Category Archives: repair phase

enough of face job

It’s high time to get out of this category.  On February 22, it will be six months since the face job operation.  It was, by far, the most brutal, difficult thing I’ve done.  And I’m still in the healing process.

I was lead to believe that I was going to be back to (somewhat) new two months after the op.  What a laugh.  At four months they told me I was looking good.  I was wondering what was taking so long.

I’m extremely grateful to the medical guys for helping me, but they live this life so seeing the results of their work is something they deal with daily.  What is new to me is not new to them.

I’m trying to wear prosthetic teeth where the hole is to try to fill out the space and protect the upper teeth.  They hurt like hell.  I can’t believe they don’t make them in softer material.

This operation must have cut some key muscles or connectors that run up through the neck.  The right side of my neck is normal.  The left side is hard as a rock and inside feels like over-tight banjo strings about to burst. From my chin along the left side of the jaw line there is still a significant amount of edema that is bothersome both physically and cosmetically.

This is a hell of a lot more than I signed on for when I started the radiation and chemo.  I should have been back in the game as a full-time starter.  Instead, I was thrown in the penalty box.  It’s hard not to get pissed off.  Not many players are thrown into the p box.  Why me?  It was incorrectly called a foul.

If my face was only cosmetic, it would be one mental hurdle.  But the fact that I don’t have full control of the lip muscle on the left side means that my speech is not what it was.  And any advances I had in eating were set back.

The leg where the bone came out is still sore but most of the swelling is down.  The scar down the leg has healed, but the patch where all the muscles and tendons needed to be unwound and veins taken out is still tender.

But hey, my head is still screwed on.  I need to and am looking at the positive.  So my neck and face is a little frigged up.  ANBMFD.  I can still ride a bike.  And I can still do pirouettes — at least with one leg.

So quit your griping Freddie.  Get out of the face job category, get a move on and stop being a wuss.

So be it.  Movin on.

remembering stuff

Memories is too profound and delicate of a topic to delve into too deeply, at least by this humble blog writer.  But I can’t help spew forth a few grainy, shallow thoughts.

Last October, when I met the gaggle of guys I hadn’t seen for decades, the conversations were mostly about “remember when blah blah blah.”  Those kinds of stories are always good for a few laughs, usually.  And laughing is good.  As long as they don’t happen too often, scrolling backwards into the memory banks and dredging up comical or classic situations has good entertainment value.

The point is, as long as we don’t live in the past, pulling up smiling memories once is a

out west somewhere, circa 15-20 year ago

while intrinsically is a good thing.  My friend from California sent me this photo last week from one of our many motorcycle trips out West. He said simply “keep the faith.”  It was nice to smile for a second and remember all the great riding times — and wanting reproduce the moments.

And it is always nice smiling when I watch the short clip a took a few short years ago when all this throat stuff was brewing.

before or after some ride in chicago

PI, S & FS, 2009

 

 

Or before starting our cross country CtoL Epic in 2009 at PI’s home in Chicago.

 

 

 

A couple of posts ago I mentioned brother P (not PI) and a trip with him around Iceland.  Prior to the trip, P called me to tell me he was sending me his camera.  At the time, it was a top of the line Minolta complete with wide angle and telephoto lenses.  He said he was finished wasting time trying to get good pictures when he could be taking them with his mind’s eye.  Although it’s a little bit tough to share your mind’s eye, the payback is certainly a tad more freedom.

Maybe I should have done the same thing by not taking photos during the therapy last year.  While playing music on the apple tv, my photo album scrolls.  There are photos from radiation, the stomach tube, the operation from last year showing 14 bundled wires protruding from under my chin like a metal beard.  Why am I keeping those?  They don’t bring back good memories.  Delete.

Remembering pain can be useful if we are using that information to avoid a future pain, or for analytical purposes, or for teaching.  But remembering stuff just for remembering stuff takes away valuable and precious present time.  We can’t live back there.  But like everything in life, it’s all about balance.  We also don’t want to spend an inordinate amount of time organizing and preparing for future moments.

On the other hand, remembering stuff helps us define, feel and know (as if we didn’t) who we are, and may even help us mold our future selves.

My sister S, has taken remembering stuff to a whole new level.  She said something a couple of months ago that is somewhat sobering.  Within two generations after we die, everything about us is completely forgotten and non-existent in the memories of current generations.  In other words, we may remember things about our grandparents, but we know nothing about their parents.  It’s as if they never existed.

When some of us met during the Thanksgiving holiday at P&M’s home, we asked dear mom to tell us some stories of what it was like when she was growing up.  She didn’t go into great detail, but what she did tell us was very interesting.  They were stories new to us.  I think everyone sitting around the table was eager to hear what it was like 60 & 70 years ago.  And we wanted to hear more.

