Books

Barely a skiff of snow this winter until …

Oregon’s reputation for tough winters suffered a setback in 2017/18. November, December, and January stretched like lazy cats across the table of the Northwest sky. They shed rain but mild temperatures prevailed beneath their sleepy overcast. Skiers lamented the lack of snow on Mt. Hood.

In the valley below, orchardists fretted. They prefer harsh conditions that induce dormancy in their trees. Meanwhile, opportunistic  retirees trudged the fairways of golf courses normally closed this time of year.

Then, in mid-February, just when everyone began to anticipate daffodils and tulips, the season coughed up a hair ball of bad weather. East winds howled for three days. Curtains of sleet arrived in horizontal flurries and temperatures plummeted like the ethical standards of our current White House.

Fruit trees had begun to bud and farmers rued their bad luck. Meanwhile, powder snow junkies called in sick. Parking lots at ski areas overflowed. Mother Nature, undisciplined as the president’s twitter feed, yawned with indifference at those blessed or scorned by her whimsy.

The Books

During this mini cataclysm, I retreated to the sanctuary of my home. But first, I cashed in a gift certificate at Waucoma Bookstore: three mysteries, a fictional memoir, the ramblings of an OCD list maker, and a 12 ounce bar of exotic chocolate. These, I reasoned, would distract me from winter’s final gagging discomforts, not to mention the episodic decadence of American politics.

August Snow, by Stephen Mack Jones, left much to be desired. Just another first person narrative by a wise cracking ex-cop and a cast of cardboard characters. This bland cake of a plot was frosted with predictability. Nothing new here …

The Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz, however, is a classic whodunnit, the perfect read for cold winter nights. Well drawn characters/suspects add intrigue to the patient unfurling of the mystery. A long, relaxing read within the cozy confines of an English village, or so you are led to think … Brew a pot of tea and add some honey.

Love potion number nine.

The Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, entertained me while being infused with “a wonder drug” for my cancer, multiple myeloma. The pre-meds I take to counter possible side effects consist of both steroids and strong antihistamines. The golden glow of this “poor man’s opium” elevated the author’s mundane observations to revelatory incantation. I liked this book, but you needn’t be under the influence to enjoy its magic spell.

The Silence of the Sea, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir. A puzzle of unexplainable disappearances. Procedural patience leads to the only possible solution. This book has suspense galore and a disturbing dread for the victims. Highly recommended if you like it creepy with an Icelandic flair for the eerie.

The Dalai Lama’s Cat, by David Michie purrs with Buddhist bromides. Yes, the cat is the narrator. Did this convention undermine my fondness for mindful behavior? No. What better way to search for the nothing that is everything than through the curiosity of a cat?

Latest numbers are posted in The Drill.

Week 160 of chemo complete: Not into negativity

There are everyday challenges living with multiple myeloma while on chemo. It would be easy for me to dwell endlessly on the tasks I’m no longer able to perform, the activities that I can no longer participate in, or the permanent changes to my body due to long-term treatment. However, I believe that type of negativity would make me sad, isolated, and feeling sorry for myself.

Instead, I emphasize positivity in my life. I focus on what I can do and count each day I get out of my bed as a success. I counter chemo side effects and symptoms of my disease (both known and unknown), with a belief that cancer will not bring me down. I do fun things that make me happy. I try to laugh each day.

I like to reward myself with mental gold stars each time I do something challenging such as navigating transit successfully to visit a friend, helping someone lost with directions, or coordinating my next specialist appointment. Emphasizing my successes helps me maintain a positive outlook on life. I’m all about moving forward, at a pace that is acceptable to me.

Cancer is what I have, it is not who I am.

Week 160 of chemo complete: Not into negativity

To recap: On Sunday, March 4th, I completed Cycle 40 Week 4. I have multiple myeloma and anemia, a rare cancer of the immune system. Multiple myeloma affects the plasma cells, a type of immune cell that produces antibodies to fight infection. These plasma cells are found in the bone marrow. As a blood cancer, it is incurable, but treatable. Since February 9th 2015, I have been on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex). On July 16th, my dexamethasone treatment ended, due to eye damage, reported by my Glaucoma Specialist, from long-term use. On January 9th I began Ninlaro chemo to combat steadily rising cancer levels.

