In January 2021 I re-started my blog, Notes from My Journey. I made a commitment to myself that I would write a blog post each week for the entire year. I got off to a good start for the first couple of months, then in March I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma cancer, began a first-in-my life round of tests and scans and doctor appointments and began treatment in mid-April with three anti-cancer drugs (targeted chemotherapy).
A pill every day, infusion once a week, more pills every Thursday. Blood tests once a month, bone marrow biopsies periodically, and appointments with my oncologist monthly. I was doing pretty well! Cancer numbers were going down, other stuff looked good, and I was so fortunate to have very little adverse reaction to the treatment.
After a few months my oncologist mentioned a treatment called Stem Cell Transplant that had really good results with many patients achieving full remission from the cancer for a significant period of time. My oncologist knew one of the doctors at Oregon Health and Science University Hospital in Portland, OR and contacted him about taking me on as a candidate for the SCT. He agreed to begin the testing process, even though at age 78 I was at the very upper end of the age range of patients they would consider. As we proceeded with the testing and scans, my results looked good. I was staying relatively strong, and I was accepted as a candidate for the transplant.
Our daughter Stephanie and her husband Philip and son Jesse live in the Portland area and they made their guest room available to Jean and me for as long as we needed it. So we went to Gresham in September, 2021 and I began a grueling almost two week process of preparation: Scans, examinations, blood tests, and pokings and proddings I will not describe here. This culminated in the harvest of Stem Cells from my blood that would be re-introduced after a two-day chemotherapy treatment that would kill all the cancer in my blood (along with my bone marrow and all the cells that make up my immune system).
Then we experienced a four-month delay in the process! Due to COVID, there were no intensive care beds available at OHSU, so the stem cells had to be frozen and my transplant postponed until beds became available. In January I was back on the schedule at last! Into the hospital on January 31. Stem Cell transplant on February 2, strong enough to leave the hospital on February 12. Then outpatient appointments for the next few weeks while we stayed with Philip and Stephanie and Jesse, and then release to return home to Bend on March 7.
I’ve been making good progress since then. In fact I’ve been fortunate to have very little adverse reaction to all the cancer drugs and treatments since beginning treatment in April of 21. And I stayed strong enough through it all that I was a viable candidate for the transplant. And I’ve recovered steadily (If slowly. At least it seems slow when you’re doing it day by day and hour by hour). And I’m still getting stronger every week.
I’m so very thankful to God that I’m presently in full remission from the cancer! I’m so thankful for the medical teams at St Charles Oncology here in Bend and at Knight Cancer center at OHSU in Portland. I’m so thankful for all the friends and family who have stayed in touch and given encouragement at the tough times in the process. I’m so thankful for everyone who has prayed for us, encouraged us, and given generously to help support us in financial and other practical ways during this process.
Anyhow, here’s an interesting thing! With everything that happened in 2021, I still managed to keep my commitment to myself and my readers to write a blog post every week. But something changed in the process of the hospitalization and SCT. Since February, I’ve only managed to post occasional health updates, and only about once a month. I know I included a little “thought for the day” kind of paragraph in each one, along with a “think about this” sort of question, but the “post every week” thing just crashed! I’m not sure why, but my inspiration tank was on empty. And I couldn’t really figure out how to fill it! I wrote paragraphs about this and that and made lists of things I could write for blog posts, but it seemed completely inspiration-less! I fretted about it, I prayed seriously about it, and finally I mostly accepted it. I guess I gave myself permission not to write anything if I didn’t have anything to write! I wasn’t happy about it, but there didn’t seem to be anything for it but to let it be.
Some lessons learned during my SCT and recovery so far:
- (Almost) everything is a process.
- Sometimes you just can’t! And when you “just can’t” just don’t!
- Don’t give up. Keep looking and listening. Keep pressing into the fog until it clears.
Then yesterday, Sunday morning June 5, I was walking in the desert before church with Jake the Desert Bone Dog, and I got on the wrong trail. I was having one of my usual desert-walking conversations with God and more or less suddenly it seemed like grey turned to sunshine and things started to look brighter! And when we tuned in to online church with the others in our small group of “on-liners”, Pastor Evan gave an exhortation that really made me hopeful, then Pastor Steve spoke a message that spoke deeply to me, and the Holy Spirit breathed something new and fresh into my life! I can’t wait to tell you more about it – in next week’s blog post. Stay tuned!
As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, please leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, I’d love for you to click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.