An Expression of Appreciation and Some Other Thoughts

I would like to thank all of those individuals that have communicated their prayers and expressions of concern to me. It is very true that I have been blessed by God, and the power of positive thinking. There is no doubt in my mind that the power of collective prayer and the expressions of concern and hope create an energy that is an impalpable force that can be experienced and is effective. As I continue to live my life, I would like to ask that my friends, family and acquaintances continue to pray and express your hopes for me.

Battling multiple myeloma is a strange struggle. Often, there are few outward signs that a person is afflicted with this terminal disease. In my own situation, I have been fortunate to be able to walk, bend and move fairly well, given that the disease destroyed a vertebra and necessitated eleven levels of fusion in my spine and, consequently caused my heart to stop beating. Certainly, I am alive, feel very well, but am somewhat shorter than I used to be. I incline my head more than I used to do. Even so, I can walk several city blocks without a cane. I will win no foot races, but that is of no matter. I concentrate on maintaining good balance in my movements and am careful when people are moving around me. Motorcycle riding is fondly remembered and relegated to my past, but I can still drive my little red Corvette. The signs of the disease are few and I seem to manage them pretty well. But, as the cancer is carried in the blood, Multiple Myeloma is a stealthy disease and often presents tumors in soft tissue and in bones of the body.

As there is no cure today, remission of the disease is the goal of treatment. An individual may have many years of progression-free remission depending upon the type of myeloma and the success of treatment strategies. I have a type of multiple myeloma that is resistant to chemotherapy and which necessitated a stem cell transplant. Stem cell transplants are done after an individual’s bone marrow is clinically destroyed in order to eradicate as much of the cancer cells as possible. An individual’s previously harvested and stored stem cells are transplanted back into the body where they rapidly repopulate the bone marrow. My procedure was performed April 3, 2013 at Emory University. This was a new birthday for me, as my body was given what amounted to a good scrubbing and I received the gift of a new immune system. As cancer cells still linger in the system post-transplant, patients must undergo a maintenance regimen. That takes me up to the present day.

I am in my third two week cycle of Pomalyst, a newly released chemotherapy in the same family of thalidomide and Revlimid that has lowered the paraprotein level or m-spike in my blood. It also happens to cost $10,000 dollars for the twenty-one capsules in one of the cycles, a little tidbit that Mary served me yesterday at Winship. Mary is careful about what she shares with me from such publications as The Myeloma Beacon. She knows that I am like an individual with a substance abuse problem when it comes to researching and reading about the disease. It may sound paradoxical for a man who loves learning and writes a blog (sporadically), but I must steer clear of reading about the disease and reading about the experiences of those suffering from multiple myeloma. I tend to overdose on the topic and it does no good for my emotional well-being.

The paraprotein level or m-spike is the degree of cancer cells still in my body. Prior to my stem cell transplant, after over a year of conventional radiation therapy and cutting-edge chemotherapy, my paraprotein or m- spike level had smoldered and had not rapidly climbed, but it had resisted eradication. Before the transplant, my m-spike was at 6.0. As of October 1, 2013 it had fallen to 1.0. My oncologist in Alpharetta is a superb doctor and trained at Emory with my Winship oncologist. When a stem cell transplant was necessitated, my treatment was handed over to Emory to the training colleague. The two have worked in conjunction with one another. My oncologist at Emory’s Winship Clinic is heading my treatment at this point. He is at the top of his field and has international renown. He wants the level to be ZERO. As he has explained to me, there are two camps of oncologists in the treatment of Multiple Myeloma which amount to Hawks and Doves. World famous medical institutions align themselves with the philosophies of these two camps. Winship Clinic oncologists are the hawks. And for that, I am glad. I continue in maintenance with close monitoring and on a short leash with regard to whether a second or tandem stem cell transplant will be scheduled in the future. In an e-mail to me last night, my doctor said that he has taken the tandem stem cell transplant off the table at present. I hope that my paraprotein level will continue to move toward ZERO.

Although MM has no cure, remission can last for several years. Excellent medical care and the tremendous support of Mary Donley Green and our sons, Evan and Will Green, has helped my struggle with the disease become such an important life lesson for me. None of us can know the details of our future, whether we will have several years or few, but I know that I will endeavor to live life to the fullest of my abilities. Thank you for your support. Undergirded by my belief in a higher power in the universe, it strengthens me.

