Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The past seems clearer every day

 I often find myself reminiscing over the past more and more. I suppose as one gets older some of those old memories will always dredge up from time to time. It is amazing how much clarity one can get from a memory though. A few days ago, I watched an episode of The Goldbergs and it told a story of how Adam Goldberg tried to play hockey, mainly to find some bonding material with his father. In the episode there is a part where he glides down the ice moving the puck like a pro just to stick in his own teams goal. What is eerie is watching this episode was like reliving a moment of my past. To make matters more odd the script for that episode was written by a guy named Chris Bishop in the credits. Okay, man that made it even more eerie. So I decided perhaps I should write down what happened to me and then compare the two stories for fun (no I do not think I am secretly writing scripts).
Well, here goes. Let me set the record straight. I played for 2 years in elementary school at basketball. This is after I failed miserably at baseball (due to my lack of practicing) , though I did manage to make someones dad go home with a busted mouth due to a foul ball, that was about the only time I did anything other then kick dirt up in right field and just about wet my pants when Dick Miller our coach showed me how a baseball could not make it through a catchers mask by tossing the ball repeatedly at the masks grill while I was wearing the mask.
My father would try when he had the time to play basketball with me in our backyard. The utility company had come through and bush hogged down the thicket we had in the backyard and my father had put up a basketball goal for me. He worked at a minimum of 6 days a week, sometimes 12 hour days sometimes 8. So to say he was tired was an understatement, yet when we spent time together I do not ever recall him showing any signs of fatigue. He told me to keep practicing and I could possibly try out for the basketball team in the fall. So practice I did. The problem was the goal was built on the dirt and mud (and clay this is brown county were talking about here) Not gravel which could sometimes if it was not packed right sending a basketball flying a random direction, or concrete, good old uneven, mole hole, craw dad hole, bumpy Brown County, Indiana mud.
After the ball bouncing back and hitting me in the balls the face and the stomach several times due to the random nature of the ground. I quickly resolved myself to not attempting to dribble and just shooting. After all, if I rubbed my socks, then rubbed my shorts on the hip area then bounced the ball 3 times, I was going to hit anything from the free throw line (5 imaginary bucks if you can tell me where I got that idea from, no father you cannot play) so I spent most of my summer playing horse and trying to hit 3 pointers like Larry Bird. When I complained to my father, his response was “Well why don't you practice dribbling in the garage on the concrete.” Looking back on it of course, that was a completely reasonable idea. But as with most kids, it wasn't what I had in mind because I couldn't shoot and dribble, so I just belly ached more and practiced less.
By the time basketball season came around, I think just about every kid who could joined up. Indiana University had this player, that had lit all of our imaginations on fire, so many kids wanted to play to be more like him. Michael Jordan was flying through the air and Larry Bird was hitting 3 pointers from anywhere. I was gonna be legendary just like them. And maybe just maybe, that girl with the blue eyes would notice me finally! I of course had not figured out girls at all really, but I knew that when I talked with this unnamed girl in class I got butterflies in my stomach. I was not sure what that meant but I knew that something told me it was a good thing. So it was time to get out there and win games for Sprunica Elementary!
So ya, I was, how should I put this, pretty much not designed for doing anything other then playing the role of road block. I was not fast, I was not very dexterous (I still could not dribble the ball worth a crap) The only thing that I had going for me was all the chores had made me a little bit bulkier then some of the other kids and that was not by very much either. Needless to say I spent more time on the bench then I did playing but the coach to his credit did try to work us all in. So lets fast forward a bit. Our school had done well enough to play in the first round of elementary school play offs and we were facing a school by the name of Zionsville. My dad actually had gotten the day off and rode up with us and with him in the crowd I was going to be unstoppable. I kept begging the coach to let me in let me in, my dad was here I was gonna do awesome. It went to the half and had spent exactly 1 minute 45 seconds in the game towards the end of the first half. The coach told me that I would get to start on the second half. I was ecstatic! We were playing at Zionsville, and I had decided there was no way I not gonna make a basket.
