On the Road

Pine forest and the Deschutes River

I’ve been traveling.

Recently, my wife and I attended the graduation of our niece from Whitman College in Washington. Tillie, the daughter of my wife’s sister, received a degree in Theatre with a minor in Spanish. She landed a much sought after two-year position at the college admission office, which will provide her income and experience as she considers grad school. Her parents work for the State Department. Their children were raised for the most part overseas. Tillie and her brother, also a Whitman student, are exceptionally bright cosmopolitan kids.

Following graduation, our two families vacationed in Central Oregon. The Cascade Mountains divide the state into yin-yang topography. To the west are brooding fir forests, the fertile Willamette River valley, and damp coastal areas. To the east, pine forests, high desert, and dry wide-open spaces prevail.

Early morning pine tree detail

When I was Tillie’s age, I spent several years in Yosemite National Park. More than the grandeur of its granite cliffs, it is its pine forests that resonate in my soul. The trees of the eastern Cascades resemble those of the Sierras in California. The species of pine are different but the smells of the needle strewn forest floor and the airiness of the pine canopy invoke memories of my youth.

Our families are compatible. We have vacationed together for 15 years or more. Normally, we rendezvous in August at the same Central Oregon resort. Due to graduation, this year we chose the week before Memorial Day when we were already gathered together on the west coast. The weather was not conducive to swimming or other summer activities. Instead, we bundled up for long walks, read books, and played parlor games in the evening. All in all, we found the time equally relaxing without the sunburn.

Back home, the lushness of spring, enhanced by late showers, gave our property a hint of abandonment. Weeds advanced on my perennials. Knee-deep grass on the lawn begged to be mowed.  I eagerly set about catching up on outside chores.

Flowering tree in my yard

Once I minimized the look of neglect in my gardens, I sat on the porch with my cat, Spanky. We basked in the sun’s warmth, sheltered from the breezes. Together, we watched as the wind wove tapestries amongst the burgeoning trees, entwining the branches on the rise of a gust, and then untangling the mass as the current lapsed. I had enjoyed our time on the road but it felt good to be home.

In addition to these domestic comforts, my mood is buoyed by recent events from the world of multiple myeloma. I have dealt with this blood cancer for 3 1/2 years. The sense of its passive/aggressive nature is palpable. In some patients, treatments struggle to hold back the progression of the disease. In others, for reasons not clearly understood, the cancer dawdles; it shows little enthusiasm to proceed as long as care is provided. In the last ten years, vigorous research into remedies made significant improvements in the lives of those patients in the 2nd group.

The first event that gave me hope came from the International Myeloma Workshop held in Paris. Long-term studies indicate that revlimid maintenance treatment following a stem cell transplant extends remissions. Furthermore, the data confirms that patients undergoing this protocol live longer.

The second promising news about myeloma came from a speech given by Kathy Giusti, the CEO of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. She delivered the commencement address to the graduating class of the Harvard Business School, her alma mater. What I appreciate about her remarks is the affirmation that sound business practices can speed up the FDA’s regulatory process. Treatments move from the bench to the bedside in years, not decades. Research for solutions to MM thrives under her excellent leadership.

Bridge sign: Don't jump to conclusions.

My cancer is stable. During the last two cycles of treatment with revlimid, I did not experience any physical letdown. I sleep well. My energy is good. I work full time and pursue my favorite activities. I feel confident about my health, optimistic for my future, all the while wary of the staying power of multiple myeloma. If I can keep the disease out of my bones and kidneys, then I should be around for the graduation of Tillie’s younger brother, my nephew Joey. He’s got three years to go. That’s a realistic goal; one I expect to make.

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7 responses to “On the Road

  1. I align with your intentions and if attitude is part of the equation, you are already 50% ahead of the game!

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  2. Great post. I like the idea of sharing our celebrations in this community. I am looking forward to some day seeing my children marry, and to holding my first grandchild. We are years away from this goal, and so, like you, I’m planning on taking it in groups – in my case I am planning 5 years at a time. Surely my 24 year old son can get married in that time frame, if not my 22 year old? One good sign that the nesting instinct has begun is that he just adopted a shelter cat, coming home on Monday. He will call him Mango.

    I am also heartened by the news at the recent conference. In my case, I am especially happy to hear that CHEMO works. I always worry about all the naysayers that say CHEMO never works. I start to wonder if I should find a “natural” cure, and of course I plan to keep on looking. But it is great to hear that in some cases, it keeps people alive for 20 years or more.

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  3. Sounds like a wonderful time had by hall! I love this time of year with graduations and weddings. People and families coming together to share in the joys of hard won milestones of kids we love.

    Glad to hear you have adjusted nicely to your maintenance therapy.

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  4. Hello Jon….I’ve thought about you recently and just checking in. Glad to hear you are traveling…always love the pictures. I LOVE your kitchen remodel, too!

    Your attitude is always positive and forward-looking—which inspires the rest of us. Wishing you strength through your current treatment & hope you enjoy another lengthy remission! Hope Noah is doing well, too! Your suggestions & his accomplishments sure have helped encourage me.

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