Sister S has developed a very creative idea for preserving history in a more real and vivid way.  Wouldn’t it be fabulous to see real footage of history as our family remembered?  S has made it her business.  It’s not like we are remembering any of this stuff because remembering is separated from history by a lifetime.

We all have moments we like to remember.  And forget.  And moments we’d like to remember that we’ve forgotten.

But maybe bro P had it right.  Take those mind pics, the kind  you focus on to get the right aperture, light and background.  You are then focusing on valuable pictures.  It then might be worth remembering stuff, as long as there is no anxiety in the stuff being remembered.

Where am I going with this?  If I read back, I might remember.  But really, it’s all just stuff.

P.S. and don’t go asking any spaghettios to remember birthdays, important dates, or other purgeable prone stuff.

state of biological state

If the readers of this blog post will excuse me, I’d like to indulge in memorializing the state of biological functional affairs almost one year after the last ugly operation.

It may be more interesting reading tidbits about sex, not drugs, and rock & roll.

The last post touched on drugs.  It was only an exercise in throwing out some random nonprescription thoughts.  If I wanted to semi-blindly lance opines more interesting it might be of sex and rock & roll.  But since discussing sex is so taboo (for many), it’s better left discussed by those of higher intelligence, indians, or therapists.  Even though everyone on this earth is a result of sex, it’s monumentally safer not touch the subject (even though every form required throughout radiation/chemo asked several questions around one’s sex life).

And rock & roll?  Who doesn’t like music.  And who growing up in my generation or anywhere near it doesn’t like a little rock & roll?  I couldn’t talk about r&r music anyhow because I’m relatively lost when it comes to who is who.  Of course I recognize some of the big names, but don’t ask me what they’ve written.  Never paid that much attention.  Possibly indicated by not ever listening to music blaring loud and am not so comfortable with headphones — it’s like having your brain unnaturally infused overpowering other sensory.  Manufactured music is a nice compliment (at times) to cruising through life, but it revolves somewhere in the outer shells, not near the center.  But then again, maybe I’ve deprived myself from developing multi-task thoughts.

The rock & roll more pertinent (for most of us) may be ‘let’s hit the go button.’  It’s time to rock & roll.  But doing simple things, like reading this post out loud, is a rock & roll distraction.

Last week I had a two-month check-up with the oncology surgeon who slit my neck.  The result was that everything seemed OK.  He confirmed what Dr. Rad said two months ago, that the results of the latest CAT scan were clean.  Physically, everything seems to be well.  But appearances are definitely deceiving.

Trying to keep perspective front and center, knowing that I kicked the nasty (or had the nasty kicked out of me), is damn hard when the residual symptoms of the therapies used to get rid of the nasty stuff are also nasty.  Getting rid of nasty stuff left other nasty stuff.  But I guess the difference is that one can kill you and one is just a supreme pain in the neck.

Forgetting the cosmetic appearance, the divot in the throat or the misshaped neck complete with visible lump and scar or the issues with not being able to eat anything remotely dry, the problems are all physical.  Non-stop dry mouth.  A constantly swollen and sore tongue swelling enough that I sometimes have trouble talking.  I can’t pronounce or roll the double r in spanish anymore. The base of the tongue feels like it’s tied up.  I’m constantly fighting with an invisible collar on my throat and at times feels like someone or something is chocking me.  There still is the non-stop ringing in my left ear.  Breathing during heavy exercise is restricted as the inside of the throat is swollen.  And teeth problems persist in the lower left quadrant.  Since I’ve had the last root canal, the roots of the teeth and jaw area have been in a constant state of a low-grade throb.  Chewing on the left side is avoided.  I’m schedule for yet another root canal tomorrow.

In short, describing a “supreme pain in the neck” might be saying that there is constant multiple-discomforts bordering pain, and it never lets up.  I can see why anyone would want to avoid radiation at all cost.  If I had it to do over again, I would have tried to aggressively pursue a natural approach.  It may not have worked, but either way, I wouldn’t have the supreme pain in the neck conditions.

Looking back during the last year since chemo/radiation has stopped, the moisture in the mouth may have gotten a fraction better.  The swallowing has gotten significantly better, even though I still have to cough food back up for a second swallow (sorry).  But the tongue and throat irritation has gotten worse.  I’ve traded nuggets, gaining some and giving others away.  When I asked the surgeon why these issues, he said it is most likely scaring.  Much like a cut, when there is damage done to tissue, scar tissue can result.  I may just have lots of scar tissue in and around the left side of the neck and throat compounded with lymphodema.

