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June 21st, Tuesday marked the beginning of summer. Normally, this is the perfect time to plan for vacations, family gatherings, 4th of July celebrations, a summer reading list, and the like.

However, 2022 is a bit different and more challenging. But we should not let the opportunities to relax and de- stress slip away. It is worth the extra effort to work out some safe planning for our summer activities.

Summer Theme: A Los Angeles Tradition

Each day on National Public Radio (NPR), well-known actor, painter, artist and celebrity David Lynch broadcasts the Weather Report for KCRW  from his L.A. apartment at around 9:30 a.m., where he also recommends a song or musical of the day.

On June 21st, Lynch picked “Theme from a Summer Place”— a 1959 version by Percy Faith, to celebrate the beginning of summer. I have to say this is a wonderful choice. 

Percy Faith (April 7, 1908 – February 9, 1976) was a popular Canadian American recording artist in the 1950s and 60s with an amazing story of resilience. 

Faith was a child piano prodigy who did his first recital at Massey Hall at age 15.  However, tragedy struck, and he was injured in a fire at age 18. He suffered several burns on his arms and hands, which put an end to his career as a concert pianist. 

He decided to turn to conducting and making musical arrangements instead; his live orchestras were aired on the radio, which was a new medium at that time. Since then, he has produced an impressive body of work as a composer and conductor and has made memorable and important contributions to the music world. 

Lynch’s recommendation for this summer’s theme really sets the tone for what can be our goal—rescuing our personal psyche over the next few months.
 
In Los Angeles, we are very fortunate to have many opportunities to recharge. The Hollywood Bowl is celebrating 100 years and will have special summer concerts. A trip to the beach or the mountains is always an option. We may be spoiled with all these outdoor activities, but we are not gloating because we also have wildfires and earthquakes to contend with! 


A Turning Point in the COVID-19 Pandemic 

The pattern and tempo of the pandemic has changed, and that is definitely good news. Yes, new surges are still happening, but they are not like those in the past.

In California, the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants are clearly highly infectious, with several counties reaching a very high level of community spread. However, only a few have started implementing standard indoor mask mandate orders.

The hope is that people are still paying attention to their community levels and will voluntarily wear masks to protect themselves. Even with an increase in hospitalizations, the lack of serious complications is making people unmindful of the spread. Relying on personal responsibility has become a new twist in the tortuous path of COVID-19 regulations. 

Essential Musts for Myeloma Patients

In this new framework, myeloma patients need to make their own rules. Many really NEED to stay safe, especially if they are on new aggressive treatment that suppresses their immune system; others may feel that they are at lesser risk.  But the basic rules should include:

Vaccination

Be sure to get fully vaccinated and boosted—two boosters are now available and recommended by the CDC. 

It is understood that the COVID antibody response may be low for some myeloma patients and in this situation, Evusheld™ antibody treatment shots are recommended for enhanced protection, as discussed in the past.

Masks

I strongly recommend continued use of masks in all situations where exposure to COVID-19 is a risk, especially in indoor and large group meetings.

What Else Is Important? 

  • The use of Rapid Antigen Testing can be a helpful tool. 
  • If you are planning a family gathering, make sure everyone gets tested and that the outcome of the tests are NEGATIVE before getting together. This can be a daily requirement if some are active in the community and could bring infection home to the group.
  • For indoor closed-quarter activities try to use masks, if possible. Outdoor settings are preferred, especially during the summer. A 4th of July barbecue outdoors while watching fireworks should be a safe family celebration.
  • If traveling, plan ahead for risks. If you test positive for COVID-19 along the way, you can be really delayed and might possibly miss important treatments! In addition, ask your doctor about a prescription for Paxlovid™ to have on hand to take immediately to treat the COVID -19 infection. This treatment should be started right away to help fight off the infection.
  • Simplify your trip. If possible, take direct flights. Have a back-up plan in case of delays brought about by being in quarantine (potentially for 5 days). 
  • DO NOT TRAVEL if you are starting a new treatment or if you have just completed aggressive treatment such as an autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT). 
  • Pay close attention to local news about COVID-19 in your community. Changes can be important and may impact planning. 
  • As I have noted for Californians, local outdoor trips can be wonderful choices to get away, relax and stay safe. Most communities have these options but booking ahead will be the key first step. 

Instead of flying, maybe driving an RV can work better for you. I was surprised by a number of friends deciding to go on an RV trip, as it didn’t used to be a popular choice. Local travel has become enormously popular because of the complexities involved with traveling internationally.

This year, planning your summer getaway or travel closer to home is definitely the safer choice, especially during these busy summer months.  

De-stressing and relaxing are important to a healthy life but so is staying safe! 

Recommended Summer Reading 

For those who prefer staycations over traveling, reading a good book over the 4th of July holiday or throughout the summer months can be a wonderful yet still equally relaxing alternative. 

Readers of my blog are aware of my love for books and that I have a strong preference for printed books over the digital kind. 

I strongly recommend these summer reads:

To stick with the summer theme, I recommend reading George Orwell prize-winning author Ali Smith’s fictional novel, SummerHeller McAlpin gave this book a glowing review in NPR: “In Summer, Smith reveals subtle but overarching connections between the four volumes' recurrent characters and themes, bringing this brilliant quartet to a satisfying close.”

Another Ali Smith creation, her most recent book, Companion Piece,  is also a brilliant novel—focusing on the present as an extraordinary time in history.  What happens when we cease to trust government, the media, and one another? As noted by one of several reviews in Literary Hub: “Ali Smith again lights a way through the nightmarish now.” The Guardian calls Smith’s book, “thrilling and important.”

The Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols is yet another timely book, as it emphasizes the reasons why a campaign against knowledge and truth exists. A NY Times review delves into how the book “explores how ignorance became a virtue.” 

For those who love history, I have two recommendations: 

Eden Collinsworth’s What The Ermine Saw: The Extraordinary Journey of One of the World’s Most Mysterious Portraits —an incredible story of a famous da Vinci painting of a beautiful young lady holding an ermine. Publisher’s Weekly describes Collinsworth’s book as delivering “an intriguing if occasionally dubious history of Lady with an Ermine (c. 1490), one of only four portraits of women painted by Leonardo da Vinci.”

A Brief History of Earth by Andrew H. Knoll is highly recommended for the more scientifically oriented—four billion years of history condensed into eight chapters! This is a beautifully written primer for every Earth resident by a much-honored professor of Natural History at Harvard University.

Forbes contributor Chad Orzel had this to say in his review: “One of the most impressive features of this book, then, is that it doesn’t feel like a slow trudge through a dictionary of jargon. Despite the grand scale and sweep of the material, the explanations Knoll provides are clear and understandable, across all the many fields under discussion. The technical terminology is kept to a minimum— not zero, but a manageable amount— and the book is stronger for it.”

So, there you have it! Sit back, relax and enjoy a good book. Most of all, stay safe! 


Image of Dr. Brian G.M. DurieProfessor of Medicine, Hematologist/Oncologist, and Honoree MD at the University of Brussels, Dr. Brian G.M. Durie is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Scientific Officer of the IMF. Dr. Durie is also the Chairman of the International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG)—a consortium of more than 250 myeloma experts from around the world—and leads the IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative® (BSRI). 

 

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