During my Freshman year at Oregon State, I was pledged at the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. My adjustment to fraternity life was poor – I resented hazing by upper-classmen, extra housework, and had difficulty relating to weekend keggers and parties. I requested assignment to a residence hall, and was assigned to Sackett, an older building on the West side of campus.
At Sackett, I met David Proebstel, a fellow electrical engineering student from Yamhill, Oregon. David grew up in Yamhill and attended Yamhill Christian Church. He invited me to join him on Sunday mornings for Bible Study at Suburban Christian Church in Philomath.
The Bible Study Group was an outreach program led by Mel Byers and his wife. Mel was a gifted story teller with a deep knowledge of bible history. We met in the Byers’ home, which barely contained the popular group.
During my Junior year, I returned to the Bible Study Group and noticed Linda Young, David’s former high school classmate from Yamhill. I liked her, because she was cute and funny. The college group held a retreat, and I found myself thinking how glad I was that she showed up. I remember her be-bopping across the hall in a broad red and white striped nylon shell with good rhythm and energy. I wasn’t up for dancing with her, but admired her outgoing nature and willingness to let herself express youthful exuberance.
Back in Corvallis, we met for pizza and I learned a bit more about her. Following high school, Linda attended Bassist Institute of Fashion in Portland. She also worked at Rhodes Department Store and collected outfits that were considerably nicer than other coeds in the Freshman class at OSU. I learned that she was not thrilled with the stodgy training in clothing and textiles from the Home Economics Department, and that she was thinking about moving to San Francisco for better prospects for a career in fashion and retailing.
I remember feeling chagrined, thinking that Linda was interesting and exciting, but not likely to be interested in hanging around OSU, nor interested in dating an engineer like me. I learned Linda’s home address in Yamhill and decided to write her a letter during my long Christmas break. I chose not to call because a phone conversation would have been difficult; I could not match her pace of conversation and uncovering interesting things to say. In my letter I suggested that I would enjoy seeing a movie together in January.
I searched for an occasion to serve as a date, and picked a science fiction movie. I think the movie was “2001, A Space Odyssey”, a classic film about interaction of space explorers with artificial intelligence built into their space ships, and humanity’s desire for exploration. I was probably trying to up the ante on her idea of moving to San Francisco to pursue a fashion career by revealing my interest in technology, computers, and the future. Fortunately, I had enough romantic sense to later invite her to “Dr. Zhivago” and “A Man and a Woman”, attempting to appeal to her romantic side.
Evidently the combination of letters, movies, and college courtship met with her approval. There was enough of a spark for us to marry by September of that same year!
What was the best advice you received and from whom?
Luis Volls, MD, my primary provider ordered the initial scans that confirmed that I had cancer in my chest and lungs. He called me into his office immediately and I was grateful that Eddy wanted to go along to receive the results of my tests. Along with the news that I might have untreatable cancer, he referred me to Jeffry, Menashe, MD at Compass Oncology East. With this referral, Luis said, “I talked to Jeff about your case and he thinks there may be treatments that will help you.”
Chad Crouch joined us for the earliest available appointment with Dr. Menashe. While being friendly and reassuring, he recommended getting a biopsy to pin down the exact cancer in my chest. We tried a bronchoscopy and then a mediastinoscopy, when the bronchoscopy was inconclusive. With tumor tissue, the lab was able to clearly diagnose the characteristic pyramid shaped cellular structure of metastatic melanoma.
I had a melanoma skin lesion removed thirty five years before and possibly this was the original source of the disease in my chest. Doctors say they can’t be sure, especially since metastatic disease usually develops in a few years after a primary lesion is removed, or not at all.
Dr. Menashe remained positive and hopeful when we met to review lab results and plan treatment. Rather than talk about the disease staging or survival statistics, he carefully presented his recommendation: start immediate treatment with Interleukin-2 (IL-2). He provided a printed sheet which substantiated IL-2 as the standard first-line treatment for metastatic melanoma. He said it this way: “IL-2 is your best chance for a durable remission – tantamount to a cure. And if it doesn’t work for you, there are other treatments that you can fall back on.”
