“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” – Yogi Berra
I first wrote an introduction to my blog in April 2018. It is time I updated it. It will approximately be the same introduction, but with current information. A lot has happened since April 2018. I decided to take down the first introduction. Everything I wrote there is also included in the following.
I am Jeff and I am now 64 years old – the date today being end of March sometime, 2020. Five years ago, I fell ill with leukemia, which was diagnosed firmly on April Fool’s Day, 2015. I went through chemotherapy and then a stem cell transplant, which if successful can be a cure. For three years, that seemed to be the case. I did well – at the top of the curve well – and went on my first Long Walk, the Coast-to-Coast Walk in England, in spring of 2018. That went well and a daily account can be found on this blog site (there is a link to all posts in my short bio at the bottom of the blog pages).
About four months after this walk my leukemia came back. I was in England again, visiting my daughter at university, when it hit – though it was probably sneaking up on me for several months. First, I checked into a hospital in England trying to clear up a lung infection, the initial outward sign of the relapse. When the infection improved enough, I was released and headed immediately to Zurich, Switzerland, where I was treated the first time. They confirmed the leukemia. Again, I underwent chemotherapy and the doctors, fortunately, decided that my condition was good enough for a second stem cell transplant. That took place in late January 2019. So far, it is again going well. I hope it stays that way this time. That I relate in detail the course of my leukemia at the top of this bio shows that I consider it a dominant and defining experience in my life. I don’t think that will ever change now.
It also altered my appearance. I now keep my hair quite short, in a kind of buzz cut, and I have grown a short gray beard. This is the result of what happened after one of my chemo rounds during the first bout of the illness. My hair had fallen out from the chemotherapy, but, before my next round began, my beard started growing in much faster than the hair on my head. My kids thought that I looked a little like Walter White on “Breaking Bad,” and suggested that I keep the look, so I did. I wear caps a lot, because I am not really allowed to take much direct sun on my head, due to lingering effects of chemotherapy. Too much sun causes ultraviolet damage to the skin, but that is the case for everyone, really.
On my head, in the picture above, is my favorite cap. It says “Alaska – World Class, Kenai River.” About 14 years ago, I worked for a summer on a commercial salmon-fishing “set-netting” crew in Clam Gulch, Alaska, together with another great long-time friend, Tim. Our salmon were specifically heading for the Kenai River. The Alaskan Department of Fish and Game stops the fishing for periods, in order to do fish counts, which allow enough salmon to swim upstream to spawn and maintain fish populations. We caught mainly Sock-eye salmon, plus some “Pinks”, and an occasional monster King. You can see a picture of me with a King salmon in the photo below – it is about 70 lbs. I bought my favorite cap that summer, and it is on my head in the photo in Alaska. I also named my dog, Kenai, when we got him. He is also in two photos below. I found out later that I was not so original with the name – the bear in Disney’s movie “Brother Bear” is also named Kenai.
Kenai was my main physical fitness trainer after my first stem cell transplant. He got me out walking every day. He is a high-energy Australian Shepherd, with a bit of something else mixed in. Unhappily, Kenai is in Switzerland now, and I am in the US. Our separation is a sad story. I miss him terribly. My exercising after this second illness round needs to be self motivated. I find that I am not as good a physical fitness trainer as Kenai.
By way of further introducing myself, I was born in Detroit, Michigan, sometime in the mid last century. I have two young adult children, a young man and a young woman. They are now both out in the world, working on university degrees, my daughter in England and my son in The Netherlands.
Professionally, I would never have imagined it as a kid, but I became a banker and remained one for 30 years. Pursuing my banking career, I ended up living and working in New York, Frankfurt, London and Zurich. My work had the benefit of taking me all around the world. I have conducted business on every continent, except Antarctica. My last employer was a small specialized bank in Switzerland, which was gradually closed down by its private owners following the 2008 financial crisis. After helping to close the bank down and putting myself, at the same time, out of a job, I did some consulting and was looking for a new permanent position. This was when my leukemia illness struck. I am currently in an unplanned early retirement, from which I am unsure if I will emerge again. However, I have the opportunity now to take long walks, so that is exactly what I am going to do.
After over 35 years away, I returned to Michigan in 2017. I moved back to Michigan from Switzerland, after my marriage ended and after my illness – the two events were in a way related. These past years have been challenging, but there is a silver lining. I can plan now to do some things that I would otherwise not have been able to do. Taking long walks is part of that silver lining.