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Posted by on Jun 25, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 2 comments

The Foreign Invasion We’re Powerless to Stop

 

 

There are lots of bad guys out there in the world.

Many of these bad guys pose us serious danger.  They aim to invade our shores.  They try to infect our people.  They want to kill us.

These bad guys have no allegiances.  They don’t respect our borders.  They don’t discriminate as to who they target.  They go after everyone.  People of all ages, races, and genders are vulnerable.  Rich and poor are equally at risk.  No one is safe.

Constructing expensive border walls can’t stop them.  Neither can immigration bans — illegal or otherwise.  Whether we approve or not of their arrival, swarms of uninvited guests are coming to America, by the trillions and trillions.

They aren’t just headed to our cities and neighborhoods.  They’re not only living right next door to you.  They’re inside your home.  Many could even been inside your body.  Right at this instant.

*****

Let’s talk more about defending ourselves against these dangerous invaders.

President Donald Trump’s first federal budget intends to cut funding for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) — by 17 percent.  What does this mean?  Well, that’s 17 percent less people and less time we would dedicate to studying an array of different viruses and other harmful pathogens which can potentially kill us.  Cutting the CDC’s budget means picking and choosing which diseases to fight, while ignoring others — at our peril.

Trump’s budget also aims to slash the National Institute of Health (NIH) — by 18 percent.  Let’s put this into perspective:  This is a federal agency which receives about the same amount of money each year in all of its funding as it takes to build one single aircraft carrier (about $16 billion).  Yet, odd as it seems, NIH may be one of the best returns on investment in all of government.  Various studies have shown a rate of return of up to 40 percent per year — by reducing the economic cost of illness inside the United States.  Studies have also found that 15 of the 21 drugs with the highest therapeutic impact on society were discovered, in part, via NIH and/or its research grants.  As of 2015 NIH-supported research discovered more than 160 new FDA-approved drugs and vaccines.  That’s one hell of a good return on “government spending.”

But this is pale in comparison to the draconian cuts the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is about to endure.  The federal agency in charge of keeping our food safe to eat, and prescription drugs safe to take, could become all but paralyzed as protector of the peoples’ health and welfare.  Consider this — the FDA is the policeman against snake oil salesmen.  Their job is to go after snake oil salesmen and put them in jail.  Cut its budget by a third, and well — we can expect lots more snake oil salesmen.

There is no debate among those in the know.  Cuts to the CDC, NIH, and FDA are unsafe, unwise, and economically unsound.  They could even be catastrophic.  You think funding science is costly?  Imagine what it would cost to contain the outbreak of an infectious disease in this country.  Isn’t it wise to spend relative pennies now in order to save would could be billions of dollars later, if the worst happens?   [READ MORE BELOW]

Even some conservative Republicans are disturbed by President Trump’s proposals.  Consider the voice of Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who serves as Chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the CDC.   Rep. Cole said, “What CDC does is probably more important to the average American than, in a sense, the Defense Department.”

By the way, defense spending will increase under Trump’s budget by a whopping $54 billion.

Cutting budgets to CDC, NIH, and the FDA isn’t just a war on science.  It’s a war on knowledge.  It’s a war on all Americans.

*****

A few years ago, everyone was terrified — not by North Korea or ISIS — as much as an invisible alien known as the Ebola virus.  We were all so scared that several elected officials proposed quarantining entire regions of the world to stop the spread of the disease.  It was like a horror movie.

Then, wise people spoke up and our government stepped in.  World health organizations answered the call and became the heroes of humanity, every bit as brave as those men and women in uniform who go off to battle and wage war for the preservation of our way of life.  Ebola might not have been eradicated.  But it certainly isn’t the threat to us now, as it was back in 2014.

Too all those who disparage the noble functions of government — be thankful.  Temper your criticism.  We’re probably still alive right now because of the good deeds of government and the many extraordinary people who have put their own lives on the line to learn more about the deadly invaders who want to attack us.

Now, facing yet another intruder — this time something called the Zika virus — President Trump aims to cut the federal agencies and international programs best suited to fight this serious threat.  We are cutting our first line of defense.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is madness.

*****

Intentional or not, humankind continues to meddle with the natural forces of the universe.  On occasion, this cannot but accelerate evolutionary pathways to our self-destruction.