Regarding the tongue, his assistant therapist said that “radiation is the gift that keeps on giving.”  I didn’t need to hear that disagreeable phrase from her.  I had heard it before.  She elaborated to say that the effects of radiation never get better, only worse.  And it could continue for years.  Even ten years later there could be more negative effects.  Why didn’t I hear that loud and clear before signing on?  Apparently radiation kills off small blood vessels and nerve endings.  As the small vessels die, blood delivery gets chocked off.  No one needs that kind of gift.  She is a good therapist, but needs to come up with a different catch phrase.

But I need to shake all this off and concentrate on rock & roll.  The rock & roll of life.  If I give myself a good perspective face slap I’d be reminded that my grandfather, my dad’s dad, chewed tobacco most of his life.  He ended up with tongue cancer and had most of it cut out.  I remember him talking with my dad when I was young.  I couldn’t understand a word he said and I think my dad just nodded to be polite.  At least I still have my tongue even if it’s half beaten up.  That thought enough should keep me in the rock & roll spirit.  And I am.  I’m as chipper as a chipmunk who just escaped the jaws of a hungry cat.  It’s just that during the escape, the cat took a vicious swipe at my neck.  Now I can’t be pissed at the cat, only thankful for escaping.

But this is all diary notes.  This is no pity party and I’m not complaining (am I?).  No, I’m not.  It’s just a digitization of the current state of biological affairs.

el alto de las palmas, medellin

P.S. A huge nugget I’m humbly appreciative of is just being able to pass some time peddling.  Today, was able to go with a couple of friends on a mountainous 50 mile ride.  That is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

In 2012 I will,….

Do something.  Don’t know exactly what.  But to start, I’ll try relaxing on the island of Mallorca.  At least for a few days.  Then only God and tarot card readers will know what’s in store.  What I won’t do is make resolutions.  Those are for any day, at any time.  I don’t think that many New Year’s resolutions work.  If so, they wouldn’t be saved for a special day.  If a resolution is important enough, it gets started immediately.  No special day necessary.

I remember one year on New Year’s Eve I thoughtfully put together a list of resolutions that I promised myself for the new year.  I think they were promptly discarded within a week.  Obviously, I wasn’t doing something right or they weren’t important enough.  But I’m sure there is value in thinking about things you’d like to change rather than not thinking about them.

New Years represents a cycle start.  For most it’s more important than our birthdays.  Which is why we like to wish everyone we see “Happy New Year,” even if it’s days prior or days after.  It’s like a special “have a nice day.”  It’s a wish for a happy start to a new cycle.  What was it that Einstein said about our desires to be happy?

Regardless, it’s a good time for a break. Or in this case, a continued brake.  Last year I was in Colombia and celebrated at a friend’s home-party partaking in their customary celebrations of consuming all kinds of meats Dec 31st evening, and then eating 12 grapes at midnight and pulling travel bags around the block.  (I could not eat any of the meat as I could barely swallow the grapes, and I didn’t join the walking of travel luggage).  Many of the middle-class in Lima, Peru do the same thing at midnight.  When the clocks strike 12 on NY eve, they run around the block pulling their luggage in hopes that the new year will bring lots of travel.  Then, it’s a full feast with stuffed turkey and lots of other dishes — similar to our Thanksgiving holiday meal — at midnight.

We like to celebrate and NY eve is a good excuse.  When I lived in San Francisco I went one year with a friend to Union Square area to one of our favorite restaurant/bars.  The streets got so crowded and rowdy at midnight, it was like amateur night.  There were enough people who didn’t know how to act that made it not pleasant.  I think the next few years I spent at home going to bed prior to midnight, wanting nothing to do with NY Eve.

Since then however, I’ve been fortunate to have been in a few places for the change of the year.  (I’m not recounting any of this for any other reason than to capture bits of tid).  After one year on the beach in Brazil and another in Lima, Peru,  there was the year I drove from Oporto to Lisbon NY eve only to be held up at knife point as I was searching for an ideal celebratory spot.  The knife above my head on the steps of a not-well-traveled pathway made for an exciting evening 15 minutes before another year.  Luckily, I escaped unscathed and made it to the safety of a local Portuguese cafe for the strike of midnight (and a toast to good health).

The next NY Eve was spent with a full moon, feet dangling in the Arabian Sea, on the other side of that water body from Iran.  That may have been the year I experimented with failed resolutions.

And a couple of years later I hauled GV to Natal, the north coast of Brazil for Christmas/New Year week (natal is the portuguese word for christmas but also a beautiful beach city with deep blue clear water and non-stop perfectly chunky body surfing waves).  After a week of trading long stints during the day of body surfing and reading novels in the sand under shady palm trees, a wild hair prompted me to head to Rio for the 31st.  So the 31st evening of 1999 we were suddenly on a completely empty 737 (except for obligatory airline crew).  After leaving an equally empty airport the last couple of hours of the century, we wormed our way to the beach through throngs of people for an impressive turn of millennium celebration.  The Brazilians know how to celebrate.  They flood to the beach normally for new years eve but the millennium change had the city bursting at the seams.  The immense trash piles of beer and champagne bottles every 15 yards along the beach the next morning and the stale alcohol odor mixed with the salty ocean breeze was an equally impressive experience.

