Not Dead Yet

Not even close, doing pretty well actually, though I should post more often. I was diagnosed with myeloma in July, 2003, and according to my math that’s well over 16 years ago. My family and I go to two different support groups, and I get celebrated as one of the long-timers. I like that, so very preferable to being dead, I think.

I’ve been on Pomalyst (Pom) since March of 2008, with the exception of one year when the Pom trial ended. Trials of three different experimental regimens failed me then, but Darzalex became approved and the combo of Darzalex, Pom, and dexamethasone (dex) brought my numbers way back down. Eventually we eased up a bit, gradually dropping the dex altogether and reducing the Pom from every day to 21 days out of 28. That may have been a mistake.

Mayo Clinic Rochester MN

IgG and M-Spike stayed way down for three years, but last spring my shoulder began to hurt and my lambda light chains crept up almost to the top of their range. A PET scan showed a bright, colorful lesion in the right scapula, even though IgG and M-Spike said nothing about it.

The radiation treatments started the very next Monday, 10 daily sessions with breaks only for weekends. When that doctor heard that I was 16 years from diagnosis, he allowed that my myeloma must be “indolent,” like a lazy schoolboy. Well OK, but here it was threatening the use of my right arm! Happily, the PET scan after that treatment showed only a very small lesion remaining in the scapula. Doc did good.

I’m back on Pom every day, Darzalex once a month, and dex 12 mg/week. The arm feels great, IgG and M-Spike are fine, and lambda light chains are right in the center where they belong. We’ll find out more with another PET scan in March at Mayo Clinic.

Reflected reflections

“Harrummf.” The old man sat on the rock bench by the river, alone. He looked aged and tired. His whiskers grew out white and uneven. He’d obviously given up on shaving, instead hacking back his facial hair only occasionally and it gave him an unkempt look. His hair, perhaps three inches at the longest, looked as though it was caught by the wind and flying every which way. Except that the day was calm and still. His eye were blue, but turned rheumy, milky and dull. His clothes looked as if they were pulled from baled rags, purloined as they went to be recycled. He wore pale yellow socks over leather things on his feet. So skinny, he was a scarecrow, his broomstick limbs barely holding up his attire. Liver spotted and translucent, his pale skin looked as if it was in jeopardy of the sun, paper-like and dry he was the image of frailty and vulnerability.

The river moved slowly by where he sat, reflecting him perfectly so that one had to look hard to tell which was real and which the reflection. No matter, his entirety was merely a reflection –of what he once was, back when life was his and strength surged within him. He shifted his weight and made the noise again. Was he clearing his throat or offering a comment; it was hard to tell. A dog lay in the sun just beside him. It too had an ancient appearance, they were a matched set. One knew the dog was brown, but it too was graying. Its legs twitched, the dog caught in a dream, most likely of youthful days when it would run free with tongue flying as he pursued a quarry. There was a dimness to the dog; the way the light struck him and permeated and reflected off his hair gave him a translucence not unlike the old man’s skin.

I went about my way, the image of the old man and his dog in my mind. I inspected it by turning the image over and over in my head, wondering why the image had the power to fascinate me so. I crawled over rocks and stepped on grassy hummocks by the waters edge, occasionally noting my own reflection. But my image seemed somehow blurred and filled with kinesis, not like the crystal image of the old man. But wait. Did the dog have a reflection too? I wondered about that, thinking of it more and more until I had to go back and look. Why it was important to me I didn’t know. I just knew that I had to see. I had to look and see if the dog was as faithfully reproduced as the man was.

He was just there in front of me, some yards ahead. He hadn’t moved that I could tell. I watched him as I made my way closer and closer, finally coming to within just a few feet of him. There was his reflection in the water, as clear and sharp as I’d seen it earlier. But no, the dog was not reflected. In fact, I realized that the dog wasn’t there at all. Apparently it had trundled its self off to investigate a butterfly or follow the scent of some creature, perhaps of its own kind.

“Where did your dog go?” I asked him.


“Your dog. Where is your dog?”

“Dog’s gone.”

I looked around, scanning to see where it had gotten to. “I see that.” I said.

“Eh?” he said again, looking at me.

“Your dog has gone off.”

He looked at me, irritation flirting with his features. “What about it?” he snapped.

“Well, the pair of you made a pleasant image.” I said, smiling. I wasn’t sure why I seemed to irk him, and felt badly that I might have intruded on his thoughts. The old man looked at me a moment and then shook his head.

“Dog’s gone nearly a year now. He was a good one, he was.”

“I meant the one that was here a little while ago.”

“I was just sitting here thinking about him. Missing him I guess. But it gives me pleasure to think of him. You see, he was all I had. Just me and the dog.”

“I’m sorry for your loss. ButI meant the dog that was just here. He was laying right there.” I pointed to the spot where I’d seen the dog.

“I was remembering him. We used to come here, you know. Used to come and sit here and watch the water. He would come along with. Would lay right there.” He pointed at the same spot I had. “We came here most every day it was warm enough. Pretty much every day in summer.”

“I was talking about a dog today. A dog right there by you.” I described the dog to him.

“That’s right. So you knew my dog? You’d see him when we came here, eh?”

“No. I mean today. I saw him today.” I protested.

“No, you couldn’t have seen him today, son. My dog passed a year ago. Must have been someone else’s dog you saw.”

“Could be, I guess. But he was laying right there. Right by you. You had to have seen him.”

