Coyote Howling at the Moon

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Original Notice of my Stroke for Friends, Clients, and Subscribers
On Nov. 26th, 2007, I suffered a stroke. A blood vessel ruptured in the left rear of my cerebellum at the brain stem, causing loss of balance, vision dis-coordination, and inability to swallow, among other serious symptoms. After ten days in the hospital, I was released on December 8th, 2007.

Needless to say, this is a life-changing event. The particular kind of stroke I had was rare, called Wallenberg's Syndrome, even more rare since my stroke was hemmorhagic rather than ischemic, meaning it was caused by a hemmorhage rather than by a blood clot.

In the immediate aftermath, I couldn't stand or walk, and I had severe double-vision. Hand-eye coordination was badly impaired. The left side of my face and right side of my body lost all sensation, including temperature and pain sensitivity, and were initially numb. Over the next months, that numbness gave way to serious nerve pain. My consciousness, lucidity, and speech were unaffected by the stroke. I had to learn to swallow again, however, and even four months later I still suffer occasional choking episodes.

Upon my release from the hospital in early December, I left my former residence in Olympia, Washington, and moved to Florence, Oregon.


Stroke Blog
After the stroke, this became my home page throughout most of 2008, providing friends, clients, and readers with periodic updates about the condition of my health and status of my recovery (such as it was). Now that I'm resuming my career, this page takes a back seat.

My health is still a huge issue, of course, as is true for many Baby Boomers now approaching seniorhood. Because of the stroke, I can walk only with difficulty, and I suffer chronic pain all the time. So, I may yet add further health updates to this blog from time to time should they become relevant.



1 June 2009
Readers of this blog (more like an occasional diary, really) may have noticed the lack of any updates since September of last year. There's a reason for this. Around the two-year anniversary of my stroke, I made a decision to stop chasing "recovery." My experience over the two years has been that all the recovering that happened was achieved in about the first three months following the stroke. From that point on, no further progress was made, regardless of what I tried.

And I tried a lot of different techniques, including acupuncture, homeopathy, energy work and massage, natural supplements, western pharmaceuticals, even various kinds of metaphysical approaches, from intuitive sessions to long-distance healings. Sadly, none of it helped. Most of what I tried produced no effects at all. A little of what I tried (such as the R-Alpha Lipoic Acid) produced distinctly negative effects.

In short, and to put it bluntly, I realized last fall that I had grown weary of what in my personal reality and beliefs represents chasing needles in haystacks. Perhaps I would be more motivated to keep chasing some miracle cure if I were wealthy (meaning, if money were not a consideration) or if my tolerance for pain were much lower than it is. I can't really know how I would feel if I were different or if circumstances were different. I am who I am, and things are as they are.

My interest in pursuing recovery has waned to the point that further leads or pushes in that direction no longer hold positive meaning or impact for me. At this point, they are, in fact, unwanted aggravations. I intend to spend my time and energy doing what is obvious and necessary to maintain and improve my physical health and the quality of my life, such as exercise and diet. Just the basics. Common sense.

I want to thank everyone who took their valuable time over the past two and a half years to email me with expressions of sympathy, empathy, support, and suggestions. The first three are still welcome, should any of you feel moved to connect. As we age, more and more of us suffer illness and injury, so much so that few people remain unscathed. Sharing our troubles often helps us to feel less isolated or alone.

On the other hand, suggestions and/or opinions about techniques others feel I should pursue to heal are no longer useful or appreciated. That rings a bit harsh, but the truth is that I've already chosen what I will do and what I won't, so further suggestions as to healing practices would be wasted.

Many insights and numerous difficulties of the past two years did not make it into the blog, for varying reasons of time, energy, and (curiously enough) privacy. I may still choose to write about some of those from time to time. If so, I'll announce any further updates to the blog in the "What's New" section of my home page.



