As I do every year, I have managed to completely forget my blogiversary, this year my fourth such having been on the 9th of this month.
Of course, this is an eminently forgettable site, more so lately due to my scant posting and lack of weighty discussion. Perhaps I can rectify that.
Four years I've been doing this? Egads, I suck.
I finally heard the MRI results from the doctor yesterday.
They saw nothing, nothing at all. No tumor, no lesions, no bad disk.
So now I have to undergo another MRI... this time, of my head and neck.
I'm more than a little concerned by this turn of events. If the problems I'm having were caused by a bad disk, I'd have figured it would be in the part of the spine covered by last week's MRI. I suppose a bad disk in the neck might be responsible... but I'm less optimistic about that, and am more willing to believe that the less-pleasant problems are what're happening here.
Coincident with this wonderful news, I notice that as I taper off the Prednisone as per my doctor's orders, my symptoms are returning full force. While this may be diagnostically useful, it's a major pain in the ass for me, as I have begun falling down a bit more often, and I can't stand or walk for more than a minute or two at a time. From being merely an aid to balance, my cane has gone to actually providing support. There are other problems that I'll not detail on a rated-PG website.
We're working on scheduling the second MRI, to fit around my work schedule and to allow time to rustle up the scratch to pay for the damn thing.*
In the meantime, I once again want to thank everyone for their kind words of support. I still owe several replies to those who left a word here — I apologize for my tardiness.
* As a contract employee, I am among the uninsured. No, I do not want Hillarycare.
My brother is in the auto finance business. From him:
I made a special arrangement yesterday with a Honda dealership that allows me to offer 2007 Honda Accords that he has in stock at incredible prices. I can definitely get these cars for LESS than dealer invoice. I would like to help this dealer friend of mine clear his inventory, and help anyone who needs or wants a new Accord get one at an outstanding price, without the haggling process. Please feel free to share this news with friends if you like. (Please note - this is limited to the dealer's stock in inventory!)
So, if you're in the market for a cheap 2007 Honda Accord, drop me a line. Tell your friends.
This is my brother. Yes, he's reputable.
Still no word on the MRI results. The longer I wait, the more nervous I get.
Nonetheless, I am constantly reminded that whatever my problems are, they are as a hill of beans when compared to some other peoples' problems.
Like Tony Snow, for instance.
Man, that just plain sucks. Good luck, Tony.
I thought the chances would be pretty good I'd hear from the medicos this week.
What could be taking so long? I don't know.
But it's bugging the heck out of me... and it's making me more and more pessimistic about the potential outcome. I mean, if it were only a bad disk causing these problems I'm having, it ought to be fairly easy to see on the MRI... no?
Or maybe there's nothing on the MRI and I have to have another one... of my head. That would be bad news.
Perhaps I'm dwelling on this too much, but I really don't have a choice, do I?
Kvetch about my own problems as I may, they are nothing — nothing — compared to what Cathy Seipp has gone through these past few years.
If only all of us could show such grit as Cathy did in the face of defeat.
I just got off the phone with the neurologist's office. It is, of course, too soon for the results of the MRI to have been fully evaluated. Three to five working days, I'm told. I'll be on pins and needles.
I think that might be worse torture than the MRI.
Speaking of which, it occurred to me that if such non-torture "tortures" as waterboarding and panty-wearing are disallowed these days, setting up an MRI machine at Gitmo and running the detainees there through it under the guise of "providing medical care" might serve pretty well.
Lots of folks suggested that I take the offered tranquilizers before the MRI, but I declined — mainly because I had an hour's drive from the MRI place to home, and because I was already pretty tired; I've only had one really decent night's sleep since starting the Prednisone.
As it happened, the recommended tranquilizers weren't necessary. As tired as I was, I dozed a fair bit, regardless of the loud and annoying noise from the MRI machine, with occasional jerking-to-awareness. Only towards the end did I get uncomfortable; I found myself having to remember to breathe.
So, for me it wasn't bad, but then I'm a pretty relaxed guy... an extremely relaxed guy. But I can certainly see how 45 minutes or an hour stuffed into the machine might drive some people temporarily batty.
Many thanks to all the folks who dropped by (mainly via Mike, Misha and Joe) and left comments or sent me mail. It truly means a lot to me. I'm still working on individual replies for those that need them.