Michael P. Green
October 2, 2013

20131002-080733.jpg

Mike and Mary Green Portraits

In 2009 the Carmel PTA marked my retirement as principal of Carmel Elementary School with a reception and unveiling of the oil portrait that hangs in the school. As the first principal of the new school that opened in 2000, I was honored that they wanted to commemorate me and sat for the portrait painted by Shane McDonald of Shane McDonald Studios in Marietta, Georgia. Because having a portrait painted is such a once-in-lifetime sort of thing, Mary and I decided to have him do a large version that hangs in our home. That was in 2009. I always intended to have Shane paint a companion portrait of Mary. The years rolled by and…no portrait of Mary. Life kind of got busy and interesting along the way.

The unfinished business of having Mary’s likeness painted nagged at me. After much cajoling, I finally convinced her to sit for Shane in the spring of 2013. I did not know until recently that Mary had fallen in love with the White House portrait of First Lady Grace Goodhue Coolidge. She had first seen the portrait at the age of eight when she visited the White House with her parents, Sara and Dave Donley in 1961. She remembers that she was struck with the beautiful white borzoi of the Coolidges that was posed in the portrait with the elegant Mrs. Coolidge. Mary agreed to sit for her portrait if Brody Green, our English Bulldog, would co-star in the portrait.

Four years later, the new portrait will be joining our household. Mary, Will and I enjoyed a visit to Shane McDonald’s studio to view the portrait, see framing ideas and give final approval. I think that it captures Mary and Brody beautifully. Shane has done a marvelous job with the portrait. We hope Brody approves.

I include below the 1924 portrait of Grace Goodhue Coolidge that Mary remembered from a day or two ago at the White House. It was painted by Howard Chandler Christy and includes Rob Roy, the Borzoi. I believe that it hangs in the Red Room. Mary and I checked it and reviewed it with Shane before they sat for him. I include a photograph of Shane McDonald signing Mary’s portrait in oil in his studio below. The portrait of me by Shane McDonald is below as well.

20130913-164004.jpg

20130913-164016.jpg

20130913-164026.jpg

Whistler’s Mother

Whistler’s Mother
Michael Green

The following is transcribed from a Facebook Chat, August 4, 2013. Nancy Liddell Simpson and I are first cousins. Nancy sent me a chat message while I was enjoying a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast. Little did she know that she would inspire some blogging.

Nancy: Hey cuz!!! I think I am losing my mind…need your help! Was it the Mona Lisa or Whistler’s Mother that your parents took us to see in Atlanta (when we were children)? Please tell me that I didn’t dream this? LOL!!!!

Mike: Hey Nancy! Good morning! It was Whistler’s Mother at The High Museum.
Good memory…and glad you remembered it! No mind loss…LOL

Nancy: Thanks!!!!! It is something so significant that happened in my life…that’s why I wanted to get it right. I hate it when I doubt myself…so I ask questions. I remember standing there thinking how lucky I was to be seeing such a piece of history. I remember being in awe. Thanks Charlotte and Bill (Mike’s parents)!

Mike: I think about it, as well, Nancy. I don’t imagine that there were many of our friends and relatives that got to do that. Kind of unusual at that time… Didn’t MawMaw Liddell go on that trip, too?

Mike: “Whistler’s Mother” is the common name for the painting. The real name is Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 and it is part of the permanent collection at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, France. When Will was in Paris, I had hoped that he would get to that museum and see it, but he did not have enough time. If I remember correctly, it is huge! I don’t think that it tours very often, so we participated in a rare event. You are right, I really have to appreciate that my parents went the extra mile. I was blessed.

Nancy: I knew the Mona Lisa had another name; I was just about to Google Whistler’s Mother and see what it was and also where it was housed. Thanks!!! I do remember it being big…but I didn’t know if that was just because we were little and it just seemed that way. LOL!!! What a great thing to have done in our life! I have some culture and didn’t even know it!!! LOL!!!

Mike: I thought the same thing about being little myself, so I am going to Google it and check size. (Pause) It is 4’9″X5’4″

Mike: 😊 I really appreciate your bringing this up. Do you remember if MawMaw Liddell went with us?