For every Ebola or Zika case out there, there are millions more metastasizing, including viruses which we haven’t even identified yet.  Unfortunately, this will remain a perpetual conflict.  We simply can’t afford to take a year, or a month, or even a day off.  There’s no such thing as a vacation.  While we sleep, they evolve and grow.  While we slash government budgets designed to fight them, they continue to form new colonies which are increasingly stubborn and resistant to known remedies.

History has taught us what happens when pandemics rage out of control.  It’s not pretty.  A century ago, the last global plague known as the Spanish Flu ravaged across every continent.  The disease killed 55 million — three times the number of deaths in all of World War I, which preceded the Spanish Flu outbreak by a few years.  We may think of wars in terms of human conflicts.  But they can be between all of life’s forces.

Today, pandemics pose an even greater threat to us.  While science (when funded properly and allowed to enrich us with new discoveries) has made amazing advances in fighting many grave diseases, those which evade our control are even more dangerous.  Compared to era of the Spanish Flu outbreak, the world’s population has since tripled.  We’re now packed closer together in densely-populated cities.  We exchange food and goods with far greater frequency.  International travel has become an everyday occurrence.  Before, a virus that might have taken weeks to spread, can contaminate another continent with hours.

*****

Liberals and conservatives don’t agree on much these days.  But we do agree on one thing.  Government’s primary role should be providing for the national defense, against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.  Today, some of these enemies are on our own hands, inside the meats and the produce we consume, or carried my common mosquitoes.

Government must assume this vital role in protecting us.  It might not be a profitable (although the unintended consequences of increased research often leads to new inventions and discoveries).   The ultimate benefit to fighting something so tiny that it’s nearly invisible to the eye might not always be appreciated, nor even tangible.  Yet, this fight (I argue) is a Constitutional responsibility every bit at vital as maintaining an army and navy to protect the homeland.

President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to science, and particularly those critically important agencies which serve as our front line of defense against pandemic invasion is just the latest poorly conceived, reckless, anti-intellectual delirium by a White House gone totally haywire — by a leader so personally bereft of caring and compassion that we must wonder if brash defiance of all reason is yet another calculated Molotov Cocktail carefully tossed onto the giant bonfire of a burning nation.  Indeed, there are even some fears this could be the dirty work of key presidential adviser Steve Bannon, who has openly vowed to “deconstruct the administrative state.”  His fangs are all over this policy.  For President Trump to go along with such a deranged permutation which abandons one of the most basic functions government is treasonous.  This isn’t merely a deconstruction of bureaucracy.  It could be suicidal.

If and when the next deadly disease comes, and it will, we won’t look to the media, nor celebrities, nor corporations, nor the pretty and the wealthy, nor our elected officials, nor the military to protect us.  Instead, we will look to science.  

That’s right — science.  

We will look to those nerdy men and women wearing lab coats, the kids who were once the anti-life of the party.  We will hope and pray that when that deadly virus infects us or inflicts someone we know or love, that somehow while we were all busy with our own lives and distractions, that some scientist off somewhere working in anonymity for a paltry salary may have put in a little overtime and come up with the remedy that will save our lives.

President Trump’s proposed budget makes this less likely.

 

__________

From The Washington Post (May 26, 2017), written by Tom Frieden (CDC Director from 2009 to 2017):

 

The administration’s budget proposal for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is unsafe, unwise and fiscally irresponsible.

Unsafe.  The proposal undermines CDC’s ability to find, stop and prevent threats to Americans’ health.  I know what this looks like. When I joined the CDC in 1990, Congress had cut the tuberculosis control budget. TB came roaring back, costing billions and killing Americans. Since then we’ve responded to West Nile, H1N1, Ebola, Zika and more. This proposal cuts virtually every program needed to stop such risks.

Unwise.  A proposed block grant hides hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts to programs that protect Americans from cancer, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Block-granting undermines the CDC’s ability to help states implement programs proven to save lives and eliminates the opportunity to support communities and states based on need, impact or effectiveness. The proposal also eliminates research centers critical to discovering new ways to prevent diseases that threaten all Americans.

