Health Update 11/7/22

I don’t expect strangers or friend to be that interested in my mudante health updates and thank God, this one is mundane. I was planning on suspending such postings, unless there was some important information. However, I thought about the fact that my children and extended family get their news about my health here, I am primarily doing this for them.

First a Word About my Friend Margaret

Before I start with mostly good news, I must pay tribute to my friend, and the friend of many who visit here, Margaret Campbell. Nine years ago she was diagnosed with lung cancer and was given the expectation of months to live. She moved here to be closer to her sons and to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Her and her husband Don made the decision that while they fought this wailful disease, they would live their lives to the fullest … and they did.

When I first met Margaret, cancer was still a stranger to me, although my brother was still alive and suffering from it and I had lost my father to it. Little did I know of the private battle that she must have borne as I do now, having experienced it. The symptoms of the disease is one category, but more often it is the symptoms of the treatment that can be unbearable. Losing relationships with people who do not like broken friends hurts (I’m not sure this ever happened to her as she had a herd of close friends who stuck with her until the end) and all the other social loss that comes with cancer’s limitations. Like me, she had been a very health persons before her diagnosis, never smoked, ate right, and exercised. No blame.

I’ve read memoirs and heard stories of people who had these intrusive and unfair diseases wreck their lives and they became very bitter. But not Margaret. Maybe in private, but I never heard her ask that philosophical question, “Why me?” It was maybe through Margaret’s example that those question never entered my personal lexicon after my diagnosis.

She was a warrior, but like all great warriors, the battle takes its toil and she passed from this beautiful place this morning. Christians have different viewpoints of death and I don’t know what her’s was, but I respect it. I’ve shared before that I see death as the ultimate bad. Not God’s intent. Unnatural. The result of a broken world. While there is hope of better things on the other side, I don’t know exactly what it is like. I hope it is like how NT Wright describes it, us back in this cosmos, but perfected. I hope someday to go flying through that wonderful restored universe with her and Don, without a rocket or plane, but with eagles’ wings. Here’s to you Margaret, now, if the tears will subside long enough for me to see the keyboard, I will finish this post with my better news.

I should feel guilty juxtaposing my better news with their bad, but I know that Don would understand and she would support this. She was always rooting for me. Please hold that family in your prayers. I must mention before closing this part that her husband Don was a care-giver superstar. No one could eclipse his devotion of caring for a suffering spouse.

My Health Update

Today was my monthly appointment with my oncologist. Today, I finished the tapering down of my intensive chemo program to the maintenance version. It is still three drugs but at a lower dose. For the sixth consecutive month, my major cancer markers (light chains) were all normal. With such a deep remission, my oncologist expects that I will be stable on this maintenance for “many years.” No one knows for sure. The Multiple Myeloma could come back tomorrow through a further mutation. But that is his good guess. I will accept that, without taking anything for granted.

My energy level is still climbing, not as good as I was in May, but better than September. My biggest drawback is that one of my chemos causes a rather severe anemia (hemoglobin 9-11 range). This causes me to be very short of breath with exercise. I started a 4.5 mile hike with friends (I may have been the second youngest in the group) and I had to bail out half way due to the elevation gain. That’s embarrassing. But reasonable hikes on flat land are now possible.

I am still somewhat of a hermit. COVID is still circulating. The newest (Scrabble) variants seem to be resistant to the vaccines and prior infections. However, I did attend an outdoor campfire with friends and an indoor trivia night with a group, but me wearing a mask. I don’t want to let my guard down too quickly.

With hope of a future, a guarded future, I am trying to recalibrate my life a bit. I had been thinking in terms of months, trying to get x, y, and z done while I can. But now with things like the stone cottage, I’m thinking out three years.

I had mentioned before that Denise and I were in training for a trek across Greenland when I was diagnosed. I can’t imagine being off the grid for two weeks crossing the backcountry of Greenland with no way out but by foot, now. But we are planning on a family reunion in Iceland In June.

Denise and I had almost move (permanently) to Iceland in 1986, instead of Egypt (that obviously didn’t turn out to be permanent), so the country has always had a special place in our hearts. This will be our third trip and with all our adult kids and grandkids meeting us there, it should be fun exploring its culture and wilderness on a deeper level.

Mike

P.S. Tonight I can blame the typos on quick typing and eyes laden with tears.

Published by J. Michael Jones

J. Michael Jones is married to Denise and is the father of five successful adult children, scattered around Washington state and Minnesota. He had a 38-year career as a physician associate, until he was forced into retirement by multiple myeloma in 2019. During his career, he waw a headache specialist at Mayo Clinic, and in the pacific northwest, and worked as a generalist in a variety of locations overseas, including Abu Dhabi, Oman, Cyprus, Egypt, Pakistan twice, Nepal, and Afghanistan's Khyber Pass. He has always loved to think and write, publishing seven books and countless journal articles. After retirement he has focused on his fiction writing including his coming book, The Stones of Yemen.

7 thoughts on “Health Update 11/7/22

  1. I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your friend!! Cancer truly does suck as we have been battling it here in my own house!! I enjoy reading of your health journey, of your thoughts as you travel this medical journey and of your highs and lows. I can relate to a lot of what you write…but from the caregiver point of view and not personally. It is good to read that you are able to plan for ‘a while’ and not for ‘the moment’! Take care…and keep posting! Know that I DO read them (to myself and to my husband) and we rejoice with you in your highs and mourn with you in your lows!! Kathy

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  2. Mike, thank you for the beautiful tribute to Margaret. She was an amazing woman (man do I hate using past tense) and I’m honored to have known her.

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  3. Mike, I’m very sorry for your loss.

    I’ve been following your blog(s) off and on over the years, ever since the Christian Monist (Headless Unicorn Guy puts in a plug for you once in a while). Keep typing through those tears. Glad your cancer is in remission.

    My middle daughter, age 34, is going through chemo for breast cancer. It’s been a huge learning curve for her, and very scary. She has become a missionary of sorts to make sure that her female (and male) friends and relatives get frequent checkups.

    Praying for your full recovery and that Iceland keeps welcoming you back.

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