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Eating a Slim Jim, I reflected. Nearly ten days post-operation, I can confirm recovery has been pretty damn dull. Learning to change bandages on the back of your neck was a steep learning curve. Reaching backward, removing, and reapplying is a feat, even for one who had extensive medical training.

When you have a tumor, life is measured by units of centimeters or millimeters. Tumor sizes are then transferred to patients via a common language: pencil point (1 mm), a crayon point (2 mm), a pencil eraser (5 mm), a pea (10 mm), a peanut (20 mm), and a lime (50 mm), etc. I will never look at limes as merely pieces of fruit – ever.

The biopsy returned Thursday with a measurement of 50x30x13 millimeters. That’s equivalent to a medium-large lime. The cells weren’t cancerous but weren’t normal. As such, my ‘lime’ received a similar rating like Stage 0: no cancer, only abnormal cells with the potential to become cancer.

The portion of the tumor in my spine remains there – waiting.

Overall, I felt emotionally good. Physically? Meh. I experienced a massive headache the night of surgery and felt good the following day. This past week was not particularly good. I downed some pain medication a week ago Sunday and dealt with weird off and on fatigue of the neck and head from Monday onward. At some points, it seemed like my head could not be held upright.

Tactically speaking, I have a little trouble moving my neck sideways and cannot lift anything over 10 – 15 pounds for a month. Internal neck muscles will require seven months to heal. Therefore, the surgeon kindly requested refraining from rock climbing, parachuting, hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, or swimming the English Channel.

It appears news of the surgery spread, as I received a ‘care package’ from my employer. There was a variety of accouterments: crackers, cheese, popcorn, etc. It’s the first time I ever ate a Slim Jim. Darn good. ‘5 Star’ rating from me. The Cajun Slim was wicked.

In the past few days, many have praised my outlook and how I’ve handled the process. That’s just the show I present. The truth is, there have been some awkward highs and lows. Some of it has been damn depressing. I recognize all of this as just a volley in a more massive war. The doctors won ten days ago, yet I must remain vigilant.

Who knows how much time is left? I could have years or months. No one says decades. I might have a long time, or death may show quickly. People live for years with these debilitating symptoms. I don’t want that.

Right now, life’s about this Slim Jim. And it’s damn good.

While the surgery was a breeze, I was surprised by some low-level anxiety. Anyone saying otherwise is more than likely in some form of denial. Mine deepened when surgery was pushed back several hours. Similar to ocean waves before a storm, light bouts of emotions rolled and rolled.

I didn’t experience tomophobia, the fear of surgery. I did not fear my surgeon would mess it up and hit the spinal cord. It was always the same two questions: Should I have proceeded alone and What if something goes wrong? What if? What if?

The good news, I’m not alone. 

I was reasonably jovial in the pre-surgery check-in.

“Any allergies?”

“Yes,” I deadpanned. “Parachutes that don’t open, lightning strikes and bullets.”

“Are you sure what to attempt this using only local anesthetic.”

“Yes.”

The MRI indicated the tumor was about the size of a walnut and led the surgeon and I discussing (during surgery) why food is ‘the comparable.’

“Oh,” she hypothesized. “Mr. Patient, the tumor was the size of a radish … an orange … a baby carrot.”

I know why. Patients can relate. Patients can digest the size of an orange but cannot understand 9 cm by 6 cm by 19.5 cm. I envision her saying to a friend, “I ate a 9 cm by 6 cm by 19.5 cm tumor for lunch.

The surgery revealed my tumor was not the size of a walnut; it was more significant. Mine also had several roots or offshoots not detected by the Lipoma. That explains why my symptoms were degrading, but the scans didn’t reveal it. These roots were hidden. Unfortunately, the tumor inside the spinal cord remains. Just have to wait and see if this surgery will lessen spinal pressure. (It’s a bid to buy time. I’ll take what I can get.)

Twenty-four hours later, I feel pretty good. I met the surgeon this afternoon.

“You have eighteen stitches. Since we left a gaping hole, had we had to sew it shut. Otherwise, it would go a cavity of blood or potential infection. The surgery entry point will close in a couple of weeks. The stitches on the inside won’t dissolve for months, and the healing time will be about seven months. You’re likely to experience side effects. A hand may not work as well before surgery. You may experience headaches. Some of these will diminish. The tumor will be biopsied, and that should help us confirm the initial diagnosis and future treatment of what’s left.

“You know that cane you came in with?”

I nodded.

