Black and White

Mt. Hood and the Columbia River looking south from Catherine Creek

Mt. Hood and the Columbia River looking south from Catherine Creek

Recently, I changed doctors. The Hood River community does not have an oncology practice. Consequently, they contract with established physicians from Portland, OR. Dr. A is our new visiting hematologist. She attends to all local patients with cancer and, when necessary, manages their chemotherapy in our hospital’s small infusion ward. Fortunately for me, her training specialized in multiple myeloma.

We have met three times since she took over in December. In January, I underwent a skeletal survey. We found no evidence of bone lesions or soft tissue tumors. My blood labs showed no surprises. As I departed from my last appointment, she laughed when I commented on being a boring patient. “Yes,” she said, “and that is a good thing.”

Fence posts, ribbon, and our house.

Fence posts, ribbon, and our house.

Her philosophy mimics my previous oncologist, Dr. M. They both believe that “less is more.” I continue to occupy what I’ve come to characterize as the black and white phase of my disease journey. My diagnosis, early chemo treatments and stem cell transplant were the colorful episodes of my cancer saga. Now, the monotony of my MM is as dull as TV reruns from the 1950s.

Over the holidays while visiting family in Las Vegas, the ritual of sharing what is new in our lives occurred frequently. At one point, as I discussed my health, I blurted out, “I feel a little guilty I’m not dead.”

Mt. Hood and clouds from the Upper Hood River Valley

Mt. Hood and clouds from the Upper Hood River Valley

By that, I meant to convey that I am pretty well talked out and written out on my condition. There is little to add when I try to inform those following this blog. More and more, I have less and less to add to the conversation.

My response to treatment is extraordinary and, on the other hand, typical of about 20% of patients with MM. The miracle drugs that I take fulfill the promise of their clinical trials. And though the side effects of fatigue, eye irritation, and peripheral neuropathy may hobble me at times, their transient intensity always returns to a tolerable baseline. I am not dying of cancer; I am living with cancer.

Ever photogenic, my cat Spanky is in charge of stress control.

Ever photogenic, my cat Spanky is in charge of stress control.

Such is the modus operandi for MMers with low-risk disease. I have many acquaintances with MM following this same path. In spite of my complaints, I thrive. I try to maintain an attitude that manages life’s daily stresses. A modest yoga routine along with physical exercise keeps me grounded.

I admit that selling our house caused some anxiety. But soon all aspects of that will be completed. I look forward to the adventures of living in a new environment. I plan to keep blogging even though I mostly write something about nothing.

I’ll also keep photographing what catches my eye. In succeeding posts I will return to color photos. However, here’s hoping that my cancer remains an uninteresting black and white.

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5 responses to “Black and White

  1. I am in love with your boring status. Please keep it coming. I am reminded of the Buddhist teacher in Todos Santos who gives a dharma talk each week. He says his greatest challenge is finding new ways to talk about nothing.

    I love the way you talk about it.

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  2. One thing us veterans know is retaining our sense of humor is important to recovery. You’ve kept yours and that’s a good thing. I try to get at least a grin if not a laugh out of my docs when I see them.

    Isn’t it odd how things change – from crisis to ordinary. Sometimes it’s a bit jarring and takes a while to assimilate. It’s also a bit isolating after having spent months or years under the constant watch of our oncologists and supporting physicians. One emotion I felt once I had gotten thru the major part of my recovery was loneliness – I actually missed the healthcare setting!

    It’s good to hear how far you’ve moved along. Quite a journey. I wish you continued health and hope to witness more of your enjoyment thru your writing and your photography!

    – J.

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  3. Your last post really hit home. What a great way to describe this part of our lives. I just celebrated the 1-yr anniversary of my SCT on March 1. I am in remission, taking no medications of any kind, and will now only see the dr. every 3 months. I think I will miss my Dr.! This is the boring, slow-paced part of the journey. Black and white is a perfect way to describe it. I think I will borrow that phrase, if you don’t mind! Here’s to many more boring years in black and white!

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  4. I always enjoy your photographs and am delighted you are in the B&W stage of living with MM. I might have suggested this before, but I take 2500mcg sublingual B-12 for PN (I don’t have MM; my SIL does) morning and evening. If I miss a day, I find I am more uncomfortable with it. If you do try it, please let me know how it works for you.

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  5. Can we ever relate to this post…thank goodness! Love your description of this time of our lives (three years post transplant) as “black and white” and believe me, EZ and I are so grateful it’s not as colorful as our first year!

    We are in the process of preparing our house of 9 years to list by the first of April. Bittersweet, but ready for something that is much easier to maintain and manage. We will leave the bigger homes and mortgages for our grown children!

    Keep writing and photographing. Who doesn’t love good news?!

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