August 18, 2017 Bend, Oregon

My Backyard or the View From My Door
My Backyard or the View From My Door

Heading to Portland and Hospital Wildlife

Just a quick post to let you know I’m still around.

Today I make the 175 mile trip to Portland for my first visit with the myeloma specialists at the Oregon Health and Science University Knight Cancer Institute Center for Hematological Malignancies Clinic. That’s a mouthful. Yesterday I started my fourth round of chemo here in Bend and my oncologist figures that with the continued good results that perhaps the process can be speeded up a bit and so the referral to OHSU and the specialists to see where, and how quickly, to go from here.

Blood work now shows that my kidney function, that was dangerously close to needing dialysis in May, has now returned to completely normal function and most other indicators show me nearing remission. Of course, that is great news, but the worst part of this, mentally, is knowing that no matter how great this rapid positive response has been, in the back, make that the front, of my mind, I know that this disease always makes a return. Quality of treatment can make that wait for the return a bit longer, but this thing always comes back. Knowing that both of my parents survived into their nineties, and that I have never been sick in my adult life, I always assumed I had another 15 or 20 good years left. Hard to adjust to hoping to survive for five or hopefully a little more years, and that only made possible with continued, and very expensive treatment and drugs. This for a person that has never taken any kind of drugs or medicine , ever.

All right, enough for the kind of post I said I didn’t ever want to write.

Hospital Wildlife

Really not much happening for me here in Bend. The hot 90’s weather has continued on unabated and some days it does get a little smoky from forest fires in the region, but not too bad. And the temps do always drop to 60 or less every night plus the humidity must be very low, because the heat just doesn’t seem that unbearable. not like down south, or even back in New Hampshire when it reached the 90’s there.

Had an interesting experience here on the hospital loop road’s camping spot Tuesday morning at 5:30 AM when I opened the motorhome door and let Sam out to go. I am now in a space with no other rigs on my passenger side, just an expanse of lush mowed grass ( that’s the reason for the strange opening photo above ), and as Sam hopped down the steps, I saw a young Mulie buck lift his head from his early morning grazing and stare at this possible nearby threat. He was no more than twenty feet from where I stood in the doorway and must have figured that ten pound Sam wasn’t anything to be terribly concerned with ( since Sam never even realized he was there ) and that I also wasn’t going to be bothering him, so he simply stood his ground and resumed grazing. Adjusting my eyes to the darkness, I then noticed that he was not alone, two other young bucks were also nibbling grass or clover within 50 or 60 feet of door.

Made some coffee and sat in my recliner gazing out the window in this same direction, as I do every morning, and I noticed yet more deer grazing through the same area, including one very impressive older buck with an antler spread of two feet or more that rose at least eighteen inches or more above his head. Unfortunately too dark to photograph or count points but definitely one of the most impressive Mule Deer bucks I have encountered at such close range. In all, this in-city bachelor herd numbered seven or eight animals and lingered around for close to half an hour under the street lamps before heading across the road, not into the surrounding apartment complexes, but into the hospital’s expansive parking lots and towards the main hospital buildings. Amazing what goes on in the early morning hours, even here in the city.

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June 28, 2017, Bend, Oregon

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

Some Good News!

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

First off, I would like to thank all of you that have sent encouraging comments regarding my current health situation, it is greatly appreciated. I originally had no intention of posting progress reports on that front, but several readers suggested I should, so I will keep you posted.

But since the main purpose of this blog is to showcase the landscapes and wildlife of this continent, let’s proceed in that direction first.

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

I am currently camped along the loop road around the Saint Charles Hospital Campus in Bend. The hospital has a small, eleven space campground with full hookups that it graciously supplies to it’s patients and their families, free of charge. And for me, it has been a lifesaver! The Bend area has a few very nice, and very expensive RV Parks, and the surrounding area also has several public and private campgrounds. However, they all have one thing in common … they all are booked pretty much solid throughout the summer months. And, until I was allowed to park my rig here, I was out of luck trying to find a place to stay for my chemo treatments. So, thank you, Saint Charles !

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

I have been here undergoing weekly treatment now for seven weeks and really haven’t had the emotional, or at times, the physical energy to get out and explore the area.

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

A couple weeks ago, on a ninety plus degree day, I needed to cool down, so I hopped in the Prius, turned the AC on and did the 100 mile drive east to the John Day area of central Oregon. I only made it to the painted hills section of John Day, but that alone was worth the trip as I hope some of these shots may show.

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

Earlier this month, I made a return trip to Malhuer NWR in the Prius to check out what the refuge had to offer in early summer. I was really hoping to be able to explore the Stines Mountain area and perhaps get a chance to see some of the wild horses there, but the road was still gated.

Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk

The refuge certainly looked different than on my previous visits, both of which were in very early spring. There was very little bird activity, and the roadside shrubs and bushes were now all leaved out and the fields were now covered with three and four foot high grasses, so even if there was anything there, it would be impossible to see anything.

The only shot I even took was of this common nighthawk sitting in the middle of the refuge road.

Memorial Day, Mount Bachelor
Memorial Day, Mount Bachelor

Memorial Day weekend, I drove up to Mount Bachelor, only 20 miles out of Bend. Base depths on the hill were still at eight feet at the end of May and the parking lot was quite crowded, with many RV’s and folks staying in tents below the high parking lot snow banks.