As fate would have it, my eagerness and frankly lack of experience, I had forgotten we switched sides at the half, and what was our opponents goal was now ours. So when the ball was tipped I just about knocked a kid out to get a hold of it. Then it began, my ascent to glory. I had the ball, Ben Nickels was looking at me to pass it to him, but no way was I gonna do that. Nope, I never got the ball, (because I sucked) I was going all the way. I dribbled rather terribly, ( I was so bad I rarely got the ball even in practice) down the court. The goal was WIDE OPEN. No one was blocking me, probably because of how awesome I was looking dribbling down the court. Why was Ben and Heath shaking their heads no at me, ah hell they were just jealous, this was my moment. Down I went bang, bang the ball bouncing off the floor, I could take a shot from here, no wait I will do a lay up, just so I look extra cool making it look so easy.
Up the ball traveled like a comet traveling through the air, my path to glory and triumph flying through the sky. I hear the sound of the ball smacking against the back board and ever so gently touching the rim before gliding like silk through the hoop. Elated I turned around, why were my teammates looking at me like a dumb ass.....why was my dad grimacing and shaking his head gently, I mean his son had just popped one in like a boss. Then as the ref was waving his hands to express no point, I knew what I had done.
Now to be fair, no one really spoke about it, It was not agonizing minutes of self disgust and jeering from the crowd. A few snickers, and that was that. My dad did not tease me when I got in the bus after the game, but I think he knew it had really bothered me, so he was quiet on the matter. After that I pretty much came to the conclusion that basketball was not for me. My dreams of being carried on the shoulders of my team, the blue eyed girl seeing how awesome I was went down with the swish of a shot going in the wrong teams goal. Looking back on it, It is funny to me, and I definitely see where things could have gone much worse for me.
If parents wish to use this tale as a “see how not practicing and giving 100% can make a negative impact, please go ahead. Truth be told, even as I kid it did not take long for my father's words to echo back at me. If I wanted it so badly, I should have tried. Every dream still require action to make it happen. When I took my son out the throw the ball back and forth, I saw his irritation at not being instantly great at wearing a mitt and tossing a baseball, and it gave me a serious case of Deja Vu. Much like my father, I tried to be patient, and tell him hey no one is great right off the bat, you have to work for it. I let him know while I would never force him to play a sport, or engage in something he had no desire to do as a extra curricular activity, if he started something he WOULD see it through to the end of the season. Through soccer, Lego Club, and some other more intellectual activities we have stuck to that.

Much like my father, I also enforce the idea that as long as you try and give it your all, that is all I require to be proud as hell of you. I don't need the winning shot to reaffirm my own manhood, I don't need him to be #1, I just need him to take pride in his attempt and give it as much effort as he can muster and whatever the results I will be proud of him. I think perhaps if I had realized my dad was doing that with me the whole time, which he was, I would have possibly given a bit more effort. There is no telling of course now. But it did give me an important lesson I have carried with me my entire life. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, because at the end of the day, your work effort, your sweat is what is going to be representative of who you are to everyone who views your completed task. So rub your kids head, let he or she know that something they did that day no matter how simple made you proud. You would be surprised how that will echo through their lives and carry them forward. It did for me. It also gave me a funny life story to relate that can be a lesson for others growing up. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Medical Marijuana and Me

      I am going to give a long background here just so people who do not know me as well understand where I came from.  I just want to ensure people realize I did not start life as a Pink Floyd loving (though I do love Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin) tie die wearing flower child.  I often refer to my life as a kid as being the ideal country boy 80's life.  I may not have engaged in some of the heavier farm labors as some of my classmates did, but make no mistake, I was no novice to shoveling horse crap, pulling weeds, planting, digging, building and fly swatting that comes from good country living.  I was never very good at sports.  Let's face it, I sucked for the most part.  Probably because I did not really engage in the trips to the park to play ball with the guys, the closest paved basketball court was a 2 mile bike ride, and like a lot of kids in my situation, I just expected to be naturally gifted and when I wasn't Steve Alford (80's brown county folks you know I refer to, think he captured every kids imagination back when I played basketball in my home town) I didn't really put forth the effort to get better.  You see even then my head was already up in the clouds.  Dreaming.....
