Saturday, April 9, 2011


Dear Friends:

The last time I posted to this blog I was celebrating my "graduation". My bone marrow transplant was complete and I was let out of the orbit of the medical institutions and the processes.

So now it is my "anniversary".   In fact, today (April 12, 2011) is the one year anniversary of my reboot - my bone marrow transplant.  

Mark 2.0

Today marks 365 days Cancer Free!

I thinks calls for a celebration.... and I mean that specifically <and musically>

I just had a PET Scan last week, and the labs came back "unremarkable".  That is not something you would normally aspire to being called on or judged as, but in the cancer world, this is a really good thing;  I am pleased with the results.

Dear Followers:

I have missed writing in this very specific venue.  And, I wanted to revisit this place again to commemorate the passing of time and to recognize the significance and reverberation of memory that this anniversary brings to me.  

And I wanted to reach out to all of you who have followed and supported me through this process.  Please know that I am well and working and happy and active - with NO lingering signs of damage or anything.  Those of you who are close to me physically/geographically know that, if anything, I am more alive and energetic and healthy than I was before I entered into the world of cancer.

Thanks for following my blog, and, I'm sorry for not writing for a year... my only excuse is that I've been busy.  I've been active and engaged and outside and involved - all the things that life is about.   I love my wife, I am shopping for a new bike, and going to Costa Rica to learn Spanish, and my youngest child is graduating from college, and... 

Well, now my life is boring and just normal.

Like the pathologist's report, it is:  "unremarkable".

May you all be so blessed.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Graduation is a time of tremendous joy and excitement - a time to celebrate the accomplishment and to look forward to the next chapter in life. My daughter, Kelly, along with a whole cohort of her friends (who I count as my own friends as well!) have graduated (or will any day now..) from college this year. Since my last post, watched Kelly "walk" in Grinnell, Iowa from my desk here at home - I was still under travel restrictions from my Doctors - but got to watch it real time through a streaming video.

Although with somewhat less "ceremony", I have also had my graduation. I have been released from the supervision of OHSU (goodbye Pill Hill!), met with my original Kaiser oncologist (hello again Dr. Rarick!), had my PICC line removed (hello hot showers!).

So, along with my colleagues from the class of 2010, it is time to move on from the institutions - the processes and procedures - that were our focus and reality for the last months and years.

It is a little unsettling is it not friends? To set your own schedule, make your own plans, decide what to think about and concentrate on...nobody telling you what to do next - no requirements, no prerequisites... no plan!

Some of you have landed interesting and rewarding situations around the country - teaching, researching, photographing, farming. And some of you are at loose ends this summer, the best laid prospects and plans fallen through. But it will be a good summer - and good to have you all home.

I have a job to return to - a work already in progress. (I'm very grateful for that, to Paul Couey, and all the support from Metro, and especially for the health insurance it provides!). I'm already dipping into some interesting projects (did my first PowerPoint presentation in months last week!) and I look forward to being fully engaged again soon.

So. In conclusion (how did this turn out to be a commencement speech?), I think we all should follow some simple guidelines as we move onto the next chapter in our life:

Sunday, May 16, 2010


The weather has teased me out of my easy chair and onto the trainer (thanks Leila!) in my backyard for a spin or two. And, actually, last week I started to do some errands and various chores around the neighborhood on my bike again. (I also drove a car for the first time in two months...) I'm back!

I have to be careful (as do we all right?) to not crash and bleed.... my platelets are still low and I am still pretty low energy. But being upright on a bike out in the world feels pretty good to me!

Which, of course, reminds me of an old song...from Graham Parsons and Chris Hillman

We've all got wheels to take ourselves away
We've got telephones to say what we can't say
We all got higher and higher every day

Come on wheels take this boy away
We're not afraid to ride
We're not afraid to die come on wheels take me home today
So come on wheels take this boy away

Now when I feel my time is almost up
And destiny is in my right hand
I'll turn to him who made my faith so strong
Come on wheels make this boy a man

My favorite interpreter of this song is Emmylou Harris

Here's a cool version on YouTube of Emmylou and Elvis Costello (and Gillian Welch!)

Also a nice YouTube video doing wheels and the song "sin city" too.***

*** In which she mentions three of the ten commandments of country music: "Always do a waltz" and "Two voices are better than one" and "always do a shuffle"

I've been a fan of Emmylou since, well, I've always been a fan.

Those Big Gibson Guitars have certainly aged well haven't they?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day + 30: Restaurants!

Tomorrow is Day + 30 which means I'm allowed to eat in restaurants again! Please call ahead for reservations ;-)

I am also available for 'viewing' at home pretty much anytime. With my nearly normal White Blood Cell Count (see below) - I'm no longer a danger to myself and others. My only restrictions at this time are travel - and crowds and I'm still on a low bacteria diet - which is odd, but doable. My energy level is still "low and slow"... so I have to pace myself pretty carefully.

But basically, I'm back! Ready to Rock!***

Details Details:
Yesterday I had multiple appointments with my "team" of doctors.

The consensus is that I'm doing great! My OHSU coordinator, Carol, said that I "looked like a champ"! And Dr. Lo, my Ophthalmologist said: "The eyes look great with no sign of ocular inflammation".

For those of you playing at home... here's the #s as of yesterday:
  • White blood cell count: 4.6 (remember, in the hospital I was 0.1.. and 'normal' range is from 4.2 - 11.5)
  • Platelets: 26 (Still pretty low - but ticking up. This is the main reason for further restrictions - they worry about bleeding and bruising from everyday activity - let alone a real accident. Once I get past 50 I'm pretty much in the clear.)