Fiscally irresponsible.  Many CDC programs save $3 or more in health-care costs, and $10 in societal costs, for every dollar spent. Anti-tobacco ads prevent tens of thousands of deaths and reduce health-care costs by hundreds of millions of dollars. Cutting the CDC budget by $1.2 billion could cost Americans more than $15 billion over the next decade.

The CDC should not be a political football.  The CDC is a best buy — money that can be counted on to prevent illness, disability and death and save money.

 

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Posted by on Jun 21, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 2 comments

Slow and Furious

 

 

While running almost daily over these past five years — I’ve been yelled at, flipped off, and nearly run off the road.  I’ve fallen down flat on my face, busted open a kneecap, and been accosted by mean school children who called me “fatso.”  I’ve been chased by a pack of angry pit bulls.

By my estimate, I’ve run approximately 5,000 miles in six different countries on two continents.  Along my way, I’ve gratuitously dropped perhaps 9,500 F-bombs, some expletives mumbled, others screamed at full volume.  This averages out to nearly two F-bombs per mile of running — double that average when running anywhere in South Florida because of oppressive humidity and playing dodge ball among world’s worst drivers.  Indeed, I’ve learned that fury can be quite the devilish motivation, especially when skirting and sidestepping cars and trucks and forced to constantly be on the lookout for maniacs distracted by smartphones who simply do not see or fail to yield to the doddering 6-foot tall, 225-pound, 55-year-old blob off on the shoulder heaving desperately for air along busy boulevards and tricky avenues mostly lined with speeding traffic.

Fuck running.  But I do love it so.

I can’t explain the contradiction, really.  Aside from the giddy self-satisfaction of enduring the elements of the not-so-great outdoors, often battling the extremes of temperature and topography, the closest sensation I can relate to is that running has become an alternative form of meditation.  One becomes addicted to mental and physical rhythms of the body in motion.  I’ve even perfected the art of dozing off while running, as odd as that seems.  I’m almost never tired nor do I feel worn out after running.  I never ache after running.  I’m more alert and alive than ever.  I only feel tired and listless when — for whatever reason — I miss a run after a day or two.  I ache when I do not run.

I guess in some ways running is a drug.

Today was the hottest day ever in the history of Las Vegas.  Since this city was founded in 1905, that means this was the hottest day ever recorded in 112 years.  Oh, that means the high reached a blistering 117 degrees.

I ran five miles at precisely 4 pm today, right when the temperature peaked at the all-time high.  Yes, this was planned.  This was by design.  If I’m going to run, I’ll run.  If I’m going to sweat, then I won’t candy-ass it by running in the morning when it’s just 98.  I want the full fast and furious version of running to the extreme.

Mind you, this isn’t a sick brag even though I’m a master of sick bragging, but rather a demonstration of what simple dedication and strong willpower can do.  Those who know me best probably know, I’m not particularly motivated nor hard-working most of the time.  But I do make it a personal mission to run about six days a week, no matter what the weather conditions.  This “sacrifice” averages out to about six hours per week, hardly time-consuming given all the time most of us waste doing far less productive (and counterproductive) things in our lives.

The coldest temperature I ever ran in was a bone-chilling 5 degrees once — at South Lake Tahoe.  That run, which lasted only a few miles, nearly killed me.  The trouble was, South Lake Tahoe is at 7,100 feet and running at that high altitude puts tremendous stress on the lungs, especially if you’re not accustomed to the conditions.  I can’t say it did much good to breath in all that cold air either, as I contracted bronchitis and was coughing my head off for the next two weeks.  Yes, I do admit — one can take this running thing to the extreme.

But, for whatever reason, the heat has never bothered me.  I’ve run in 100-degree weather hundreds of times, and never experienced the least bit of discomfort.  Sure, after sweating like a beast I smelled like a farm animal afterward, but that was nothing a good shower couldn’t cure.

Here’s a shot taken yesterday while eggs and runners were frying on the sidewalk.

 

 

Many things that bring us down are beyond our control.  Some of us lose our jobs.  We go broke.  We lose friends, and sometimes even our closest family members are no longer among us.  We may work harder than others and such effort may take us nowhere.  Other times, something effortless results in a huge bonanza.  Life can be wildly random.

Running is the one thing over which I do have total control.  All decisions and movements are mine.  All effort is my own.  Every step forward is, in and of itself, a very small victory.  Satisfaction is the ultimate reward.