“Take it everywhere you go. Go to work? Cane. Go to a movie? Cane. Use the bathroom? Cane. Got it?”

I nodded.

So…that’s it for now. Back to monitoring. Here’s to another day.

Lastly, I wish to thank ‘Cosmic Traveller7’ for her thoughts and best wishes – meant a lot.

Trump Acquitted

In light of Trump’s acquittal, I was sent the following revised Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to Donald Trump;

And for all that he stands;

One nation, under the GOP;

With liberty and justice for the rich and powerful.

Amen

Sadly, it will be an interesting year.

I made it past another birthday. I commented to a friend of the irony: I never expected to live this long. Yet, here I am, though tired. My body feels the burden: both in neck pain and fatigue.

I awoke this past Saturday and had no desire to rise. Sunday felt better. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t spend my day-to-day life checking for lumps and bumps. Outside of the seven or so whom I’ve told, I don’t discuss it. Regardless of what inconsiderate amount of ‘pain in the a···’ thing my body tosses my way, most never see it. Just not my style.

I still haven’t told many people. I even lied about the date of surgery to those whom I have informed. Why? For the better part of life, my symptoms were dismissed by those around me. Therefore, secrecy became the rule.

Additionally, the surgeon is attempting to extricate only the portion of the tumor outside the spinal cord. “Fairly simple,” the surgeon noted. Therefore, I expect to get up from the surgery and walk out. I don’t want to borrow others’ time and energy. They need to remain in the present.

Having worked in healthcare all these years, I know surgeons poke people with sharp objects. And surgeons can make technical errors. One might slip, have a lapse, require a microscope, or inadvertently damage something. Yet, I have an innate knowing that the surgery will turn out ok.

Therefore, I am not in a dark place. I know I will survive tomorrow’s surgery. Maybe having as much of the tumor removed will assist with pain and cramps, improve ‘the quality of life.‘ So I’m told. As Buddha would say, it’s all illusion. Maybe. Maybe not.

Even though I did create an auto-generated post 30 days post-surgery should the s··· the fan, I am not ready to wrap this life. Should it all go south, maybe I will agree with this body: “Time to call it a day. Get some sleep.

Still, I fully expect post-surgery life will find me focusing on important things.

  • Forgive people who will never be sorry;
  • Love those I can;
  • Find peace with those who will never forgive me; and
  • Let go of grudges

I will extract whatever lesson(s) and move on.

See you on the other side.

Hail Thy King?

In response to a question from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, about whether it mattered if Trump engaged in a “quid pro quo,” Trump defense attorney Alan Dershowitz said that motive was what mattered and that if an act was in the public interest it was not impeachable. And he said it was reasonable for a public official to equate what is in their own political interest with the public good.

Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest,” he said. “And if a president does something, which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.

Here’s my thought … Therefore, as president, if I thought canceling the 2020 United States Presidential election prevents illegal voting by Democrats is in the best interest of the United States, then I cannot be impeached.

Yes? No?

Internet misinformation has been a robust debate for the last decade. The 2016 U.S. Election demonstrated how foreign governments, political parties, and pundits weaponized hatred, bigotry, and speculation. In all the ensuing discussions, we’ve neglected one component – us. 

Information and disinformation alike rely upon us. For instance, prominent conspiracy theories in contemporary American politics is dependent upon us to reflect unique pathologies of the party in control. Donald Trump is a well-known conspiracy theorist. His supporters often embraced ridiculous ideas lurking in the darkest recesses of the internet. And by embracing such ideology, they influence national policy.

Experts implore us to think more. Yet we reside in a 140-character world. The vestibule of truth is dependent upon the reader willing partaking in any proposed content as truth. 

Need examples? There are plenty. 

Justin Trudeau received harsh criticism for picking up donuts for his cabinet meetings. Social media users went brain-dead bananas from cost (approximately $45) to why not Tim Horton’s. 

Pizzagate splashed across our television screens before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. A Reddit user posted “evidence” (i use that term loosely) that alleged a pizza owner in Washington, D.C. generated both child sex and pizza. As Pizzagate spread, Comet Ping Pong received hundreds of threats, and on December 4, 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch arrived and fired several shots from a semi-automatic rifle. Welch later informed police he planned to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory.

I canceled my LinkedIn account last month after receiving an online diatribe of how wonderful Trump was versus the ‘do nothing Democrats.’ The viral post went to a hell of a lot of users. And the rant forced me to assess the value of service I was receiving. My assessment led me to believe that this service was neither valuable nor offered anything that enhanced my daily business life.