***With some caveats: I have to act my age; be in bed by 10:30; groupies are limited to immediate family members only; and by drinking plenty of fluids, they apparently mean, er, Water....

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The ripple effect

In Geography, we talk about the "fundamental laws" - like in physics - which are stated as:
  1. Everything is related
  2. Near things are more related than far things
  3. ***(see below)
Another way of saying this is: "distance matters". A lot of geographic analysis is based on measuring how well stuff either follows these laws, or, often more interesting, how stuff doesn't follow the law. What is immediately around you profoundly effects you - and you can have a measurable effect on your immediate neighborhood too. So I've been thinking about this because of bread.

I talked about our bread project on the blog the other day. The one where with the application of long, luxurious time, one can build a beautiful complex bread out of just a little yeast, flour and water. Well, I'm here to confess that it was a bit of a failure - mostly due to how unusually cold it is outside! Our yeast never did take off, which I guess is kind of an example of a lack of a ripple effect (note: we will persevere with another attempt tomorrow - stay tuned).

But, never worry, the day is saved (or dinner is saved anyway) by the great news I got from my "coach" and Nurse Practitioner Carol Jacoby at OHSU today: that I'm healthy enough - with sufficiently high blood counts - to be able to bend the "low bacteria diet" rules a bit. Specifically, I told her that I live just blocks from a really good bakery (the Fluer De Lis in Hollywood), and, could I possibly get baked goods from them? (The rules of the diet says that all bread has to be prepared in "commercial facilities and covered in cellophane or plastic wrap"). She also allowed that getting an espresso at a coffee shop was also OK under her interpretation - they are pouring boiling water over the beans after all!

Anyway. Julie and Carol went shopping for dinner, and stopped in at the bakery to pick up my favorite Olive Ciabatta. Turns out they were out of them - or rather - that they only make them on weekends now because, as Heather, our familiar cashier said: "since your husband isn't coming in every night to get his loaf". She then asked about me, and how the Bone Marrow Transplant had gone.... Somehow, through the local grapevine, my bakery learned what I was going through (I'm pretty sure I didn't tell them). How they found out I'm not sure - but we have a pretty tight neighborhood and the bakery is a natural gathering spot for folks. Oh, and, it is the closest one to my house.

So maybe this is kind of a little slice of "It's a Wonderful Life" where I'm seeing what the effect of my life has on the city and the local economy ... GASP! No Olive Ciabatta on Weekdays! (picture Jimmy Stewart stumbling out of the bakery wide eyed and desperate...running in his rumpled suit - arms and legs flailing - down the dark, snowy - black and white only - streets)

We all have a ripple effect in our universe of family, friends, neighbors and all our associations - some of them are emotional, some more practical, some are economic, some biological (cover your mouth when you cough!) - or usually some mysterious combination of these.

(Come to think of it, I better check in on the bartender at Moon and Sixpence - he's is probably scaling back a bit lately too...)


Ripple by the Grateful Dead.
I've never been a "deadhead" particularly, but, really, is there a sweeter song to go with this theme? I like this live version a lot - Gerry's solo guitar starts to really soar toward the end, and, the vocals are so sincere and, while not perfect, certainly earnest.

;-) enjoy.

BTW: The 3rd law of Geography is:

The area of interest is at the intersection of 2 or more map sheets.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Counting Time....

OK, so I'm feeling guilty about not "keeping up" with the blog. But, now that I'm on the other side of the bone marrow process, I've kind of started losing track of the time. My perception of time is not foreshortened, it is lengthened. Besides, recovery contains much less drama than the procedure itself did; which is good right?

And of course, (an anachronistic variation on the current saying): "there's a song for that"...
Judy Collins singing Who knows where the time goes?

Sandy Denny in a YouTube video/recording from the Fairport Covention back in "the day"

Easy Does It

An example of how my perception of time has changed: this morning, sisters, Julie and Carol - and I - sat around discussing how to plan and prepare the making of bread. Normally I am more of a "get to know your local Baker" than a "bake your own bread" kind of guy. That's why we have town centers, villages, cities in general right? Access to the tools and methods of fermentation and their results: Beer, wine and bread. That's why I live where I live. That's the foundation of civilization in general right?

Currently, in my recovery mode, I'm on a "low bacteria diet" - meaning I'm not to eat fresh fruits and vegetables (Ironic right? Isn't that what they tell you to eat to prevent Cancer?...). This diet includes a restriction on restaurant food and even bakery bread - because the loaves are not "factory sealed" in cellophane.

So. We are going to bake our own using the slow fermentation method popularized by the book: "my bread" by Jim Lahey. His thesis is that using less yeast, and more time, you yield a bread that is more subtle and satisfying - bringing out the flavor of the grain and building more complex structures and textures. But it takes a LOT of TIME. - like 18 24 hours in advance.

But sometimes, not counting the time too carefully, letting it wash away, results in the best outcomes...

Friday, April 30, 2010

April Showers

The weatherman said that April was one of the rainiest on record. (Thursday was the 24th day this month with measurable rain - tied with April 2003).

Today is May Day - and I'm really looking forward to "May Flowers", but, frankly, where would we PUT more flowers? There is such an abundance already! The weather promises to warm up tomorrow - and I'm hoping to spend some time in the backyard, soaking up some outdoor air and sun.

Julie has lined up people to come visit over the next couple of weeks while I continue to need "monitoring"; her Sister Carol from Chicago, and our dear friend Kitty from LA will be with us for the next two weeks.

So I'm a available for "viewing" if you are healthy and would like to drop by and say hi. I am still pretty slow and low, but it does brighten my mood to see friends. Just check with Julie - "the gatekeeper" first ok?

And Happy May Day!