       I was a country nerd, I liked outdoors and light-sabers, Deer and Hobbits.  I found Dungeons and Dragons at a young age thanks to Cindy Kline and her brother, and really there was no hope for me after that.  In high school I was just a guy that blended into the background.  We did not really have a ton of Bullies to contend with in our school and luckily I was big enough from outside chores that most of the guys who would have picked a fight generally left me alone for whatever reason.  Life now that I look at it was pretty decent.  I had my little clique of friends, a nice girlfriend who was just goofy and good natured enough to keep up with me, and I was a member of the band, which looking back on it, was probably not the best choice for wanting to move up the social ladder.  But somehow through it all, I came out unscathed.
       I would never call myself a goody two shoes, however, I never drank, smoked or tried any drugs in high school and in fact was 20 years old before I had smoked my first cigarette and drank my first beer even though I had enlisted at barely 18.  Life was dramatically different for me once I joined the military.  There it became REALLY apparent that I was what culture lovingly referred to as a square.  I lost out on several dates because either A) I was way too naive to understand I was being hit on or B) I was just way too passive.  Sure like most of the "nice guys" (yes I will label myself with that term) I often put myself in the friend zone right away with the opposite sex.
      What I am leading up to is, I was not nor have I ever been the super rebellious party animal.  I drank quite a bit for a few years in the military more to fit in then any desire to get drunk.   Still I followed several rules such as if alcohol touches the lips, the keys never leave the hips, don't go out places drinking unless your gonna stay etc etc.  I still managed to have a few close calls with stupid mistakes due to drinking, but by the grace of god I never did anything too rotten or hurt anyone to include myself (although there was the one broken ankle during wrestling with my roommate)  So ya I am not exactly the raging man of danger that I read about, the party animal like some of my friends.  In fact, with the exception of smoking, By age 24 most of my stupid mistakes were behind me in terms of partying.  As far as drugs went. especially marijuana, there was no way I would touch that stuff, I mean c'mon it makes you stupid and you can't have babies right?? Plus you touch marijuana next you will be hitting heroin or cocaine.  Nancy Reagan told me to say no and there must have been a darn good reason.  We will get into some of what the REAL reason was behind that drug campaign in another blog, but for now lets just go with the fact that I believed the hype.
       Several years later, at the age of 35, I became a marijuana user.  I nervously took the little edible named innocuously "Chewies" and without regard to the indications on the package (use half) thought its so tiny, no biggie and popped it into my mouth.  Ya,probably not the best decision I ever made.  After an hour my neuropathy was still raging on, no relief.  All I felt was this burning in my eyes. 4 hours later when my wife came in our bedroom to change her clothes for grabbing the kids from school I was still staring at the ceiling fan.  I hid in the bedroom embarrassed as I realized holy crap I am "baked"  In my head I was picturing devil horns sprouting from my head and the abyss of hell opening up under my feet.  What was I doing.  NANCY WOULD BE MAD.  Then I realized I was standing.  Standing without pain, the usual stiffness I had endured was lessened so much I barely noticed it.  I also realized I had gone 4 whole hours without a single ice pick headache as MSers are prone to get.  If you do not understand what a ice pick is, think the worst migraine pain you have ever felt added with a burning knife component shooting from the top of your head into your jaw.  The first time I had one I thought I was having a heart attack.  They can be so sharp and painful you can almost lose bladder control if they come unexpectedly.  They do not last long and up until this point, NOTHING I had taken had done anything about them really. Motrin, Tylenol, heck even Vicodin I had left over from a surgery did nothing to diminish them.
      Over the course of the next few months I began to experiment with different routes of ingesting it, Finally settling on using a vaporizer to inhale it without the harmful carcinogens associated with smoking it.  One thing that holds true, Marijuana reeks.  There is no way around it.  I have children as well.  I had to consider how I was going to responsibly use this in such a way that was transparent for them, but still allowing me to counter the effects of MS has it progressed.  Bare in mind up until this point, the doctors at the VA had tried to get me to use Oxymorphone, a form of Percodan or something like that.  Anything other then Marijuana which was federally illegal (though I was legal within the confines of Colorado before I ever used my first edible, having a doctor outside the VA write a prescription for it)  I was offered to try different opiates.  However, My own studies had shown opiates by and large did nothing to really help with the issues at hand with MS, just mask it, and often times led to much larger problems down the road.  So despite the VA's dislike of it, I opted to take my pain management into my own hands.  
