Child’s Play


My ukulele from the Magic Fluke Company.

In February, I bought an ukulele. The long winter depressed me and I’d become addicted to the dispiriting politics of our new president. His “amateur hour” buffoonery impairs reasoning. Like many Americans, I could not turn away. Music, I thought, might help me kick the habit.

Early on, my fingers ached. But a friend gave me advice on fretting technique. Calluses formed. Now, I strum daily, happy as a child at play.

Eventually, spring tumbled out of winter’s torment. Prevailing westerlies propelled it forward, though the sky still struggles to clear itself. Overcast clogs the foothills. Sunshine feels rationed, as if we are at war. I am hungry for blue skies.

The wildflower bed and path.

In March, after the snow melted, I tore up our front yard. I hand sowed packets of wildflower seed. I bought a birdbath. I pruned the border shrubs and carved a path. I installed new solar lights. I planted dozens of bulbs in large pots and set them out, as sentinels, to await the sun. They still wait, but tips of greenery poke through the soil like periscopes and scan the horizon.

Similarly, every 30 days, my doctor and I peek at the subterranean world of my bone marrow. We measure the minuscule cancer cells as grams per deciliter. The numbers seem so harmless, yet, when you consider that zero is normal, the readings do deserve attention. My doc and I track the movement like stock brokers watching the Dow Jones Average. Is it going up or down?

At the hospital, I have settled in with a treatment plan requiring weekly visits. Every Monday, I arrive at 8:30 am. Twice a month, IVs and infusions keep me there for several hours. The other two visits just entail a quick stick for blood labs followed by a subQ belly shot of chemo. I am in and out in 90 minutes.

My granddaughter, carefree, a child at play.

Everyone in oncology knows me. I interrupt their needle poking to show off pictures of my grandchildren. My “frequent flyer” routine humanizes an otherwise techie-type workplace governed by strict protocols.

The quintet of drugs I take in the current regimen do not beat me up. I appreciate my doctor’s expertise. He is smart, decisive, and flexible. I feel at home in the Infusatorium. It has become part of my social life. I have forged genuine friendships with the compassionate nurses. One young lady is expecting her second child this fall. She glows with the miracle of new life, a fresh rose that invigorates the withered hopes of her patients.

The last several months have been healthy ones. I have energy for chores and aspirations. Yes, my world has fixed routines that include a resolute fight for life, for more life, against an intractable disease. Yet, what occurs inside the cancer ward, fuels the astonishment of all I enjoy on the outside. I’ve long outlived the original prognosis. And, though I try not to get ahead of myself, there are things to look forward to this year, simple things: blue skies, wildflowers, and a child’s song or two.


The latest lab results may be found in The Drill.

Tagged: cancer, gardening, Hood River, Hood River Public Library, Moe Dixon, multiple myeloma, nature, Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, The Magic Fluke Ukulele Company, writing