Memorial Day Camping, Mount Bachelor
Memorial Day Camping, Mount Bachelor

Seventy-five degrees and sunny, ideal weather for golf or fishing down in town, yet perfect spring asking weather half an hour away, not hard to see why this area is so popular. Just an incredible amount of building going on and housing is very expensive here.

A Lab in it's Element
A Lab in it’s Element

Got a kick out of this lab enjoying himself chasing snowballs on the parking lot snowbanks.

A Lab in it's Element
A Lab in it’s Element

OK, Here’s the Progress Report

Hood Canal Action
Hood Canal Action

I have forced myself to resume painting and just completed my first acrylic painting on canvas. This is a composite of a few photos from the Hood Canal in Washington, where Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons congregate in late spring to take advantage of the sculpin spawn in the oyster beds along the shore where  Big Beef Creek enters the canal.

This painting measures 24″ x 16″ and depicts the way the Bald Eagles harass the herons to give up their catch. The eagles perch in tall pines along the shore and watch while the herons hunt through the oyster beds looking for the spawning sculpins. As soon as a heron plucks a fish from the water, the eagles swoop down from the pines and force them to give up their catch. You can right click on the image if you would like to see a larger version of the painting.

On the myeloma front, I just completed round two of my multi-drug chemo therapy, and my oncologist is very pleased with the results thus far! My kidney function, not that long ago at a stage four kidney disease level, just a hair’s breath away from requiring dialysis, has already returned to completely normal function. My red blood cell count is slowly increasing and all the bad stuff is rapidly decreasing, indicating that the chemo is doing it’s job. Other than some severe fatigue initially, the result of the disease and the aggressive chemo approach, I really have had very little, if any, adverse side affects, no nausea, no pain, no hair falling out, etc., and the last couple of weeks, even the fatigue has gone away, as the red blood cells continue to increase.

My oncologist says I am, in his words, ” way up on the good side of the bell curve “, as far as my chances of having a good outcome to this process. He says the fact that I have had such a rapid reversal of the progression of the disease, along with my bodies ability to tolerate the potent drugs, bodes very well for my immediate future.

He assures me that I am a very viable candidate for a stem cell transplant and that procedure could possibly be done as soon as August. He has also suggested that perhaps, and he says he is about at a 50/50 position on this, I may be one of the folks that may be able to keep the disease in remission without the transplant because of how my body has responded so far, but the final decision will be made after another round of drug therapy.

But the overall prognosis has decidedly changed in a positive way, and for that, I am most grateful.

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April 24, 2017 Malhuer NWR, Oregon

Abandoned Ranch
Abandoned Ranch

More From Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge

Ruddy Drake
Ruddy Drake

Always get a kick out of the male Ruddy Duck and his sky blue bill during breeding season.

Redhead Pair
Redhead Pair
Redheads Takeoff
Redheads Takeoff

Plenty of ducks encountered this week while driving through the refuge and was able to get a few decent flight shots when there was enough light, lots of overcast mornings.

Ring-neck Drake Takeoff
Ring-neck Drake Takeoff
Mallard Drake in Flight
Mallard Drake in Flight
Gadwall Takeoff
Gadwall Takeoff
Cinnamon Teal Pair
Cinnamon Teal Pair

This pair of Cinnamon Teal have been found on this spot every day this week, so I assume she is sitting on some eggs.

Cinnamon Teal Drake
Cinnamon Teal Drake
Avocets
Avocets

American Avocets hunting along the flooded fields.

Long-billed Curlew
Long-billed Curlew
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

This Sandhill was one of several pairs out hunting the flooded cow pastures along the highway.

Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk

A completely drenched Ferruginous hawk manning his roadside hunting perch during one of this week’s showers.

Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk

The look says it all, he doesn’t care for this weather any more than I do.

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April 21-25, 2017 Malhuer NWR, Oregon

Grey Ghost
Grey Ghost

I arrived at The Narrows RV Park and set up camp. Very nice, well maintained campground where I have stayed a few times before. About 20 miles south of Burns and only a couple of miles from the refuge headquarters, this is a convenient spot to stay.

My first day out I encountered nine different male Northern Harriers, the grey ghosts, and Malhuer is one of the few places I have ever found that these guys can be found in numbers. But for some strange reason, I never again encountered more than one or two of them again during the rest of my stay.

Meadowlark
Meadowlark

Meadowlarks were out singing for mates all throughout the refuge.

Meadowlark
Meadowlark
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant

I almost always get some good chances at capturing the brilliantly colored male Ring-necked Pheasants here, but never quite like this sequence.

Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant

He was escorting two hens and not 30 feet from me started this “rooster crowing” display.

Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant

Can’t say it really sounded anything like a “cookie-doodle-dooo”, but it must do something for the gals.

Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
American Bittern
American Bittern

Another pleasant surprise was getting a chance at a couple of bitterns, this guy assuming his classic camouflage position, apparently not realizing he was surrounded with short green grass, not his usual hiding spot within the taller straw colored grasses.

Long-billed Curlew
Long-billed Curlew

Curlews and white-faced ibis were plentiful throughout the refuge this spring…

Willet
Willet

… as were willets, this one perched high up on the smokestack of an incinerator, kind of an unusual spot to see one.

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