months are sufficient reward for the transplant’s leap of faith.

So, I joyfully attend to mundane garden and house chores. Today, I prepped and seeded another wildflower bed. The area needed tilling followed by a raking to cover the seeds. Spears of iris plants climbed out of their den of field grass and stood like sentinels on the border.

Though the sun shone, a cool breeze drove me indoors several times before I completed the task. The previous night’s rain showers had fallen as snow on the hills above the valley, chilling the wind currents. Spanky, our newly adopted cat, followed me about the yard like a dog. Periodically, he would disappear like his Cheshire brethren. However, when I retreated to the house he tracked me down at the computer, joining me in composing this post about my unimaginative, precious life.

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6 responses to “Remission

  1. Having no discernible symptoms makes you a VERY relevant myeloma blogger. I long for the days when this ordeal is nothing but white noise in our family’s life… your remission brings hope to those of us who are still on the other side of treatment.

    Thank you for writing and sharing. Your posts are so eloquent and I always enjoy reading them.

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  2. Love hearing about your garden, and your continued good health. I love your line about cancer being in the background, “like a treacly pop melody.” I feel I am in a similar place. All news continues to be good. Now I am just caught up in a whirlwind of packing and painting in anticipation of moving into the very first house we will have ever owned. Can’t wait to build my own new garden.

    Life is sweet. I wish you the best.

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  3. John –

    The photos and the writing are exquisite. Don’t remember exactly how I stumbled onto the blog, but I’m also a survivor (sinus cancer). Currently nearly three years out of treatment – but it’s something that once visited, becomes the permanent guest.

    I’m attached to my own two four leggeds – had another who saw me thru treatment but then died of her own cancer shortly after. Sometimes I feel she stuck around until she was sure I was ok.

    The simple things are where the true sweetness is found. With spring coming up, there’s so much detail to pay attention to now.

    Thanks for your thoughtful writing and your images.

    – Jeff

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  4. I am in complete agreement with Cassie, Emily and John. I’d be happy to read a post of yours every single day…very comforting…and your prose is so beautiful…

    I do wish we lived a bit closer. For one thing, I could really use your gardening experience…It is spring in Florence now, and there are flowers blooming all over the place…but my own garden looks like the Sahara desert, sigh…

    Three cheers for indolence! 😀 And please give a big pet to Spanky for me…

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  5. “Once again, I have no news. Without discernible symptoms, I sometimes wonder about my relevancy as a blogger on multiple myeloma. The adventure of my stem cell transplant seems a distant memory, a fish story that grows larger with each passing month.”

    Nicely answered by:

    “for now, quality of life matters most. The comforts of being drug-free these many months are sufficient reward for the transplant’s leap of faith”

    I have been alarmed for several years now about the devaluation of drug-free remission as a goal of therapy for myeloma. When treatment began for me more than twelve years ago, remission was clearly the goal, whether through transplant or alklyating agents. I was gifted by extended, drug-free, almost “normal times. I realized I could stretch out the measuring interval to three months without danger — three months in which I had no reason to think about my cancer. And I didn’t!

    Today, however, remission is hardly mentioned. The new goal might as well be termed “continuous chemotherapy,” despite the constant reminder of mortality it represents and the unpleasant effects of it chewing huge deficits out of the quality of life.

    Contradictory papers suggest continuous chemotherapy may obviate the need for transplant. Few of these papers address the all important quality of life issues. The trade-offs aren’t medical but are personal: you can live a few months longer but you’ll have to give up your six-mile jogs now and for the rest of your life.

    I think you have the balance exactly right and wish you the longest possible period of “event-free survival.”

    — Lonnie Nesseler

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