Weekly chemo-inspired self-portraits can be viewed in my flickr album.

Steveston - Canada GeeseMay 2014: Steveston – Canada Geese

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Week 159 of chemo complete: Estimate cancer levels reasonably stable

The results from my February monthly blood test were missing the m protein value. My particular type of multiple myeloma is less common and it is not always possible to get an m protein value – the best measure to determine my cancer levels. However, looking at less specific measures on my test results, I believe my cancer levels are similar to January (estimate between 13 and 14). The additional chemo seems to be keeping my cancer levels reasonably stable, however I remain hopeful for lower cancer levels for March.

M protein (g/L) (0 = cancer undetectable)
Feb = value missing (estimate between 13 and 14)
Jan = 13 (began Ninlaro chemo – 2 weeks prior)
Dec = between 10 and 11
Nov = 8
Late Oct = 9
Early Oct = between 5 and 6
Sept = under 7.7
Aug = value missing
July = 3.0 (ended dexamethasone – steroid)
Feb 2015 (began Pomalyst chemo + dexamethasone) = 36.1

Unfortunately, the side effects from two chemo has made me much more mentally and physically fatigued. My mind often wanders making it difficult to remain focused. However, everyday I give myself virtual gold stars for accomplishing challenging tasks with minimal mistakes.

Yes, everything takes longer than usual and I am quite forgetful, but each morning I wake up happy and ready for the day.

Week 159 of chemo complete: Feb blood test results - Mostly Stable

Photo: Life is full of adventure that begin with the first step outside your home.

To recap: On Sunday, February 25th, I completed Cycle 40 Week 3. I have multiple myeloma and anemia, a rare cancer of the immune system. Multiple myeloma affects the plasma cells, a type of immune cell that produces antibodies to fight infection. These plasma cells are found in the bone marrow. As a blood cancer, it is incurable, but treatable. Since February 9th 2015, I have been on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex). On July 16th, my dexamethasone treatment ended, due to eye damage, reported by my Glaucoma Specialist, from long-term use. On January 9th I began Ninlaro chemo to combat steadily rising cancer levels.

Weekly chemo-inspired self-portraits can be viewed in my flickr album.

Grand Central pleaseMay 2014: Granville Island

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Stem Cell Transplant 12 year -new birthday!!

It was a rainy day Feb 28, 2006, when I was admitted to Sutter Memorial Hospital Bone Marrow Transplant unit. It was a small unit of only 6 rooms.  Each patient is in isolation because of having little to no immune system working. Every day, a cleaner came in and did the entire room top to bottom. The nurses were the kindest and very experienced in their field. It takes a special person to be that nurse.

I can’t exactly remember but I think I was given the Melphalan that day, and then the stem cells are given either the next day or the day after.  It’s the Melphalan that does you in as it kills everything along with the hope it’s killing the cancer cells.  Then it’s the stem cells that actually rebuild your immune system and white blood cells. But first, you go thru white blood count dropping to close to zero, plasma transfusions as your red blood count is so low, horrible diarrhea, and on and on.

12 years ago today. I’m one of the lucky ones as my SCT did work and I had 4 years of remission.

But it was singularly the worst experience of my life. Yet, I’m grateful for the medicine, my doctors and transplant specialist, nurses and of course my family. They got me through.

So Happy New birthday to me.

Week 157 of chemo complete: The calm before the snowstorm

Friday morning, as a snowstorm began hitting Vancouver, I travelled back to Queen Elizabeth Park. Everywhere looked so beautiful with the snow falling. Vancouver always looks so amazing when it is snows. Love this city!

Week 157 of chemo complete: The calm before the snowstorm

To recap: On Sunday, February 18th, I completed Cycle 40 Week 2. I have multiple myeloma and anemia, a rare cancer of the immune system. Multiple myeloma affects the plasma cells, a type of immune cell that produces antibodies to fight infection. These plasma cells are found in the bone marrow. As a blood cancer, it is incurable, but treatable. Since February 9th 2015, I have been on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex). On July 16th, my dexamethasone treatment ended, due to eye damage, reported by my Glaucoma Specialist, from long-term use. On January 9th I began Ninlaro chemo to combat steadily rising cancer levels.

