Category: Life Lessons


A 38-year-old man who needs a kidney transplant to survive refuses the required COVID-19 vaccination. The man stated that he was ‘born free’ and would ‘die free.’ Likewise, a 31-year-old Boston father-of-two with a third on the way needs a new heart. He also refuses the vaccine, indicating that it’s his body and his choice. According to news reports, both men continue to receive medical care but are no longer eligible for transplant surgery. A Go Fund Me campaign was initiated for the first, promoting the decision as a fight against tyranny. As a person who is dying, I feel for both men. As a patient though, when it comes to ‘death,’ there is no ‘born-free,’ ‘die free’ mentality. There’s just death.

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God Will Find You

“So, we have a couple of hours. What’s your story?” asked the nurse bending over and connecting the radioactive die to enhance the imaging. 

“Well, I started in the military to be one thing, and now I’m here, doing something completely different.”

“Not that story,” she muttered.

“Huh?”

“I don’t want to hear about the job you dreamed of and the job you are now. I want to hear about people. I want to hear about what made you who you are today? Give it to me straight.”

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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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“Holiday Travel is nuts,” the man said. “It’s just nuts,” he sighed. “I spent nine hours driving, being a one-person asshole that concluded with me eating a McDonald’s combo meal one (Big Mac Meal), waiting for a soft cast to placed on my ankle. I’ve yelled at people, flipped them off driving, zagged in and out lanes with abandon, and sped in excess of more than 90 miles an hour. Finally, I pissed off my sister, got mad at her, stumbled off the rear deck of her home, and sprained my ankle. Now, I’m eating a Big Mac. Alone! And you want a COVID test? Merry f***ing Christmas.”

Sitting next to him in the emergency room, “I still need to shove this Q-tip up your nose for a COVID test sample.”

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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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