The next year was marching downtown Singapore watching the celebrations on large building-size flat panel screens between distant fireworks.   And this wasn’t planned, but the very next year NY eve was at Times Square watching the ball drop for the first time that was not on a screen.  One of the years in the middle of the first decade of this century we celebrated ny eve either in Florence or Venice, can’t remember which.  Not that I don’t remember which city is which, but I know I wasn’t on a gondola or in a canal, so maybe it was Florence or somewhere in between.

The last several have been tranquil, low-key, quiet, quasi-celebrations.  This year, the question was, Freddie, you want to go out somewhere in Mallorca and celebrate or have a feast at home (with related family).  The answer was easy — home wins out.  So a big meal it was at midnight (ugh) while watching the countdown at La Puerta del Sol in Madrid on TV.

The last time I was in the Balearic Islands was 30 years ago in the summer when I arrived on an overnight boat from Barcelona to Minorca.  I rented a small motorbike and stayed for a week.  It was my first time (and last) learning windsurfing.  I took off out of a crowded cove and the wind gradually kicked up to a force.  As it was blowing me out to sea I gained distance quickly so that the people in the cove were small dots.  I couldn’t get it together to get back against the extremely stiff wind and needed to be rescued.  Not a big deal, but the guy who rented me the board and sail was interested in getting his stuff back and had to come and get me.

Still, I’m not in Mallorca because Michael Douglas has a home here and lives here part of the year.  Even though we both had the same cancer, at the same place, the same stage, both misdiagnosed, and going through treatment at about the same time, doesn’t mean that we have anything else in common.  It remains to be seen, but he may have been smarter not to have had the extra post rad stuff that I had done which is proving to be such a challenge.

And on the subject of smart, it may have been smarter to have been here in the middle of summer as it’s cold enough to need a few layers against the coolness of the winter Mediterranean air.  But perspective is always a good thing to have changed up.

rented a male dog named Colette for a couple of hours on 31st of dec, 2011 in Mallorca. He ate carrots and pineapple. His colorful droppings (not shown) were left on the sidewalks as decorations.

So if I said in the last post that wishing merriment at christmas meant nothing, I really meant that it does mean something.  It’s a positive pitch saying ‘hope you are merry (even though I can never know if you will be or not, and it makes me feel better for pitching the wish).’  The same is kinda true for the Happy New Year wish.

It’s nice celebrating events with fellow humans.  But, it’s just another day really.  This one just has fireworks thrown in at midnight while everyone nearby hugs and cheers that we get to write or show a different year in document date fields.

Just be happy — if you wish.  It’s a new year.  And a new calendar.   And that doesn’t happen every day.

Jan 1, 2012 along the malecon of Palma de Mallorca

 

merry christmas, and stuff

Christmas is cool.  Any holiday which promotes the spirit of giving and sharing can’t be bad.  Guess that’s why it transcends a few religions.  Unlike our Thanksgiving, which started out as a religious holiday and turned secular, Christmas is a religious cum commercial holiday.

When I was growing up, our family went to church weekly and always Christmas morning — or sometimes midnight mass on Christmas eve.  That was then — ancient history.  Haven’t done either of those since I grew up (at least physically).  Nothing wrong with the church, they mean well and do well.  It’s just that the logic of most of it made less and less sense as I went along.  I’m open to accepting that perhaps I’ve developed twisted logic.

But in all the circles of people I know, none go to church on Christmas or celebrate Christmas in a religious way (my mother excepted).  Not in the U.S., or any other Catholic or Christian in other countries do I know of any who religiously practice Christmas.  Buying, sending and receiving presents, or wishing others Merry Christmas doesn’t count.

In several heavily catholic Central and South American countries, they take off weeks around Christmas.  Most of the celebration is getting together with family.  A very good thing no doubt, but nothing to do with religion.  Many celebrate the 24th dancing and drinking in the street.  Are they hypocrites?  Probably not.  Christmas has simply evolved into time off, and an excuse to do good (and party).  And, a time to buy, give and receive stuff.

For most, stuff is what it is.  Not stuff we need or even want.  Thankfully, no one has gotten me any stuff for a few years.  No need to feel bad for not returning the gesture of stuff giving.  Except that GV did surprise me this year.  We, at least us Americans, are “stuff mongers.  If we have cash, or active credit cards, we get stuff just because we can.  Christmas is a special time where we’ve been indoctrinated with the reason to give (and get) stuff.  Sure, when we were small, Christmas day was like a gift orgy we looked so forward to.

