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7th March 2003

12:12am: My return trip to total normalcy was defined by a bowel movement a short while ago. The last time was four days ago – before the surgery. I had an MRI yesterday and my doctor said it showed they had gotten all of the tumor out. It had come out in one piece – which they said was unusual. And it was larger than the golf ball size initially described. The eeriest part of this episode in my life is that the inside of my head sounds like the sound effects track to a Steven King movie. When a tumor the size of a small baking potato is removed from one’s skull, there is all this space left. Fortunately, my tumor was on the outside and separated from my brain by membrane, but it had “pinned” my brain securely in my skull. No one had told me about all the loud noises I would be hearing. When my brain is wobbling around, connected only by my optics and spine, it makes a bouncing back and forth rubbing noise that sounds like the word “europe” spoken over and over. I had Linda put her ear to the nape of my neck and she could hear it, too. There are also a lot of gurgling, and fluid trickling sounds, and some serious ticking – you know that sound of a house expanding and contracting?
A lot of friends and family have stopped by, or called, and Linda stays for 5 hours at a time. I’ll close my eyes and rub her neck and imagine I’m back at home already. At 48, I’ve been blessed by this being my first visit to the hospital. I just wish it had been something more routine. I’d like to apologize to everyone who might have believed that Monday (03/03/03) would be a more “earthshaking” day than it actually was. I really hoped and believed that the entire world would become a finer place that day – rather than just the inside of my head.

2nd March 2003

11:21pm: THREE /|\ TWO /|\ ONE /|\ Dear Lord, please remove everything-that-separates-me-from-Your-will-for-me. Dear God, please remove everything-that-separates-us-from-Your-will-for-us. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

27th February 2003

10:45pm: FOUR /|\ Crushing the graham crackers was fun. There were three individually wrapped packages in the box. So I took them one at a time and gently mutilated them until their contents were pulverized. (It doesn’t make a mess, if you use some finesse) Carefully opening one end of the first package, I poured the crumbs into a casserole dish, and spread them out until the bottom of the dish was covered. Then I cooked up a batch of chocolate pudding and let it cool for a couple minutes before spooning it over the crumbs, gently spreading it out. Opening the second package of cracker crumbs I sprinkled its contents evenly over the chocolate pudding. I cooked up a second batch of pudding, vanilla this time. After adding the vanilla pudding in the same manner as the chocolate, I sprinkled the last package of graham cracker crumbs over it. Next I sliced up three, ripe bananas into coin-shaped pieces and lay them neatly on top. Finally I whipped a cup of heavy cream that contained four teaspoons of sugar and a dollop of vanilla extract. Spreading the whipped cream over the entire creation, I was done. I call my concoction – T.J.’s Delight.

26th February 2003

11:32pm: FIVE /|\ Often, fear has been a friend. “It was grace that taught my heart to fear” – as the song goes. My fear of the consequences of choosing unwisely has always been a major factor in making wise decisions – and realizing this is humbling. Pride requires nobler reasons to manifest itself. * * * I spent much of this evening being a good listener to a friend in recovery. We discussed the likelihood of spiritual enlightenment being expedited through chemistry. There isn’t a whole lot of evidence to back it up. Whipping out a list of drugged-up saints would be convincing though. Wouldn't it be nice if spiritual growth were as easy as swallowing a new pill for each epiphany?

25th February 2003

11:45pm: SIX /|\ my pre-admission appointment went smoothly this morning. Diane, the registered nurse, described for me in detail what I will experience pre-op, and afterwards when I awake in the ICU. As she was speaking, I thought to myself that her clinical description and my personal experience might vary a bit. I told her it frightens me to see a terminally botched surgery in the news. She said not to worry – in my case they were only removing something and not putting anything else in. * * * Johnny B. rode up with me to the noon meeting at the Colchester firehouse and we had a good long heart-to-heart. I got some great hugs today, too. My friends know that I am prone to self-pity and shutting myself off from them. They love me anyway – God bless them.

