8/18/15

pomalidomide (cycles seven & eight)

I was in to see my hematologist today for a regular visit. The good news is that the addition of cyclophosphamide to my treatment (in addition to dexamethasone and pomalidomide) has resulted in a significant reduction in my free light chains over the past two months. In June the free light chains were at 225, in July at 111 and this month at 80. We have been aiming at getting the number below 100 so this is very good news. It means continuing with the three drugs for the foreseeable future. Since the main side effects of this treatment come from the weekly dose of dexamethasone my doctor suggested that I try taking a half dose. I am hoping that this, along with more exercise and watching my diet, can help me cope with weight gain related to the dex. It is not guaranteed that I will experience a lessening of the side effects but it is worth a try. In any case, it is good to know that living with side effects of the medications is worth it ... that the drugs are having the intended effect on the myeloma and amyloidosis.

6/26/15

looking back, looking ahead

Thirty-five years after my ordination as a Minister of Word, Sacrament and Pastoral care in the United Church of Canada I have come to the end of active ministry ... in other words, I have retired. It is hard to imagine Saturday nights without anxiety about the sermon and Sunday mornings without the responsibility and privilege and joy of presiding. When I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and amyloidosis four years ago I feared that illness might prevent me from departing from ministry on my own terms. Now, twenty years after arriving at University Hill Congregation, it is the right time to stop and to begin a new life on the other side of congregational ministry.

6/22/15

to the other side

June 21 was my final Sunday at University Hill Congregation after twenty years as its Congregational Minister. Thirty-five years after my ordination I am retiring from full-time congregational ministry. Here are the notes for the sermon I preached on this occasion (video of the the service and sermon will be available online shortly) ...

Mark 4:35-41

Today we find ourselves at the end of twenty years together. For me it is the final Sunday in the pulpit and at the table thirty-five years after ordination. How appropriate that the lectionary brings us to this miraculous story on the sea … a story that has functioned as a root gospel narrative for the church. When memory fades, when communal amnesia takes hold and we forget the gospel we can return here, to the story of the stilling of the storm.

pomalidomide (cycle six)

I am concluding of my sixth month on pomalidomide along with dexamethasone and more recently also with cyclophosphamide. My latest blood results reveal that the treatment is holding my free light chain count steady (currently at 225). The flu-like symptoms (soreness & fatigue) I had been experiencing have recently faded and are less bothersome. I am hoping it stays this way! All things considered, the news is good as I head into retirement.

5/26/15

pomalidomide (cycle five)

This week I am completing the fifth twenty-eight day cycle on pomalidomide and dexamethasone. In the middle of the month I had my regular blood work which showed that the free light chains had dropped for the first time in a few cycles. They are now at 214. While this is good news the number is still higher than my hematologist  would like in order to lower the risk of organ damage due to amyloidosis. He advises that we add cyclophosphamide to the treatment. This is in pill form, taken once weekly. I will receive a low dose and should not experience any additional side effects. I received cyclophosphamide for six months while being treated with bortezomib (Velcade) in the fall of 2013. The hope is that this will increase the effectiveness of the pomalidomide (Pomalyst) and dexamethasone. By the way, pomalidomide is now being funded by the BC government's cancer agency. Good news! In my case, I will continue to receive it through the compassionate access program of its manufacturer, Celgene.

5/7/15

following with humility

Recently I was asked to participate in a series of online videos being produced by the British Columbia Conference of the United Church of Canada. They are short (75 second) conversation starters about leadership in the church, part of a larger initiative in the Conference called "Leadershift." To date five videos have been produced, including this one in which I speak about the place of following in the life of a leader - Following with Humility.

4/30/15

philip & the ethiopian eunuch

Here is a sermon I preached fifteen years ago (May 21, 2000) at University Hill Congregation on the texts in the Ecumenical Common Lectionary for this coming Sunday, May 3 - Acts 8:26-40 & John 15:1-8.

The Bible is a familiar book in this place. We’ve been reading it together for a lifetime and
longer. Yet, as the folks in our ‘Disciple Bible Study’ have been discovering this past year, the
Bible is full of forgotten surprise. Take this morning, for example. We find ourselves deep into
this season’s Eastertide readings from the Acts of the Apostles where we come upon a peculiar
little story ... the story of ‘Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch’. This is a little known and often
ignored passage. Not one that was talked of often in the Sunday School classes of my youth. I
suppose that the teachers must have feared the inevitable question: “What’s a eunuch?”.
Nonetheless, I have come to believe this week that there may be no more important story for
our congregation to consider at this time in our life. So this morning there are no hidden
agendas ... all of the preacher’s cards are on the table right from the beginning. Simply put, my
intention is to convince you that Acts chapter four, verses twenty-six through forty is not some
odd, inconsequential ancient story but is, in truth, God’s living, breathing Word here and now.