2 September 2009
I discovered a new supplement recently, R-Alpha Lipoic Acid. Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is not itself new. This vitamin-like, antioxidant fatty acid that occurs naturally in the body been used as a supplement for decades in Europe to treat neuropathy and to re-sensitize the body's cells to insulin. I used it myself in the first years after succumbing to diabetes. Never had any verifiable improvement, though, possibly because the dosage needed to be much higher than I was willing to take and pay for. Back then in 2001, 600 mg. of ALA daily cost about $25.00 a month, but the clinical dosage in all the trials was usually 2-3 times higher.

Well, it turns out that synthetic Alpha Lipoic Acid consists of two slightly different molecular types, called R-Alpha and S-Alpha. All the benefits of ALA, however, come from only one side of the compound, the R- isomer, which is what occurs in the body. Recently, supplement manufacturer discovered to how synthesize ALA into just the pure R-Alpha isomer, which is now being marketed. Studies indicate that the potency of R-Alpha Lipoic Acid is 3 to 10 times stronger than regular ALA.

So, I'm doing a trial run to see if it might alleviate at least some of the chronic nerve pain I experience 24/7 on my right side, always in my foot and, most vexingly, on the back side and fingers of my right hand. Though typing on a keyboard is easy enough, that particular nerve pain in my right hand is bad enough to keep me from playing guitar or bass, since those are my plucking fingers.

I've started off with a daily dose of 600 mg of the R-Alpha (for comparison, that's the same dosage I took eight years ago of the regular ALA, but it's up to 10 times more potent). If I get no results after two weeks, I'll double the dosage to 1200 mg. In October, I'll report back here with the results, if any. [Update: I discontinued the R-Alpha Lipoic supplements after about a month. The nerve pain on my right leg and right hand had significantly increased since I began taking the R-ALA pills, which was, needless to say, precisely the opposite effect I was hoping for.]

Otherwise, my physical condition remains about the same. I notice small changes in the damaged areas of my face and body — a slight improvement here, a slight degradation there. None of it amounts to much, except for the low back pain I experience after walking or standing up for about 10 minutes. That's worse, unfortunately, probably indicating a progressive lack of fitness, since I don't get much if any exercise, except walking up and down the stairs in my apartment to my bedroom, which has been challenging but manageable since I first moved in. Between muscle weakness and lack of balance, going up or down stairs is hard, and I need a railing to hold onto.



3 May 2009
Time to update the stroke blog after seven months. The good news is that I continue to live independently and to work at my art and craft. The bad news is that my chronic nerve pain is worse. Thus, this update about pain.

All of the pain is on the right side of my body and the left side of my head. That orientation (opposite side head and body) is typical for cerebellum strokes. And all the pain is a function of what's called Central Pain Syndrome (CPS), which is essentially a damaged thalamus.

I suffer episodes of severe stabbing pains in my left skull, face, and ear, as if people were pounding big nails into my head with hammers. This is rare and usually brief, thank god, since it is impossible to bear. The pain is so bad that I cry out---sudden, unpredictable, massive, cascading in a rain of sharp, searing lightning bolts. I've had about five of these episodes in 18 months, varying in length from 2 minutes to the worst at 15 minutes.

I also have muscle pain if I stand too long. Right side---foot, leg, thigh, hip, and glute. This is nerve pain, very hot and electrical, and feels like it's inside the major large muscle groups. I have to sit down when it gets severe or my leg will give out and I will literally crumple to the ground. That has happened a couple times in grocery stores when I've walked too far.

I have throbbing pain in my left eye and ear. Not major, and only sporadic. Feels almost distant. Like someone beating a big drum far away.

The most constant is the nerve pain on the right side of my body. This is akin to the ghost pain of amputated limbs in that the pain is not really in the tissues, but in the brain itself, within the damaged thalamus. The pain is electrical again, and a bit prickly. It emanates from around the tissue rather than inside the tissue, so that if weÕre talking about the pain in my hand, it starts at the skin and moves out around the hand by about an inch, like a glove or bubble wrap. This pain is both chronic and always present. It never goes away, but it moves around. At one point, the pain will be in my right foot, hip, and right hand. Later that day, it will have moved to my right thigh, mid-back, and hand. My right hand is always in pain.

