October 18, 2017 Bend, Oregon

" Autumn " 18' X 24" Acrylic on canvas
” Autumn ” 18′ X 24″ Acrylic on canvas

Hoping to Escape Soon

Had snow flurries here in Bend twice last week and almost got myself stuck in the snow on a trip up into the mountains Monday, so am really hoping I can get out of here pretty soon before I am marooned here for the winter.

Completed the 5th round of chemo on September 27th and I guess the cumulative affect of all that poison in my system finally caught up to me. My oncologist said the goal in fighting this disease into remission is to get in between four and six rounds of chemo, so the fact that I managed five rounds before running into pain and leg weakness he felt was good enough. I now wait a few weeks for the drugs to get out of my system and then begin taking Revlimid for my maintenance therapy. I can’t lie, the side affects of this drug do scare me, but I guess I have little choice in the matter, will have to wait and see. So I will have to stay here a bit longer as the doc will start me off with as light a dose as possible and then monitor my response for a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I continue my attempts to figure out how to use these acrylics. The image at the top of the post took me a little longer to complete than I like but I ended up kind of pleased with the outcome. You can right click on the image to see a larger version since there is a lot of detail in this painting.

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September 14, 2017 Bend, Oregon

Sunrise, the Palouse, Washington (24" x 16" Acrylic on linen)
Sunrise, the Palouse, Washington (24″ x 16″ Acrylic on linen)

Still Just Killing Time in Bend

Yesterday was the start of Round Five of my chemo treatments, just one more round to go after this one and maybe I will be able to hit the road again by the end of October and head south for the desert, since Florida and the coast of Texas are now out. I had planned on returning to Rockport, Texas and Goose Island State Park, one of my favorite winter stays, where I  spend my time shooting Whooping Cranes and other birds, but I’m sure the hurricane has made this and  all of my favorite stops along the Texas coast ( such as the beach at Aransas Pass ) something I need to pass on this winter.

So, not sure where I may head but am sure I will eventually end up going back to the BLM areas around Yuma and then maybe on to Tucson, an area I have only visited once before and that was back before retiring, so I didn’t get to explore that area thoroughly.

Am continuing my attempts at acrylics and just finished the painting of the Palouse in spring, as seen from the top of Steptoe Butte. As you can see from the photo of that painting at the top of this post ( you can right click on it to see a larger version ), it didn’t come out too bad, every painting presents me with an opportunity to learn a bit more about these acrylics and this one was no exception. Am beginning to figure out how to blend a little better with these paints as there was a lot of blending to be done on this painting. One of the nice things about staying here at the Family Stay Area at Saint Charles Hospital is the free Wifi signal from the hospital. Not having to worry about my $10/GB Verizon signal, I have discovered  a ton of uTube videos on acrylic painting lessons, and, while most are not all that great, mostly because I am looking for realistic painting styles, there are several that have been quite helpful.

Having little else to do to combat boredom here, I am grateful to have resumed this intense interest in the challenge of learning how to master these acrylic paints. I have to stay here to have these continuing chemo treatments but the treatments themselves, including blood draw, oncologist visit, and infusion treatment for the one drug that is administered via injection, takes only about an hour and a half one day a week. That leaves me with most of the treatment day and all of the other six days to find something to do. Bend is a very nice little city with wonderful surrounding mountains to the west, but extensive forest fires have raged in the area all summer and smoke is everywhere, leaving me with what would have been a debilitating case of cabin fever if not for this resurrected interest in painting. It seems odd to not be out photographing birds and other wildlife after doing so almost every day for the past 4 plus years, but the only use my photo gear gets these days is to take a shot of my latest painting to post on this blog.

But it now does appear that I will be able resume travel, and wildlife photography sometime before winter, and for that I am grateful.

