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I no longer walk a solitary journey. As best as I tried to walk alone toward my final hours, back pain has become my companion. Walking is difficult, and sleep is elusive. So I staggered to my recliner just past midnight of August 1st, 2021, and glanced at newspaper headlines. Remnants of Hurricane Ida, Afghan pullout, Taliban Exult, and Facebook Profit and Pain smothered the New York Times front page. Exhausted, I Leaned into the recliner’s headrest and stared through the window into the horizon. I noted the moonlight glistening over whitewashed tips of gentle waves as they lapped onto the shore. A single overhead street lamp created contrasting highlights of black equally split by spatters of light. Whispering through a blackened void, my thoughts slipped through, “I expected something,” I expected something because I was told ’a new America’ had arrived.

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About Luck

A few hours ago, I found a box of old pictures. The first picture had to be twenty years old and looked like someone else. “Wow, I’ll never be that person again.” Followed by, “Yeah, that person does not have death shadowing my every movement.” Still, when others are seen enjoying activities without reservation, I do not become overly nostalgic. Sure, I once enjoyed running, playing football, or swimming, but I know those I see will one day be like me, someone for whom the bells have either tolled or will toll.

Admittedly, I have thrived where others have not. (Or, I have thrived up to this point.) I could claim that my ability was due to modern medicine or that I was such a physical specimen that my body was bound to overcome anything thrown at it. But the reality is likely to involve a good dose of luck. I hear this all the time when walking the ICU. If one dies, a lack of luck is blamed. “Ma’am, we did our best, but his luck ran out.” If one survives, ‘luck’ is stated differently, “Ma’am, we’re unsure why he survived, but a lot of things worked in his favor.”

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I’ve seen many a hurricane in my day. First, super Typhoon Pamela (No, not an ex-girlfriend) produced typhoon-force winds for 18 hours and left 80% of the buildings in its wake. Then was Hurricane Andrew (No, not Gov. Cuomo). Hurricane’s Rita and Katrina, whose one-two punch devastated parts of the southern coast. Last was the remnants of Hurricane Sandy. Sandy flooded everything it touched, but mostly the shores of New Jersey and New York. The flooding was so bad that then-Governor Christie won the ‘I just wanna hug you award’ with then-President Barack Obama. Other not-so-large hurricanes spattered in and out of my life, but none produced lasting memories of those previously mentioned. If there’s one thing I regretted the most from my participation, it was thinking that unless I was strong, I was weak.

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“Poignant statement,” I noted.

“Huh?” said my hospital escort (an Emergency Room nurse I’ll call Wanda) while simultaneously perusing the ‘Comm Board.’ The Communications Board (Comm Board), or “whiteboard” as it is informally known, is a communication tool that provides an instant snapshot of the patient. When updating the patient’s family, the care team, and the care team, clinicians use the information.

“Poignant statement,” I repeated while pointing to her clipboard with the words written in red, “Everyone believes in Jesus, but no one wants to meet him today.”

Wanda looked down and momentarily sighed. “When you get here [the COVID ICU], ‘today’ always comes.”

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About thirty-five years ago, during breakfast, my former mother-in-law said she had to run errands throughout the day, culminating with a stop at the pharmacy for some PTA items. Confused by the comment, my ex-wife asked what ‘PTA’ items she was picking up while also noting her mother wasn’t part of the local Parent Teacher Association? “Oh dear, no.” she chuckled. “I am stopping for some ‘Pits, Tits, and Ass’ products.” My ex sat in shock while I rolled in laughter. Three decades later, I found myself doing the same.

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“God,” I whispered, waking in pain. “My intestines are killing me.” I attempted to dig into my stash of Tylenol #3 leftover from a dental procedure years ago. (Yeah, I know some will say they’ve expired. But I don’t believe that one day past expiration, this form of pill says to itself, “I’m expired.”) I was hoping the pain would subside. Instead, it stayed with for hours. The pain originates either in the stomach or where the transverse colon and descending colon connect. This unbearable pain in the upper left abdomen occurs almost nightly, with some nights worse than others. Intuitively, I know my colon has some serious problem (maybe Splenic Flexure Syndrome), but a cure for all my ailments is not feasible at this point in life. As such, the spasmodic cramping, gas, and bloating have become a part of my everyday living. I’ve acclimated to it. I’ve also adjusted to the notion that my body is rejecting life. It’s ironic, as thirty-plus years ago, this acclimation wasn’t always the case.

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Except for Aleve and Tylenol, this past week has been living medication-free. However, the deceptive nature of living with Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Arthritis, and tumors percolate inside. If you look at me, you’d be convinced by how I look like the picture of health. However, there have been nights when I cheated on my vow of medication-free. For example, last night, I had to sleep in my recliner for two two-hour periods due to pain by downing a single tablet of Tylenol #3 (300 mg of Acetaminophen and 60 mg of Codeine). I guess medication-free is not medication-free when one has to sneak in 30 mg of Codeine now and then, but when your body gets to this stage of pain, many will do what they have to do.

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Trying CBD

I finally got weeded off a ton of medication. I dropped three-quarters of Gabapentin, halved the Zanaflex, Celebrex (to which I wonder if it works and that some guy stuck a placebo in the casing), and all of the Carbidopa-Levodopa. In theory, Carbidopa-Levodopa has withdrawal symptoms if one reduces too quickly but suffice only one night and one day; I experienced no significant issues. In truth, I experience fewer Parkinson’s problems without Carbidopa-Levodopa than I did with it. Now I am down to several 220mg of Aleve and 2ml of CBD Oil purchased from Medterra. (No, I do not receive any royalties.)

The CDB Oil was new for me. I’ve never been known to shove ‘alternative’ medications down my throat but became intrigued by CBD Oil after watching the Larry Smith (aka ‘Ride with Larry’) YouTube video. Mr. Smith was a former police captain who had Parkinson’s. In the 2012 video, Mr. Smith’s symptoms abated within a few minutes of inhaling some form of cannabis (maybe a vaping type instrument). Unfortunately, eight years later, Smith passed away, but I wonder if cannabis treatment assisted him or not. So, after about 80 hours of research, l ordered some CBD from Medterra. When asked if I could be monitored through my Neuro’s office staff and expertise, I was kindly instructed not to return – that I would be alone.

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In December, multiple women alleged New York Governor of sexual harassment and or assault. The allegations varied between inappropriate comments, forced kissing and groping. For his part, Cuomo took issued a prerecorded video alleging no misconduct. Strangely, I can look at both Cuomo and the victims compassionately. This view is neither thinking in the light that Cuomo’s actions do not have some form of merit nor are justifiable. (Cuomo’s actions are indefensible). I also don’t take a strict form of religious interpretation by reiterating, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Instead, I look at Cuomo and say, “Cuomo is done. He cannot politically survive.”

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According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first time GOAT (Greatest of All Time) originated in September 1992, when Lonnie Ali, Muhammad Ali’s wife, incorporated G.O.A.T. Inc. Since then, others have helped themselves GOAT, often through others, and adorning fans. For example, L.L. Cool J released an album titled ‘G.O.A.T.’ Tom Brady was officially G.O.A.T.d’ in 2017, but Hank Aaron was not, simply for lacking a Most Valuable Player award. 

My experience of an actual G.O.A.T. occurred when watching ‘The Pride of The Yankees.’ One day, in Detroit, Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper) tells Yankees manager Joe McCarthy he has become a detriment to the team and benches himself. I can only imagine the amount of inner strength and inner courage to realize when one has become a detriment and when it’s time to sit out. But, unfortunately, I can’t recall ever seeing such character until the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games when Simone Biles stepped aside.

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