Central Pain Syndrome occurs in about 20% of people who suffer serious strokes. It starts two weeks to four months after the stroke and appears to be a function of the brain's attempted healing gone very wrong. About 1/3 of people with CPS experience spontaneous remission of the pain after some years. The pain gets worse for another third (with some resulting suicides), and in the final third the pain stays the same for the rest of the life.

I know of no effective medical remedy for CPS pain---no herbs, drugs, or pharmaceuticals touch mine at all. Neurologists often prescribe gabapentin (generic name neurontin, an anti-seizure drug), which works occasionally for CPS pain, but only at very high doses and with increasing tolerance difficulties. I tried that drug for two runs last year. Neurontin did nothing for me, with no effect on the pain. I tried marijuana, which I hadnÕt smoked for years (except for about one joint every 2-3 years, I gave up grass back in the early 1980s). Made me high and in pain, which sucked.

In fact, I tried EVERYTHING last year---6 months of acupuncture, chiropractic, various energy healing modalities (from long-distance Reiki and Qi Gong healings to in-person sessions with masseurs and cranial-sacral practitioners). I even had a $400 4-hour phone session (bought for me by a client of mine) with a metaphysical healer whose rituals included appealing "in court" to the "Lords and Ladies of Karma" to wash clean my auric field. Bupkis. Though the practitioner was sincere and dedicated to her work, the session was essentially a waste of my time.

There are medical treatments out there. Experimental, some radical, usually outside the acceptable standards of the AMA. But such treatments by renegade doctors or holistic healers are invariably expensive. I have no health insurance and precious little money, so I have given up chasing that needle in a haystack.

I don't take any pills or concoctions for the pain. No drugs or pharmaceuticals. No homeopathic formulae or flower remedies. No Chinese herbs. No vitamins or supplements. Not because I'm against taking any of them, but because I've tried them all (including medical marijuana) and nothing works, just as the medical literature on CPS affirms. Nothing puts even a dent into the pain. It's as if the pain were emanating from an entirely different universe.

I discovered last year that I could regulate my experience of the chronic nerve pain by directing my consciousness elsewhere and focusing on a task. This has become somewhat more difficult recently as the volume of the chronic pain has increased in the spring of 2009. Still, it's the only remedy I have that works to some extent. Also, I've begun going to bed occasionally because the pain is too much. Sleep remains a wonderful escape from the pain.

I'm anxious about this new development of higher pain levels. Despite being crippled (which means I use a cane and can walk only short distances), I'm still able to live independently. I drive, shop for groceries, cook, clean, etc. If the CPS pain continues to worsen, however, the point will come eventually where I cannot distract my consciousness from the pain, and then I would be in serious trouble.

I intend to try working with two hypnotherapists here in Florence, but I have to admit that I'm not optimistic about the outcome. My optimism was all used up last year. Now I mostly just try to get on with my life the way it is.



7 October 2008
The past two months have brought significant changes in the collective world and in my personal life as well. Some of my changes have grown out of real-life circumstances; more have taken shape internally in the emotional realm as shifts of direction in my psychological and spiritual strategies.

In the immediate aftermath of the stroke, I didn't know what to expect. I just rolled with the punches of outrageous fortune, moving from one crisis to the next. Over the entire ten months, I've undergone seemingly every kind of medical intervention under the sun: allopathic and alternative, Western and Eastern, pharmaceutical and natural. I've worked with practitioners across the entire spectrum of health care, from internist M.D.s through naturopaths and acupuncturists all the way to metaphysical healers. I've tried my best to do everything asked of me. Nothing has succeeded, however, and the predicted recovery simply has not materialized.