24th February 2003

10:49pm: SEVEN /|\ God's ways are inscrutable; logic is only a half of it. The Creator is also funny. I have disclosed to a few close friends - Linda, Dan, John, Manny, Steve and Jane - my awesome hope. For the most part, they humor me. To the many others I know in recovery, I jokingly tell them God has finally answered my daily prayers to remove all my defects of character, and remind them to be careful what they pray for. With fellow Gonegolders, I leave a brief revealing signature in my forum posts. I also find it simultaneously hilarious and logical that this journal was made possible by the generosity of adamant_turtle, an ex-catholic reporter. * * * My sister Donna raved about Monster, Inc. last year, so I asked her to get me the DVD for Christmas. I didn't sit down to watch it until after getting the results of my New Year's Eve MRI. I quickly shut it off when the little girl's laughter blew out the Monster's power grid. In that early moment of the movie I could see where the story was leading. I didn't want to know exactly how a world run on terror was going to be transformed to one run on joy, but my laptop has a DVD player and I will watch it right after my surgery. Surprises are fun!

23rd February 2003

10:34pm: EIGHT /\ We went to Faith Fellowship this morning. Linda’s sister Diane called and wanted to go with us to the service. I meditated on some excuses to say “no”, but at the time I couldn’t recall another occasion when someone had asked to visit church with us, so my heart warmed to the idea. Diane invoked an official church welcome to first-time visitors as we were leaving. Her greeters were initially concerned about the state of Diane’s soul, but they soon learned that the condition of her mind was a far greater issue. She has severe schizophrenia managed with a cornucopia of medications. While Diane was busy, I had an opportunity to talk alone with the minister. Faith Fellowship has a strong reputation for their healing ministry, and when I told him about my brain tumor he held his hand directly over it (I hadn’t told him where it was) and prayed for healing. I wish it were that simple. I was counseled that if I only spoke of the tumor as having left me now, and stuck to that “word” I was all set. I wish it were that easy. The principle sounded good at first, but later it reminded me of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. “Don’t talk about your doubts”, is the message I got. I do believe God can cure me of my affliction, but He wants the evil in me removed by a manifestation of His skillfulness and knowledge through modern medicine instead. God is the master surgeon whom can separate and completely remove evil from all else worthy of His Love. “As in me, so be it in the world”, I pray.

22nd February 2003

9:52pm: NINE /\ Linda and I went to see "About Schmidt" this afternoon. For all those who haven't seen it yet, I just want to warn you - there is a lot of nudity in it. I mean, when Kathy Bates disrobes to climb in the hot tub with Jack Nicholson - THAT'S a lot of nudity! * * * Jesica’s story, a medical transplant error resulting in the death of a young girl, hasn’t helped my pre-surgery jitters any. Did someone not noticing the difference between an “A” and an “O” really make that much difference? My plan to have Bob (salon owner/friend), shave only the left half of my noggin next week, as a subtle pre-surgical hint was a source of humor. Now I’m considering it in all seriousness after hearing about poor Jesica. * * * Trivia Quiz: My operation is taking place in a hospital named after a cigarette brand. My neurosurgeon’s surname is the same as the first name of the only son of Morticia and Gomez Addams. Since 1977, how many times have I been on a locked ward for seeing things a little too differently?

21st February 2003

4:50pm: TEN /\ The laptop is all ready for the hospital. I upgraded the RAM (320mb), and Windows (XP). Then I installed my favorite games I never played much, - Civilization 3, Ultima Online 2D, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Age of Wonders 2, Wizardry 8, Arcanum, and Worms World Party. Also, a couple of beloved games I had played all the way through, but saw a desire to replay; Half-Life, and the original System Shock. Even with the lightweight 8-meg Video card in the laptop, all these games run great. Then I downloaded patches for everything. I also installed MS Word and Flash 4, just in case I get a creative urge. All this preparation has helped me take the focus off the actual surgery. Through counseling, family, and friends, I'm all talked out about it. Or at least broke over it - My phone bill came yesterday, and it was over $100. Linda and I are heading off tonight to our third anniversary meeting (feed me!) within a month. I'm bringing my usual 3-pound can of Planter's cashews to the affair.