Again, my cancellation was not about the validity or integrity of Trump’s policies. Instead, it was about the personal value received from LinkedIn. LinkedIn positions itself to be a digital resume, a source of news, and inspiration. At that moment, LinkedIn lost its compass, and its value to be both newsworthy or inspirational diminished significantly. 

In canceling LinkedIn, I, in effect, terminated my last social media account. Outside of any social media accounts linked to this blog, I have no other social media vices. I deleted Facebook in 2010. I never used Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, or any other social media venue. It’s liberating.

Social media’s problem lay in its inability to transform. From Black Lives Matter to the Arab Spring, protests spurred by social media have failed to materialize meaningful movement. The Arab Spring started via Facebook. Ten years later, it’s dead. The #Metoo movement has resulted in only six convictions and falters as a top priority for most Americans. When a massive fire broke out on June 14, 2017 at the 24-story Grenfell Tower public housing in West London, causing 71 deaths and over 70 injuries, public outrage was swift. Within days, #Justice4Grenfell trended on social media. Eight months later, little has changed for those who lost their lives, for those who survived, the bereaved families, or the wider community. 

Why? 

There’s a difference between ‘viral’ and ‘movement.’ A viral post is something shared, copied, and spread across multiple social platforms. Anyone can have a ‘viral’ post. Movements require action. And without work, they’re destined for death. Movements require ‘us’ to become involved. If you want change, you must vote. Want to change the educational system of your local city, you must get involved. Need to change the bias of a government, you must run for office, create ideas, and publish policies.

David Imel wrote an article titled, ‘I quit the internet for nine days.’ I paraphrase him in stating we need to stop scrolling Twitter endlessly. We have to restrain from searching CNN every time someone excuses themself for the restroom. Imel noted his habits.

Notifications have created a sense of urgency in my life. Everything feels important. Did someone like my twitter post? I have a new Instagram follower? Surely these things need to be addressed! And so, waking up to effectively nothing on my phone felt weird. I felt anxious.

From a Buddhist perspective, if you want to see how we’ve enslaved ourselves to the latest tweet, look no further than our government leadership or Presidental impeachment trial. The way people lie about each other is appalling. Saturate yourself in the ‘online world,’ you’ll likely acquire a warped perception of others, online or not. For Trump, Biden is Sleepy Joe, Low I.Q., Crazy; Bernie Sanders is Crazy; Elizabeth Warren is Pocahontas or Goofy; O’Rouke has ’hand movement’ (whatever that meant), Stone-Cold Phony, or a Flake; Klobuchar looked like a ‘Snowman,’ and Gillibrand ’… would do anything for donations (some interpreting sex or oral sex).’

Trump made it ok to demean and debase. That’s a reflection of us, all of us. We allowed it. In the process, we stopped considering others human (as in people) thinking instead they are mindless, easily seduced political enemies of whatever cause we’re either for or against. 

We must reverse the trend – even if it includes replacing our current leaders. We must regain our humanity.

Just a little over a week to surgery. Time to get some of this tumor out. I still haven’t told many people — I kind of arc around trying to find something to do. Not so much to keep the mind preoccupied, but more so because my current position is rather damn dull.

In regards to the surgery, I have no grand expectation of the outcome. Although, admittingly, I feel embarrassed. Why? Well, I think everything will come ok, that all this drama was for naught. I presume, post-surgery, some cute nurse will poke me in the shoulder and say “arise.” And just as Christ command, in awe, everyone will clap. Such fairy tales seem overrated. At surgery end, I will get up and walk. If I don’t, get me a television, a remote control, kettle chips, and a diet coke. I am ok with the outcome, regardless of the path to which God commands I endure. Sure, I wish to have tumors out. But with the diagnosis of an additional tumor, I strive to place one foot in front of the other and walk onward. 

My tale of woe is nowhere near as others. Dare to think God has dealt you a lousy hand, take a look at the Kobe Bryant or the Mauser family. Sometimes comparing life’s misery keeps one in check.

I am not a true warrior. You know, the guy who saved many. Such a viewpoint should never be mistaken for me. That’s not to say I didn’t do my part. I did. But I no longer consider my sacrifice anything special. Real heroes lay enshrined in national and local cemeteries. Those heroes fought injustice, battles, defeated Stalinism, communism, and hatred. Real heroes are victims who rose against the likes of Epstein and Weinstein. We should celebrate their sacrifice, not mine.

