Friday, October 16, 2015

I’m Not Drunk, I Just Have …

Balance is my favorite word, but I have a bit of a balance problem.  I usually use the word balance when talking about contrasting work with non-work or left opinions with right opinions or the need to lose weight with the need to eat a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in one sitting.  But the balance I have a problem with right now refers to walking up or down stairs without holding onto the railing or attempting to navigate a narrow sidewalk on a crowded street without bumping into somebody or trying to carry a box to my car without tripping and falling.

I’ve been very healthy most of my life.  Three years ago, however, I discovered numbness across a third of my body, all on one side.  My first thought was stroke, but that was not the case.  I also had a balance problem and weakness in one leg.  Doctor visits with four new docs plus tests, MRIs, CT scans, a lumbar puncture and a colonoscopy ruled out everything except my neurologist’s first thought: Multiple Sclerosis.  That diagnosis wasn’t really official, however, because the MRI only showed one lesion and nothing multiple.  She prescribed treatments for the symptoms and the numbness and some of the balance issue went away … for almost two years. 
Last year the balance and right leg weakness returned and early this year, after many more tests, the MS diagnosis was officially confirmed.  Geez.  Most people living with MS are diagnosed in their 20s and two thirds are women.  I’m a 60-something man with good health habits.  How can this happen?

Sadly, there is no definitive answer to that question. 
But here I sit, writing about and living with a mysterious disease that everyone’s heard of but not everyone understands.  Recent medical thought leads to the idea that some kind of bacterial incident early in one’s life can lead to this.  There is plenty of research going on and the meds and the treatments are significantly better than they were just ten years ago.  If you’ve got to get MS, this is the time to do it.  There is no cure but there is plenty of optimism.

My symptoms are devastating to me because of my track record for good health but are very mild compared to most people living with Multiple Sclerosis.  My balance sucks and my right leg is much weaker than my left.  I literally have to think about every step I take.  I have only fallen once, on a sidewalk during a vacation last year, but I’ve almost tripped several times a week.  Fatigue is another symptom and I do experience that more now than a few years ago.  Leg spasms are in the mix too and the little bit of running/jogging I used to love is now in my past.
There is more to the story and I’ll write about it soon.  My incredible good luck and positive attitude, mixed with fate and a few select, awesome friends, leaves me very optimistic.  You won’t believe the ‘small world, isn’t it’ stories about people I know and have met who live with or have experience with MS.

Walking is my main issue and there’s a chance that’s the only problem I’ll ever have.  Meanwhile, if you see me walking/stumbling down the street, even if it’s near my neighborhood wine bar, think about the message on a t-shirt I’m about to order:  I’m not drunk, I just have MS.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Random Gun Observations

 The mass shooting episode in Oregon this week led to the predictable public reactions from the White House, the NRA, the pro and con gun control advocates and the various biased and unbiased news outlets.  I’d like to hear from the mental health experts.  Did they get any coverage?

I hate guns and wish they didn’t exist, I will never own one and they are not allowed in my apartment.  On the other hand, I don’t know that stricter gun control laws would prevent all the mass shootings.  The President’s emotional speech after the Oregon incident was great and I wish we’d see his angry side more often.  But he predictably called for more gun control.  Yes, I think it should be difficult to get a gun but I’ll also note that several of the mass shooting incidents during the past decade involved legally registered guns.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but ALL of them involved some level of mental illness.
Various gun rights activists claim that we need more guns, arguably to protect ourselves.  Parents, do really want your children’s teachers to be packing heat?  Where would they keep their guns?  In their desk in the classroom?  In a holster like a cop or John Wayne?  Locked in a gun safe?  Think that through and tell me any of those options would have saved lives.

I’ve said this a hundred times too … Bible quoting conservative Christians advocating gun use are, in my opinion, spewing contradictory statements.  “Thou shalt not kill” is which commandment again?  I forget.  Or maybe there was a second amendment to the Big Ten that I missed in twelve years of Catholic schooling.
Back to the mental health part for a minute … that is probably the root of these killing sprees but that issue is at least as complicated as the gun issue and neither has a clear path to being the answer.  But at the very minimum we should be studying mental health problems more and trying to figure out sensible approaches to that piece of the puzzle.  The White House should make that a priority.  The NRA should make that a priority.  The media should make that a priority.

OK, I’ll get off my soap box, for now, before someone shoots me.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Hey Bernie, Where Have You Been?

Photography and writing are two of my passions, but as is the case with many creative endeavors, day-to-day life gets in the way.  I love writing for this blog and shooting pictures for my photo blog, even though only a few people read either, but I have a job, a traffic-infused commute, a divorce that drags on and a new medical condition, all conspiring to rob me of the time to write and shoot photographs.

My usual response when someone else whines about not having time to do things is, “keep trying.”  Every time you get knocked down, stand up.  I usually take my own advice on this matter so here I am, standing up, writing again, hopefully on a regular basis.
It’s also time to find my camera.  I did take 200 photos on a beach week trip.  Oh wait, that was in June.  More recently, I entered a neighborhood photo contest.  Three days before the deadline, after the tenth reminder from a neighborhood photographer friend, I walked around and shot some pictures.  As I began to choose my entries, I realized I had better shots from my first few months here, taken two years ago.  So one of my five entries was from that series and that is the one that got an Honorable Mention.  I need to shoot more. 

So plenty is going on in and around my life, inspiring many potential blog posts.  The random list: forgetting my cell phone before a weekend in New York, getting diagnosed with a medical condition usually associated with youth, taking a month off from guitar lessons while simultaneously acquiring a new guitar, winning a last-minute trip to Vegas.  And of course I have opinions:  Trump is a clown, what’s wrong with sensible gun control, extreme right wing politics is annoying and dangerous and so is extreme left wing politics, aging isn’t for the faint of heart, ‘here ya go’ is no substitute for ‘thank you’, be yourself no matter how weird you or others think you are.
With any luck at all (and with a lot of will power), this will be the first is a series of regular blogs.  Thanks for stopping by.