9th February 2003

1:30am: My world as I know it will undergo a radical transformation on 3/3/03. That's the official date for my brain surgery. Spiritually I feel pretty fit. My 25+ years as a member of the Mother of all twelve step programs convinced me that there is a lot of good in the worst of us and a bit of the worst in all of us. Physically, I've traded in my size 36 waist for a size 40 since Christmas, mostly from Twix worshiping. Actually I'm scared and keeping a sugar buzz on seems to help. I'm still expecting way too much from God; like when I was 8 and firmly believed in Santa. Some things don't change. I still imagine a jolly, big guy with a bushy, white beard.
A request to all the vault misers: "try being a Ted [Turner] for the last few days, OK?".

17th January 2003

1:24am: I promised adamant_turtle I would share a poem. It kinda relates to my previous entry.

The Rapture

Brigands charging break and cower
At the toll of final hour.

Stonehearted wail ‘til hearts grow warm;
An end to sorrow’s raging storm.

Steeple bells ring all together,
Silencing the violent weather.

Godless crawl on knees t’ward churches.
Scientists call off their searches.

Wounds seal shut, and hearts spread open;
Our Creator’s Reign approaching.

Gone are quakes, but not the furnace.
Stillness soothes, and naught can burn us.

Vitality infuses old,
As time lets go where it controlled.

Tragic memories just vanish.
Author of confusion banished.

Without fuel long hates expire.
Understanding cheats the liar.

Saltines rain on children starving.
Bust of Jesus mountain carving.

Forgiveness heard. Kindness listened.
Choices then, now instincts christened.

As mercies pour from billion hearts,
The thirst for justice soon departs.

Nothing painful, nothing scary,
Anywhere is sanctuary.

Policemen skipping down the roads,
Finally freed of heavy loads.

Faith restocks the stores at night;
Enough for all, no lack in sight.

Rushers slow, and just-mets linger.
Time no longer wags its finger.

Humble scholars rapt in wisdom
Mouthed by once autistic children.

Vaults of misers’ wealth neglected.
Ownership by all selected.

Homeless welcome in the houses.
“Eat me not!” a talking cow says.

Wander children! Wander creatures!
World is now a gentle teacher.
12:13am: Truth is stranger than fiction. Not long ago I was getting moles removed. More recently, I had an emergency tooth extraction. Soon I will graduate from this take-me-a-piece-at-a-time course. I found out I have a brain tumor. Two good things about it. It's benign (not cancerous), and its not actually IN my brain, rather its ON my brain. I went to my first meeting with my neurosurgeon yesterday. He showed me the MRI photos and I was shocked to see how large it was. About the size of a golfball. After all the times people have told me "it's all in your head", I finally believe them. I found it shocking to discover so much pure evil bunking with my brain. I've discussed the situation with family and friends and I've decided to remove my tumor in the best interests of the world. It's my belief that the whole world is in my head, kinda. Or the condition of my billions of brain cells parallels the condition of the human race. Its hard to explain. Its a Macrocosm/microcosm sort of thing. Anyway, I'm counting on waking up, or not waking up after surgery, and being faced with the same result - No more evil! aka paradise. I wanted to ask my surgeon if I could pick the day of my surgery. I wanted to pick some auspicious date like 03/03/03, but I realized that if I REALLY believe that removing my tumor will remove all evil (sickness, confusion, pain, ignorance, etc.) in the world, than I'm mandated to have my operation as soon as the doctor can fit me in. Sometimes it must seem to y'all that the fruit of this world is beginning to rot on the vine. If I had known I had a tumor on my brain I would have dealt with the situation sooner.