Myeloma Update

Not being able to come up with a “caregiver ” to assist me for a couple of weeks after the hospital stay for a bone marrow transplant has left me ineligible for that transplant procedure, the best hope for an extended period of remission for this relentless disease. However, my oncologist continues to insist that he has never been completely sure that a transplant would be best for me anyhow, saying I may have an equally decent chance of remaining in remission for at least a couple of years or more on a maintenance drug routine. With or without a transplant, this cancer always returns, it is just a matter of how long one can stay in remission and thus off the most powerful drugs ( that eventually take a toll on the body ) that gives you the best chance at a longer survival and a better quality of life living with the disease.

Every thing I read, and he agrees, at this time says that the transplant procedure is the first line of defense in terms of length of remission. However the procedure is no walk in the park and there are some, though still relatively small risks of complications that can be life threatening. Recovery from the transplant can take from a couple of months if you are are lucky, to as much as a year, it varies greatly from patient to patient. And often there are lingering problems from the procedure that never go away such as loss of taste or continuing  fatigue. He points out that some recent studies have shown that the difference in length of time in remission between transplant patients and those going on a maintenance drug regiment only is just a matter of nine months to a year. Since the procedure  essentially robs you of the first three to as much as twelve months of that first year of remission, some oncologists are beginning to lean towards no transplants for some patients, especially for those that have had a robust positive response to their initial drug therapy. And, of course, that is a category I happen to fit in.

After reviewing blood work test results, in yesterday’s conversations with him, my oncologist says he remains amazed at the continuing strong  positive results of this treatment plan. He says everything looks good and progress continues to be made in all realms to getting this thing into remission. He definitely plans to finish up this course of treatment after one final, sixth round and switch me over to an oral maintenance regimen, at which time I can leave the area and resume my travels. I will be required to have monthly blood tests at a hospital or medical facility wherever I happen to be, with the results emailed to him so he can monitor my progress and be able to make whatever changes to the regimen  that may be required. As long as I can be reached via email, he has no problem with my being off wandering anywhere and he will be able to keep up with me via email. He states that he would anticipate no new problems arising during the first two or maybe three years ( with no guarantees of course ) and that when new problems do arise, he says at current, there are eight or nine alternate drug cocktails that can be implemented to get the disease back under control.

But, and this he is most optimistic about, there are so many new, almost daily, updates on treatment and even possible cures for this cancer, that as long as a patient is able to remain alive, there are new ways of combating this coming down the pipeline, the most encouraging, being new T-cell therapy. So, of course, I had to go on the internet and Google T-cell therapy. The links below are a couple of results of this search, interesting reading if you have the desire to do so ( and it spares us from having me attempt to describe exactly what this is all about ),

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/research/car-t-cells

and

https://www.seattlecca.org/treatments/immunotherapy/immunotherapy-facts/t-cell-therapies

Guess that’s about it for now. Weather here has begun to moderate and turn toward cooler autumn temps, actually is quite comfortable today and is supposed to drop to forty degrees tonight, my kind of weather, still patchy smoke from the fires though.

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August 31, 2017 Bend, Oregon

"Teton Elk Skirmish" Acrylic on Canvas 18" x 24"
“Teton Elk Skirmish” Acrylic on Canvas 18″ x 24″

Sitting in the Smoke in Bend

Smoke from the fires around Bend have finally made the air a little nasty here in Bend. Daytime temperatures remain stubbornly in the 90’s week after week,  supposed to hit triple digits ( again with smoke ) this weekend, though thankfully temps do tend to drop to comfortable levels at night.

I continue to pass the time trying to figure how to paint with acrylics, as you can see from the image above. Still frustrating for me, I repainted the foreground in this painting about six times until finally settling for what you see.

Myeloma Update

Yesterday I had the final week of round four of my chemo treatments. Fortunately, still no nasty side effects to all these drugs and blood tests continue to show positive results. My trip last week to Portland’s Oregon Health and Science University Hospital for my transplant consult was a bit of a disappointment.