Now though, when someone wishes me Merry Christmas,  I return the Merry Christmas greeting back.  It would be rude not to.  But the greeting seems as innocuous as saying have a good day.  It’s a nice (empty) greeting.  It’s not personal like Happy Birthday.  You say it to anyone, or everyone.  It really doesn’t mean anything.  To be safe, more and more people are simply saying the happy holiday greeting so as not to offend anyone who may not be a Christmas believer.

But it’s the spirit of Christmas that is important.  Especially for retailers.  There is no holiday during the year that is more important for the retail world — at least in the western part.

When I lived in the UAE, Christmas was a work day.  Saturday and Sunday were work days.  Even though we were a U.S. company, we couldn’t take off every U.S. holiday, nor could we take off every Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Sri Lankan or European holiday.  There were enough local and muslim holidays.

Maybe since then it just stared meaning less.  Since then I think I’ve flown over date lines at least twice during Christmas.  Once was traveling from the America’s timezone to a new assignment in Mauritius.  The entire Christmas day was spent at 40,000 ft.  And as I write this, traveling east for a connection in Holland before heading to the Iberian Peninsula, I’ll land sometime Christmas afternoon.  In fact, it may have just turned Christmas as I write this paragraph somewhere over the Atlantic.  So far, no one on this packed dutch plane (that I’ve heard) has said “merry” or “happy” anything.  omg

Last year Christmas was spent with my sister, mother, and other family in a very warm setting at my sister’s home.  It couldn’t have been a better time.  It was an excuse to get together — a reunion.  And it was excellent.  I also felt that I was recovering rather well from the radiation which had stopped about one month before.  But this year, the recovery seems to have slowed significantly and gotten somewhat worse.  That operation in February was more brutal and damaging to my tongue, neck and throat then the chemo and radiation had been.  They did such a great job last year, but then came back this year with a wreaking ball.  I should have ducked but I just stood there like a dummy.

So Merry Christmas, and stuff.  And Happy Holidays and may you get lots of stuff, or give lots of stuff — or both.  If your preference is just to shout out a wish of merriment, then by all means, shout it out.  And shout it with some stuff.  I’m getting stuff low.

half-life

It’s the weirdest thing. I bought a half dozen metro tickets (single use) for the Medellin metro. I usually keep that many in my wallet when I’m here. It’s best to buy them at off peak hours and at non-popular stations. Otherwise, there is always a long wait to buy the tickets. There are no ticket vending machines. You must buy them at the ticket window. Some stations at peak times have ticket purchasing lines equivalent to those at a popular rock concert.

So I purchase the six tickets and use one of them in the turnstile. The balance go in my pocket. On the return trip two hours later, none of my tickets work. Somehow, they got de-magnetized. I had to exchange them to a disbelieving agent. The same thing happened again later that day. And then again the next day. Each time I had to exchange the tickets I had on my person for more than one hour.

What happened? I don’t have anything in my pocket or my wallet that demagnetized the strips. It’s the same pocket and wallet that I used dozens of times before without any problem. Except that this time it’s post radiation therapy. I’m still emitting radiation.

Anyone who watched 60 minutes a couple of weeks ago saw a segment about the New York police and the radiation detectors they use patrolling the waterways. The detectors are so sensitive, that one of the problems is they can detect medical radiation, even at a distance. The problem is usually with smaller private vessels when someone onboard has recently had medical radiation. It sets off the detectors so they stop the boat.

Last year at this time I was being zapped every day. In fact, right about now one year ago I was in the middle of the seven week daily treatment. Then I received another two days of local radiation this past February. I’m full of radio isotopes.

The good thing is, they appear to have killed the cancer cells (along with some other stuff in its way). It also appears that the radiation is somehow demagnetizing the medellin metro strips. What else would explain the weird phenomenon? None of the ticket booth vendors seem to have run across this before.

Only time will get ride of the radiation. The radio active atoms live in what science calls half-life. Supposedly medical radiation stays in the system about six years — going through a half-life every six months. It must be hard for medical doctors to estimate, for those that have an incurable cancer, what that person’s half-life might be. In other words, cancer gets out of control and it turns our life schedule into a half-life schedule.

We all go through various “de-somethings.” At the airport in Houston the other day, out of the gate there was a sign for “defibrillation.” A special room just for those that need to be defibrillated. We “defragment” our computers from time to time (which is computerese for “organize files”). And of course we are always looking for ways to “detoxify” our bodies. It’s all a natural cycle. We accumulate stuff, then we need to cycle through a de-stuff phase.