As a result, I will no longer look toward some miraculous recovery through medicine or other disciplines. I intend instead to work on accepting the limits that come with a broken body. Everyone is crippled in some ways; I'm able to accept the constraints of my inability to stand for more than five minutes or walk for more than short distances. I can drive and still live independently. As for the chronic pain, I can handle that if it becomes no worse. Many of the less obvious manifestations of the stroke are much harder for me to accept. The nerve damage to my face is particularly difficult, as is the frequent edema that I now experience in my hands and legs.

Mostly though, I'm glad to still be alive. Now, the primary challenge is to get back to writing newsletter essays and articles about the incredible times ahead for us all. Public writing is the key to bringing in session work, so that I can gradually increase the number of sessions I do with clients each month. I may never again be able to do as many sessions as I did before the stroke, but my single greatest need is to earn a living and support myself. Given the dicey economic times we're entering, I have to hope that clients will still be able to afford sessions.

Since acceptance and the empowerment of liberating surrender are relevant spiritual endeavors of the moment for me, I'm reminded of a song by Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam), from his 1971 album, Teaser and the Firecat. Can you guess the cut I'm singing in my head? Of course you can:


"MOONSHADOW"

Oh, I'm being followed by a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow
leaping and hopping on a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow.
and if I ever lose my hands, lose my plough, lose my land,
oh, if I ever lose my hands, I wonÕt have to work no more.
and if I ever lose my eyes, if my colours all run dry,
yes, if I ever lose my eyes, I won't have to cry no more.
Oh, I'm being followed by a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow
leaping and hopping on a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow.
And if I ever lose my legs, I won't moan and I won't beg,
oh, if I ever lose my legs, I won't have to walk no more.

And if I ever lose my mouth, all my teeth, north and south,
yes, if I ever lose my mouth, I won't have to talk...
Did it take long to find me? I ask the faithful light,
Ooh did it take long to find me, and are you going to stay the night?
I'm being followed by a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow
leaping and hopping on a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow.




9 August 2008
I wish I had better news to report, but the reality is not good. My downward slide continues. Pain is worse, and balance is degrading, so walking is more difficult. The nerve pain on my right side that feels as if my arm and leg were bubble-wrapped in flammable gas and then lit on fire never goes away, but I can cope by directing my awareness away from the pain.

The muscle pains that affect my right foot, thigh, hip, and glutes whenever I stand are not manageable, however. These deep pains start when I stand up and intensify minute by minute whether I'm walking or standing still. After 5-10 minutes of being vertical, the pain becomes overwhelming. If I didn't sit down, I'd collapse, simply crumpling to the ground. After I get off my feet, the pain subsides in a minute or two.

The left side of my face continues to be seriously screwed up, with no indication of any healing from the nerve damage to facial skin and tissues.

Because I am not wealthy and possess neither special clout nor celebrity social status, I won't be able to see a neurologist until October at the earliest. And so it goes…


Meanwhile, in the collective world beyond my personal travails, the financial cesspool of stinky institutionalized E-Z credit first sniffed out in 2007 through the subprime mortgage crisis is now revealed to have despoiled every nook and cranny of the economy, foretelling a disaster of global proportions. Turns out that not just one or two apples in the mercantile barrel were rotten; the entire barrel was filled with toxic applesauce. Corporate culture finally tripped itself up once too often through its normalizing of greed and arrogance as perfectly acceptable values (think Enron).

Suddenly shorn of reactionary free-market evangelism, Wall Street and the Bankers are now revealed to be pigs at the trough of socialized welfare to save their own butts. Oh, they'll get their bailouts (at taxpayer expense) all right, since they make the rules, but it won't be enough this time. The whole system is in slow-motion collapse---fiat currency of worthless dollars, fake wealth through debt-based financing, and handing future generations the bill to pay.

Those financial and economic pundits in the media who optimistically predict a 2-3 year or even 5-year period for recovery are misinformed, blind as bats, and dead wrong. Not just a little wrong, but stupendously, spectacularly wrong. Heads-up-their-own-asses wrong. The fact that these idiots don't have a clue is on much the same level as Bushco's insane optimism about our quick-'n-easy victory in Iraq.