Most days, I run between 2 and 5 miles.  It takes me about an hour to run the full 5-mile course in my neighborhood, which is positioned on a gradual slope.  Running on a flat surface is much easier than running on slopes when paths are sometimes up and sometimes down.

What’s toughest for me are the hills.  Hills are murder on the legs.  There’s a quarter-mile stretch of my daily run which is all uphill.  My legs feel like rubber afterward.  They shake and want to collapse.  That part of my run isn’t getting easier.  To the contrary, it’s getting more difficult.  I suspect that losing some muscle mass due to age, even if it’s a little, has something to do with this.

As for vanity, I gave up worrying about extra weight or carrying a stomach a very long time ago.  I’ll never have a perfect body, so why worry about it?  Why obsess over weighing a certain number, when it seems more practical to do your own thing and let physics and biology take its course?  I’ll never be disappointed in not weighing a certain number because frankly, I don’t fucking care.  I’m going to eat my buttery meals and drink my wine, and then run when I can to stay as fit as a can.  Why bother with worrying?

That would be my advice to those who, like me, may carry a little extra weight and want to lose it.  Don’t worry about losing it so much as doing things you enjoy which might burn off some extra calories.  It’s really not that difficult it you make the time.

Some readers may think their busy schedules excuse them from exercise.  I don’t buy that excuse.  I used to work long hours, day and night.  I also used to travel more than half the year.  Consider that since I’ve begun running as a ritual, I’ve run the following number of times in these cities:

London, England — 2

Cannes, France — 20

Eindhoven, Holland — 10

Dublin, Ireland — 6

Cork, Ireland — 1

Ft. Lauderdale, FL — 25

West Palm Beach, FL — 30

Hickory, NC — 6

Laurel, MD — 6

Atlantic City, NJ — 20

Philadelphia, PA — 3

Pittsburgh, PA — 5

New York, NY — 1

Rome, NY — 10

Gary, Indiana — 5

New Orleans, LA — 30

Shreveport, LA — 9

Dallas, TX — 1

St. Louis, MO — 10

Phoenix, AZ — 1

Los Angeles, CA — 35

Escondido, CA — 20

South Lake Tahoe, NV — 12

Reno, NV — 2

Flathead Lake, MT — 2

Fargo, ND — 3

Sacramento, CA — 2

Las Vegas, NV — 1,200

Looking back, my toughest runs were in South Lake Tahoe, Flathead Lake, MT (due to elevation) and Gary, IN (due to it being a shit hole).  The easiest runs were almost always along oceans, which means along flat surfaces while enjoying gentle breezes.  I never had a problem running in South Florida, or Atlantic City, or even New Orleans during the summer.  Flat = good.  Hills/Altitude = bad.

The longest run I’ve ever made was 12 miles, which was 18 months ago in West Palm Beach.  That distance won’t break any world records, but I was very deeply satisfied I could still run that distance without stopping at my age.  That said, I did encounter a terrible chafing problem afterward where the meat of my thighs has rubbed together so much the skin was raw.  It wasn’t pretty.

Injuries are a customary hazard with running and all serious runners will encounter them at some point.  My view is, you have to just run through the pain and discomfort.  I don’t recommend this to everyone, of course.  Each body is different.  So, please do listen to pain signals within the body, especially if you are just starting out.  For me, I know I can work through discomforts.

Twice, I had lower back pains so bad that I could barely stand up without assistance.  This is something that just flares up out of nowhere about once a year.  Each time, I stretched and ran through the pain and then felt much better afterwards.

Another occasion, I was running along Okechobee Blvd. near the Palm Beach Kennel Club dog track.  Racing rough a crosswalk at a busy intersection, I made a giant misstep, missed the curb, and smashed by face onto the pavement.  In the process, I busted a kneecap that turned bloody but looked much worse than it actually was.  That caused me to miss a few days, but after the swelling went down, I made it a mission to return and race through that intersection, this time, bouncing over the curb like Rocky racing up the famous steps and thrusting his fists into the air.

The worst injury I suffered was seemingly benign and invisible, but which is, in fact, very painful, even to the point of causing debilitation.  Plantar Fasciitis is a knife-like pain up through the heel, which suddenly hit me a few years ago.  I can’t explain the sensation other than to say that even taking a small step is excruciating.  That stopped me from running for about six weeks, the only real stretch of time I’ve missed in five years.

