Too busy for Cancer, way too busy to die

Most mornings, I wake before the alarm.  My sleeping mind seems to already be in progress when it joins my waking mind.  I give myself an hour before I must leave for work, but if I deviate from my routine, I’ll probably have to drive.  I like to walk the commute, it’s not a race, but there is no time to stop and smell the roses.  I usually have a few minutes to quickly check email and a news site before the clock strikes eight.  I always try to work at a quick, efficient pace, there’s way more to do in a day than I can get done.  My walk home could be more leisurely, but I hurry to get busy on my unfinished or my next endeavors.  A life overflowing with God’s blessings is a very busy life.  I hurry to get something done before dinner, and chip away at more until bed time.  I might stop and join Diane for a little TV watching, then hurry off to sleep, and begin again.  There’s much to do and time seems short.  I’m too busy for Cancer, way too busy to die.

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Out for a drive in the Chevy – Thanks, Diane MacDonald, for the picture

One day years ago, my job took me to an elderly man’s house.  It was practically on the campus of the university in our town.  The old timer seemed to know everyone there, and they all addressed him, “Grandpa.”  I quickly learned that he was deep in the pursuit of Genealogy, and that he had much yet to discover, record, organize, and share.  He was sure the Lord wouldn’t be, “calling him home” before this massive mission of lineage research was completed.

One day weeks ago, my job took me back to the Campus Grandpa’s house; to his vacant house.  I wonder if he had enough time to feel the satisfaction of a job well done.  Nothing I keep myself so busy with would sway the Lord to let me make a later connection (I don’t believe it works that way).  My projects, my list from top priority on down doesn’t even make a blip on the radar screen of life.  The most important things I’ll ever do, have probably been done, and would probably be done better if done over, but that’s life.

My job took me recently to another house.  There I recognized someone who recognized me.  Our kids were friends in school.  She asked, “How have you been – didn’t you have cancer?”  I told her I’ve had three cancers, and one is incurable, but right now I’m doing okay.  Her tone lowered just a bit, and in a reluctantly accepting voice she said, “Well, I guess that’s life.”  I added yea, or maybe that’s death.

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A New Old Photo

I attended a Martin Family Reunion at my cousin, Brian’s house in August.  He showed a reel of old family pictures.  The funny looking young people in the long ago photos brought a lot of laughs to the new young people.  I saw a few pictures of myself I had never seen, they were taken by Brian’s folks.  This picture of me and my first (official) girlfriend was among them.from-brian-martin-07

I was clicking around the internet looking for possible contact with anyone involved with class of 1970 reunions at Jefferson High School in Portland; I served my freshman year there, but never made it to a reunion.  I found a couple classmates that went from Kenton Elementary School to Jefferson.  That led to a couple more classmates, and that led to a suggestion that we have a Kenton class reunion.  Five or six of us met at a restaurant in Portland and became the planning committee.  That meeting itself was a precious reunion.  At one point when Bill Dunlap laughed, that sound went into my ears, into my memory banks, and instantly registered a solid confirmation even though I hadn’t heard that laugh in 35 years.  Amazing!

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We divided up our list of classmate’s names to try to contact.  I was happy to see my old girl friend, Carol Leech, was on my list; it would be fun to contact her.  I eventually reached her in Washington by phone.  We must have talked for an hour and a half.  We talked about all things relevant when you haven’t seen or spoken to each other since eighth grade.  At one point, she asked if she could speak to my wife.  I handed the phone to Diane, and Carol proceeded to tell her what a wonderful young man I was, so many years ago.  I got her address and promised to send the reunion invitation when they were printed.

The “Kenton 8th Grade Class of 1966 Turns Fifty” class reunion invitations were mailed out and confirmations began coming in.  A couple weeks passed and I hadn’t seen anything from Carol so I called to see if she had received the invitation, she had not.  I told her I would send another, but I also confirmed the date and time.  I asked hopefully if she thought she would make it.  She said she would if money and health allowed.  I told her it would be my honor if she would let me pay for her dinner, to please not let that stop her from attending.

The event was held at the McMenamins Kennedy School in Portland, the evening of October 5th, 2002.  Turnout was fair, conversation and dinner was good.  How did these 8th graders get so old?  I was really looking forward to seeing Carol, but she didn’t make it.  I did not yet own a digital camera, but a classmate, Mike King, emailed a few pictures he took at the event.  I forwarded them to her, but got no reply.  After a few days an email arrived with this message:  Hi, this is Carol’s daughter.  I see you were corresponding with my mom, so I thought you should know that she died.

