My uncle...

My uncle passed away this morning. I am amazed by the speed at which his body failed him. The past week has been dominated by an extreme sense of helplessness and sadness. Friday

Uncle diagnosed with leukemia. Doctors think it is AML (acute myeloid leukemia). Scheduled for Monday hospital visit for bone marrow test. Treatment schedule is planned.

Monday morning

My uncle is rushed to the emergency room before his appointment.

Tuesday morning

Message from my cousin:

The bone marrow results came back; he has AML - M4, which is actually different than M3, or APL, as originally assumed. Also, things aren't looking so great in Dad's brain. He has six chloromas, or what the neurologist says are basically white blood cell "tumor" blockages in his brain. As a result, he has difficulty completing tasks (especially those that involve the left side of his body) and understanding us sometimes. It is yet to be determined if they will get better.

On the bright side, when he recognizes us, he is happy to see us. He still jokes ....

Wednesday

Message from my mom:

JH's situation is worse than yesterday. He does not respond when talking to him and can not squeeze fingers to respond. The nurse told me it is the specific genetic marker which causes this critical situation.

Thursday morning (today)

My uncle passes away.

I am having a hard time understanding how this could have happened so quickly. A (much older) friend told me today that his sister had passed away at the table during lunch a few months ago with no warning whatsoever. I'm not sure if he was trying to make me feel better, or just share a similar story... or perhaps express that this sort of thing happens, and you have to deal with it.

My uncle was still relatively young. He was the youngest of my mother's siblings, and I always imagined him as being like a bull -- muscle-bound, healthy, strong.

When I got the call from my sister, I was standing on a cliff overlooking a big NW swell in Waimea Bay. We were just starting our shooting session for the morning, and I was surrounded by people. In between chatting with friends and new acquaintances, I had moments of extreme sadness. The overwhelming feeling of helplessness I referred to above was further enhanced by what I was seeing below: the unstoppable power of the ocean dotted by tiny humans trying to harness its energy.

More fragility: I am staying with a friend here who suffers from extreme sleep apnea. When he is awake, he is strong, sarcastic, a little bit unstable, and extremely funny. But at the moment, he is napping on a futon in the same room as me, and he stops breathing after every 3rd or 4th breath. I can see his body twitch and spasm as it tries to force him to breathe, and just when I think he may never take another breath, he takes in a few large breaths of air with loud, prolonged snorts.

I continue to be bipolar today, with ups and downs varying by the minute.

I continue to distract myself by doing work that never ends.