One by one, the institutions that comprise the heart of modern American culture are being revealed not merely to have feet of clay, but to be completely and utterly full of shit. Not just a little corrupt, but totally buggered.

I have more to say on this topic, but I'll save it for newsletter essays, which I hope to start again within a month or so.



3 July 2008
To write that I'm very worried amounts to putting my feelings mildly. Seven months after the stroke, my "recovery" has all but stopped dead in its tracks. Some of the gains remain, such as reunified vision and normalized blood sugars. Other steps of progress back toward full function have relapsed and are now steadily degrading again. 20 pounds of new fat around my middle — a nasty but all-too-common side effect of insulin therapy — makes me feel like a beached whale, which is frightening. Even worse, my sense of balance is deteriorating, as is my ability to stand and walk.

Besides the constant nerve pain that surrounds my right arm and leg, I now experience agonizing pain inside my right foot, right thigh, and right hip whenever I attempt to stand and bear my own weight for more than about five minutes. This is accompanied by serious and sharp low back and gluteal pain that eventually overwhelms me, so that I have to sit down again to avoid crumpling to the ground. At this point, I can walk unaided only about 150 feet before the pain becomes unbearable. Also, stairs are looming as more of a problem than they were in the spring.

Two months ago I lost a tooth, the #5 bicuspid that had been infected for 25 years. Today I had a second tooth extracted, the #30 molar. While linked to the diabetes rather than the stroke, worsening gum pockets and bone loss are now terminal, despite my best efforts and thousands of dollars already spent on periodontal surgeries over the past 25 years. Losing the rest of my teeth seems no longer a question of if, only when.

While dentures are not the worst fate in the world, paying for them is. And therein lies the dark heart of my recent anxiety. Though I am seriously concerned about constant pain and not being able to walk, I am in fact less afraid of being crippled than of running out of money and unable to support myself financially.

Looks like it'll come down to whether enough people will want astrological sessions with me. And that's another of those wildcards about the imminent collapse of the American way of life and the coming global economic meltdown that no one can answer.



27 June 2008
For many of us, pop music provides the sound track to our lives. Song lyrics are sometimes uncanny in nailing our private experience or the collective vibe we swim through, all the more so when the references are ripe with irony or shockingly unintended meanings.

Given my terrible troubles with very real brain damage and a body so broken it's headed downhill fast, plus my observation that civilization has now begun its inexorable descent into chaos, breakdown, and opposed revolutions, I've been hearing the Rolling Stones' song "Gimme Shelter" running around inside my head for the past week or so. Penned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, with a killer vocal solo by Mary Clayton, it's from the Stones' 1970 album, Let it Bleed:


Ooh, a storm is threat'ning my very life today
If I don't get some shelter, ooh yeah, I'm gonna fade away

War, children, it's just a shot away, it's just a shot away
War, children, it's just a shot away, it's just a shot away
Yea-yah

Ooh, see the fire is sweepin' our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpet; mad bull who's lost his way

War, children, it's just a shot away, it's just a shot away
War, children, it's just a shot away, it's just a shot away
Yea-yah

Rape, murder! It's just a shot away, it's just a shot away
Rape, murder! Yea-yah, it's just a shot away, it's just a shot away
Rape, murder! It's just a shot away, it's just a shot away
Yay, yea-yah, yeah

Mmm the floods is threat'ning my very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter, or I'm gonna fade away

War, children, it's just a shot away, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away, it's just a shot away, it's just a shot away

I tell you love, sister, it's just a kiss away, it's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away, it's just a kiss away, it's just a kiss away
Kiss away, kiss away