I was especially impressed with the phrase “tantamount to a cure” which is not often associated with treatment of many cancers, especially advanced melanoma.
Dr. Menashe tried to prepare me for the rigors of IL-2 treatment, including unpleasant side effects, and potential hazards. He emphasized that I would have to establish eligibility by passing tests that prove my health was strong enough to withstand the treatment. By presenting it in this way, I started to see the treatment as a challenge to be surmounted.
Because Dr. Menashe specializes in lymphoma, leukemia, and myeloma, not melanoma, he referred me to Brendan Curti, MD, who specializes in treatments for kidney cancer and melanoma. Dr. Curti was in full accord with Dr. Menashe’s recommendation, and was admitted for IL-2 treatment. Fortunately, as treatment progressed, scans revealed that my immune system was responding to stimulation by shrinking the melanoma. Treatment continued for six week-long hospital stays over an 8 month duration. Two years later, I remain in stable condition.
Since my treatment, I’ve learned that IL-2 is often not recommended nor offered to patients with advanced metastatic melanoma. Many medical centers do not offer this treatment, and tend to talk their patients out of transferring to a medical center that does. They argue IL-2 treatment requires hospitalization, has unpleasant side effects, and frequently does not work.
Dr. Curti agrees with the rationale, but reaches a more nuanced conclusion. The record of all cases of metastatic melanoma and renal cell carcinoma treated with IL-2 at Providence Cancer Center demonstates complete or partial response for 28% of the patients. IL-2 offers a fighting chance for durable response, which hasn’t yet been proven for the newer treatments. IL-2 is a rigorous treatment that requires a high-level of expertise from the doctors and nurses who administer it. Doctors and medical centers which are not fully prepared, should not attempt it. For patients fortunate to have access and the strength to qualify for IL-2, it’s still the best first-line treatment.
As a result of the care and medical advice from the doctors, nurses, and staff at Providence, I’ve walked back from the mortality cliff. While I’m awarding the best advice prize to Dr. Menashe, he shares it with Dr. Curti and the staff at Providence Cancer Center who supported his advice and enacted the extensive treatment.
I left home in August, 1985 and our divorce was final in September, 1987. While Linda and I agreed on the terms of the divorce, we did not agree on whether to seek divorce. I alone was seeking divorce.
My purpose is not to attempt to justify seeking divorce, nor even discuss the reasons for it. Rather, I’m attempting to describe how divorce was my toughest lesson. Divorce was tougher than I imagined and divorce, by itself, does not solve problems in relating.
Linda and I were married for 17 years and had two children at the time we separated. Our divorce was final 2 years after separation. During the two-year separation, I lived across town from Linda, Corina, and Chad. Linda was generous about allowing me to visit them on special occasions, birthdays and major holidays. I tried to see them every other weekend and this worked with Chad, but not with Corina who had a busy schedule.
Participating in an active life with the children seemed impossible. They were busy with school, friends, and daily tasks in living. I gradually become a stranger to their day-to-day concerns, their habits, and their lives. The gulf with my children became the main source of my continuing sadness and shame. Driving away from time spent with them left me sobbing over the loss. I consoled myself with the thought that my loss was the price I was paying to protect them from the trauma of living with conflicted and depressed parents.
When I left home, I also left behind a network of friends centered at the Beaverton Christian Church. I tried to keep up with a small group of male friends there by visiting with them regularly, but could not continue because they were intent on putting my broken marriage back together. I was surprised by my willingness to disengage from their friendship as it became clear they were intent on leading me back to my senses. This is was not what I wanted.
I tried remaining in the faith of my youth by visiting other large bible-oriented churches around Portland, but found that none of them interested me despite their rich programs, powerful speakers, and beautiful music. I moved on to churches in the tradition of Unity which kept my interest, but I remained mostly on the periphery. As years passed, I found a deeper interest in the Unitarians and the Buddhists.