         So now almost 4 years later, I go out to my garage in the evening time, once everything is done and there is no need for me to drive anywhere.  I use my vaporizer, and a few hours later I am snoozing like a baby most nights (a vast improvement over the years of pain ridden sleeplessness I had endured)  I have managed to stay upright mostly, and my spasms and tremors while painful during the day are still better tolerated.  See what most people do not realize is, there are many components to Marijuana that are quite amazing.  Finally we are starting to see modern medicine take a second look at this plant and they are finding great uses for it.  In Italy they use Cannabis oil to reduce the size of tumors in mice, later in 2013 they used it on human trials and it has had an almost miraculous reduction in tumors.  There are studies now that suggest that it may even be moved to more of a mainline treatment for cancer period.  
          Everyone looks at marijuana for the euphoric effects caused by THC element.  What is often overlooked is the other aspect of CBD.  This little by product of the bud being exposed to sunlight actually addresses directly pain, and spascity.  To such a high degree that CBD is actually being distilled separately now for children with seizures in Europe.  In most cases some of these kids whom lived with micro tremor seizures by the 100's are being reduced to single digit episodes some even going days without one.  For the technical jargon talk here ya go.

Cannabidiol or (CBD) occurs in many strains, at low levels, <1 15="" as="" be="" by="" can="" cannabinoid="" cases="" cbd-rich="" cbd="" dominant="" high="" in="" nbsp="" opular="" rare="" strains="" the="" weight.="">4% CBD) include Sour Tsunami, Harlequin and Cannatonic.
  • It can provide relief for chronic pain due to muscle spasticity, convulsions and
    inflammation.  Offering relief for patients with MS, Fibromyalgia and Epilepsy.
  • Some researchers feel it provides effective relief from anxiety-related disorders.
  • CBD has also been shown to inhibit cancer cell growth when injected into breast and brain tumors in combination with THC.
      Now here is where things get sticky.  This will come as no surprise to some.  There are a lot of people who use medical marijuana as an excuse to get high.  They really could care less about the pain relieving/medical uses and instead want the highest THC producing element they can get because high CBD strains do not get you "high".  As such it is extremely hard even at legitimate medical dispensaries to find high CBD strains.  However to those of us with MS, Cancer, and even Parkinson’s (yes this is a front-line treatment in Sweden and has shown remarkable results)  all it takes is a day of having your life less miserable to see the effects.  You see high CBD infused marijuana can actually allow people to function WITHOUT walking around in a haze.  Under a hybrid known as Skunk Haze B A 42% CBD strain of Marijuana I get almost no buzz, I don't get the munchies and I actually think the worst thing I have ever done  under its influence was clean the garage or plant some stuff outside.  A few sessions in the garage and I sleep through any euphoric effects and wake up the next day able to get around pretty well.  
      This is not a cure all mind you.  It does not 100% alleviate the pain or tremors.  But it does take them down by such a great extent, and its effects will continue for the better part of 24 hours.  That is right, 10 minutes or so out in my garage twice a night is the average and with very few exceptions, I have no need to revisit.  Nor do I.  Only on the worst days does my wife see me going out there to take a treatment as I call it during daytime.  I think I can still count on one hand the number of times that has happened.  I used Marijuana to treat my pain post op refusing pain meds for a hernia repair and when I had a tooth pulled out.  My jaw was broken from a fall last summer and I had very little idea until it had reached the point of effecting my tooth.  It does not make you numb.  Not only that, But I have been able to halve my dose of baclofen, get off my blood pressure med (my blood pressure was up due to constant pain) reduce my insulin use and reduce my fatigue medication because most of the time I actually get great sleep.  