Weekly chemo-inspired self-portraits can be viewed in my flickr album.

Segway on the seawallMay 2014: Segway on the seawall

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Week 156 of chemo complete: Morning walk on Granville Island

Friday morning I travelled back to Granville Island, as a light drizzle fell. As I walked around Alder Bay, I observed a couple ducks swimming and bobbing for food. I always enjoy quiet time by the water.

Week 156 of chemo complete: Morning walk on Granville Island

To recap: On Sunday, February 4th, I completed Cycle 39 Week 4. I have multiple myeloma and anemia, a rare cancer of the immune system. Multiple myeloma affects the plasma cells, a type of immune cell that produces antibodies to fight infection. These plasma cells are found in the bone marrow. As a blood cancer, it is incurable, but treatable. Since February 9th 2015, I have been on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex). On July 16th, my dexamethasone treatment ended, due to eye damage, reported by my Glaucoma Specialist, from long-term use. On January 9th I began Ninlaro chemo to combat steadily rising cancer levels.

Weekly chemo-inspired self-portraits can be viewed in my flickr album.

English Bay - VancouverJune 2014: English Bay

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Week 155 of chemo complete: Cancer levels continue to increase

My monthly blood test results for January, show that my cancer levels/m protein have increased from between 10 and 11 in December up to 13 in January. I began Ninlaro chemo with my Pomalyst chemo on January 8th, however, it may be early to see the effectiveness of both chemo. Or looking at it from a positive perspective, if I wasn’t on Ninlaro, perhaps my levels would have spiked to 18 or 20. I have noticed this new chemo has increased my appetite as well as my level of fatigue.

M protein (g/L) (0 = cancer undetectable)
Jan = 13 (began Ninlaro chemo – Jan 8th)
Dec = between 10 and 11
Nov = 8
Late Oct = 9
Early Oct = between 5-6
Sept = under 7.7
Aug = value missing
July = 3.0
June =3.2
Feb 2015 (began chemo) 36.1

My m protein value is my cancer levels marker. Think of it as the amount of myeloma/cancer in my plasma cells. Plasma cells are white blood cells used to fight infection. That’s why multiple myeloma is a cancer of the immune system and also called a blood cancer. If my m protein is 0, then cancer is undetectable in my bloodstream.

I remain hopeful that February’s results will improve.

Photo: Friday afternoon I headed to Stanley Park to take a photo in the forest. I wanted to express the challenges of chemo side effects, through the act of balancing with one foot on a rock. An ordinary task that seems simple and easy, actually isn’t. I am reminded of this when a tourist asks me for directions. I find that I will babble and give a convoluted response forcing me to recommend they ask some else for assistance.

Week 155 of chemo complete: Cancer levels continue to increase

To recap: On Sunday, January 28th, I completed Cycle 39 Week 3. I have multiple myeloma and anemia, a rare cancer of the immune system. Multiple myeloma affects the plasma cells, a type of immune cell that produces antibodies to fight infection. These plasma cells are found in the bone marrow. As a blood cancer, it is incurable, but treatable. Since February 9th 2015, I have been on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex). On July 16th, my dexamethasone treatment ended, due to eye damage, reported by my Glaucoma Specialist, from long-term use. On January 9th I began Ninlaro chemo to combat steadily rising cancer levels.

Weekly chemo-inspired self-portraits can be viewed in my flickr album.

Take a book, return a bookMay 2014: Granville Island

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Multiple Myeloma- Rare Type Of Cancer

Multiple myeloma is a rare type of tumor which influences the plasma cells that synthesize in the bone marrow, the delicate tissue present inside some hollow bones.

Ordinarily, plasma cells have the capacity of delivering antibodies (immunoglobulin) as a feature of the immune system of the body. However, when plasma cells become malignant, they go out of control delivering tumors called plasmacytomas.

These tumors, for the most part, created in the bone, yet may likewise happen in different tissues too. A single plasma cell tumor is known as isolated plasmacytoma, though more than one plasma cell tumors are alluded to as multiple myeloma.

Some common signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma

There is a wide range of indications present with multiple myeloma.

Anemia
A lack of red platelets makes sufferers end up plainly pale, feeble and exhausted.

