CaringBridge Is Funded by People Like You

Make a donation to CaringBridge

Honor gil with a tax-deductible contribution to CaringBridge today.

Click here to make your donation.

gil’s Story

For those of you not on my Email Express Service that haven't been getting my semi-regular updates, my medical adventure started in spring 2005 and has been a long and winding road. As of early April 2008, I think we have the ultimate causes figured out! More details below.

I found myself with increased blood pressure and reduced muscle stamina in spring and summer 2005. I initially figured it was me getting old but the high blood pressure had me concerned. I started a variety of tests which by the end of 2005 included blood tests for arthritis, a full blown pulmonary function test, a heart echocardiagram and a heart angiogram. No coronary artery blockage to speak of -- I have always had quite low cholorestrol and triglercyrides.

Just to throw a twist on things, my spleen did a spontaneous rupture in early January 2006 for not reason. No trauma that I remember but my blood pressure returned to normal immediately thereafter. After missing four weeks of classes at MSU, I resumed duties there.

My muscle stamina problem did not go away and slowly but steadily worsened. A trip to Stanford medical clinic revealed some undesired protein in my urine in spring 2007. Further testing in Bozeman led to a bone marrow biopsy in July that indicated I had what is called 'smoldering multiple myeloma' -- a cancer of the blood plasma. Smoldering means low enough grade it did not warrant getting treated yet. MM, as it is known, tends to rot one's bones from the inside out, cause anemia and serious bond pain, and damages the immunity system. Most folks with it die from infections.

I was referred to Wash Univ Med School in St Louis, that operates at Barnes Jewish hospital. I had a second marrow biopsy that confirmed the MM but also sample by DNA to read some chromosones that sometimes predict how aggressive the disease is likely to be. Fortunately, mine are all set for a slow progress and we have been doing survelliance via blood and urine tests since August 2007. None of those tests indicate any progression. Yippee-skippee!

The bad news is the muscles continue to decline. Another slew of tests indicated I had excess calcium in my blood -- apprently from the myeloma kicking it loose. Calcium is how our bodies tell our muscles to cool it when they are being overworked. Too much in the blood mean the muscles are being told to quit working even before they get tired.

A seond thing that results in about 20% of MM cases is called amyloidosis. The MM causes production of amyloid proteins that don't do much damage per se but plug up things like organs (heart, liver, kidneys most common) and the muscles and interfere with how they work. Left unfixed, they can cause fatal organ failures! Preferred treatment is the same as for MM -- a stem cell transpant with high-dose chemo.

So, as of 6/5/08, I have started the process at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St Louis. I had a three plug catheter installed on the right upper shoulder area so I don't get many needle punctures any more. Sounded bad but was a minor procedure with little pain. It is already starting to feel like it belongs. I also began my four days of growth factor shots yesterday. Two minor shots about like a flu shot to do two things. Turbo charge my blood marrow to produce an excess of stem cells (baby blood cells). And, to float those in my blood system, not buried in the marrow. (This used to be called a bone marrow transplant before they tricked the stem cells to get out into the blood system. A much easier way to harvest when they are in the blood itself.)

The possible side effect of the shots is some bone pain from the marrow working so hard. It usually starts the third day if it occurs and ends a couple days after the shots end (on Sunday). I am on a Tylenol routine to minimize that if it happens. Most people get at least some pain. I will let you know in future installments.

Latest Journal Update


Here's an update for all of Gil's friends and family of the culmination of efforts to assure that Gil will live on in Montana.
Gil was a supporter of Nature Conservancy for many years, and was out in nature every chance that he had. The majority of Gil's life and career was in Montana, and he was motivated to spend much of his spare time working to support nature and her creations.  He spent a number of years as a Yellowstone volunteer, from multiple days bushwacking the parks backcountry on weed patrol and other missions, to later doing roadside bear patrol. 

As you can see from the picture, Gil's picture and a bronze plaque are now hanging at the Pine Butte Guest Ranch in Montana. There are two closeups pics in the Photos--just click for larger view.  Copy and paste this link to the ranch into your browser address:

A substantial number of us created the Gil Crain Memorial Trust, a perpetual trust with yearly amounts going to support The Nature Conservancy in Montana.  

We will be receiving a yearly accounting of Gil's trust.  It may be in the area of $40,000 total now, which should mean that about $2000 per year is going to help TNC. Hopefully that amount will continue to grow,and our memorial fund will support nature forever in Montana in a way that would have made Gil proud.

Below are excerpts of various emails from Nature Conservancy that will give you more details.

These emails are between Ed Cadogon, Director of Gift Planning at their headquarters in Arlington, VA, and myself.

Gil's name would appear on this site every year. We can post a picture of him and we will tell his story. I would love to interview you and have a video testimonial on of you talking about Gil's love for nature. 

The Nature History Workshops would be named after Gil. We can also put a bronze plaque inside the main ranch lodge honoring Gil. 

And we have hundreds of people visiting the ranch each year to attend these nature workshops. One of the biggest draws are the 
Grizzly tours and we have David Selby leading a bird tour. Selby is the leading authority on birds and he has several well known books on birds. Every birder has a Selby book in his library. 