Let's just keep hoping that whatever it is I've got, that it isn't on the "bad" end of the spectrum.
Got back from the MRI place about an hour ago. It wasn't a pleasant experience, but it certainly wasn't as horrible as I'm told it could have been.
Results are pending — it might be the end of the week before I know anything.
For the past month or so I've been on the verge of giving a full update about something that's been going on here for most of the past year. I have talked about it with some people — family, my employer, a very few friends. I was going to wait until the facts were fully known, but prompted by a post at Cold Fury, I've decided now is as good a time as any to spill the beans.
Some of you may recall that last summer I broke my foot. That incident, in and of itself, was not a huge deal, nor the point of this missive, but in that post I referred to some other problems, so it's something of a chronological landmark in this story.
Ever since I injured my back in the Army in 1991, I've had recurring back-related problems. Mostly, it was sustained pain in my legs from a lower-spine disk putting pressure on the sciatic nerve. Sometimes — roughly annually — the disk would decide to get a bit friskier, and leave me flat on my back in bed for a day or two.
This past summer, however, events took a different turn. One day at the office, shortly after I broke my foot, I was making my way down the stairs when I noticed something odd: I couldn't feel my heels making contact with the stair treads. It felt like I was walking on sponges.
Soon thereafter my constant companion, the sciatic pain, went away. Just went away. Well, I thought, that's not so bad.
Gradually, though, I noticed that I was losing feeling in my legs, and not just the feeling; I was beginning to lose some of the involuntary muscle reactions that, in reaction to sensations of balance from the inner ear, help a person keep upright when standing. My sense of balance was fine; the muscles in my legs were not reacting.
As a result, I began falling down. A lot. For a period of perhaps a month, I was falling down once every couple of days. My legs simply refused to do what I wanted them to do, and down I would go. It was almost as if the muscles had been turned off, but strangely, if I consciously thought about it, I would usually be able to remain standing.
Eventually, I noticed that certain muscles in my legs had begun to go a bit flabby, while other muscles were building up. As the previously under-used muscles built up, and as I got used to not taking chances, I stopped falling quite so much.
Now, this whole time, I was convinced that it was my old back injury at the root of the problem. I figured that the disk was putting pressure on the nerves in such a way so as to interfere with control and feeling in my legs. The VA, I was sure, would be able to deal with it, but I kept putting off going to see them. Call it misguided stoicism, if you will, but really I'd just been too busy with the rest of my life, and, to be quite honest, as long as it didn't actually hurt, I figured I could deal with it a bit longer... and unlike my previous back injury incidents, this never actually hurt.
Right around Thanksgiving, though, the rate of my physical decline increased. I began to have a very difficult time standing up; if I was sitting down and didn't have a way to lever myself up with my arms, I'd be stuck — a chair without armrests was (and is) as good as a jail cell. When walking, I had to keep a hand in contact with a nearby wall or, if there was no wall near, I would walk with very deliberate baby steps. I had at that point successfully avoided falling down in public, but there were some pretty close calls.
I began working from home once or twice a week. My colleagues and managers (and even I) thought I was still having knee and back problems. Fortunately, my management is fine with telecommuting, and, not to put too fine a point on it, it was getting to be just too bloody difficult to get ready and go to the office every day.
By Christmas, the decline was severe. I could not feel anything below mid-thigh, though I still mostly had conscious control of the muscles. Some days, I couldn't feel anything below my waist. You could probably have stuck me with a knife and I wouldn't have known it. Certainly, Mycah was sticking me with her claws without me being able to tell. I was, however, putting a lot of strain on my back, and was beginning to feel it.
I stopped commuting to the office altogether. I forget which date it was, exactly, but I don't think I've been in to the office once yet this year.
So, stubborn me, I finally went to see the doc. The diagnostic process began, and as part of that I was sent to physical therapy, so that my muscular capabilities could be assessed. As the therapist targeted specific muscles, I could tell that some muscles just weren't responding at all. Remember the Thigh Master? I wouldn't be able to use it. A raw egg would be safe from cracking if held between my knees. Some other muscles were fine, strength-wise, but easily fatigued.
Yet, even as late as the end of January, I remained totally convinced that all of this was the result of my 1991 back injury.