Mike: BTW, I just had an idea to blog this and I wanted your permission to use our conversation and your picture to use. I will post in FB. OK?

Nancy: I would be honored!!!

Mike: It was the Fall of 1962. I think it has had two or three other US trips. It is called “an American icon” and the American “Mona Lisa.”

Nancy: I can’t remember MawMaw being with us…but that doesn’t mean anything…LOL!!! I don’t think I went to see “The Three Lives of Thomasina” at the Fox (I had asked if she went on a movie outing when we were children). Maybe it was Beverly’s (another cousin) turn to do something with you. LOL! Funny, I was just going to ask you if you knew what year!! Gonna check back with you when I get back from church. Have a great Sunday! Love you SOOOOOO MUCH!!

The Facebook chat ended at this point, but my research did not. The following is more information about Whistler and the art exhibition those several years ago.

Whistler was annoyed with critics who called his painting, a portrait. In his 1890 book The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, he wrote:

“Take the picture of my mother, exhibited at the Royal Academy as an ‘Arrangement in Grey and Black.’ Now that is what it is. To me it is interesting as a picture of my mother; but what can or ought the public do to care about the identity of the portrait.”

In 1934 the U.S. Post office issued a stamp engraved with a stylized image of “Whistler’s Mother,” accompanied by the slogan “In Memory and In Honor of the Mothers of America.”

An 8-ft statue based on the painting was erected in 1938 in Ashland, Pennsylvania honoring mothers. Images of the painting have appeared in advertisements. Images of the subject have been shown watching a television. One advertisement had a slogan, “Whistler’s Mother is Off Her Rocker.”

The painting is now displayed at The Musee’ d’Orsay in Paris.

106 Atlanta arts patrons died in an airplane crash at Orly Airport in Paris, France on June 3, 1962. They were on a trip sponsored by the High Museum of Art. 130 people were killed in that horrible crash. Many prominent Atlantans were killed. The Atlanta arts patrons had viewed “Whistler’s Mother” at the Louvre. The Louvre, as a gesture of good will to the people of Atlanta, sent “Whistler’s Mother” to Atlanta to be exhibited at the High Museum of Art that fall.

Mike Green and Nancy Liddell Simpson were two youngsters in the crowd that Fall of 1962.

August 4, 2013

Pictured below are photographs of Whistler’s painting and the U.S. stamp honoring mothers. Also pictured are my cousin Nancy and myself. The author trusts that the reader can discern which is which.

20130804-134843.jpg

20130804-134901.jpg

20130804-140334.jpg

20130804-140357.jpg

One Hundred Days

July 31, 2013

Mary and I met with my Winship Clinic Oncologist yesterday at Emory University. This appointment was a very important one in my treatment because it provided the opportunity for us to do some thinking and decision-making based on his evaluation of the data from my recent bone marrow biopsy and monthly blood analyses in the one hundred days since my stem cell transplant.

Major points discussed were: kidney and liver function in normal range, protein level in the blood (M spike) is now 1.19 which is down from 6 in January – this is a seventy-eight percent reduction in protein. Protein in the blood is a key tag in assessing cancer in the system. My doctor was looking for a ninety percent reduction from the transplant. The bone marrow data revealed that there was five percent myeloma in the sample as opposed to thirty percent myeloma in February 2013. Overall, my body’s response to the bone marrow transplant was good, but there is still some residual disease. This is common in successful transplants. Further action is often needed to achieve the goal of 100 percent remission.

Three options were presented for further treatment:
1. Initiate a maintenance regimen of Revlimid
2. Begin melphalan chemotherapy and undergo a tandem or second transplant – The data supports a second transplant – there are plenty of my harvested stem cells available in storage at Emory University Hospital. Tandem stem cell transplants are almost always done at the University of Arkansas Myeloma Institute and sometimes at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory.
3. Initiate a maintenance regimen of Pomalidomide, newer version of Revlimid, which is used for resistant cases of multiple myeloma.

We made the decision to start Pomalidomide therapy as soon as possible. My Winship Clinic oncologist will monitor my regular lab results closely. If he does not get the desired response within a month or two, he will proceed to perform a second stem cell transplant. I am guessing that this would be conducted in October. My doctor says that he will keep me on “a tight leash with this option.” The goal is CR – complete remission.