Ya-yay




21 May 2008 — I'm Doing Sessions Again
Well, it took two months, but my blood sugar is now as normalized as it can get using slow-acting insulin and an ultra-low-carb diet. As soon as my vials of fast-acting insulin arrive in the mail, I'll start taking insulin shots with meals to keep my blood glucose tightly controlled and in the normal range most of the time. Thank heaven for Canadian pharmacies, where many brands of insulin are available without a prescription and for much cheaper than in the U.S.!
Six months after the stroke, my physical recovery seems to be going nowhere fast. I'm in pain all the time, except for short periods when I'm able to distract myself, sometimes by focusing on a task, such as updating the web site or roasting coffee beans for espresso, or through a social interaction with a friend, whether in-person or over the phone. I'm thankful for those brief respites, and for the blessed relief of sleep.
The most important news this month is that I've begun doing sessions again. I had hoped to postpone this decision, but the harsh reality is that I need an income to survive financially. The stroke didn't affect my consciousness or speech, so I can actually do sessions, despite the damaged condition of my body.
For the time being, I'm doing only two sessions per week. Price for a session is $200.00 for up to 90 minutes. Those of you who are already clients may email me to schedule by clicking on this link: Request for Session. First-time clients should follow the instructions on the Sessions FAQ page.



15 April 2008 — Recovery Redux
Each chapter of this experience has contained crises that had to be addressed. Back in November, the journey began with the stroke itself and my landing in Madigan Military Hospital (where I was neither military nor insured). On the second day after the stroke, I learned that I would not be allowed to return to the house where I had lived for two years. So my life had imploded---I couldn't stand up, couldn't swallow, couldn't see, had no way to pay for major hospital bills, and oh-by-the-way was also suddenly homeless. That was all part of the first chapter's crises.
The social worker at Madigan tried vainly to find financial support for me, but I didn't qualify for Medicaid or Social Security Disability, nor did I want to become a ward of the state. It became clear that I would need to go it alone financially, paying as I could. Meanwhile, the neurology team of doctors at Madigan didn't know what to do with me. They wanted to release me to an "urgent care facility," which are centers run by private corporations that cost $3,000 per DAY (nearly 100 grand for one month). Since I didn't have health insurance, no urgent care facility would accept me. My friends in Florence, Oregon, found a group home there that would take me for one month for $2,500. Desperate, I took it.
The second chapter was leaving the hospital and moving from Olympia, Washington, into the private facility in Florence. That chapter lasted less than two weeks. The group home turned out to be a nightmare (a room with nothing but a twin bed and an overhead light, no tubs for baths, with meals that included such delicacies as hot dogs chopped up in white rice). This seemed to me the bottom of the barrel of America's for-profit healthcare system. I couldn't stand it. So, on Christmas Eve I left (after the owner of the group home refused to give me any refund for the 18 more days I had already paid for). Bethany, my new physical therapist, helped me move into The Lighthouse Inn, a rustic motel I like a lot and had stayed in often during previous visits to Florence.
That move initiated the third chapter, which brought the crises of driving my car, getting around with a walker to buy food, and finding a permament rental apartment. At this point, I had occasional pain, but mostly I was still numb on the left side of my face and right side of my body, with balance instability, continuing double vision, and serious muscle weakness.
In mid-January, I kicked off chapter four by renting my new apartment. That quickly morphed into chapter five that I wrote about in the February update below, when my brother Dave flew out from Missouri and moved all my furniture and possessions from my previous residence in Olympia to my apartment in Florence. Thanks, Dave! I wish i could have paid you a lot more for your help! February also included the major challenge of finding and establishing relationships with various health care providers, both western medical and alternative/holistic.
Now it's April. This next chapter brings to center stage my most serious ongoing crisis, that of my worsening diabetes and the challenge of normalizing my blood sugar, which has been dangerously elevated since before the stroke. For the first time ever, I've begun daily self-injections of insulin. Unfortunately, after three weeks, the insulin therapy isn't working. My blood sugar, while somewhat lower, is still elevated and nowhere near normal. I started out injecting a very low dose of insulin, five units. Now I'm up to the fairly major dose of 25 units per day. The fact that it's still not bringing down my blood sugar is frankly very frightening, because it casts a shadow of doubt on my chances of recovery and healing from the stroke. Nerves do not like glucose in the blood, especially nerves that are trying to come alive again in new networks.
In addition, my body is giving me fits. The left side of my face still feels weird, and the right-side body numbness that characterized the first month after the stroke has been replaced with constant nerve pain. I'm in pain now all the time---24/7, with no letup. During February, I experienced this nerve damage as icy cold inside the right half of my body and my left cheek. Now that iciness has changed into a hot burning sensation, a more classic expression of nerve pain. Obviously, my brain is trying to rewire and reactivate the nerve pathways, but it's hell on me to go through this process, healing or not. Between the pain and the weakness of muscles and tendons, I have a lot of trouble walking now, as I'm overcome quickly by muscle weakness and nerve pain. Making it up the stairs to my bedroom is a climb that takes considerable gumption.
As a final exclamation point, I'm also suffering sporadic but intense shooting pains in my head, mostly on the left side and around my eye. These are like lightnining bolts---sudden and sharp, lasting about 3-5 seconds, enough to make me cry out. Not exactly the most fun I've ever had.
I don't mean to imply that anything is necessarily "wrong," or that I won't heal eventually, assuming I can get the diabetes under control through diet and insulin. According to my physical therapist Bethany, current medical opinion holds that full recovery from a major stroke can take up to 18 months, so I try to remind myself that I have more than a year to go before concluding that I'm screwed. Still, this isn't exactly what I expected by a "healing process." Instead, it's one step forward, two steps back, then two more steps sideways. To look at me or listen to me talk, anyone would assume that I'm fine. And many friends I see in Florence do indeed tell me that I look healthy. My reality, however, is much different. I am one sorely damaged puppy.
There is some good news amidst the suffering and concerns. My vision continues to improve, and with it my hand-eye coordination. Best of all, my troublesome tooth finally gave up the ghost and fell out after 25 years. Eventually I may have a dentist rig up a removeable plastic bridge, but for now I'm fine with a gap where #5 was, since it's on the side and not visible or cosmetically disfiguring. For the past decade, I wasn't able to chew on the right side of my mouth, and now I can again.
Not to put too fine a spiritual point on everything, but this journey is teaching me to appreciate and enjoy whatever favors life offers, even the small ones. Especially the small ones.