Finances had usually been strained as a single family, mainly because we over-invested in real estate in an era of relatively high interest rates. As two separate families, finances were impossible. My lifestyle took a dramatic nose-dive and I reduced my living expenses by renting rooms in a series of co-housing. Linda expanded her work to full-time sales and was able to keep the home we had built together.
It was a financial strain for everyone when Corina and Chad entered college. Corina really wanted a private college, and we visited a couple of those in the Seattle Area. Gradually it became apparent that such small colleges weren’t going to offer enough aid to equalize the cost with state colleges and that I did not earn enough to pay the difference. I decided to handle this by committing to an annual lump sum payment of about half of the yearly cost with the expectation that Corina and Chad would handle the rest. Both of them worked hard to supplement their financial needs during their college years. Fortunately, both graduated from University of Oregon with Bachelors degrees.
I had sought divorce with the idea that life would be better when I found my soulmate. Entering into the world of middle-age dating was a rude awakening. My attempts to enter romantic relationships were mostly disasters: Poor choices, unrealistic expectations, and unskilled behaviors. These relationships were all memorable and valuable because I was learning.
I spent a lot of time, money and energy with organizations and individuals oriented to helping individuals live better lives. Some of these were the Quest Fellowship, the Excellence Series, the Hoffman Institute, in addition to individual therapists at Kaiser Mental Health, Bonneville Employee Services and private practitioners. Gradually I was helped to heal and develop enough character and strength to make commitments for a future that would not perpetuate all the mistakes of the past.
What were your first few jobs? What did you do and do you remember how much you earned?
My first job was helping Dad with farm work. Normally, I was not paid for this work, as it was like doing my share as a family member. On a farm with livestock, there are chores to be done year-around, and traditionally, all family members help, as they are able.
One exception was hay hauling, which was best accomplished by the efforts of a team of two or three strong boys. Dad needed to recruit one or two from the community and these boys needed to be paid. As I grew to be the same age and ability as our community helpers, Dad realized it was “complicated” if he paid the recruits, but not me.
Hauling hay meant loading the hay bales in the field, driving them to a barn and stacking them to about 20 feet high for winter feeding. We would try to move 1,000 bales a day at $.07/bale, which allowed a crew of two to each earn $35/day. Hauling hay usually lasted about a month each summer.
Dad provided the equipment, normally a truck for hauling, a mechanical field loader for lifting the bales on the truck, and a electrical hay elevator for lifting the bales from the truck into the hay loft. Several members of my class at Oakland High School (Eddie Wood, David Little, and Ron Sanderson) worked with us for one or more summers of hay hauling.
After my Senior year in High School, I wanted a chance to earn more money for college expenses. Dad reluctantly agreed to this plan, although he would have preferred having my help at home.
I asked for and got a job at Roseburg Lumber in Dillard Oregon. My job was to pull and stack lumber from the planer chain, and it paid $3.75 an hour. This work was unskilled labor, although it took some practice to do it well. The problem for me was that I didn’t fit in with regular mill workers. One of them pulled me aside an said, “slow down your pace, because working too fast will make the rest of us look bad.” As an older person, I can appreciate that working too fast will wear me down and increase my chances of injury. To have staying power, I need to pace myself.
The work lasted for three weeks, whereupon the whole mill shut down for two weeks of summer maintenance. I hadn’t been told that the shut down was expected, and was discouraged. Neighbor Bob Monett told me about a job opportunity in logging. The pay was $4.50 an hour and I jumped at the opportunity.
The new job required rising about 3:30am, driving to Roseburg, meeting the van at 4:30 and traveling about 75 miles up the North Umpqua with the crew, arriving at 6:30am. Travel time was not paid-time, so the net result of this job change was a demotion.
My duty was to “set chokers” for a “cat skinner” named Wayne Rader, who was pioneering a new rough road for the US Forest Service. Setting chokers meant placing a cable around a log, hooking the cable to a winch line on the bulldozer, so that logs could be “yarded” and “decked” for subsequent loading onto log trucks. Doing this job well included directing the cat skinner on how to position his machine so that a draft of logs could be gathered efficiently. An older choker setter worked with me for the first few days to help me learn this skill.