20th December 2002

9:26pm: Heroism and suicide, appraised each other.
Fear told them there is no good reason to suffer and die.
The twins, enraged by this, were united.
"I rush toward death with no thought of my own safety!" they both cried.
"For my suffering is temporary, yet works lasting merit," one professed.
"And my hope rests therein," the other agreed.

13th December 2002

12:50am: My dentist called at eight this morning when I was still asleep. His 9 a.m. had cancelled - could I make it in? Overjoyed at my good fortune I scrambled to get over there. It was a tooth he had put a crown on (some call it a cap, but considering how much it cost me I think it's worth calling a crown) three years ago. He said nothing shows on the X-ray, but I probably need a root canal. Loading me full of novacaine and he drills right through the crown to start the procedure, but can't find the canal due to "calcification". I'd never heard of calcification before. He said maybe he can search a little deeper on the next appointment, but until next Wednesday I might suffer with a bit of pain. Then he says to call him in a couple of hours to let him know how I'm doing. This is odd, I thought to myself. He's never asked me to call like that before. As the four of us (doctor, assistant, and receptionist) are in the hall and I'm leaving, The pain in that tooth exploded and I burst into tears. I've never known such pain AFTER getting novacaine. Doctor John put his arm around me as I sobbed uncontrollably and asked his assistant to escort me to the last room on the left. More novacaine, and pliers this time. Doctor said this was a very rare occurence in his practice. He gets maybe two like this a year where a root canal becomes an emergency extraction. Lucky me! as adamant_turtle would say.

11th December 2002

11:24pm: A TOOTHACHE has me. I took one of the darvocets I didn't need three months ago when I was going through the problem with my leg. It was only good for a couple hours of relief, but a couple of hours was better than .
I left a message on my dentist's answering machine. It gave me an emergency number to call, but I was afraid I'd piss him off, and he's the one person who can help me. Well, time to illegally self-medicate again, and try to get some sleep. I'll bet that the guy who first dreamed up the handgun, did it when he had a toothache!

9th December 2002

12:00am: This weekend I got some of my December chores done. The minutes for the District's December meeting, 2003 Personnel lists, etc - written up. All five of my family's Christmas gifts - bought (but not wrapped). I got my sister Donna the DVD of Joshua. Her family is devoutly Christian so I know they'll appreciate it. I spent $150 for Christmas gifts this year. Way too much. Of course that's not including the one I bought myself. I won a laptop computer on Ebay for $550. I got it a week ago Friday. Its a Compaq Armada M700 P3-500mhz. It came with a DVD player which works and looks terrific. To have such a portable theatre is pretty cool - but after a couple minutes of "testing" I forced myself to put it back in the box. It is a Christmas present after all. I think its kind of sad that the best Christmas gift I'm getting this year is from myself.

7th December 2002

7:25pm: The "magic" in Harry Potter kept me from falling asleep entirely, but I caught myself yawning through the 2nd half of the overly-long sequel. The last line of the film sums it all up for me. "It wouldn't be Hogwart's without you, Hagdrid!" - I love the big, hairy groundskeeper.

3rd December 2002

11:43am: My dear Satan, I just wanted to thank you for your kindness. As I get a bit more wrinkled each year, you have cursed me with deteriorating eyesight. When I am ugly enough to truly upset me, I will be spared by the gift of sightlessness. This must be very difficult for you to bear. I know what a high value you place on personal vanity.
Again, many thanks.

2nd December 2002

12:53am: Looks like we might kiss our "right to remain silent" goodbye. And interrogating injured suspects could easily become withholding medical treatment. This isn't much of a stretch since access to medical treatment is becoming the privilege of only a few. We've had a couple local cases recently which demonstrate our intention to imprison and torture rather than treat the mentally ill. I think that's a nightmarish loss of personal freedom. The Supreme Court will soon decide. Maybe if we lose the right to remain silent more Americans will speak out. Its all about providing the dignity of health care for ALL Americans (in my humble opinion).