As is my habit, I offer a final word or two. First, I am indeed blessed that the results of the stem cell transplant conducted in April 2013 were successful and good. Second, I am glad that I have two excellent oncologists working together on the treatment of my multiple myeloma. One is my “home” oncologist in Alpharetta and the other is my Winship Clinic oncologist at Emory University Hospital. Interestingly, both are friends from their training days at Emory. They are gifted in their field and are keen on data. My Winship Clinic oncologist settles for nothing less than success and is driven by it as he maintains his reputation in the field on a national level. When he says CR, he means to have it, if he has the likelihood of achieving it. That appeals to me; that is the way that I measure my own success!

So, maintenance with “Pom” begins soon and close monitoring follows. If the data shows CR, then excellent and “Shout hallelujah! Praise God!” If not, then a stem cell transplant will be scheduled. As the data shows excellent results from a tandem transplant, then so be it. I know that a stem cell transplant is no “walk in the park,” but I can do it. I am thankful.

July 31 is the two year anniversary of my diagnosis of multiple myeloma.

Mike Green
July 31, 2013

20130731-112939.jpg

June Ramblings

June 3, 2013

School’s out for summer! Having had a career in education for thirty-two years, I can identify with the excitement on the part of teachers, students and parents. Although the summers are not as long as they used to be for those who work in education, it is still a time to recharge the batteries.

Families are already standing in lines at Disney resorts, staking claim to their slices of beach, or packing kids off to summer camps. My father is readying his travel camper for some short trips. Folks are pursuing hobbies and enjoying leisure pastimes.

In years past, I would often teach a few weeks of summer school for “project money.” Mary would teach summer school for the same reason. After we became school administrators, we really could not devote the fewer free weeks to teaching summer sessions. Summer was always a big time for my garden projects. These varied from maintenance jobs in the yard to extension projects: a new garden room or upgrading turf to sodded hybrid Bermuda.

In July 2011, I completed my last garden, The Serenity Garden. It is almost a secret garden (some of the plantings are close to enclosing the space). This year it looks to be maturing nicely. Now, the heavy-duty jobs have to be contracted out to landscape workers. We all have some jobs that we can handle. I am able to use a hand-held gas blower in my small jobs. In years past, I used a backpack blower. I tend to point more, instead of bending over to do a job. I tend to give directions or reminders of landscape jobs that a paid worker can do. Finally, Mary weeds and prunes more than she has done in earlier years. Thanks, Mary!

My restraint in doing gardening chores has increased for my own self-preservation. This new normal has not been especially easy for me, but I am proud that our standard for gardening has suffered little. Thank you, Mary, for being such a great gardener. Will and Evan help whenever a job needs doing, as well.

Blooming now: lace-cap hydrangeas (blue and pink)oleanders, ligustrum, roses, eight-o-clocks, Stella d’oro daylillies, ice-plant, oak-leaf hydrangeas, magnolias and very soon, Yuccas. The yuccas bloom every two years, so their blooms will be an event this year.

Gardening has always been a passion of mine. It remains so still.

Mike Green

The yuccas are pictured in bud. Flowering pics will come soon.
The Liddell heirloom rose was just prolific with beautiful shell-pink blooms.

20130603-160024.jpg

20130603-160044.jpg

20130603-160118.jpg

Looking at the Last Two Days

May 1, 2013

It was Monday, April 29, 2013, that I began to believe that I might actually start to feel differently: better.

The engraftment period of the Bone Marrow Transplant started working right after the transplant period, but I did not “feel good.” In fact, it felt like there were only going to be weeks of diarrhea, no appetite, nausea , negative thinking and weight loss. The inevitable question for the patient undergoing such treatment is: is the treatment really worth all of the almost intolerable side-effects? The debilitation starts to get the most positive thinking low, down, and dirty. When that happens, rather than see people, talk to them, communicate through social media, or simply read, I isolated and hoped that I could get through the days without alienating family or friends. Prayer and positive energy from others helps counteract the excess of all the negatives. You play a waiting game of “when?”

Reassurances from professionals help somewhat, but the dark days don’t just stop.