“No. No dog today. No dog for a year.” He sounded so forlorn the way he said it. “I wish he was here. Such a good boy. He was such a good boy.”

“You didn’t see the dog that was here today?” I asked. “Sitting right there?”

“I’m old, son, but I’m not daft. My dog passed.”

“I understand. But I saw a dog laying here by you when I first passed by. The way he lay here, I thought he was with you. I must have been wrong. Anyway, he seems to have gone off now.”

The old man turned to look at me directly. “There’s been no dog here. I came here alone, I’ve been sitting alone. The dog you saw sounds like mine, but there’s been no dog here today. My dog’s gone a year now. To the very day.” He made a grunting noise and got to his feet. He stood for a moment, giving me a reproachful look, and then turned and walked away. He had the slow and painful appearing gait of the elderly. He shook his head as he moved.

I stood there and watched him go for a moment then looked back to where he’d been sitting. The grass in front of the rock was bent and pressed where his feet had rested. I looked to where the dog was and the grass stood, unaffected. There was no evidence that the animal had been there.

“Odd.” I mumbled aloud. It made me wonder if I had somehow intruded on and seen his reflections on the dog the way I’d seen his reflection in the water. A memory mirage? No, that’s just nuts. I looked at the spot where I saw the dog again, inspecting the erect blades of grass, undisturbed and stilled in the breeze-less air. “Odd.” I said again.


Cat’s Meow

There was a cat in the living room saying meow very loudly and over and over. I lay in bed, wondering what awful thing had happened to make the cat make such a noise. But it kept doing it over and over. After a couple of minutes of the meowling, I got up to see what the cat’s problem was. My wife was pleasantly sleeping, oblivious to the kitty cries. When she goes down, she tends to go down hard enough it takes a shoulder shake or two to wake her. So it didn’t wake her up when I crashed my wheelchair into the bedstead with a loud and metallic clunk. Out in the living room, the cat kept meowing loudly, unabated.

Having collected my wits and slippers, I scooted on out to the living room. The cat was standing in the middle of the room, mostly equidistant from the chairs and furniture which rings the room. It did not appear in distress, nor did I see any threat posed to the cat; for instance, one of the other cats. We have three of them and sometimes they can get a little, well, catty. Two will gang up on one to block access to the food and water dishes. Or they will gang up to prevent use of the kitty door that leads in and out of the house for human intervention-free cat privacy. But there were no other cats in evidence, just the black lump standing in the middle of the living room and saying meow over and over again.

“What?” I asked. My voice toned for incredulity and concern.

The cat looked at me and said “meow.”

“What?” I asked a again. “What’s your problem, cat?”

It said “meow” again.

“Kitty, kitty, kitty!” I trilled. Perhaps if I got it to come on over I could pet it and tell it that it felt good and didn’t need to complain and could shut the hell up now.  It was after two am in the morning. But the cat ignored me, preferring to stay right where it was and keep meowing. I get it. Mountain and Mohammed. Sure, okay. I rolled over to the cat and reached down and petted it on the head. Tap, tap, tap. “Good cat.”

It immediately began to purr and rub its cheek on the front casters of the wheelchair. Then it took three steps away, just out of my reach and began its repetitious meow again. I held my hand low and wiggled my fingers, the universal cat signal to come on over. However, this cat had obviously missed the sign class and stayed right where it was. Meowing.  I rolled over to it again and petted it. Once more the cat broke into its motorboat purr and rubbed its cheek on the front caster of my chair. Then it moved three steps away, out of my reach and said meow. I was struck by an overwhelming sense of deja vu. The cat was struck with an overwhelming urge to meow. I rolled over and we repeated the skit one more time. As it meowed this time, I was reaching for a throw pillow from the couch.. Since it was a throw pillow, I threw it. It plunked the cat in the face mid-meow. It sounded like “meuf.”

The cat sprang straight up in the air and started running mid-flight. It tore down the hall and ran into the bedroom. I rolled my way back and climbed back into bed. As I settled, I felt a weight on my feet as the cat lay across them. “Meow!” it yelled.  I scissored my legs and watched the cat ride up and down on the blanket. It was momentarily silent, then started to meow again. As it did, I scissored. The cat said “Meyiga.” It tried to meow again and I scissored again. The cat repeated its earlier word. We played that game for nearly five minutes before the cat slunk off the bed, landing on the rug with a stumbling thump. So much for catlike grace.

A moment later, the cat was back in the living room, and of course, the damn thing was meowing loudly again. I lay in the bed and thought about it. Then I reached over and shook my wife’s shoulder. She mumbled a little and opened her eyes. “What’s going on?”

“You were snoring and you snorted yourself awake.” I lied.

“Oh.” she giggled a little. “I woke you up. I’m sorry.”

“I was already awake.” I said. Right about then a loud meow echoed through the house.

“Is that Squeek?” my wife asked, dry washing her face with her hands.

“Why yes,” I said. “I do believe it is.”

“Kitty!” called my wife, sliding from the bed. She closed the door as she left.

“Ahhh.” I sighed, closing my eyes.

Easter Bouquet

Gracie’s peeps took the girls to a Three Dog Bakery “Easter Begg Hunt” yesterday. Molly (left) and Gracie were dressed as spring flowers, in outfits that were a big hit at a neighborhood gala the week before.

They behaved themselves nicely and were the belles o’ the ball. (At a previous TDB event, Molly stole Frosty Paws from any dog foolish enough to lift his head for a nanosecond.) There were bunnies galore, but our girls were the only spring daisies!