I’ve tried to share the ups and downs of daily running from time to time with readers.  Some readers have even contacted me privately to say they will try and get healthy and will try running — to which I reply, bravo!

If it hits 118 degrees, I know where I’m headed — outdoors to the pavement.

 

 

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Posted by on Jun 2, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 13 comments

My Colonoscopy

 

I know.

Yuck.

A colonoscopy.

Who wants to read about that?

Well, since you’re already into the fourth paragraph of today’s feature, I’ll take this as an indication you’re either innately curious, or sick enough to wallow in the joy of my misery.

Fair enough.

At age 55, I’m told that puts me at higher risk for colon cancer.  Gee, that would really suck to be diagnosed with any form of cancer.  But if I do get such a scary diagnosis, I sure as shit don’t want it in my ass.  Excuse the pun.

Most of us put off unpleasant procedures like this until — sometimes it’s too late.  Especially men, like me who often feel invulnerable.  Since I don’t feel any pain down there, why worry about it?  That’s the all too-familiar tune.  Sure, I get annual medical check ups.  I visit my dentist regularly.  I go through a vision test and get new glasses whenever I can.  So, why would I voluntarily subject myself to such an intimate intrusion by undergoing a colonoscopy?

In other words, if it’s not broken, why fix it?

My ass works just fine.

I won’t gross you out with too many gritty details, but the downside of putting off a colonoscopy is a slow death in the most miserable way.  Unfortunately, I happen to know this firsthand.  Marieta’s father died from colon cancer about 20 years ago.  Losing him was painful enough.  But to see such a strong and kind man like Marieta’s father, who was once worked as a Bucharest policeman, bed-ridden during the final six-months of his life was a terrible ordeal to bear, especially since colon cancer was entirely treatable, if it had been caught in time — in other words, if he’d had a colonoscopy.

Marieta lost her father that way, and she certainly didn’t want to lose me, especially in the same manner.  So, prodded on by her insistence — what most of us husbands would call “nagging” — I finally agreed to undergo my first colonoscopy, earlier this week.  In fact, we agreed to go in together as a couple.  She decided to have one too, on the same day.  No, we didn’t get a 2 for 1 discount.  We didn’t even get frequent flier points.  Cheap ass insurance company.  Like having Spirit Airlines insurance with a $5,000 deductible.

The procedure is relatively quick and simple, which I’ll get to in a moment.  It was also completely painless.  However, the prep was a bit annoying, especially for a foodie, like me.  I was instructed forgo all food and drink for a 24-hour period prior to the procedure.  No, not even a glass of wine.

The horror.

Being a Type-A personality, I took these medical instructions to the extreme.  I didn’t eat or drink anything (except for water) for 40 hours straight.  I’m not sure that qualifies me for any Guinness Book of World Records, but I think I deserve some kind of Evel Kneivel award for my immense sacrifice.  I don’t believe I’ve ever gone so long without eating or drinking anything in my entire life, except once when my car broke down in West Virginia and I deduced starvation was preferable to eating anything in that state.

To my surprise, fasting was much easier than I expected.  Perhaps being a Muslim and doing the Ramadan thing — which means not eating for 30 days — isn’t such a big deal, after all.  Besides, it’s a pretty effective way to lose weight.  Maybe I’ll convert, at least to the fasting part (not!).

On the same morning when the 2017 World Series of Poker officially began, an annual event in Las Vegas which I’d worked steadily for more than two decades, while players from all over the globe — including hundreds of friends of mine — were congregating together in gambling’s biggest and most prestigious event, I was having a rubber tube inserted into my ass.

How far the mighty have fallen.

The prep was critical.  They make you drink this clear liquid, which tastes like artificially flavored citrus soda.  I was told there are some yucky-tasting prep kits.  But I was prescribed one of the really good ones.  I must admit, it sure was tempting to spike the prep drink with a little vodka (my new creation — the colonoscopy screwdriver).  But I was a good boy.