Terrain in the Umpqua National Forest is mountainous and wooded. To properly outfit myself for this new line of work, I needed proper logger boots. I went to the Sutherlin Golden Rule Store and purchased a pair of Wesco Calk Boots, with sharpened points embedded in the soles.
Dad suggested that I pour diesel oil in my new boots to soften them, and prevent blisters. (Nowadays diesel is considered a hazardous substance). I discovered that diesel-treated boots raise a painful red rash on the feet and ankles, as bad as having foot blisters. I wore the boots intermittently during the first week until the hydrocarbons had mostly evaporated. I learned to value the extra traction of calks, especially when walking atop fallen logs.
After the first week on this job, I decided that riding the van from Roseburg was not for me. With Dad’s help, I took the Coleman canvas tent to the job site where we pitched it in the woods overlooking Wayne Rader’s travel trailer. With the tent, I could stay all week at the job site and sleep in until 5:30 or 6:00am in the morning. This gave me plenty of time to read and gain experience with cooking meals and packing lunches.
The work with Mr. Rader lasted about a month, whereupon I joined a crew of choker setters that were working a “high lead” logging show on a steep mountain side. This type of logging relies on a a 2-inch cable stretched from the top of the mountain to the bottom to transport logs downhill to a landing. An operator at the landing controls the direction of cable motion, the tension on the cable, and starting/stopping the cable.
The crew of choker setters were tasked with man-handling 3/4 inch choker-cables around the logs and then connecting the end of the choker to the large overhead high-lead cable. To survive, choker setters need to stay above and away from commotion that logs create when yanked from their resting place and dragged thrashing down the hillside.
I found myself using high school physics to mentally estimate forces and trajectories, which helped work out nuances of where and how to set chokers. Obviously, it was important to set the choker close to the end of a log, but not too close, because it might slip off. Not so obvious, it was important to wrap the choker around the log in the direction that would take up slack if the log was pre-disposed to roll toward a side-slope. The foreman of the crew noticed that I was a thinker, and teased me about being “a fraternity boy.” I felt smug about being enrolled at Oregon State and relieved that my future would not include a career in logging.
Following my sophomore year at Oregon State, I fell into a fishing job with Nels Otness in Petersburg, Alaska. His son Alan was my roommate and Alan’s stories about commercial fishing in Alaska sounded too good to be true. Promptly after final exams, we drove my car North to Prince Rupert, Canada and bordered the Alaska Ferry to Petersburg.
Petersburg, population about 2800, is a village on Mitkof Island in Southeastern Alaska between Wrangell and Juneau. Native Americans in this area are members of the Tlingit Tribe who inhabited this area for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. Immigrants from Norway and Sweden populated this area in the early 1900s, because of similarities to their ancestral habitat.
The Otness family was kind to me, providing a rental room in their home, and orienting me to life in their world. My job was that of deckhand on the Boat Seanna, fishing for halibut, and later for salmon in Frederick Sound.
My experience as a farmer/logger did not prepare me for the rigors of fishing. As someone said, halibut fishing consists of hundreds of small repetitive tricks, which seem automatic – after you have mastered them: Sharpening knives, cutting bait, baiting hooks, coiling long lines properly, hauling gear, gaffing fish, clubbing fish, cleaning fish, icing fish, not to mention navigating, and living in a claustrophobic space on a small vessel for 5 to 10 days at sea. In retrospect, I think that halibut fishing is good training for being a NASA Astronaut.
Fortunately, Boat Seanna did venture westward to the Pacific Ocean and I avoided the big groundswell and sea sickness. The crew was more or less accepting of my ineptitude, Alan was very supportive, and Nels was patient with me. With their help, I avoided causing major problems for fishing season and wound up the summer with $2500 to help pay for an airplane ticket home as well as college tuition for my Junior year at Oregon State.
What’s the worst trouble that you got into when you were younger?
Most of my troubles have been near-misses, situations which could have turned out far worse. The following is one of those.