I’m just thankful that I’m able to take the medellin metro, with or without demagnetized turnstile tickets. And further thankful that it’s only the radio isotope atoms that are living the half-life schedule.

watch out for the contradictions

Last week there was a study published in several periodicals about how taking vitamin E and selenium had actually increased the risk of certain men to get prostate cancer. Of course the study was only one control group AND, it’s a big and, we don’t know what the study didn’t tell us.

The bio doctor who has advised me to take a few different herbal supplement for the next couple of years had also recommended vitamin E and selenium. I therefore sent him a copy of the study to which he responded that there are many contradictory studies, especially in the medical field, and that it is safe to continue to take a complex E up to 1000 iu and selenium up to 600 mg daily.

The contradictory studies sure do make you think twice about believing what you read or hear. There have been studies that show coffee causes cancer and other studies showing coffee prevents cancer. You can believe either one or neither one. Wasn’t it Benjamin Disraeli who said “there are three types of lies — lies, damn lies, and statistics.

We know that with statistics, you can prove almost anything. And from a study with lots of data, you can pick out the right data and prove one view and with the data from the same study, prove the opposite view. It’s kind of like magic.

I recently saw a talk by a doctor/scientist, in the business of analyzing medical studies, who said that industry studies, particularly from the pharmaceutical industry, are four times more likely to show favorable results than private studies. However, looking into those studies, the industry studies were qualitative better. The only problem, the industry studies left out important data in the majority of their conclusions. In other words, they used just the data they wanted to prove an outcome.

The result is that these studies are published and promoted to doctors and the medical community and they are not entirely correct. In some cases, they can be downright incorrect.

Even data experts come to incorrect conclusions because they don’t look at the entire picture. One example is looking at the simple logic of flipping a coin. One would think it logical that if one flipped a coin thousands of times, that the percentage of times you would arrive at the sequence of head-tails-tails, is the same as it would be finding head-tails-heads. But in fact it’s not. HTH will happen more frequently. It’s not logical on its face, but true.

You can claim whatever you want with statistics, data and numbers. The same holds true with economics. The Left follows the Keynesian logic that government spending will jolt the economy. We just had two economist win the Nobel price for espousing the opposite. We fight viciously over this. But that’s another topic for another day.

For now, I’m going with the bio guy. Normally I’d not take supplements. But since I’ve had some extreme treatment, I might be erring on the right side by taking some minimal natural supplements. At the very least, they’ll serve as positive placebos. I hope that’s not too much of a contradiction. Still, I had better watch out.

don’t elbow me man

It’s what I’ve had think, at times, to protect myself against during the past week, especially on the crowded sidewalks of New York City. With the incision a couple of inches above my navel, it’s in prime position to be elbowed, or otherwise accidentally bumped into. But the once in a while split-second thought of “don’t bump into me,” was enough to remind myself that it’s me who has all the bump-avoidance control.

And that goes for much of the running through life stuff that most of us do. Many times we don’t simply think “you’re in my way.” We yell it out. Whether its filing law suits or honking our car horns, if we feel someone is in our claimed space, we rationalize our rights not to be bumped into. We humans are at no loss for manifesting the ways we say, ‘don’t elbow me man.’

The week prior to this hernia operation, I took a spin on my bike up into New York State, crossing the GW bridge into New Jersey first. Getting off the bridge bikeway into Jersey there is a small ramp built into the sidewalk for the ease of bicyclists getting on and off. When I arrived at the ramp, there was a group of cyclist stopped in the middle the ramp, blocking it. I slowed down, waited while I could without unclipping, and then said “yo, guys, bad place to stop.” After they moved and I continued on, I thought I could have just as easily jumped the curb and not been an ass. Perhaps I was in their way. Regardless, I could have bypassed the congestion and made my own way without thinking they were in my way. It was my form of saying ‘don’t elbow me’ or ‘you are in my space.’

Car drivers are notorious for claiming others are in their way. We can be nice humans, then get into a car that comes with a spatial claim. Then we liberally use the horn to shout out in car language. I’m not talking about accident avoidance, rather a this-is-my-space honk.

A lot of what’s mobile on this earth, including its six billion inhabitants, is fluid. Nothing moves in a straight line except a beam of light and even that gets bumped into. With the gazillions of atoms that each of us is made of, we are bound to get in each others way.

The point is, if more of us would take a tolerance pill in the morning, washed down with a glass of vision juice, we’d be able to easily avoid the accidental bump. We’d put less energy into the need of thinking “don’t bump into me man.”

war wound

Finally got the bothersome and unsightly stomach hernia fixed. Went into the hospital Friday morning for an outpatient procedure.  In at 6:30 a.m., out at noon. Even though it was outpatient, still had to go through the routine of blood work, EKG, and the entire checkin process. Everything checked out at checkin; blood results fine, heart normal, EKG measured heart rate @59 bmp, BP 100/60.  Just don’t measure my radiation output. I’m sure that’s not normal.