Anyway, I drank two full dosages of the prescribed citrus drink and for the next 24 hours I felt like I was riding a motorcycle through central Mexico.  Fortunately, there were no major disasters.  There were, however, a couple of really close calls.  Football is called “a game of inches.”  Well, the prep game of having a colonoscopy is kinda’ like that, too.  Then and there I realized there are advantages to having house cats.  One just gets used to poop and vomit on the floors.  What’s one more little “accident?”

Our procedure was done at an outpatient facility here in Las Vegas.  From the moment we entered, I was impressed with how professionally things were run.  I was taken to an admission section, asked several questions about my medical history, and then was asked to disrobe.  No lap dance.

They gave me a gown to wear, which was this weird thing that was very poorly designed.  It opened in the rear, which meant my entire backside was exposed to the world.  Worse, the strings in back were inaccessible.  Much as I tried, I couldn’t reach around and tie it.  So, I finally just gave up.  I figured these medical people have seen just about everything by now, so I walked down the hallway like some doddering old mental patient with my ass hanging out until someone ran over from the nurses’ station and tied my bow up like a pretty Christmas present.

Next, they laid me down on a stretcher with wheels and then some people with masks on came over and started wheeling me into an operating room.  I didn’t like the looks of those people with the masks.  They looked scary.  I thought this was just a colonoscopy.  It was supposed to be 20 minutes, in and out.  They looked way too serious.  Maybe they saw something on my chart.

By then, it was too late.  I was placed in a small room with all kinds of electronic equipment.  Next, a woman stuck a needle in my arm and told me I’d be getting something called “saline solution.”  I asked, “why.”  She replied this was to keep me fully hydrated.  I insisted that I wasn’t thirsty, but if some Chateauneuf du Pape could be pumped into the bag I sure would appreciate it.  No one thought that was funny. Medical people have no sense of humor, or maybe they just don’t know French wines.

Anyway — next, an even more serious-looking man who resembled one of those silver-haired doctors you see on TV came into the room.  He introduced himself Dr. Something-Or-Other, “the anesthesiologist.”  I wasn’t there to take notes, nor remember names.  All I knew was, he was expensive.  Marieta had done some advance research on the anesthesia they typically use.  She disovered it’s the same stuff Michael Jackson was addicted to.  I did not find this news comforting.

Next, Dr. Anesthesiologist punched the “play” button on a stereo system, and all of the sudden Supertramp’s “The Logical Song” came on with the volume cranked up to “7,” blasting out of Bose speakers.  I know they were Bose, because I saw them with my own eyes.  I know this firsthand because I was there.

My colonoscopy was about to begin….

[You have to click the music for the full effect……do it, and then read on]

At about the second stanza, a soft rubber mask was placed directly over my mouth.  I was instructed by someone with a calm voice to inhale deeply.  Then, I was told to roll over on my side and tuck myself  into “the fetal position.”  I looked at a clock on the wall.  It read 8:16 am.  As for the doctor, I still hadn’t seen him yet.  My only worry was that he’d clipped his nails sometime this week.

My deep breathing continued.  The music played.  I’m not sure how long I stayed conscious, certainly not until the first chorus when the saxophone solo came in.  I went totally blank within about 30 seconds.

The next thing I remember was opening my eyes.  A nurse was standing at my side.  I was still laying in the fetal position.  I wondered — when are they going to start my colonoscopy?

Oddly enough, I had a short dream.  I also noticed drool coming out the side of my mouth and dripping onto the pillow (hey, you knew this story wouldn’t be pretty).  I recalled the clock time flashed 8:16.  I wondered what time it was now and when they would start the procedure.

I rolled over onto my back trying to find the clock hanging on the wall.  It wasn’t there.  The music was off, too.  In fact, I wasn’t even in the same room.  What the hell happened?

That’s when the nurse spoke up.  She said everything went smoothly.  No complications.  She told me they’d removed something called a polyp, which would later be tested at a lab.  Most polyps turn out to be benign, I was told.  I couldn’t believe the procedure was already done, so quick.  I didn’t feel a thing.  I didn’t even remember a thing.  I slept better than a baby with a hangover.

Within 30 minutes, Marieta had joined me waiting in the recovery unit.  We were wheeled out together and by 9:30 we were out the door on our way home.  The two-hour start-to-finish procedure basically gives us ten years peace of mind, that we don’t have to worry about colon cancer.