1st December 2002

9:08pm: I am too busy staring into space lately to write anything. I hope it’s not a symptom of something awful. I am a hypochondriac. I’ve had a headache since April and going off my Atkin’s regimen on Thanksgiving got me real constipated. Yesterday I took a couple laxatives in the morning. By evening, I took a couple more. This afternoon the “fun” began. I’m in Walmart when I heard the earth move. Deciding on mercy toward the crowds using the public restroom, I rushed home. The rest of the day I’ve basically kept to myself. The highlight of the entire week was seeing Manny. We’ve been friends for twenty years and since he moved to N.C. eight years ago, I’ve really missed his presence. A remarkable meeting at his 40th Class reunion this September has led to a long distance romance with his best-friend-in-high-school’s girl who just happens to live twenty minutes from me. Very fortuitous. I get to see my bud Manny. He’s the original “Homeboy”. I mean over his job career he has been a real estate agent, a mortgage lender, then a Sears home improvement sales manager, now he’s into home security system sales. Manny’s not just my friend, he’s my hero.

22nd November 2002

7:07am: An original thought. I like to think I’ve had a few in my life. Or not even an original thought, perhaps just a pithy way of realizing the truth. I woke up just now with the refrain of a current tune looping in my head. “Hold me close. I’m six feet from the edge and I’m thinkin’, maybe six feet ‘snot so far down.” The first three words should make Christians rejoice. What clearer words could invoke God into the human heart? The next line originally describes the awesome power of the mind to delude itself. The same mind counted on to lead us to the truth creates lies. Dangerous lies. When a man or woman has this desperate epiphany, the comfort of their fancied self-sufficiency crumbles and the Light of the Spirit can enter. Such utter desolation in our hearts is a holy place for God to take up residence. All together now, sing!

21st November 2002

10:48pm: By reading only my junk email two conclusions about me could be surmised. One, my penis is too small, and two, my mortgage is too large. The truth is I don't even have a mortgage.

15th November 2002

8:57pm: In attempting to create my own poetic vision of Judgement Day this chaff shook out:

When Innocent was hung on tree
Perfect injustice came to be
And Satan climbed on worldly throne,
Sure victory was his alone.
For three days not a heart held hope
Humanity in darkness groped.
The pall was lifted on the third
When Conqueror of Death emerged.

--Day Valen

13th November 2002

11:56pm: "You were so confused you had to decide what to do before you did it." --Day Valen

9th November 2002

10:01pm: Today was bloody mole day. My dermatologist, Dr. Wolf, removed the two that were the size of m+ms; one on the small of my back near the spine, the other one at the highest point where my left ear is attached. I told him right up front, “I’m a big baby when it comes to pain”. He gave me that sure-sure-whatever attitude. I tried to reinforce the point with, “I mean a real wimp!” So he needled me with the local anesthetic for the ear mole. One poke. No problem. The mole on my back was an entirely different story. It felt like he had plunged the needle deep into my spinal column. I flinched and gave a quiet yelp. He decided I needed more Novocain there. The next poke was worse then the first, my body jumped, and I yelped louder. The third time was a charm… I screamed. Without looking up from his work, and with a bit of humor in his voice Dr. Wolf hushed, “You’re going to scare away all my other patients”. Now I’m angry AND embarrassed. Then he stepped out of the room and returned with an assistant. The surgery proceeded quickly and uneventfully. After the doctor had finished up and gone, I asked his assistant her name. “Teresa”, she said. Sheepishly, I asked Teresa if she had heard me scream from down the hall. With her back to me, and filling out some paperwork, she replied, “Yes, I did.” Now fully clothed, I headed for the reception area. There were several patients waiting, mostly parents with their acned offspring. As we closed the office door behind them, I asked Linda if she had heard me scream. She looked quizzically at me, and was about to answer, but I had already thanked God.
Current Mood: relieved
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