Or, do they? I told Mary that I had a better BM Monday. Too much information? Sorry, but it is huge to people in my situation who live on Boost for many weeks. One becomes adept at describing bowel activity. Ever had a nice iced chocolate Boost for three meals a day? Or smelled horrid phantom, hospital turnip greens when you were miles away from the offending greens? I am sure that most cannot grasp the disgust that enters the heart of a BMT Patient who smells from afar the awful, prohibited reek of popped and burnt microwave popcorn. Many of you will have no trouble picturing this BMT patient personally tracking down a “civilian” offender near his hospital room? I restrained myself and directed the problem to a nurse, though. That was all for the best, I know. But, I was more than ready to offer up some “commentary” to the individual. Though signs are posted, some cannot or will not read warnings about how food smells affect the patients. My appetite began to pick up, due to great degree by Mary’s monitoring of my GI functioning. My appointment Tuesday at Winship Clinic and Emory Hospital made for a great and eventful day because I had the tri-fusion line that had allowed infusions and transfusions directly into my heart removed. Mary would have no more dealing with three large lines hanging out of my right pectoral muscle. She became proficient in several at-home nursing procedures. Health care pros have heaped much praise on Mary’s abilities. I stand in awe of my Mary! Possessing tremendous patience and excellent nursing skills that helped me survive are two qualities that Mary demonstrated often. My physical strength has been letting me know that I can improve. Motivation to read, the action of deadheading a rose, and the growing desire to do an occasional job in or around the house are cues to me that I am improving. The actions and functions that come back are blessings that appear as a warm, clearing sky that inspires me after weeks of misty, cold weather that cast an impenetrable gloom during the early days of my recovery.

The dark days of recovery are passing more quickly. God gives us the ability to recognize even the smallest signs of hope and recovery if we work at doing so, even if we are very down. There were many days when my mouth and throat were in a battle with sores and swallowing was a chore. Those days are reduced to brief memories today.

God has put people in my orbit who have touched my life and recovery throughout my health crisis. He has continued to do so this week. The staff at Winship says numbers are looking normal for my blood chemistry. Individuals have blessed me with comments to one of my feeling bad blogs. Thank you, friends and family, healthcare professionals, and my fellow patients when we speak or simply smile at one another. When the BMT patient fell in the Winship Clinic waiting area yesterday, that could just as well have been me. I pray that he bounces back and fights his disease in his own way. We have to learn to make our way for ourselves, or we are defeated, indeed.

Thank you for your interest, prayers, and words of comfort.

Mike Green
May 1, 2013

20130501-142030.jpg

20130501-142045.jpg

20130501-142057.jpg

Post-Transplant Update

April 27, 2013

My hospital stay is over and my transplant is doing well. The numbers are where the doctors want them to be for now. I am pleased and thankful that the news is positive.

I just have to endure the resultant bad feeling that is my current state. Lethargy, nausea, feeling down, and no interest in reading or projects has made me feel that I am not improving. The numbers give a different story and I am told that the ill feelings will pass in a few weeks. I am looking forward to that!

Thanks to all the medical professionals, my friends, and families for your care, concerns, and prayers. I hope to get through this downside soon! Love to all!

Mike

20130427-114817.jpg

20130427-114855.jpg

Challenge Week

March 22, 2013

This week has been interesting in that it was a “testing” week for me. The old expression comes into play, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Nietzsche may have had that right. I will say that I am getting stronger after the events of this week.

The first round of testing came on Sunday with lethargy, low blood pressure, and nausea. This was enough to send me to the Winship Infusion lab for a blood chemistry check. The results showed no glaring issues. I was almost sure that Hematocrit was low enough for a transfusion of blood. Low BP and heart rate in the hospital the last week in February were making me think that this was happening again.

Turns out a bag of saline and a reduction in blood pressure medication, helped dispel the lethargy. The saline was needed for dehydration due to my rampant diarrhea. While in the hospital, I picked up a nasty c.diff infection in my gut. The doctors agreed that a reduction in the BP medication would be appropriate. The spasms in my leg presented another challenge Monday evening.