While the prep period certainly wasn’t fun with the mandatory “cleansing” stage, and missing meals was annoying, the actual procedure of undergoing a standard colonoscopy (including polyp removal) is relatively simple and worry free.  I’ve had haircuts that were more painful.

So, why share all this?

During the course of my writing, I’m never quite sure which topics will resonate with readers.  I seriously doubt this column will become a reader favorite.  Surely, there will be some wisecracks, most intended in good fun.

Aside from the laughter, please do take a moment to think about this seriously.  In the U.S. 50,000 people die from colon cancer every year.  Chances are, you know someone who has been diagnosed with the cancer.  Most of these deaths would not have happened if the cancer was caught in time.  It’s highly preventable.

Honestly, I would never have agreed to do this procedure unless Marieta absolutely insisted.  Unless she nagged.  I also thought getting a colonoscopy would be both embarrassing and painful.  I was wrong on both counts.  It’s not embarrassing, unless we make it so.  It’s also not painful.  I didn’t feel a thing.

If today’s article motivates just one person to have a colonoscopy, and something gets diagnosed early, this will be well worth it.  So, don’t put it off — especially if you’re someone in a higher-risk category.

Ten years from now, I hope to have another colonoscopy.  And in twenty years, another.  And, thirty years from now, on my 85th birthday, yet another.  Think of it this way.  It sure beats the alternative.

Don’t put it off.  Do it.  It’s easy.

It’s logical.

 

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Posted by on Apr 11, 2016 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 4 comments

Dealing with Depression

 

Feeling blue

 

A Personal Note from Nolan Dalla:  

What you are about to read is a manifestation of courage.

What follows is a previously-unpublished essay on the mental malady of depression.  

It was written by a very close and dear friend of mine who is often afflicted with severe bouts of the disorder.  These common bouts have dispensed debilitation and even thoughts of suicide, on occasion.  

On the surface, nothing seems wrong.  By looking at him and observing his very successful career and comfortable lifestyle, complete with a loving family and plenty of friends, you’d probably never guess that he suffers from depression.  You’d never know he’s spent agonizing periods of his life stuck in a dark place which has no boundaries, virtually incapacitated within a self-contained prison surrounded by invisible bars, from which there appears to be no escaping, often requiring the care, the compassion, and the direct intervention of others who understand.

I am ashamed to say there was a time once, until quite recently even, when I didn’t understand much about depression.  I lacked the capacity to empathize with those who dealt with mental health issues in their lives.  Worse, I’ve written harshly about some people in the past — such as ex-pro football player Junior Seau and actor Philip Seymour Hoffman — who took the most violent escape possible, committing suicide and overdosing by accident.  It took me considerable time and some serious contemplation to eventually come to the realization that depression isn’t something typically within control of the sufferer.  They are the bearers of an affliction, not the cause of it.  It’s a burden with heavy shackles with no key within reach.

Speaking to the author of this essay over a considerable period of time, then followed by a episodes of reflection, gave me a far greater understanding of the serious illness of depression.  It helped me not only to empathize with those who must deal with it, sometimes daily, but also enabled me to see the painful struggles and in some cases appreciate the strides made by those crawling from the darkness, one new dawn at a time.  

Although he prefers not to use his name, nor take any credit as the author, he has granted me permission to print his thoughts here in their entirety.  His hope is that by writing openly about his malady, he can better cope with his own struggle.  Just as important, his words might be able to comfort others out there who are enduring their own crisis within, trying to find a clearer path out of the abyss of confusion.  

Finally, even for the more mentally fit, this essay might serve to enlighten readers who continue to look upon depression as I once did, maligned by our own ignorance and misunderstanding.  Let us try to open up our minds, free ourselves, listen to this brave voice.  Let us learn.      

That’s my hope and intent.

__________

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Posted by on Jan 10, 2016 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 0 comments

Vegetarian in Spirit, Carnivore in Practice

 

generic cow pic (with Rousse Tower in background). PIC CHRIS GEORGE

 

I often write about my moral and spiritual evolution.  Peace and enlightenment aren’t final destinations, so much as constant pursuits.  They require work.

Most of us go through life in a perpetual state of fluidity and fluctuation.  I like to believe that I’m moving in the right direction of becoming a better person.  But that’s not always the case.  I admit to falling short of my personal goals, way too often.

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