Within a week of that last linked post, though, I had to start using a cane... not for support, as much as for an aid to balance. A "third point of contact," if you will. My late father's cane is about four inches too short for me, though, so I eventually ordered one a bit taller.
Think about that. I have purchased a cane. For my own use. Not as a gag.
I'm 44 years old.
After a couple weeks of assessment by the physical therapist, I returned to the doctor for a followup. That's when I first heard that it might not — almost certainly is not — my old Army injury coming back to haunt me.
The doctor mentioned several different possibilities, but the two words I heard loudest were neurological condition.
That means, of course, that among the possible causes of my condition are Multiple Sclerosis and (though very unlikely) Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis — what I grew up knowing as Lou Gehrig's Disease, but which today might be better referred to as Stephen Hawking's Disease.
I was referred to a neurologist who, as it turns out, is one of the best in the country. He performed a battery of tests on me, and backed up my doctor's preliminary assessments. It could be a neurological condition, though thankfully the odds are extremely long against ALS, though the possibility has to be considered — not to do so would be irresponsible. MS is far more likely, but the odds are higher still that this is all the result of a brain tumor, a tumor of some sort on my spinal cord, or even a damaged disk in my upper back. (Upper back? I've never hurt that before.)
Now, I'm a pretty well educated guy, so I knew right away that this could be real trouble. Deeply serious trouble. Up to this point, everything I imagined might be wrong with me was fixable. A neurological condition, though... that's different.
A tumor or a disk problem, they can fix.
MS is forever.
ALS is forever... though that "forever" is, as I understand it, usually rather severely curtailed.
But nothing is certain yet, at least, not until they see it on an MRI. My MRI appointment is scheduled for Monday.
The neurologist put me on Prednisone, which has actually been very helpful with my symptoms — my legs feel as good as they did at Thanksgiving. I can actually feel them, mostly, though the control problems remain. The medication's side effects are unpleasant (sleeplessness, dry hacking coughs, acid reflux, bloating) but tolerable... though I'm extremely tired all the time now. Fortunately, I'm already on the "tapering off" plan for the Prednisone, I have a supplementary prescription for Lasix to handle the water weight gain (about 30 pounds in three weeks — egads!), and am taking plain old Zantac for the acid.
My MRI appointment is for Monday.
What has occurred to me through all of this is that no matter what this turns out to be, I cannot let myself be brought down by it. I have no family of my own, but I have two nieces and a nephew. Though in their teens, they might still be young enough to profit from an example of fortitude in the face of actual personal adversity, as opposed to what merely passes for adversity these days.
(See also: Eiland's Theory of Compensatory Misery.)
No matter how this comes out, the least I can do is "man up" for their benefit. Even if the worst happens: no whining, no bemoaning my fate. Suck it up and deal with it, with as good an attitude as possible.
Not that I couldn't use a real-life example for my own benefit. In that respect, Fox News' Neil Cavuto would serve admirably. Thanks to Mike at Cold Fury for pointing that out; it couldn't be more timely.
[Update: Speaking of timeliness... Scientists: Manly men heal faster. Cool.]
My MRI appointment is for Monday. I don't know how long it might take to get the results.
Those of you who are so inclined, your prayers would be appreciated. Not for a miracle, mind you — though that wouldn't actually be bad — but rather, for the fortitude to bear with dignity whatever is in my future.
Mycah has come along very well since her surgery. Her main concern: hair regrowth on her shaved tummy.
Looks like she's coming along pretty well, there. I didn't think it would take three months to get this far, but she seems happy with it.
Her tail has also regrown its hair, and now looks pretty much just like a short tail rather than a stump.
I think it's cute, but I do miss her whapping me in the face with it when she lays down next to my head at night.
It's time for the Friday Ark — don't miss it.
Adm. Painter: What's his plan?
Jack Ryan: His plan?
Adm. Painter: Russians don't take a dump, son, without a plan.
The first time I ever heard of Fred Thompson was when he played Rear Admiral Painter in The Hunt for Red October. I suspect this would be true for a lot of people in my age bracket.
[The only thing that bugs me about Red October is that when Alec Baldwin is on screen I must forcibly restrain myself from throwing small dense objects at the TV... but when RADM Painter utters the line "you might consider cuttin' the kid a little slack," I am compelled to do so, and can watch the remainder of the movie in peace.]
