return to treatments & some surprising news

It is update time. Last week I began my second set of eight five week cycles on Velcade (bortezomib) and dexamethasone. I am back in familiar surroundings, with a familiar nursing and staff team on the medical short stay unit at St. Paul's Hospital (8th floor). Yesterday was the second of four treatments in the first five week cycle. There is a new protocol in place on the unit to speed up the process of checking in, ordering the medication from the pharmacy, awaiting its arrival and then undergoing the injections. Yesterday I arrived at 8 am and was heading off to work at 9 am. It still seems a bit of  a wait for a two minute procedure but it is definitely an improvement. It is a peaceful interlude in the week as I rest in bed and enjoy the view of Vancouver's downtown and the north shore mountains, often chatting with other patients in the room who are also receiving treatment for one form of blood cancer or another. As during my first round of treatments, the main side effects are caused by the dexamethasone - namely, high energy and sleeplessness for a couple of days followed by fatigue for a couple days. With a three month interlude off of treatment I had almost forgotten what this feels like. It is a minor side effect relative to the effectiveness of the drugs. Still, it alters my week and reminds me that I am living a new normal.

Yesterday I received the most recent results of the blood test for protein free light chains (the bad guys we're trying to control to prevent damage from amyloidosis as well as multiple myeloma). The previous round of treatments with Velcade had reduced this down below 100 (my doctor's goal) getting all the way to 45 (with a reading in the normal range being between 3 and 19). When this was checked following my first five weeks after ending the initial forty week treatment on Velcade the kappa free light chains had already risen from 45 to 153. This, along with my allergic reaction to Revlimid (lenalidomide), is the reason that Velcade was approved for funding again. Yesterday's result - two months after the previous one - is 170. This is encouraging. Based on previous experience when not receiving treatment I was expecting the number to have continued to increase at a faster rate and to have been in the range of 250 or higher. Now we will wait to see how well the Velcade and dexamethesone works the second time around. I will receive my next free light chain results in thirty-five days and will hope that they will be on the way back down.

On Monday this week I received the news that a piece I had written about being diagnosed with myeloma had been awarded first place in the theological reflection category of the 2013 Canadian Church Press Awards. I didn't realize that the editor of Mandate had nominated it and so was surprised and delighted to learn of the award. The article is posted at in the wilderness. One of the blessings of life on the other side of a cancer diagnosis has been the opportunity to write about what life on this side of such news is like. More than that, listening for and sharing the good news of the gospel from this location is, for me, a life-giving experience. I take the judge's comments about the article as an affirmation of the kind of life we, as a church and as a family, are seeking to live in the face of the adversity before us. Thank-you for your part in accompanying me in this wilderness. I pray for the same for anyone coping with a similar diagnosis. Here are the judge's words:

“This is a very strong and passionate article. It tells of one person’s and one congregation’s struggle to come to terms with an incurable condition. It tells also of the strong support that is possible for a congregation to demonstrate in a time of crisis. It is a lesson in how to handle this and other matters: calmly, prayerfully, openly and in consultation with others. Especially strong is the comparison of cancer with the wilderness journey. This is a very strong article about a man who has both given and received much help from his particular church family.”


  1. God bless you, my online friend. What a journey you're on and only God knows where it will lead. Your 'new normal' is a lesson for all of us who read this not to take our current normal or the future for granted! Surrender to the future that is in our Savior's hands is the only way. you are teaching so many people through your example and experience!

    1. Thanks for your encouraging words, Virginia.