Back Home Next

Frank Myers

 

Maine

1933 / Class of '94 / Type: IgG lambda / Died 2-00 (Andy Myers: famyers@kynd.com)

Subject: Allagash Trip (see picture below)

But first, a little bit about my Myeloma -- Dx in '94, now age 65, IgG lambda, now stage IIIa and healthy.

(That's the short version I use for my serum cocktail.)

When I say serum cocktail I'm referring to all sorts of confusion... cryo-monoclonal protein, both heavy and light chains, and suspected addition monoclonals for which we don't yet have names or good immunofixation tricks. I'm told that a complete molecular study might define them, but that it would require some serious research and time and money. I don't mind a bit of mystery anyway.

Curious... when I was first diagnosed, I'd had two strokes, I had infarcts on fingers and toes, and near-circumferential necrotic lesions on one leg from blood that got a bit chilly and turned to jell-o. In the hours before a got transferred to a bigger hospital to get the filtration job to deal with hyper-viscosity, I was given heparin or something similar and suffered a major retroperitoneal bleed that just about finished my trip. It took four units of packed RBC's and four units of saline to get me back on the gauges. That's a lot of fluid for a (then) 110 pound turnip. Now for the fun part... I haven't been hyperviscous since, and I think my body decided I needed a new batch of (better) blood, without waiting for the docs.

I'm sure that's more than you ever wanted to know. I just think it's kinda interesting.

At ten o'clock on the morning of May 19, 1998, my friend Jerry Stelmok and I drove around the sparkling blue waters of Moosehead Lake and began an eighty-mile trip north into the Maine Woods. Our destination was Allagash Lake, a pristine lake, not accessible by car, closed to motor boats and float planes. If you want to visit Allagash Lake, you walk, or use a canoe. There is no electricity, no telephone and the nearest convenience store is an inconvenient sixty miles away at Kokadjo.

Our plan was to leave the van at the point where a woods road comes the closest to Allagash Stream, carry our gear and Jerry's handmade twenty-foot cedar and canvas canoe to the stream,

paddle and pole our way downstream to the lake, then paddle three miles across the north end to a campsite near the outlet.

When I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma back in 1994, I was not a well person. I was in ICU, I had suffered two apparent strokes, my weight had gone below 110 pounds, and I had lost so much blood from a retroperitoneal bleed that my vital signs were rapidly disappearing. I survived that crisis, but from what I could learn, I thought I'd received a death sentence and might as well start giving away my worldly goods.

To suggest that I might be undertaking an adventure like this nearly four years later would have been totally unthinkable. Since then, I've gained enough weight to be visible from the side as well as the full front view and, except for four spinal compressions before getting started on Aredia (pamidronate), my health has steadily improved.

My friend Jerry is an author, artist, master canoe builder and, most important in this situation, an experienced outdoorsman. When he asked if I'd like to go with him to Allagash Lake, my first reaction was, "Are you kidding?"

"No, I'm not kidding. We can do it." Jerry was fully aware of my condition and had watched me progress from living in my recliner night and day, to being able to walk a few hundred feet, to my present limit of nearly a quarter mile without a rest. My bone density is only about half what it should be and my doctor has given me strict orders not to try leaping over tall buildings in a single bound.

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to make the trip and, a week later, we were on our way. We went through the checkpoint into private paper company land north of Greenville and then continued generally northward on a series of logging roads that got progressively narrower with each turn.

We went by Loon Lake and on to the last checkpoint at Caucomgomic Dam. From there to the place where we'd leave the van, we had to measure on our map and check the odometer constantly to track our progress, since few of the forks in the road had any signs to guide us.

We found the path from the single-track road down to Allagash Stream and spent four wonderful days on the lake. We saw young eagles playing in the air currents above the stream. We saw ducks skimming over the water, young moose browsing, and turtles sunning on logs along the shore. I saw violets blooming in cracks in giant glacier-chiseled granite ledges, only inches above the slapping waters of the lake. I heard the flute-like melodies of the loons at midnight and the whispering of the wind as it made it's way through the ancient pines above my tent.

I found that, if it was needed, I had the strength to help keep the bow of the canoe quartering into the wind and white-capping waves of a sudden squall. If I couldn't carry a heavy pack basket, I could fill my arms with lighter loads and, if I had to rest for a few minutes after each trip up from the beach to our camp, I rested. If I couldn't handle the chore of paddling across the cove to gather firewood, I could help saw the wood for the fire and I could keep the coffee pot going. We were on the lake for most of four days and saw only the ranger and one other person. The only reminder of another world was an occasional jet trail high overhead.

One of the finest moments of the trip happened on the way home. The road was narrow with grass growing between the tire tracks and along the side. Jerry spotted a woodcock in the road near what looked like a pile of moose droppings. He stopped and said, "Get out and move those chicks."

I found four little golden brown balls of fluff sitting there. Their mother was doing her best to distract me and lead me away by dragging a wing as though she were hurt. When I picked up the first chick, the others scooted to the edge of the road. I set the first one down in the grass and gave it a pat to send it on it's way before another vehicle came along with a less-attentive driver.

I've been home two days now. I have a sore back that may need a few extra pain pills and my shoulder muscles will probably complain for another day or two, but I made the trip and I did my share of what needed doing. I heard the flute songs at midnight and understood the message of the night wind in the pines.... "Each of us receives a life sentence with our first breath. It's up to us how we choose to live it."

==============

Frank died in February of 2000, from a complication of the Myeloma... Systemic Vasculitis. His spirit was strong, but his body could fight no longer. He fought the good fight and was at peace. 

Sundown

by Frank Myers, December, 1999

I have already many years. I have watched the golden dawn on Sun Mountain. I have seen a shimmering mirage at noon in the White Sands and I have seen the silvery traces of flying fish as they skimmed a moonlit sea..

I have lived, I have loved, and I have been loved. What more could anyone ask? When I face the end of this journey, don't fill my ears with false hope and empty promises, then set me adrift in an opiate sea. Let me be a witness to my own passing, lest I be condemned to wander endlessly in an earthbound fog, confused and mystified.

Instead, let me hear the words, "Father," or "Old friend," or "Dearest, your days have all been counted. We love you. Go in peace." 

 

Site 2000-2015 Dean Gallea (in loving memory of June Brazil)

Site 1996-1999 June Brazil - Webmaster:
(To email story contributor, see address at top of story)