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The abortion debate has been presented as a battle between religious faith versus personal freedom, where people argue their values, usually via screaming. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, several glib ‘right-to-life‘ speakers on MSNBC stated ‘God’s power’ had come forth. Yet, just as expected, upon waking this morning, God sent no angels, no great trumpet sounds screeched throughout the sky, and God’s elect had not gathered from across the world. The Lord did not descend from heaven, people did not rise from the dead, and no one was caught in the clouds (at least that I could see). 

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Setbacks

Setbacks are hard. Post-COVID has been annoying, with one day being good and the next being bad. For instance, Sunday was great. I experienced a bountiful amount energy I hadn’t had for weeks. Mentally, I was clear. And lastly, I experienced little to no residual pain. In fact, I was damn well ready to call COVID a day, “I am so done with this. Good riddance.” Then Tuesday arrived.

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When COVID struck, marking the calendar and tracking symptoms, fever, and oxygen levels were critical. On day 1, COVID presented me with only a hoarse voice and scratchy throat. On days 2 and 3, COVID struck back by battering my body with severe muscle aches, joint pains, and abdominal pain, which no medication could counter. No position was comfortable. Sitting, standing, or lying brought no relief to the constant pain. It was debilitating as extreme fatigue gifted more fatigue.

Most patients recover in about a week. However, around day 5, a significant minority of patients enter “a very nasty second wave” of illness. Upon waking on day 5, my lungs felt extremely heavy, and my voice was hoarse. Being overweight and having left ventricular hypertrophy (thickened heart), Parkinson’s, and tumor surgery (pre-COVID), I intuitively knew underlying conditions, including high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes, could significantly impact the body’s inability to overcome COVID. Still, by the end of day 5, I felt better. Internally though, I keep debating whether COVID is over.

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The Tampa Bay Rays, like many companies, are promoting LGBTQ+ pride during the month of June. Not everyone on the roster wants to, though. According to several news reports, several Tampa Bay pitchers were among players who removed the LGBTQ+ pride patch from their uniforms. Post-game, one player made a summary statement.

… we all said what we want is them to know that all are welcome and loved here. But when we put it on our bodies, I think a lot of guys decided that it’s just a lifestyle that maybe — not that they look down on anybody or think differently — it’s just that maybe we don’t want to encourage it if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior, just like (Jesus) encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside of the confines of marriage.

What? Faith? To that, I respond, “Bullhockey.”

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COVID Strikes Back

I once wrote that COVID would get me. And throughout the past several years, I have been thoroughly surprised that COVID has not infected me. Unfortunately, that no longer is the case. After two Pfizer vaccines and two additional booster shots, COVID decided to knock upon my door. My experience is not unlike others. I will summarize my experience using Martha Snell Nicholson’s poem Guests snippet.

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The last time this blog discussed weapons or guns was in August 2019 and December 2021, though the December 2021 blog was about an idiotic Republican political ad. The idea of purchasing any weapon was to feel safer. Then, in August 2019, I realized how idyllic and self-delusional I had become. I wasn’t warped by NRA, by some fancy salesman, by the notion of the second amendment. Instead, I had been distorted by a belief that a weapon would make me safer. I learned the rhythm of handguns and the addictive thrill of their multi-sensory intensity. And for the first time since my military days, I once again became a threat — to myself.

The Gun Violence Archive defines mass shootings as “four or more people shot and or killed in a single incident, at the same general time/location not including the shooter.” So, I want to congratulate America. According to the Gun Violence Archive, 224 U.S. mass shootings and over 17,000 Gun-related deaths since January 1, 2022. Of course, it takes work to be this bad. But, as it turns out, America is exceptional. 

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A New Normal

Eventually, everything in the body becomes unreliable,” my neuro stated. It’s a hidden truth of nature. In our teen’s we laugh at it. In our twenties, any notion of time is philosophized over during bartender’s last call. In our thirties, the term slowing down was bantered watching old geezers struggle playing softball at company games. In our forties, we begin to struggle when a few kick the bucket, usually due to cancer or maybe a car wreck. It hits home in our sixties when were told we’re the one dying.

Your body is becoming unreliable,” I repeated walking to my car. “I cannot change that,”  I repeated to myself. Only then do you see the elders of yesteryear stare you in the face and hear the laughter. I swear I heard them. I swear I did. “Sucks to be you,” they snerted (a word my ex invented) at me as I drove drove home. Pulling into my underground parking space, I turn the car off. Pausing for a moment as my hands rested on the steering wheel, I reflected. I have no problem distinguishing the past from the present as Rod Serling narrates, ‘There’s signpost up ahead. Your next stop, the Twilight Zone!’ in my mind.

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Throughout my years of wandering the hospital as an unknown IT guy, elders would strike up conversations. In nearly identical ways, each lived with loss and disability, yet they remain undefined by them. Almost to a person, they awoke each morning, serenaded the day, ate breakfast, and set out to seize the day or ‘get in trouble’ as one nurse phrased it. Sure, their knees hurt, and some couldn’t perform exercises like they used to. But, old age did not hit them suddenly. Instead, they got used to it, one day at a time. 

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As new Parkinson’s symptoms peel back any notion that my body can live in some delicate truce, I continue to reassess what I can and cannot do. For example, an Arizona State University study of Muhammad Ali’s public speaking revealed Ali exhibited symptoms of slowed and slurred speech several years before diagnosis. Researchers determined that Ali’s syllables per second slowed by 26 percent over thirteen years. But slurred speech was never my symptom, at least at this moment.

This week, left-hand tremor has become more prominent with the hands at the sides. A ‘Keyesence Detection’ test revealed, “The person has characteristics in their typing similar to people with early to mild Parkinson’s Disease. Tremor and movement exceeded normal ranges. An asymmetrical tremor of 4-6 Hz suggests Parkinson’s Tremor.’ But I already knew this. A tremor while typing has been the bane of my existence for several years. Tremor with the hand at my side has not. That’s new. That means Parkinson’s has progressed, even if ever so slightly.

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So, you might ask, “What the hell happened to you?” It’s a fair question. Yes, I know. Disappearing for 28 days is not something friends do to friends. Not even a peep. Honestly, I could have said, “Damn those extra shifts at the office.” Or, “Hey, I tripped down a set of stairs and wrecked my knee while attempting to avoid the leopard sleeping on the first floor.” Great story. Not true. I could have stated that I volunteered in some exotic land, assisting clinicians battling COVID. Another great story. All fiction. Instead, my excuse comes down to something easily stated but damn hard to combat: Brain Fog.

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