I can’t give this tumor more power than it has. It’s a foe that has no face, no body, nor motto. It does have an x-ray, yet appears as another blob. However, the deeper foe is age. Like David in Psalm 71:9, the very passage of time is a trial, and I utter unto God:

“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails.”

I’m assured He shall not.

In more youthful days, I ignored aging. The nature of humanity eventually outstripped youthful laughter. A year post-diagnosis, I accept certain ignoble truths: I neither bought this tumor nor the second. Amazon didn’t deliver it. Neither did a stork.  Accepting life and its frailty requires a different camera lens. I used to think being sick was a gift. In pure form, sickness taught many lessons. Yet I looked at it all wrong. I am a gift. I’m unsure why it took so many years to understand. Like a child, God held me abundantly. And I grew wiser and more mature. I wish more could have seen. 

Nine days from now, I will walk an uncharted course. There will be new roads with new choices. In preparation, I read Chapter 64 of the Dao De Jing. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” 

And how will my journey begin? When I get off the operating table and walk, foot by foot — step by step.

I was asked how Republican GOP Senators could side with Trump and acquit him. It’s a thought-provoking question, given the fact that Trump’s defense team presented a radically different view of the events and the Constitution, seeking to turn the charges back on his accusers while simultaneously denouncing the whole process as illegitimate.

To answer the question, I went back to Nixon aide Egil Krogh.

“The premise of our action was the firmly held view within certain precincts of the White House that the president and those functioning on his behalf could carry out illegal acts with impunity if they were convinced that the nation’s security demanded it. When the president does it, that means it is not unlawful. To this day, the implications of this statement are staggering.

At no time did I or anyone else there question whether the operation was necessary, legal, or moral. Convinced that we were responding legitimately to a national security crisis, we focused instead on the operational details: who would do what, when, and where.”

Is this where we’re at? A January 26th, 2020, tweet, Trump emphasized his belief that Article 2 of the Constitution allows him to do anything.

“Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man. He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!”

And what’s the price, Mr. President?

Republicans willingly accept leadership from a morally bankrupt family who presides over a scandal-laced presidency. Many Trump advisers face significant prison time, and Donald Trump probably has to stay in office to avoid prosecution.

The pursuit and abuse of power—power is an end unto itself. GOP Senators weaponized religion. In doing so, religion is no longer personal and private; it’s a public freak show. In his appearance before the right-to-life movement on January 25th, Trump noted:

“Sadly, the far-left is actively working to erase our God-given rights, shut down faith-based charities, ban religious believers from the public square, and silence Americans who believe in the sanctity of life. They are coming after me because I am fighting for you, and we are fighting for those who have no voice.”

It’s the same message, twisted differently for each occasion: Anyone who opines is evil.

I often ponder anger’s value. Should we valorize it or avenge it. In prayer, I’ve was informed to abandon anger’s thirst, eliminate even the smallest seeds of violence, because the full-blown emotion can only cause harm. In life, I want to prevent similar events from occurring.

One problem with anger is the tendency to cling to it, to bear a grudge against any reasonable form of reconciliation. On the other hand, I want to exact (often disproportional) revenge. Yet failing to react to grievous wrongdoing runs the risk of acquiescing in evil.

In the end, as a Buddhist, both sides of our current political system prefer to segregate the ‘moral side’ of anger. Each promotes its version of the ‘dark side.’

The agents for change are documented in history. To avoid despair, we clarity – a clarity that only (“the truth”) can provide. Trump claims he is the ‘revolution.’ However, Trump himself doesn’t have a revolutionary character of ‘truth.’ If we don’t get that, I fear a hell of a lot of people will continue to suffer and die.

By acquitting Trump, we’ll unleash a political leader that wants only was power. And what he most obviously enjoys is smashing anything in its pursuit.

I Will Miss America

Ms. Tiffany Cross tweeted:

“. . . I am going to miss America.”

Ditto, Ms. Cross. Ditto

I have been a fraud investigator since 1995, testified at State Congressional hearings, and assisted in the prosecution of over 500 people. I am so angry at what’s happening in the Senate impeachment trial.

I am not making this decision based upon a preordained viewpoint of guilt or innocence. What I am angry about is the unjust trial being perpetrated upon America, that we will hold a trial with no witnesses, no evidence and no due process – that we will make no attempt to hear the truth.

If Barack Obama, or any black man for that matter, had done anything remotely like these allegations, the GOP would be burning the White House to get justice.

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