Category: Faith & Doubt


The patient has to be proactive. May are not. Need an example? when the doctor seemed ready to breeze past initial blood results showing normal white blood cell counts, but red blood cells suddenly below normal, I forced her to opine. “Oh,” she mumbled while looking at the computer. “These results are way out whack. We need to run more through some more blood tests. I need to see if your results are iron-deficient anemia or something else. I don’t believe you have colon cancer, for the blood results are right for Colon Cancer. So, an Iron+TBIC+Ferritin blood test will be the first test.”Proactivity ensured doctors did not miss critical information, but I am unsure what ‘not right means.’

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2021’s Auld Lang Syne

In her book The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change, Pauline Moss detailed her thoughts on ‘loss.’ There were often no bodies, and thus no rituals for mourning. Rather than being tied to a specific event such as a vehicle accident or heart attack, losses from cancer, dementia, COVID-19 frequently extended through weeks or years. Every day deepened in ways that grievers could not register. Could such experiences even be considered losses? Boss coined a term to define the unclear (and often unacknowledged) absences as ‘ambiguous loss(s).’ First, 2021 was filled with loss, including my father, ex-wife, and ex-mother-in-law died. Next, my parent’s dog Skip followed my father’s death in August. And last, my ex-wife’s brother entered jail on Christmas Eve for securities violation. All of this was before my own perceived physical loss. Now that I’ve become aware, I sense father and son are eerily connected.

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My body is tired of being alive. My body, mind you, is not dying yet. It’s just tired. Of all the daily aches and pains and the seemingly few restful flu periods this past year, my body is saying, “This sucks.” A May 2021 NPR article noted the irony of living in a pandemic, “If your brain feels foggy and you’re tired all the time, you’re not alone.” A moment of reflection produced, ‘Good. Now I have an excuse.’ I never put a great deal of weight into courage and bravery. Hell, most are clueless about what I am going through. Daily battles of pain, excessive blood loss with every bowel movement, hip, lower back, and knee pain seem to be my ever-present companions. I don’t care about being remembered as a courageous person. I don’t. There’s just an incredible emotional and physical toll in just getting up and heading off to work at this point in life.

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Days after a mass shooting at a Michigan high school, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) tweeted a Christmas photo of his entire family in front of their Christmas tree, each holding some form of semi-automatic weapon. The caption Massie used was, “Merry Christmas! ps. Santa, please bring ammo.” Lauren Bobert posted a similar picture, except her caption was, “The Boeberts have your six.” ‘Having your six’ is a military term referecing ’we have your back.’ At least Bobert didn’t ask Santa for bullets, for I presume if you can afford the weapon, you should be able to afford the ammunition. However, based on how some legislators manage, I envision one, some, or many buying such a weapon saying, “Damn it. I forgot about the bullets.” I perceive neither God nor Santa ever thought a legislator would request bullets. Then again, I never thought that posting a photo of Santa applying for (or receiving) a concealed handgun permit was a good use of company time (like the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office). 

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About The Fog

In the film My Life, Bob Jones begins making videotapes of himself after receiving a terminal diagnosis. In the tapes, he outlines his life, beliefs, and life lessons. However, at one point, Jones whispers to his son, “Dying is a really hard way to learn about life.” The ending scene is touching: At the time of death, he is shown on a metaphysical roller coaster with his hands releasing the railing, raising his arms freely in the air. Metaphorically, he lets go of life and finally enjoys the ride. In a way, the film’s director provides viewers the opportunity to contemplate what in their life requires healing.

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“What Thanksgiving message do you have this year? What do you feel blessed about?” Barbara (my case manager) asked yesterday. 

To be truthful, I had a hard time responding, so I copped out with, “I survived.” Yeah, sure, it’s true, I survived, but was I genuinely thankful for it? Of course, I knew that Barbara knew I struggled to find something positive. I wasn’t ready for the question. I searched my list of quick, snappy comebacks, and nothing fit. I knew how I felt. And the best line I can grasp at this moment comes from the 1994 film Wyatt Earp where Doc Holiday exclaims, “… I wake up every day looking at death, and you know what? He ain’t half bad.” If any statement honed in on my thoughts, that would be it. Still, I kept thinking there has to be a better response than ‘Gee, death looks better.’

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The Return

Sorry, it’s been a while since my last post. Life has been somewhat challenging. In 2019, I was informed of a benign tumor partly in the spine and outside the spine. (Somewhere in-between Intradural and Extradural). So on February 6, 2020, I opted for limited excision of the tumor outside the spine and received a shitload of steroids and limited radiation intended to beat down the remainder. Or, if it weren’t going to get beaten down, maybe, just maybe, the rest would stay in check. 

Twenty months later, I could feel a modestly small lump on my neck. After poking, prodding, massaging, and gliding my fingers over the node, I just knew: The tumor started to regrow. When tumors return, uncertainties return as well. Tumors can grow in any part of the body or regrow in the original place. So, like a traveling’ snowbird,’ mine decided to open residency in the location previously vacated. All of this means that for now, the tumor could be a ‘local recurrence.’

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“It’s unusual for a person at your age,” the radiologist said. Hint. When a clinician claims you’re ‘unusual,’ that version of ‘unusual’ can infer many things, from good, bad, funny, ugly, or any combination thereof. “During your last scan, we detected something that requires a second look. Scans detected a 3-millimeter section under the left ulnar styloid bone. It could be nothing, could be something. Regardless, we’ll need to perform a Cat Scan or MRI, depending on your doctor’s request.”

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Parkinson’s scared me more than cancer. Those words bored through my thinking in late February 2020 and remain persistent now. Unfortunately, nearly every terminal patient who’s taken a stoic stance (remaining in control), there comes the point in time during the disease when you lose control. I remember watching Ted Koppel’s Nightline program when Morris Schwartz (Tuesdays with Morrie) talked to Nightline host Ted Koppel. “Well, Ted, one day soon, someone’s gonna have to wipe my ass. It’s the ultimate sign of dependency. Someone wiping your bottom. But I’m working on it.”

Control. I thought of the word ‘control’ when my Neurologist informed me I moved from Parkinson’s Stage 1 to Parkinson’s Stage 2. In Stage 2, Symptoms start getting worse. Tremor, rigidity, and other movement symptoms affect both sides of the body. One can remain independent, but daily tasks become more difficult. And that’s where I’m at: Life is more difficult, more complicated, and more painful in the ass.

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As I’ve done every week for the last eighteen months, I checked the most recent COVID-19 numbers. Compiling COVID statistics for 38 states and 140 counties requires significant effort. First, one has to ensure infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths are accurately recorded. Next, you must interpret that data and decided what information must be presented to executive management. Management then reviews that information and determines how specific healthcare operations in each location will respond to projected trends. For example, Alaskan healthcare operations, where care is rationed, require a different response than California, where COVID is declining.

However, times are different than a year ago. After a year and a half, your team gains credibility. There is a well-developed cadence to performing these calculations and presenting useful, intelligible information. Then again, eighteen months ago was a different era, when people clamored for information and longed for some respite at home (or working from home). Throw in some false pandemic information, fake medication news, fake vaccine news, fake ‘stolen election’ allegations, and an attempted January 6th insurrection have pushed people to a breaking point. 

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