We can put Gil's name and story on immediately. We have already published the brochures for the 2011 nature workshops 
but we will publish his name in the brochures for future publications. 

I look forward to hearing from you. Montana TNC is eager to honor Gil through our Guest Ranch and the Nature Workshops. 

And I hope you and Wanda can visit the guest ranch and see what a special place it really is by attending one Gil's nature workshops. 


Phil- TNC would recognize Gil’s legacy on the Web on Nature.Org with his story and our travel brochures for the workshops.  Pine Butte Guest Ranch is one of the most visible outreach programs that we have in Montana and Pine Butte Guest Ranch is our educational platform for TNC to teach nature to others. 



The Gil Crain Natural History Workshops 
May 2011

May 06, 2011: Member Get Away Weekend 
Enjoy the glories of spring on the Rocky Mountain Front at the Conservancy's Pine Butte Guest Ranch.

May 15, 2011:The Path of the Great Bear
Hike the land of the grizzly with bear expert Charles Jonkel. Not only are the grizzlies especially active in the Spring, the scenery is spectacular.

May 22, 2011: Spring Naturalist's Tour
Spring is a spectacular time for birding and wildflowers in the Northern Rockies.Our ace naturalist will guide you to the best sites from a comfy base at the Pine Butte Guest Ranch.

May 29, 2011: Birds of the Rockies and Prairies with David Sibley
A rare opportunity to spend days in the field learning from famed ornithologist and artist David Sibley.

June 2011

June 22, 2011: Montana Wildflowers and Photography
Hike and photograph the spectacular Rocky Mountain Front at the peak of the wildflower season. Photographer Kenton Rowe will provide tips to make sure you capture it all on your camera.

August 2011

August 28, 2011: Women's Week
We've reserved this week at the ranch just for women. Bring your best friend or daughter...or just come on your own and make new friends.

September 2011

September 04, 2011: Hiking the Rocky Mountain Front
Hike your heart out in the golden glow of autumn on the Rocky Mountain Front, then dine and relax at The Nature Conservancy's beautiful Pine Butte Guest Ranch.

September 11, 2011: Geology of the Rocky Mountain Front
A week-long geology workshop let by Scott Wing of the Smithsonian Institute. We'll explore the local area on foot and by van.

September 18, 2011: Fall Naturalist's Tour of the Rockies
Explore the natural bounty of Montana's Rocky Mountain Front, then rest and dine at The Nature Conservancy's beautiful Pine Butte Guest Ranch.

September 24, 2011: Member Get Away Weekend
Spend a delightful weekend hiking and relaxing at the beautiful Pine Butte Guest Ranch.


The mission of The Nature Conservancy’s Pine Butte Guest Ranch is to advance the understanding and appreciation for nature. In addition to our regular guest activities and our workshops, we offer special programs for schools and organizations who wish to tap into our resources.

The ranch has been operated by The Nature Conservancy in Montana since 1987, but has a much longer history.

It was opened in the 1930’s as the Circle 8 Ranch by Kenneth & Alice Gleason. They offered a rustic retreat amidst the grandeur of the Rocky Mountain Front. After it was donated to the Conservancy, we carried on the Gleason’s tradition of hospitality, but also expanded our mission by making the ranch a place where people could learn more about nature and conservation. The result is a rare connection that brings people back year after year.



Phil Crain
Just received a letter from Nature Conservancy that a gift was made to TNC in memory of Gil by Thomas Clausen. Thanks very much, Thomas.
On another note, about a month ago we received an email from Pine Butte Guest Ranch saying that they were not going to be open this year, and that they hoped to open next year-not sure why.
Phil Crain
By Phil Crain
Checked with TNC on Gil's trust amount, and was happy to hear that it has grown approx.
20% even after the 5% per year that goes to their general fund.
From one of the Nature Conservancy people:
"I heard back from Montana and they confirm the balance of The Gil CraIn Memorial Endowment is currently at $49,455"
Phil Crain
By Phil Crain
Wanda and I visited the Pine Butte Guest Ranch September 7 and 8. It was a reunion with Gil, in a beautiful area. Wanda and I each had our talk with Gil in the lodge. We would encourage you to go there and visit Gil. The ranch is on the South Fork of the Teton River. The river flows out of Our Lake (formerly Hidden Lake). The drive to the trailhead is about 7 miles past the ranch along the river, at the end of the road. The road winds through mountains on both sides and is just a knockout drive. The trail is 3 miles, 1500 feet gain. We took our time going up--highlight was a mountain grouse sashaying down the trail with it's tail fanned out with white dots in an arc, and got up in 2 hours. We hustled coming down and made it in 1:10. The lake and surrounding mountains is a 10. There are cutthroat trout in the lake, we caught a dozen nice sized ones, brilliant emerald backs and silver sides flashing in the crystal clear water. The ranch is pretty pricey, but there are other places to stay in Browning and Choteau, MT and then you could drive to the ranch and visit the lodge and hike to the lake. We would appreciate hearing from anyone that makes it to Pine Butte.