Increased bruising and bleeding
Because of low levels of platelets in the blood (thrombocytopenia), this condition happens.

Difficulty battling contaminations (weak immunity)
Because of a lack of white platelets (leukopenia).

Weak bones
Because of the myeloma cells sending signs to break down bone yet not revamp it.

Pain in bone
Pain can influence any bone. However, the pain in back, hips, and skull are generally normal.

High blood calcium levels
Because of the disintegration of the bones. Related side effects incorporate too much thirst, dehydration, excess urination, appetite loss, constipation, sluggishness, hysteric, and weakness. Higher calcium levels in the blood may lead to coma as well.

Kidney issues
Kidneys become failed because of high amounts of myeloma protein.

Problems of the nervous system
It happens because of physical collapse of influenced vertebrae. Moreover, myeloma proteins can be harmful to nerve cells, causing numbness and weakness.

Risk factors for multiple myeloma

Few hazard factors may influence somebody’s risk of getting multiple myeloma. Some of these are:

Age
Most sufferers are more than 65 years while under 1% of cases include individuals under 35.

Gender
Men have a somewhat higher risk of creating multiple myeloma as compare to ladies.

Race
Multiple myeloma is about twice as likely in dark-colored people as compared to white Americans.

Exposure to radiation
Individuals that continuously expose to radiation may marginally build the hazard of getting multiple myeloma.

Family history
A man with a parent or kin with myeloma has 4 times more serious risk.

Workplace
Workers in petroleum-related enterprises may have a higher hazard.

Obesity
Overweight individuals have a somewhat more serious risk of developing multiple myeloma.

Plasma cell diseases
Many individuals with isolated (solitary) Plasmacytoma, in the long run, build up multiple myeloma.

Causes of multiple myeloma

The reason for myeloma stays obscure however it might happen because of harm to at least one of the genes that regularly control the development of blood cells.

In few cases, higher radiation exposure and continuous exposure to certain modern or ecological chemicals may build the danger of myeloma.

A few people with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined importance (MGUS), a non-cancerous (non-malignant) condition, will in the long lead to creating multiple myeloma.

Is it possible to diagnose multiple myeloma at earlier stages?

Unfortunately, it is hard to analyze different myeloma early. Frequently, multiple myeloma causes no manifestations until the point when it achieves an advanced stage.

Now and then, it may cause dubious side effects that at first appear as the causes of different maladies. Seldom, multiple myeloma is diagnosed early when a normal blood test demonstrates a strangely high measure of protein in the blood.

How to diagnose multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma causes a couple of side effects in the beginning periods, and any happening are frequently dubious. Routine blood tests may demonstrate an anomalous abnormal state of the protein in the blood.

In case side effects show multiple myeloma then normally laboratory test of urine, blood, x-rays of bone and bone marrow biopsies perform.

Blood count: Low levels of red cells, white cells, and platelets.

Quantitative immunoglobulins: Often level of any one sort of immunoglobulin is high while others are low.

Electrophoresis: Carried out on urine and blood to decide extents of immunoglobulins.

Beta-2 microglobulin: Not hurtful of itself, yet abnormal states are characteristic that the sickness is progressed.

Bone marrow biopsy: The smaller amount of liquid bone marrow is taken out from the bone using a needle. The sample of bone marrow is then analyzed with a magnifying lens for the presence of the cells of the myeloma.

Imaging studies: CAT Scans, x-rays of bone, PET Scans and MRI’s may all be done to find and distinguish myeloma tumors all through the body.
Analysis of multiple myeloma requires a combination of the signs of the patients, specialist’s physical examination and the results of x-rays and blood tests.

Positive diagnosis of multiple myeloma requires:

A plasma cell tumor distinguished using biopsy or
Plasma cells constituting more than 10% of bone marrow cells
These tests will rule out the possibility of other diseases, and from here the specialist will have the capacity to decide a reasonable analysis for this specific medical issue.

In case you diagnose to have the sickness, you should experience appropriate treatment.

A doctor will be able to talk about which technique will give the best outcomes in the patient to survive this sort of tumor. Stem cell transplant and other therapies are strategies use to treat multiple myeloma.