Now for the next four weeks or so, I should put heavy stuff on hold, including strenuous biking, lifting, or practicing double back flips off the kitchen counter. For at least the next ten days or so, I might want to take it generally easy and not throw luggage into the overhead bin and stick to brisk walking as the only form of exertion.

Who gets a stomach hernia?  Women tend to get navel hernias. JA has had one pre-children and I know of a couple of women who have had them post babies. Mine came from the peg tube. The hole wasn’t exactly a small.  When the tube comes out, it is yanked out with force. The doctor yanking mine out grabbed it with two hands and did a one-two-three yank making a face as if he was bench pressing his max.  Damn thing hurt coming out.  And it left a nice size divot hole.  Because the hole looked like a second navel, when I had the neck dissection in February, the surgeon agreed to cosmetically fix the peg tube hole.  A month later a hernia developed at that same spot.

So I let it go until now, so as not to spend a month of summer at low ebb of activity.  Yesterday I felt fine and went to work in the afternoon. However today, it’s like the days after doing squats after not having done them for a while. Now it’s sore. It feels like it might feel getting stabbed in the stomach. The doc gave me a script for pain pills, but I’d like to avoid pharmas unless absolutely necessary.  The extra strength vicadan came with a recommendation to take a laxative.  Since an organism tends to be better off without pharmaceuticals,….

Before the operation, the surgeon told me he would either stitch the muscles (below the skin) to close the hernia or put in a mesh screen. The better option he said would be stitching as the mesh screen might be bothersome, but it would all depend on the tear and the ability to get a quality stitch job. While in the recovery room, my first thought was, well, did I get the stitch job or the mesh?  I called for the surgeon and he came in to answer that question. He said he did both. He wasn’t completely satisfied that the stitch job would hold up so he put a little piece of mesh on top to make sure it would not reoccur. A little insurance policy.

As I’m writing this, I’m on a crowded Amtrak train traveling from New York Penn Station to Lancaster, PA. There are a bunch of guys getting together for lunch many of whom haven’t seen each other in a few decades. Is also a chance to visit dear old (but young) mom and JA.  JA and I can now trade hernia stories.

But the hernia repair is not the war wound.  When the other tube that was protruding from my front side was taken out, the trachea, it also left a divot hole, but much more obvious as its right in the prominent part of the neck. The plan since the hernia developed, was that the surgeon who did the trachea would fix the neck divot at the same time the other surgeon fixed the hernia. In other words, they agreed to coordinate timing so that I could repair both areas while being sedated at the same time.  However, during the last few months, the neck divot seemed to have gotten marginally better.

During the last meeting with doc Adam, the head & neck surgeon, he seemed hesitant as to whether it was the best recourse. He said he could fix the divot, but that I might end up trading one defect for another.  I might not be happy, he said. Even though a scar would bother me a lot less than a hole, I had to consider my own vanity. Why was this so important?  Really, it wasn’t and isn’t. It was only important to my own ego. I don’t like the divot hole, but I have to get over it. I’ve got to get over myself (in this case).  The doc called it a “war wound.”

war wound from the trachea hole

So I decided then and there not to do the neck repair and get over it. I’ve been wearing a scarf for two reasons, one to cover up the war wound neck divot and the other as sun protection over the large neck scar. As I shouldn’t be letting sun on the incision scar on the neck, I may continue to wear the bandanas. I’ve worn them most of my life for various reasons, now I have one more. But this time it’s not to cover up the war wound.

And I guess we all develop our own war wounds over time. Those defects that only we see (mostly).  Defects that are either a result of an event or developed over time. Could be scars, wrinkles, sagging skin, fat, hair loss, whatever. They are life war wounds. It’s just stuff that happens to us as we live. In the end, we may be better off just getting over ourselves rather than being preoccupied about covering them over.  If I would have left the stomach peg tube divot hole alone (ignored the defect) I might not have needed to get a resulting hernia repaired.  But alas, it’s just another war wound.

scrubbing the tongue

That’s what I’ve been doing a lot of lately, especially the last few months.  Never had a reason to scrub the tongue before, but now it’s a habit out of necessity.  Because I’ve got almost no saliva, which is a huge downside to the rad treatment, the tongue absorbs whatever I’ve eaten or drunk.  Last week during the monthly checkup, the doc asked if I had eaten chocolate.  No doc, just had coffee this morning and I scrubbed the hell out of my tongue.

After I’m finished with the morning protein shake, or coffee, or whatever, the tongue still harbors the flavor and the color of what I’ve just sipped or gobbled down.  It’s like a scummy flavor and needs to be gone.  So it’s brush the tongue, wash the brush, brush the tongue again.  After the double brushing, or scrubbing, it’s still not completely clean.