I fell in our dressing room. All the way to the floor, I fell. Hitting my head in the process, my life and plans started flashing in my mind at that midnight hour. No matter how careful one tries to be and no matter that Mary was with me, I still fell. I managed to lie in the bed, my mind whirling. I did manage some sleep, but I knew that I needed to have x-rays or scans. I called in the troops, and Evan, Will, and Mary managed to get me to Emory ER, Tuesday mid-morning. I needed a wheelchair which was not to my liking, but it helped. I am relieved that I had one. My doctors alerted, said to come straight to Emory ER.

If you have seen the movie, Beetlejuice, you can identify with the wait in ER. Late afternoon, I rode to imaging. Long story short, there were no breaks or displaced screws or rods in my body. Thanks be to God! I returned home with a sore and defeated body, Tuesday evening.

Since then, I have begun to feel better. I can eat meals, and my BP is normal. I am still sore, but that is improving. I am back to my cane in the house and a walker for outside. The medication for the diarrhea and the c-diff have almost been completed! Hooray!

You may say, that I dodged the bullet on that score and am still on track for my transplant in twelve days. I know God’s will is being done, and for that I am thankful. I thank my family and Mary for helping me in so many ways.

It has been a challenging week, but one in which new perspectives have been noted. I am happy and I am blessed.

Mike Green

Day Four at Emory (re-posted)

February 28, 2013

Blogging about the minute details of my health challenge is not on the top of my urgent “to do list” for two reasons:

I get distracted (adult on-set ADD, perhaps?).
People need to read to escape the trials of everyday life as much as possible.

When I don’t blog, I have a watchdog ( and he knows who he is) who jacks me up! So, I will save him the effort, this time! I am planning on returning home Friday evening and feel compelled to get this entry done, anyway.

The super chemo treatment in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Emory University Hospital has been preparing me for the transplant process that begins on March 11th. I am planning on returning home tomorrow evening and I am happy about that, even though I have fallen in love with the doctors, nurses and staff here at Emory. After that week of outpatient collection (harvesting!) of my stem cells, the cells are frozen and stored for my return in April for the two week transplant and recovery. This is the time when the old immune system takes a high dive. After that…monitoring and maintenance takes over. There will be a quiz tomorrow on this process for my readers. The old teacher in me does surface.

I’ll keep this blog entry short (I have to call in my dinner order). I must thank some folks.

The posting of messages on Facebook by friends and family have been inspiring and heartwarming. Saying a simple thank-you seems trite, but is often the most effective way to say what one feels deeply. Thank you, friends and family, for your prayers and messages. They sustain me. Thank you, Mary, for the wonderful love and care you give me. Finally, I have enjoyed the cracked humor that so many of you have demonstrated, as well!

Oh, a last note for this entry… I have been making a movie on my iPad for the last three weeks. I have been ecstatic and, at times, frustrated by the process. The iMovie is the culmination of a project that has entertained me for years since I was a young kiddo. It is about my family history with some connections to the early history of Atlanta and Gwinnett County. It’s for my boys. Also, the old teacher in me also has to tie up his genealogical research with a project to show. I plan to post some excerpts on Facebook and YouTube. Just no grading permitted, folks!

Thanks for reading!

Mike Green
February 28, 2013

(1st photo: Liddell Homestead, Gwinnett County, c. 1900; 2nd photo: “The Battle of Atlanta” in the Cyclorama; 3rd photo: Grandmother Nellie Mae Mills Liddell and Mike, early 1980s, Gwinnett Daily News)

20130228-180319.jpg

20130228-180438.jpg

20130228-180521.jpg

Sunday Enjoyment

February 17, 2013

Mary and I picked up PawPaw and headed to Peachtree Road United Methodist Church to meet Evan and Sarah for the Communion Service that featured Will in a lovely solo, “The Seven Last Words of Christ.” This is a piece that we have enjoyed since we were members of Lawrenceville First United Methodist Church in the 1980s. It is one of Mary’s particular favorites. When we heard that Will had been asked to sing it, we were very pleased.

His singing was lovely and inspirational with many accolades from church members. After the service we went to Front Page News and celebrated Evan’s Valentine’s Day birthday. We had an excellent meal and visited with Evan and Sarah at their house for a good long time before heading back to Duluth to drop Pawpaw off at his house. By the time we got back home we had made a full day of it.

It was a day to remember!

Mike Green
February 18, 2013

20130218-091922.jpg

20130218-091947.jpg

20130218-092004.jpg

20130218-092100.jpg