Manhattan Tales: A Trip To The Wilderness
Published: Jan 12, 2012 1:33 pm
In the summer of 2009, six months before being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, my wife and I toured the Crater Lake area in Oregon by bicycle.
The group we were in was small — only four bikers — as a third couple had bailed at the last minute, and we were in (hopefully) the deepest part of the Great Recession.
On the last morning of the week-long trip, we began a 45-mile descent to our luncheon spot. We were biking on isolated two-lane back roads, hemmed in by green forests. Forestfires had been reported which restricted traffic to bikers and firefighters. The wildlife, though, apparently hadn’t gotten the message.
Some 15 miles from our destination, as I was intensely concentrating on the downhill road and making sure I wasn’t going too fast (my personal limit was 30 mph). The peace was broken when a huge, 350- to 400-pound bear crashed out on the right side of the forest and raced diagonally across the road and passed no more than 10 yards in front of me.
Dirt, straw, leaves, and a pungent zoo smell followed him. He sprinted into the forest on the other side of the road without a glance. Something had clearly startled him to cause him to plunge across the road at what seemed an unbelievably fast speed to me.
To say I was stunned is, of course, an understatement. I don’t really comprehend how I didn’t fall off the bike. I looked over my shoulder and saw that a beautifully decorated Native American firefighter truck was just about to pass me on the left. The driver and I exchanged a brief glance. Perhaps he was as startled to see me as I was to see the bear.
As one of my fellow bikers said later, if I had hit the bear (or he hit me) it certainly would not have been pretty. The headline certainly would not have read “Bear Felled by New York City Tourist.” I met up with the rest of the group 30 minutes later at a roadblock, where I learned that yes, indeed, bears had been sighted in the area. It was a great story to regale to my friends when the trip was over!
I’m not superstitious by nature. Nevertheless, when ruminating six months later with a multiple myeloma diagnosis, it was tough not to take the near miss with the bear as a sign.
I’ve had several additional risky encounters over the last two years, but these I attribute to the insidious side effects of steroids, and not to wildlife. Life is indeed full of hidden dangers.
When I started to take the medicines for multiple myeloma two years ago, the nurse practitioners and my doctor discussed at length the possible physical side effects.
I remember being told that pianists, violinists, and other musicians might want to stop Velcade (bortezomib) at the first sign of peripheral neuropathy in their hands – tingling, burning or numbness — but with any luck my cocktail of Revlimid (lenalidomide), Velcade, and dexamethasone (Decadron) would not pose any major hurdles.
I did the required reading and felt that I could certainly manage these risks. I’d be on the lookout for leg swelling, stomach problems, and all the other issues listed on the inserts in the packaging. After recovering from the bout of pneumonia that led to the diagnosis, I felt optimistic.
I plunged into the chemotherapy regimen and went back to being a legal counselor to the New York City Buildings Commissioner.
A lot of surprises awaited me, some as startling as the bear.