But I guess it’s better then rinsing the mouth out with soap.  Not that I’ve ever been threatened with that, but over the years have heard others who have.  Of course we all know that washing the mouth out with soap is meant for an entirely different reason.

Most often used on children, it’s a funny threat to kids who may have said something offensive or used “dirty” language, hence the reference to getting the mouth clean.

The entire concept of dirty language is kind of hilarious when you break it down.  Words are only sounds.  But it’s not the sounds that become offensive to our ears.  Dirty words don’t hurt our ears.  We are offended by the images they evoke.  And each of us manufacturers our own images or perceptions out of words.

Most of us have developed, given how we’ve grown up in family & society, our own boundaries of what we think is dirty or clean language.  And there’s no doubt that heavy use of the “seven words you can’t say on tv,” as George Carlin put it years ago, is perceived as more edgy, more street (some say gutter) talk.   That may be the reason why those with little education use a higher percentage of ‘dirty’ words in their normal vocabulary than those with relatively higher education.

But words are not dirty.  It’s our concept of them.  Take tits, one of those seven words.  Since I’m referring to a family of small birds, its non-offensive and ok.  But if I were to use that same word to refer to breasts, it somehow becomes (somewhat) offensive.  The entire population of humans has breasts.  And we can refer to them by the crazy slang word “boobs” and it’s somehow more acceptable than the T word in public conversation.

I can write T and talk about tit birds, but if I don’t want to take it downhill and avoid a proverbial mouth washing, I’d better not refer to breasts as tits.  They mean the exact same thing, yet the proper word is clean and the slang version is dirty.  One you can say on tv, the other not.

It starts when we soften things up when talking with children.  Why else would we teach them to say caca or number 2 rather than the real thing?  Rather than say the real thing, calling something by it’s real name, we find a word to refer to that word.  It will mean the same, but we won’t actually be required to say the word we mean.  How liberating.

I don’t know any self-respecting mother who would wash their kids mouths out for saying tits.  But using the F word may be a different story.  The F word is pervasive.  Used by presidents of countries, CEO’s of major organizations, all throughout our society and planet, the F word has got to be one of the most pervasive love/hate ‘dirty’ words.  There is no other word that can be used for almost any type of speech; verb, adverb, noun, adjective, to mean almost anything.  My favorite was hearing a car mechanic throw down his wrench while saying, “I couldn’t get the f**king f**k to f**k.”

The F word is crazy.  I could write the word here, but it may actually offend some readers, so I better hadn’t, even though writing or saying ‘F word’ as opposed to actually writing the word out evokes the same image and has the same meaning.  If I don’t actually “say” it, I’m clean.  I can ‘almost’ say it and can refer to it, no problem.  But if I said or wrote it, I could be perceived as gross, guttural, offending.  If that’s not working our collective knickers in a twist.

We are so hypocritical with this word that even the Wall Street Journal and New York Times have used the acronym SNAFU in headlines and text over the decades.  We can refer to the word, pronounce the first letter as if we are saying the word, even use it in an acronym-turned-word.  So we accept major publications printing ‘F’, ‘F word,’ or even f**k, transmitting the meaning and image, but as long as the four letters don’t line up so that we read the word, then we are ok with it.  No cleaning or scrubbing necessary.

When I do use the F word from time to time, I immediately think, ‘Freddie, why did you just use the F word?  Were you trying to be cool, hip, edgy, or linguistically brave?  Why not pick among the thousands of other words?’   There are lots of alternatives for speaking edgy without chancing to offend the thin of skin.  And then I try to be more sensitive, maybe even to myself (eliminating the need for edge).

One of the other more recent famous letter words is the N word.  Although technically not a dirty word, it does fit into the curse category.  This may epitomize ridiculousness.  Black folk can and do use the N word liberally in conversation among those of their own color.  But it’s taboo for a non-black to use the word.  We can say “N word,” but we can’t actually say the word.  Crazy twisted.

There’s no question that our acceptance of what is offensive has changed over time.  What was “bloody” offensive hundreds of years ago is not bloody offensive any more.  Hell no.  Those words still sound the same.  We’ve just adjusted our tolerance, our image.

What I’d really like to see some day, are concerned mothers saying to their kids, “go scrub your tongue”  instead of the “go wash your mouth our with soap” threat.  The culprit offending word may have come out of the mouth, but scrubbing the tongue may provide the additional side benefit of actually cleaning.

Now for writing all this, I should probably go rinse with a concentrated detergent.  But I think I’ll stick to scrubbing the tongue.

As an aside,  check out the team spaghetti site.  MP has started to outline the ride idea.  And you can vote on the best weekend for next year’s epic.  There will be lot’s more coming.