International system of staging multiple myeloma

Multiple myeloma is staged utilizing the Revised International Staging System (RISS) that depends on four factors:

The amount of blood albumin
Amount of beta-2-microglobulin in the blood
The levels of LDH in the blood
The particular DNA abnormalities (cytogenetics) of the malignancy.
Factors other than staging of multiple myeloma that influence the survival rate

Function of kidneys
The levels of blood creatinine (Cr) shows the health of the kidneys. Kidneys remove this chemical from the body. When they are harmed by the monoclonal immunoglobulin, levels of blood creatinine increase which predict the worse condition of the kidneys.

Age factor
Age is additionally imperative. In the investigations of the international staging system, more aged individuals with myeloma don’t live as long.

General health factor
Somebody’s general wellbeing can influence the outlook of somebody with myeloma. Ineffectively controlled wellbeing conditions, for example, diabetes or coronary illness, for instance, can anticipate a worse condition.

How can we treat multiple myeloma?

The treatment for myeloma relies upon various components including the phase of your sickness, your general wellbeing and your age. In spite of the fact that there is as of now no cure for myeloma, treatment can be fruitful in controlling the malady, now and then for quite a long while.

Individuals at an early stage of myeloma don’t have any side effects and needn’t bother with treatment straight away.

Treatment may start at a later stage when the ailment advances after a few months or years. In these cases the specialist may suggest customary checkups, including urine and blood tests, to precisely screen their wellbeing.

Chemotherapy, normally in the mix with corticosteroids, may give to control the development of myeloma.

Treatment is given to the point when the myeloma achieves a stable or level stage, where the measure of myeloma in the body is lessened to as low a level as would be possible. Once the myeloma is controlled more treatment is required to delay the remission for as long as possible.

A Lot of Good Links HERE

Week 153 of chemo complete: Reflecting on change

Monday January 8th I began my 39th 4-week cycle and 153rd week of Pomalyst chemo. That day, I also started a new chemo called Ninlaro. In July I stopped taking dexamethasone, a steroid, due to eye damage. Pomalyst + dexamethasone had been more effective in keeping my cancer levels low and stable, so with only Pomalyst, my cancer levels have steadily risen. It is hoped that together these chemo (Ninlaro + Pomalyst) will provide a change in direction with minimal side effects.

Saturday morning, as a light rain fell, I travelled back to the Rose Garden at Queen Elizabeth Park to seek out some quiet and tranquility. Nature always helps keep me calm and stress-free, when facing unknowns (What if…? How will I…? Should I…?) in my everyday life.

Staying positive!

Week 153 of chemo complete: Reflecting on change

To recap: On Sunday, January 14th, I completed Cycle 39 Week 1. I have multiple myeloma and anemia, a rare cancer of the immune system. Multiple myeloma affects the plasma cells, a type of immune cell that produces antibodies to fight infection. These plasma cells are found in the bone marrow. As a blood cancer, it is incurable, but treatable. Since February 9th 2015, I have been on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex). On July 16th, my dexamethasone treatment ended, due to eye damage, reported by my Glaucoma Specialist, from long-term use. On January 9th I began Ninlaro chemo to combat steadily rising cancer levels.

Weekly chemo-inspired self-portraits can be viewed in my flickr album.

No lawn to mowMay 2014: Coal Harbour

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Week 152 of chemo complete: Quiet reflection by the water

Saturday morning as a light rain fell, I travelled to Vanier Park in Kits. It provides a beautiful view of English Bay, and on a clear day you can see the mountains. I sat in quiet reflection and watched rowers practicing their strokes, while joggers passed by.

I always enjoy spending time in nature. A perfect start to the day.

Week 152 of chemo complete: Quiet reflection by the water

To recap: On Sunday, January 7th, I completed Cycle 38 Week 4. I have Multiple Myeloma and anemia, a rare cancer of the immune system. Multiple myeloma affects the plasma cells, a type of immune cell that produces antibodies to fight infection. These plasma cells are found in the bone marrow. As a blood cancer, it is incurable, but treatable. Since February 9th 2015, I have been on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex). On July 16th, my dexamethasone treatment ended, due to eye damage, reported by my Glaucoma Specialist, from long-term use.

Weekly chemo-inspired self-portraits can be viewed in my flickr album.

English Bay - VancouverJune 2014: English Bay

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