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Dear State Farm:

To some extent, great marketing is about using influence strategies and tactics to get other people to purchase your product. And while many companies and leaders are fundamentally flawed, marked by duplicity and insincerity, they are unlikely to experience long-term success. In that light, I have watched the COVID vaccination debacle of Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the past several days. And should his use of ‘alternative COVID-19 immunization’ be true, I respect his decision to pursue such therapies. If however, should Rodgers’ statements be proven deceitful, then all he’s accomplished was placing so many others at risk for undue COVID exposure. Under those circumstances, should State Farm continue to keep Rodgers as spokesperson, the company then becomes duplicit. 

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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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Chopsticks

“Chopsticks,” I murmured to myself. Six months ago, I could use chopsticks so well no one would have known I had medical issues. However, last Friday, I could barely manage to hold and align chopsticks. Everyone looked at me out of the corner of their eye. Smiling embarrassing so, I shifted to laugh it off, “Chopsticks.” Chopsticks wasn’t the word I wanted to use: I wanted to cuss. I wanted to shout, “F**k it” or “God damn it.” However, in the civility of dinner, I muttered, “Chopsticks.”

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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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Clinicians inform me that a person with bradykinesia moves, just slowly. I wonder how much of that is true. Some days, I feel as though my fingertips and hands are experiencing small repeated 6.5 earthquakes. If I were James Bond, I would order a Martini, “No need to stir. I can shake it myself.” It’s a form of ‘slow death.’

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Comedian Steve Martin used to do a routine in which he envisioned his post-death conversation with God.

“Mr. Martin,” the Lord began. “Do you know how many times you took my name in vain?”

Of course, Martin indicated no.

“19,465 times.”

Martin paused, titled his head, and replied, “Jesus Christ.”

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In 1998, two automotive dealership technicians became very competitive in their attempts to date the dealership’s cashier. Each thought they were the better man. During the ensuing months, each unsuccessfully attempted to build their bravado while simultaneously sabotaging the other. Then, one day, each technician received customer vehicles that required testing driving to validate non-related complaints. When each technician noticed the other traveling in the opposite lane, they somehow went directly at each other. (As in head-on.) While each denied responsibility, both stated they expected the other driver to perform evasive maneuvers. Neither did, and both vehicles were destroyed. In theory, if you play the game of ‘chicken’ without credibly committing to staying in the middle of the road, you are likely to lose. The other player is unlikely to swerve. Therefore, either you dodge or crash. Unfortunately, humans love wrecks.

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Nurses spoke of seeing a middle-aged woman who showed up each day, sat at the same table, ate her lunch, sipped some coffee, and left several hours later. After several weeks, speculation centered upon romance – that perhaps a kind doctor struck so profoundly, she returns every day, hoping to meet. Or, may she was hoping to remember. Unless one asked, no one knew the actual reason.

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My bones ache. No, it is not muscles. It feels like bones. I first noticed the condition in August. I awoke mid-August and felt an unusual symptom: the bones (tibia and fibula) ached in the lower part of my right leg. I couldn’t classify it as pain. Instead, it was ‘moan.’ Maybe it was ‘moaning.’ Sure, I have sleep disturbances from back pain and sometimes radiculopathy (pinched nerve in the spine), but this was a ‘moan.’

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