      This is becoming a hot topic.  I think many of us sense that within our lifetime Marijuana will be legalized on a federal level.  As people wake up and realize most of Big Pharms claims were as fictitious as some of the books on my bookshelves, I pray they will also keep close watch on how it is brought to the market.  Do not let the Marlboro's and Pfizer's of the world get in there and corrupt something that could do a lot of good.  If you see your state moving towards legalization make sure that the medical side of it is at the forefront.  Get involved.  Do not let the good time this plant can be provide cloud over the extremely positive effects it can have if it is raised in the right circumstances.  My biggest problem now is calling around to the 14 dispensaries in my area to find just one that actually carries "medical" Marijuana.  It does make me mad when I walk in and its a bunch of 20 somethings without a care in the world there for a good time, and I get scoffed at for asking which bud has the highest CBD content.  
       So there is my take on my reasons for using medical marijuana.  I really do see a lot of hope for it but I just pray humanities nature to take something good and squeeze it for all its worth does not ruin what could be a healthy positive alternative to a lot of the heavy opiate problems we have here.  My biggest concern was addiction, however, thus far I have gone weeks during good periods without even having the slightest urge to go out there.  I think the only gateway Marijuana has led me to was the gateway of realizing I needed less snacky foods around to help with self control urges.  I really don't feel bad about a late night munchie session of grapes or apple slices.  It is all about responsible use.  Looks like all the stoners I scoffed at in high school really were on to something after all.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

        I am writing what will seem today like a very scattered series of thoughts or instances.  In part its because I don't know that I ever intended this to be read.  It has been written in part for almost a year, and it has since changed quite a bit as the situation changed. Blogging can often be a very therapeutic way to express your inner most thoughts.  The downside of course being that realizing those thoughts are present can often be as disturbing to you as it is to people who might read it.  However I think if we keep things bottled up what can start as a stray thought can often lead to darker periods of self doubt and make a simple thought turn into a slight obsession.  Now if you think I am going to reveal some dark secret, sorry I do not have anything all that exciting.  But I will admit 2013-2014 has been a very turbulent time for me.  As my MS has progressed I think at some point a part of me has started giving up a bit on the future.  Like a mountain ground down over time by the elements disease has a way of grinding even the happiest person down over time.  When simple actions become a challenge, and you find yourself asking for help more then you would like, its hard not to give in and give up.
      I even have to admit for the first time in my life, I began to have those kind of thoughts that no one should ever have.  "Is my life worth living?",  "Am I really making my families life better or worse for being around?", I even began to question my relationships with family and friends.  I think my final warning sign that something was wrong came when I began to realize that all I really wanted was to be alone.  I sat in my bedroom, at 1:00 PM in the afternoon knowing my wife would leave to get our kids, had been working all day and I had done absolutely nothing positive the entire day other then feel sorry for myself.  Normally this sort of self awareness of my own self pity party would be catalyst I needed to make me mad enough at myself to get up and get moving.
      In today's world its easier on men I think.  Our father's were never allowed to show "feelings" sadness depression.  Of course they did, but it was interpreted differently and normally their wives or loved ones bore the true punishment of suffering with someone whom refused to seek any sort of treatment, or did not even know there were options.  It was not okay back then to be sad, or to be less then the ideal example of a manly man.  Thankfully these days while some would say we have softened too much (a sentiment I can sort of agree to) There are resources in place now to make it easier and less ego bruising (lets face it men's egos account for a lot of problems) for men to seek answers and find hope.