23 February 2008 — Progress Update
Earlier this month, my brother Dave moved my furniture and possessions from Olympia. Washington, 300 miles south to the apartment in Florence, Oregon, I rented last month. In addition to my wonderful physical therapist Bethany, I've found a primary care physician and an acupuncturist with whom I'm now working. Recovery continues to be slow, and interrupted or complicated by other health crises, such as elevated blood sugar from my diabetes and imminent loss
of a tooth that's been troublesome for a decade. In fact, it's been one thing after another on this journey through the Land of Broken Bodies. So far, I've made it through each challenge.
The walker has been retired, and I now walk entirely on my own, including up and down the stairs of my two-level apartment. I drive, shop for groceries, cook my own food, wash clothes, etc. My balance is not very good, though, and I'm in much more physical pain now than two months ago. That's probably because I'm through the initial numbness of physical shock and working much harder at independent living. Also, my brain is now trying to rewire the damaged nerve pathways to restore the body's muscles. So, nerve pain from my right side is present whenever I move. It's not sharp, but vaguely nauseating and makes me feel like I'm going to throw up, so it's no picnic.
The left side of my face is seriously messed up. I've had a bloody left nostril since the stroke that scabs up but won't heal, plus various other cuts and abrasions -- under my left eye and on my left jaw under my beard. The skin tissue itself is damaged and tears easily, presumably because of the nerve damage. A couple weeks ago, my left inner ear filled up with blood. I don't know what caused that, but I'm glad it healed or at least stopped, because it scared the hell out of me. Basically, looking out of my face feels distinctly abnormal, as if a phantom-of-the-opera half-mask were bolted to the left side of my face. That's not a perfect description, but close enough. I can actually feel my left eyeball and the muscles surrounding it. The experience is weird, disconcerting, and with me every waking minute of the day.