A Busy Summer

The summer has been busy with family visits to Hood River. First, my wife’s youngest sister, Linda, arrived. She and her husband have government jobs overseas. They hope to eventually retire here, close to us. Their latest posting, however, is in Pakistan and a farewell peek at our new home seemed appropriate before departing.

Then, my brother Tom, his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and grandson spent six days in town. Three weeks later, our oldest son, Noah, visited for five nights. While here, his Aunt Janet, my wife’s other sister, whose home is in Mexico, joined us on several outings. Now, our niece Tillie, is spending a week, recovering from a broken engagement.

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Doppio, a favorite Hood River cafe for lattes, croissants, and conversation..
Brother Tom and his wife Karen.
Nikki, our daughter-in-law and high school volleyball coach.
Barbecue chicken on the menu this night.
My grand nephew Enzo and his dad, Luca.
My niece Adrienne, Luca'a wife and Enzo's mom.

My wife and I have spent evenings hosting dinners on our deck. Conversation and reminiscences filled the balmy evenings of our first Oregon summer in town. Fresh Northwest salmon, corn on the cob, and greens from a local organic farm appeared on the table. We also shared meals at some of Hood River’s restaurants, savoring the delights of our small community.

Yes, a busy summer; and my cancer has chosen to visit along with everyone else. Monthly oncology appointments continued amidst the entertaining. Multiple myeloma is a durable malignancy. I have never taken for granted its incurable reputation. And yet, my most recent lab reports disappointed me. In successive months, three markers of disease activity moved into abnormal ranges after years of rest. Doctor L and I agreed to a course of action.

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Our two sons, Isaac and Noah with my wife Marilyn and me.
Aunt Janet with Toby.
Isaac and Noah
Aunt Janet and Isaac walking through the forest back home.
The Hood River Bridge and Columbia River from the deck of The Riverside Restaurant

Suspicions about a change in the cancer’s stability arose several months ago. Even before blood tests detected the myeloma’s awakening, I’d wondered about increased incidences of arrhythmia, shortness of breath, and the gluey feel of fatigue. Perhaps most incriminating though, not to mention ironic, was the realization that I’d begun to look forward to my steroid dose day. It seemed I felt best while under the influence of their artificial energy. In times past, I complained about their side effects. Now, I anticipate the excitement.

It is what it is. After cycling through disappointment, fear, and resignation, I’ve arrived at a realistic perspective: multiple myeloma typically relapses. The inevitable time to counter punch has arrived. I have numerous acquaintances with the same diagnosis, whose cancer wanders between activity and dormancy. I should not be surprised. In fact, the silver lining to this cloud of relapse shines bright.

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Our niece Tillie.
Late summer blooms in our garden.
A portion of the Indian Creek trail.
Entrance to Okalani's Sushi Bar, a local eatery.
Ike and Tillie.
A boardwalk section of the Lost Lake loop trail.

The steady stream of visitors has helped me to forego dwelling on this turn of events. The best medicine for me, and my disconsolate niece Tillie, I might add, is movement. Together, we scouted out short hikes. We’ve walked two segments of the Indian Creek Trail and yesterday, along with her cousin Ike and his dogs, did the loop at Lost Lake. My summer has been blessed with the company of family as well as the sense of how much comfort we provide one another.

I feel good. My kidneys and bones continue to resist the disease. I have not had an infection or virus in nearly two years. These are good prognostic indicators. Thus far, the sticky web of relapse is detectable in my blood only. I’m confident with the options to suppress this disease. The unknown rests with how well I can tolerate stronger medicine. There is only one way to find out.