       First off, one of my problems was that the VA had been raising my dose of prozac for the purposes of energy production due to MS fatigue syndrome.  The downside was they pushed it up a level where it was actually having a psychoactive effect on me and my levels were way out of whack.  The doctors of course apologized profusely but warned me that as I reduced the prozac it could also have some side effects of its own as I came down off the manic depressive wave of fun I had been riding mistakenly for 3 years.   As I rode the roller coaster of emotions, I have to admit once again my confidence went to an all new low.   I bought books to read, comics to collect, bought gaming things.  Nothing seemed to be able to fill the void of this total emptiness I felt inside.  I tried to talk with my wife, but she and I on some things are wired entirely differently, which is great in my situations as I believe it allows us to come to a decision that is both rational but still compassionate instead of being all the way to one extreme or the other (hers being the rational mine being the bleeding heart)  I talked with my parents some about it, but frankly their plate is also extremely full with their own trials with my grandmother whom is suffering from medical issues as well.  Often when your feeling useless the last thing you want to do is put more issues on people you can clearly see our burdened already.  Anyone who knows my parents, knows they would give the shirts off their backs to anyone whom truly needed help.  I have watched them care for elderly friends, family and neighbors when no one else would and my parents never gave it a second thought.  They do it quietly, humbly and without thought of payback or gain.  I watched my father and mother care for people who all but spit in their face, and yet they never once quit on them.  This is the blood that flows in my veins as well.  It has to mean something more then just bad hair genes and slightly raised chance of obesity. (We Bishops come a little stocky)
       Then one night as I sat there fretting about money, fretting about my children, and then moving on to fretting about why I bought something on Amazon, it hit me.  I needed to grow the !@#&* up again.  My wife present me with the first opportunity.  As we were deciding what projects we would divvy up our income tax return to, she brought up my credit card use.  While I followed the guidelines of not exceeding half the credit cards worth never maxed things out, I still charged a bunch of stuff that while nice was by no means a need and certainly not worth paying interest on.  I had allowed myself to subscribe to the american symptom of Right NOW.  I admitted tearfully to my stupidity paid them off and chopped them up, opting to keep one just to keep revolving credit going for my credit rating and pay it off slowly but still make double payments to eat the interest down.  Instantly, though it had nothing to do with my health this gigantic soul crushing weight came off my shoulders.  I felt horrible that I had in essence been robbing my family of some income, and it had just been grinding away at me for months and months.  
       Next I began looking around my home. We had a TON of cool stuff to do that we never did.  We just kept getting more cool stuff.  Once again we had hit another of the American flaws.  The need to have the latest and greatest without really even using the older thing.  I have been pondering this a lot lately.  I have 20 or so Xbox 360 games sitting on a shelf.  I have played some of them less then 30 minutes at best.  Yet, my son and I sat there obsessing over one game or another for this reason or that.  But we never played them.  So I made a promise to myself to start doing things more with the kids.  I also took note that my CONSTANT MMORPG game switching was out of control.  I had sometimes went between 5 games in the space of a month.  NO more I told myself.  I play WoW with my family now and a few friends and just stick to non MMO games for other activities.  I am about 2 weeks in to this.  I will admit the pull of new games on the horizon is strong, BUT I am really gonna spend time gaming more efficiently.  Not let it consume, as its easy to do when your somewhat disabled with free time, and put it back in the leisure zone.  I also decided about some other things.  Miniature painting has been very therapeutic for me as it engages my artistic side, keeps me busy and is time consuming, plus at the end you have a finished product you can be proud of.
        I guess this whole blog has just been an example of one man's inner thoughts as he struggles to identify small changes he can make to better his life.  I would never suggest I was ever at a suicidal place but I was certainly in a very black spot for a while.  I think every human being needs to have some sense of worth and unless your just a total mooch very few people can tolerate feeling completely dependent on others to accomplish things.  It is hard to ask for help but its worse to ask for forgiveness because you were to stubborn to ask for help and it spilled over and hurt the people you care about.  I also cannot stress enough how important it is that we do not trust our medical systems to be as concerned with our welfare as we are.  They see millions of patients with millions of issues, its VERY easy for you to become lost in the shuffle and years to go by with you taking something at a level its not intended.  I am an ex nurse paramedic, so there REALLY was no excuse but I got to a point with so many health issues going on that I just let others guide me along.  Your health is your responsibility, do not trust someone who sees you once every 6 months to know the ins and outs of what you are taking and what other doctors are doing even if they are in the same institution and office.  Frankly doctors don't have time, they overwork the 1 nurse they might have in their office for chart review and the rest of the staff are glorified paper pushers.  Really look around any doctors office and you will see what I am talking about.  The days of the provincial doctor who can sit down discuss your life your family and your health all in one are gone.  Now its a frantic treadmill of HMO forced 15 minute appointments, no follow through and lets try this because its all insurance will LET us do.
      Look out for yourself and don't be afraid to engage in a little self reflection.  It can open up new doors and restore new hope.