Now that Fred Thompson is considering a presidential run (I could support him) the always insightful Frank J. has published a list to remind us of the sheer awesomeness that is Fred Thompson:
Quite a resumé, I would say.
Here's a bloke Down Under who put the workshop to good use... by building a Sherman tank.
Granted, it's only 40% scale. But... wow. Nice work. As a lifelong model builder, I bow in the general direction of Australia.
If I had a lake, I wouldn't mind someday doing a large-scale sailing frigate... but where would I get all the little people to work the sails?
Yips (or would that be orgle-orgles?) go to Robert at Llamabutchers for this one.
1. Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times.
The entirety of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
2. Name a movie that you've seen multiple times in the theater.
Each of the Star Wars trilogy. Many times each.
3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie.
Tom Hanks. Seems like a decent likeable guy.
4. Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie.
Sean Penn. I would pay money to not see him, in anything, ever.
5. Name a movie that you can and do quote from.
6. Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. At least, I used to know all the lyrics... it's been a while since I've seen it.
7. Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with.
Man of La Mancha. I don't know it all, and I sing rather less well than Peter O'Toole's voice double did. But it's an absolutely terrific musical.
To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow,
To run where the brave dare not go,
To right the unrightable wrong,
To love pure and chaste from afar,
To try when your arms are too weary,
To reach the unreachable star.
This is my quest, to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far.
To fight for the right, without question or pause.
To be willing to march into Hell for a Heavenly cause.
And I know if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,
When I'm laid to my rest.
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable star.
I don't know how anyone with a backbone can listen to that song and not get a lump in his throat.
Go ahead, call me quixotic. It is a label I would bear proudly.
8. Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see.
Master & Commander - The Far Side Of The World. Most highly rated.
9. Name a movie that you own.
Many many many, so let's go for obscurity here: Crazy Moon.
10. Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.
11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?
Not terribly many. The last was Red Dawn.
I'd like to see drive-ins make a comeback, but let's face it: cars aren't as comfortable as they used to be, and bratty teenagers are noisier and more disruptive now than they ever used to be.
12. Ever made out in a movie?
In a movie? No. At a movie? Well, ya, of course... but not lately.
13. Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven't yet gotten around to it.
Yojimbo. I've seen a lot of Kurosawa's films (own a number on DVD, even) but I've never gotten around to seeing this one.
14. Ever walked out of a movie?
Not that I can remember. It would have to have been a truly awful movie, and I try to steer clear of anything with even a hint of stink.
15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.
The cemetery scene at the end of Saving Private Ryan. It just kills me.
Butter and salt.
17. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)?
Once, maybe twice a year. It's got to be something I'm reasonably sure I'll like, and it has to be the kind of visual spectacle that warrants schlepping to the theater... which, for me, is pretty rare.
18. What's the last movie you saw in the theater?
Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest. That definitely warranted a trip to the theater.
19. What's your favorite/preferred genre of movie?
Science fiction, comedy, mystery.
20. What's the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
The first movie I remember seeing in a theater was The Sound of Music. I even remember the theater — thirty years later, I saw Independence Day in the same theater in San Jose. It must have been a re-release, though, because I was only three years old when it was first released, and I'm pretty sure I was older than that when I saw it; I remember it too well, and I haven't seen the whole thing again since then.
I believe I saw my very first movie at a drive-in. When I was six years old when the folks bundled us kids into the back of the '67 Ford Galaxie station wagon so they could go see Planet of the Apes. It was another 10 years before I saw the whole movie again... and I remembered a goodly portion of it.
21. What movie do you wish you had never seen?
Star Trek - The Motion Picture. It was utterly awful, though it did have the sole redeeming virtue of enabling the subsequent making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the best of all the Trek movies.
22. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?
Nacho Libre. Went to see it with my sister-in-law, niece and nephew. Though unusual, it turned out to be pretty good family fare.
23. What is the scariest movie you've seen?
Alien. It still completely creeps me out.
24. What is the funniest movie you've seen?
The former makes me a connoisseur of comedy.
The latter makes me a bad, bad man.
I haven't had a chance to crack it open yet, but as soon as I do I'll write it up.