Three Months At A Time

Thursday, I had my 6 month visit with my Pulmonologist (my sleep doctor).  I repeated my complaint, “I’m so tired of being tired,” and answered yes when he asked if the pills were helping. He quickly instructed, “Up the dosage.”  I think he likes to practice a little psycho analysis with the Pulmonology.  We talked a bit about poor sleep quality, joining my mind in progress when I wake, work, retirement, stress, decisions…  I suppose its all sleep related.  I saw my Oncologist the next day for my three month tests.  After reporting to that office so often for the last two years, I feel like I’m visiting friends now, except for that one dangerous colleague who always sticks a needle in me.  The doctor said the tests indicate no change, and no change is good, especially considering I’m three years into the 3 ½ year average benefit enjoyed by stem cell transplant patients.

We haven’t had a garage sale in several years; that American tradition where you display on folding tables the remnants of your treasured memories, souvenirs of your children’s mileposts, and items that could be family heirlooms (if only someone would take a closer look).  You set them out on display to be judged by all, and the verdict after just a moment’s deliberation?  “Will you take a dollar?”

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Diane said it was time we had another garage sale.  I was determined to be brave and participate by putting some things out to sell instead of trying to keep everything forever.  I know that makes sense, but selling a favorite shirt that has to be pulled tight now to button is publicly admitting I will never lose enough weight to fit it again.  It means confessing that those odd items I have accumulated and held because certainly they must be rare and/or odd enough to be of some monetary value, aren’t worth $2 to anyone willing to walk up our driveway and have a look.  It means that after a week of preparations and a two day sale, we can probably go out to dinner on our financial gains.  But consider this, once you identify an item you might be willing to part with (especially with the hope of a handsome profit due to its appreciation since being in your custody), you take it out, dust it off, place it on the folding table and watch it for two days only to realize that its value is exclusively in your eyes .  You must then decide if you will put it back where you had it, or move to the next level and DISPOSE OF IT.  Maybe that’s been the hidden agenda behind these garage sales all along!

Since Jason and I built the dirt track for Radio Controlled cars in my back yard, I’ve been meaning to invite long time RC racing friends, Don and Diane, to come out from Portland and try it out.  With summer circling the drain, and after several, “we’ll have to get together sometimes,” we finally chose a day, ran the cars on the track, had a real nice

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visit, and wrapped it up by driving the ’57 Chevy to lunch.   During our visit, we reminisced about the good times we had racing in the “Yamhill County RC Car Club” in McMinnville, and marveled that it really was 20 years ago.  The thought of a car club reunion had previously been mentioned a time or two, but that day we committed to looking into it.  I suggested that if we found at least 10 of our fellow racers we haven’t seen in years, it would be a fun gathering, so we’ve started with a Face book Group Page.

A Riddle:

When is a crushed vertebra and severe arthritis good news?

Answer: When it’s not CANCER (Yea)!

We traveled to Florida at the end of July to meet our newest Grandchild, a sweet baby boy named Jory.  He’s our third grandchild, and what a joy to meet and hold him.  I’m not sure what a three week old can see, but I think he looked me right in the eyes.

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Here he is peaking over Diane’s shoulder, probably wondering if it’s almost time to eat again

Making our precious time there even better was exploring with Kellen (almost three now) in the jungle that is his yard.  I love seeing how our children love their children.

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Kellen in his Monster Hunting hat, ready to guide me through this tropical compound

Our son and daughter-in-law took us on a real nice Stern-wheeler cruise on the Barbara Lee, across Lake Monroe and up the St Johns River.

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We spent another day on New Smyrna Beach in Florida.  I was pulling Kellen across shallow wave water on a boogie board.  He was actually dragging on the sand, but we were both enjoying the experience.  I’m not in many pictures because I’m usually taking them, but today, my wife picked up the camera and took a few shots of Kellen and me.  I’m looking at one now.  I could paste it here, but I’d much rather draw a less shocking word picture.  Some things once seen – can’t be unseen.  There is Kellen, looking much like a Junior Surfer kid at his introduction to a boogie board, and at the high end of the board leash is an actual Snow Man, yes, right there in the shallow, warm, Atlantic salt water; an Oregon snow man, both in color and in build.  There’s more.  When I was a young man, I remember seeing an old man in a swimsuit.  I wondered how he could possibly be oblivious to the fact that he was wearing his suit inside out.  Now, here I am with my old, baggy suit twisted halfway around my waist and the pocket hanging inside out.  Note to self:  NEVER be seen publicly in a swim suit again.