Traffic and access to the facility was a nightmare as I had been warned and the aged facility did nothing to inspire confidence. The myeloma specialist I had been assigned was young and had only been at the hospital two months, also doing little to build my confidence that this was the right place to be.  I also spoke with the nurse coordinating the transplant procedures.

However, although it appears I would be eligible for the transplant despite my age, it turns out I probably will not be able to be admitted for the procedure because of my lack of a ” caregiver ” to assist with the post procedure recovery period. The transplant leaves one in a very diminished, vulnerable physical   state, and after the procedure the patient stays in the hospital for the initial two weeks, then is released as long as they can stay close by the hospital and have a 24/7 “caregiver” to stay with them for another two to three week period until the patient is recovered and strong enough to take care of themselves. This person provides the recovering patient with transportation to and from appointments, does shopping and cooking as well as household chores and is on hand to contact the doctors if anything goes wrong during those first couple of weeks out of the hospital.

This “caregiver” is normally one’s significant other, not a professional, and my lack of such a person makes me ineligible for the procedure. Since I can travel and could have the transplant done anywhere, I checked out the “caregiver” requirements of other facilities and found that it appears to be a universal requirement. So far I have not been able to find any paid professional caregivers for hire and, even if I did, probably could not afford it since insurance doesn’t cover this type of expense. It appears my best opportunity for long term survival is probably going to go by the boards.

As it is, my oncologist is still kind of up in the air as to whether I should have a transplant or should just go on a maintenance drug regimen since I have responded so well to the chemo treatments to this point. He is consulting with a couple of myeloma specialists in Seattle to come up with a possible alternate program for me that would not involve the transplant procedure. Again, I have to just wait and see. I am now scheduled for two more rounds of chemo, moving my move out of Bend date to early November.

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July 30, 2017 Bend, Oregon

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

Balloons Over Bend Festival

Until I saw them coming my way during my daily walk around the hospital loop road, I was unaware that this weekend Bend was celebrating it’s annual Balloons Over Bend Hot Air Balloon Festival. Since recovering my energy several weeks ago, I make it a habit to walk the roughly one mile long perimeter loop road of the St. Charles Hospital every morning before the traffic rolls in, so I am out there around 6 or 7AM daily … and that, of course, just happens to be the same time that balloonists favor for their flights.

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

This morning, as I was just approaching home, I watched as the pilot of this balloon carefully set down on the paved parking lot amongst several tall street lamps, just across from where I am camped on the hospital’s loop road. As I walked by, the chase team arrived and as they were hauling out the protective tarp to collapse the balloon on, I hurried the short distance to the motorhome to grab my camera for some shots and managed to get this one of the balloon just as it was being deflated.

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

A little later, another balloon came along the same route, but this one continued on across the hospital campus to the north.

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

Two more balloons show up after coming over the top of Pilot Butte.

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

As you can see from the image above, the hospital camping area had a front row seat for the show this particular morning. Note the non-interested spectator ( Sam ) in the motorhome, keeping an eye on Dad, not terribly interested in the balloon activity.

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

 

Another Way to View Balloons Over Bend
Another Way to View Balloons Over Bend

There were others getting a very close, and I imagine, a very interesting perspective on the activities.

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

 

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

 

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

 

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

Another Completed Acrylic Painting

"Maine Harbor Reflections" 18'" x 18" Acrylic
“Maine Harbor Reflections” 18′” x 18″ Acrylic

This makes three completed paintings since I have been waiting out my treatment schedule. Learning a little bit more about these acrylic paints with each completed painting and may eventually get the hang of how to use them.

Nothing much new to report on the health front. Chemo continues and results are all going in the right direction. My oncologist has set up a referral for me to go to Portland and meet with the specialists who will do the transplant procedure ( if that is the way they recommend going ) sometime in the next week or so. He also wants their input on perhaps truncating my chemo regiment since I have had such a rapid positive response so far. This means I may get this over with a little sooner than originally expected.

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