At Oregon State University, I took up residence with Alan and Neil, Norwegian guys from Petersburg, Alaska. They were both exuberant story tellers and the topic of conversation often turned to fishing and hunting. One week in the Fall of 1968, we were talking about bird hunting for pheasants, ducks, geese, and the like. The more we talked, the more fun this sounded, so much fun we decided to go hunting next Saturday.
None of us actually knew anything about bird hunting in Oregon. Apparently the guys brought extra shotguns from home because the very next Saturday, four of us “bird hunters” loaded into my Ford Falcon and we north in the Willamette Valley. We didn’t have a destination in mind, we were looking for fields that looked promising for bird hunting.
Gradually we realized that all of the land in the Willamette Valley belongs to somebody, and that fields are NOT posted with public hunting allowed signs. We saw several promising fields, but they signed No Trespassing, No Hunting, or both.
Driving by one promising field, one of us spotted a rooster pheasant taking flight, and our impulse control was overwhelmed. Rationalizing that the owner was not around, or wouldn’t notice, we parked the car, climbed the fence and began walking the perimeter of the field. Sure enough it was only 5 minutes when one of the Norwegians flushed quail out of the fence row, and shots rang out.
“Uh-oh, shotguns are really loud,” I said to myself.
For the owner, shots were an infuriating call to action, and he roared into the field in his big four wheel drive pickup. Within a couple of minutes he was raging at us. He apparently was not armed, and we didn’t fear for our lives. He was very angry and I was plenty scared.
We had not paid attention to the cattle at the opposite side of the large field and he went on about the danger to his animals. I tried to be reassuring saying, yes I grew up on a farm and we run cattle too – He seemed to think this was even worse, since anyone who grew up on a farm should know that cattle don’t like guns.
I mustered and my hang-dog look and said, “we are very sorry, and we will leave immediately.”
“OK, but I’ll be recording your license number and reporting this to the police,” he replied.
As I was cleaning up the Ford Falcon, washing the grit from exterior and mud off the floor mats, I tried to comfort myself with the thought that the farmer would think twice about the work involved in reporting the four armed trespassers from Oregon State University who were shooting up his cattle paddock. Fortunately for me, this apparently was the case because the authorities never called.
I never went bird hunting again following that experience.
Did you ever win an award you were proud of, and what was it in honor of?
Oregon State University, School of Engineering, honors engineering students with membership in Tau Beta Pi, like the Phi Beta Kappa for liberal arts.
I was surprised and pleased to receive a letter stating that my efforts in engineering school were noteworthy. I had sacrificed extra-curricular activities, the anti-war movement, music performance, and social development in order to do well. This award offered consolation for my one-sided college life.
The award came with a challenge: Polish a palm-sized cast brass object called a Bent. The Bent is a three-dimensional logo for Tau Beta Pi, meant as a small keepsake for display in one’s trophy case.
Each Bent comes with instructions for polishing, suggesting a trip to the hardware store for a flat file, sandpapers, polishing compound as well as several hours of manual work. Dutifully, I got the recommended elements and spent several hours filing and polishing. It wasn’t perfectly smooth, nor especially polished; but rather mellow looking.
I was put off by this gift, asking myself, “Why not hand us something smooth that doesn’t require hours of polishing? Are they trying to reinforce my work ethic? how can they not know that I’ve got the work ethic down?”
When I arrived for the induction ceremony, each of my fellow engineering students produced their bent and we set them out the table for judging. Steven Hansen proudly unveiled his bent, holding it in a velvet cloth. It had a mirror-like surface reflecting light better than any brass I had ever seen. His was the unquestioned winner. Steven was a Chemical Engineering student, and I suspected that he had used some kind of secret compound to prepare his Bent.
Steven later married my classmate Joanne Manning from Oakland High School. Last summer at our 50-year Oakland High School reunion I asked Steven how he managed to beautify his Bent so perfectly. He said his Dad worked with metals and told him finished brass is difficult to perfect. So he ignored the instructions from Tau Beta Pi and took his Bent to a Corvallis metals shop where they did the buffing and polishing with appropriate machines.