Okay, I’ll post it:

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Before all that snow

MRI’s Update

Did you know that having two MRI’s back to back is almost considered a medical marathon?  The technicians were so proud of me that upon my next visit I’m sure to see my picture on the wall in the MRI room commemorating that historical event.

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Probably something like this

My Oncologist called to tell me the determinations from the MRI’s.  They showed a new compression at vertebrae L3 (about a 20% loss, I’m another ¼” shorter) and severe arthritis.

**SARCASM WARNING**
The symptoms often reported with compression of vertebrae L3 include
restful sleep, reduced appetite, and weight loss.
**END SARCASM **

Following up with my family doctor was recommended if I want to consider back injections, physical therapy, and/or cement.  This back pain that also goes down my legs has been with me to some degree for years.  Today I am feeling a little better than two weeks ago.  Who would have thought one would ever measure progress by the speed and agility with which you put on your underwear and socks?

It Grows On You

2016-06-19 002bMy life continues to overflow with God’s blessings through family, friends, and sometimes just out of the blue.  In May, Diane and I drove across the country to meet our granddaughter in Michigan. She’s a precious cutie, and much of the time seems to have something important she wants to say, but doesn’t yet know how to effectively articulate. It will be fascinating when she does. We saw friends and relatives on the way there and back. I wish we could have stayed longer for each visit.

Our son and daughter-in-law took us on a wonderful Lake Superior cruise to a place called Pictured Rocks. Amazing mineral colors can be seen oozing out of the sandstone cliffs there.  To see more pictures, click here.

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I’ve been looking forward to summer, and June is already circling the drain. I started playing Volleyball again. I used to have a team, maybe you’ve heard of us, “Ricky Normal and the Jazz Head Cowboys”? That was actually the name of my band in a dream, but since the odds of me leading a music group while conscious are pretty slim, I decided to use the name for my Volleyball team. The league I play in now doesn’t have organized teams, in fact, it’s not even a league. It’s just a group of local people 55 or older having a good time (often) hitting the ball over the net. It is fun, but I’ve been plagued by sporadic shortening of my arms. That’s bad enough when you’re trying to make contact with the ball, but is especially embarrassing when you do hit the ball and your team mate wants to high five you – and you swish the air completely missing that contact!

My second 3 month appointment and tests weren’t due for two more weeks, but I’ve been revisited by some previous back and leg pain symptoms. Knowing that Multiple Myeloma attacks the bone, I decided to get in to see the Oncologist sooner. The test results that came back right away don’t indicate cancer activity, but because of what has previously happened in my back (click here for the December 14, 2011 post), and because of the returning symptoms with no known cause, MRI’s and an x-ray have been scheduled.

Cliff Hanger?

My last low dose chemo shot was New Years Eve 2015. My Oncologist said to come back in three months for testing. Three months have passed. I went for tests on April 4th and anxiously waited for the results. I also saw my Urologist that same day, my five year and final appointment with him. His office called later to say my PSA (Prostate cancer indicator) was undetectable. I love that word. My three month test results for Multiple Myeloma, although reported mostly in Medical Greek, were finally posted to a web site I access.

This message was included with the report: “The serum protein electrophoresis exhibits a possible monoclonal immunoglobulin band in the gamma region. Serum immunofixation (IFE) for further identification of this band has been reflex ordered.” And this: “A reflex test is a laboratory test performed (and charged for) subsequent to an initially ordered and resulted test. Reflex testing occurs when an initial test result meets pre-determined criteria (e.g., positive or outside normal parameters), and the primary test result is inconclusive without the reflex or follow-up test. It is performed automatically without the intervention of the ordering physician.” That alone does not mean bad news, but it seems a step in that direction. My Oncologist said she would call me if there was anything we need to discuss; so far, no call.

In the meantime, there’s much to do as I remain among the living.  I finally connected the computer to the stereo, I continue organizing photos, and I actually think I spotted retirement way out there on the horizon.

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This is my second new Radio Control car, a Losi 22T with one of my favorite racing bodies from the old days.  For now, this is an indoor turf track only car .

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It’s fun to run it with friends at the RC Plus track in Salem, Oregon.

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My two year old grandson, Kellen, is learning to drive RC cars with an old RC10T.  He’s got tight circles pretty well figured out, and is very familiar with the transmitter’s on/off switch (it’s just fascinating!).

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I recently had another great visit with my brother, Loren, in Brookings, Oregon.

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The winter project on the Chevy this year was replacing the rear main seal.  Check that off the list!

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I’m not sure how this will play out, but my scalp has become consumed with “Revenge Of Chemo Hair.”

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I meant to include this picture, “taking time to smell the flowers,” with Kellen.