If the whole thing is as good as the previews I've seen (and I expect it certainly will be) I'll enjoy it immensely.
Well-known: many prescription medications have thoroughly-documented side effects. Prednisone, for instance, can cause sleeplessness.
Unknown: which of my meds causes gassiness.
. . . .
On further reflection, it might have been the coleslaw.
In this 154th edition of the Carnival of the Cats, we take particular notice that even though the US presidential elections are well over a year away, there are more candidates of every faction or stripe than one can shake a stick at, running like the polls open next week.
Cats, too, have issues they feel strongly about... though they aren't quite in such a hurry to be on the hustings. Today, we'll be examining topics of concern to the feline population, and the various positions cats take on the matters at hand.
Your hostess kitty Mycah, of course, will be taking the role of "back room fatcat."
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
Cats want to make sure that their elected officials represent them well. In that vein, Alex would like to speak to you, potential candidates. You would be well advised to pay attention, and to visit Texas Oasis.
Once in office, successful felines must conduct themselves appropriately. But as Ruse and Audace (from Momma Grace & Company) make perfectly clear, that doesn't mean they cannot have Fun in the Office.
Human politicians take plenty days off from work, so perhaps we cannot be terribly upset if there's No Friday Catblog! ("just" a Sunday one) from the gang at Composite Drawlings — especially since, of course, this carnival is a day later than normal.
On a serious note, I think we can all agree that every kittycat deserves a good home. If At First You Don't Succeed... thoughtfully provides some pictures and links of some who need "forever homes": Charlies. See if you can help.
With my own Mycah, all I could manage was a complete failure to communicate. Her communication, on the other hand, is usually rather more successful.
EDUCATION / "FOR THE KITTENS"
Reading, as they say, is fundamental... unless you're The Divine Miss Marilyn, that is — in which case books are to be considered obstacles between you and the most important thing: attention from Leslie, of Omnibus fame.
Also from Leslie, a chance to meet and learn about kittycats from near and far away: pictures from a cat show, here and here. Nifty! (I dig those Maine coons.) (I'd better not let Mycah hear me say that.)
LAW & ORDER
The crime: furniture clawing. The perpetrator: My Cats Are French's Mick. The sentence: well, you Gotta Do What You Can With What You Got. Most cats would think the result just and equitable, I believe.
And that sums up the current state of feline politics and the issues purtaining thereto.
Mycah (who has been riding me to get this done so I can pay her some attention) hopes that you all have enjoyed this Carnival. I'd like to thank Laurence for coordinating the Carnival every week, and I would very much like to thank everyone who participated.
A mouse for every meal! Catnip in every toy!
I think that loving your kittycat crosses all lines that might otherwise divide people. No matter where you stand on various issues, if you take good care of your furry friends, I'll respect you for that much.
Actually, that was me that said that.
I had to perform a bit of server maintenance last night, so if you have trouble commenting or sending trackbacks, drop me a line at the "E-MAIL ME" link in the right sidebar.
Bono, during the last year's UK Music Hall of Fame induction of Brian Wilson:
I know that Brian believes in angels. I do, too.
But you only have to listen to the string arrangement on "God Only Knows" for fact and proof of angels.
Sometimes human talent reflects something... higher.
Carnival of the Cats #154 will be right here on Monday — not on Sunday as usual, because on Sunday I'll be at work, keeping the Internet running.
Somebody has to do it.
Here we see an example of attempted communication between cat and human. The human (me, on the left) thinks he's being playful. The cat (Mycah, on the right) is wondering "is that finger edible?"
Clearly, a failure to communicate.
Mycah's attempts to communicate with me consist primarily of sitting next to my foot, reaching out with a paw and very lightly poking my leg with a claw, trying to get me to notice her and give her treats.
Normally, it's a very adorable behavior. Precious, even. However, because of a nerve problem I'm having, I can't always actually feel her poking me, so I don't notice her... so she pokes harder with those sharp little claws until she gets frustrated and meows. Then I notice her.
Then I notice the holes in my leg.
Then I require a transfusion. O-neg, please.
I should probably get her claws trimmed.
The Friday Ark — you know you want to be there.
(I work Sunday afternoons & evenings, so the Carnival will be a day later than normal.)