Sunday, October 26, 2014

Not Superman

There was a time in the not too distant past that I assumed I was immortal.  That I was Superman.  That I was exempt from all the health woes of my fellow homo sapiens (that's human being to you less erudite folks). 

When I was seventeen years old, I knew I was going to live forever.  Then I was waylaid by a dirty hospital during a routine hernia operation and almost lost my life to a "staph" (Staphylococcus) infection. Yep, that's right. The folks at the hospital where I was interred didn't take proper antiseptic cleaning procedures and I developed a life threatening case of staph.  What made it even worse, was when I started to show the symptoms and suffered through the worse (my head felt like it had an anvil in it and I had a distended wound in my abdomen which was later burst full of infectious pus), my doctor said it was "all in my head."  Of course he changed his mind when I awoke one night with a seventeen inch incision in my left abdomen open spewing pus.  Thank God this doctor isn't around today.  Think he would properly diagnose the symptoms of Eboloa?  

The Fifties type ambulance that rushed me to the hospital in June of 1959 when my abdomen incision burst open - I remember being in full view of all the pedestrians the ambulance passed on the way to taking me to the contagion ward in the hospital. A memory seared forever in my mind, both the ride and the basement contagion ward where the only people who could visit me had to do so through outside wire mesh windows 

Well, anyway back to my brush with death due to the incompetence of both the hospital and my doctor, I survived after sixth months in and out of the hospital and three surgeries.  After surviving through all that I joined the Army.  During basic training I had a couple more near death experiences; one with an exploded hand grenade and another with tear gas, but I survived again.  Then I was assigned to work for the National Security Agency (NSA) with a top secret clearance.  The NSA and the government and Army were very efficient for rooting out homosexuals, lest they be subject to blackmail and divulge state secrets (none of with ever happened in the history of the United States).  I survived all the witch hunts for "queers". 

The Salem Witch trials of the 1600's - not much had changed from that time until the homosexual witch hunts of the 20th century - one only had to be accused and you were guilty and destroyed

After the Army reentered civilian life and decided to come out as a gay man back in 1963 when it was decidedly very unsafe to come out as a HOMOSEXUAL.  Actually, when I came out I could have been arrested in the state of Pennsylvania because being a homosexual was against the law.  The psychiatric community deemed me "sick" and in need of mental health rehabilitation.  My family, specifically my Mother, went nuts when I told her.  They tried to take me to the hospital for "the cure."  I lost friends.  What friends I had left, some urged me to "seek help" because they were concerned that I would lead an awful life (their assessment).  I survived all the onslaughts.  Oh sure, I lost two good jobs because I was an out homosexual.  And what jobs I did have, my career path was stymied because I didn't stay in the closet and practice "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

I was lucky in that I met a wonderful man named Bill Kelly in the summer of 1964.  He just thought I was awesome and would give up until I moved in with him which I did the following February.  We've been together ever since, marking fifty years of domestic habitation this past July.  

The past fifty years have been a roller coaster ride both emotionally and physically but in good health.  In fact the twenty-seven years I worked in Philadelphia for two major banks I never once used my medical plan.

However, when I left regular employment in 1997, that's when my health issues started to  pop up.  I'm not going to go into the details in this posting because it's too long already but I have had several surgeries to correct some health issues.  Then in August of 2012 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. My PSA score was 8.4.  My biopsy of twelve specimens from my prostate gland showed seven to be cancerous.  Fortunately for me, my cancer was localized to my prostate gland, it had not spread.

Fast forward to May of 2013, I had seed implants (brachytheraphy) to combat the prostate cancer.  I decided not to have my prostate gland removed (too many just awful complications, not the least of which was no sex life and incontinence issues).  Since that operation my PSA score has steadily gone down from 8.4, to 1.9, and to 1.1.  My urologist told me it would continue going down.

Yesterday I returned from my friend Bob Mc.'s memorial service.  I had mail waiting for me from the VA where I took my semi-annual blood test last week.  I checked the results:  my PSA score has now gone UP to 1.5.  Not good news folks.  Sure, I'm still in the "safe range" of 1-4 but still, my PSA score has gone UP.  It's not supposed to go UP.

Me at my friend's memorial service yesterday

Of course this was a bummer, especially coming off of just returning from my friend's memorial service.  I have two other friends battling health issues right now.  One is still in the hospital and the other is in rehab.  No idea when either is getting out.  

I'm trying to convince myself this is a fluke (and it could very well be) but I'm telling you folks, this bit of new is preying on my mind. As I've said many times before in this place, I do not fear death, I only fear how I get there.  

And another thing, as much as I go bopping along thinking I'm immortal and will outlive everybody with a fantastic interesting and fun filled life, hitting a speed bump like yesterday doesn't help.

But as they say, "this too shall pass."  I'll get back into my regular routine of posting my blog, updating my genealogy records, taking and sorting photos, fussing around in my backyard garden, working part-time at the hotel and taking occasional jaunts with my friend from Canada (LA next on the agenda!)  

I shall continue until I can no longer continue.  I'll tell you one thing, each day seems more precious to me.  All those days in my Foolish Youth that I thought I was going to live forever, not so much now.  But what I do hope for is that when my time comes, as it surely will for me and all of us, I hope my passage is quick, painless and with dignity.  


  1. Anonymous5:31 PM

    Hi, Ron.

    Those old ambulances were just different colored hearses! I like seeing on the old show "Emergency!" how basic EMT service evolved. The oldest shows use those same kinds of ambulances in your pic.

    Gloom and doom aside, may you live many long and HEALTHY years to come!

    ~~~ NB

    1. NB,
      You're right! Those old ambulances were just different colored hearses. I remember how embarrassed I was to be displayed riding through the center of town in the back of the ambulance with only my T-shirt on and a sheet coving up the lower half of my body which was naked. I was mortified. Last year I took another ride in an ambulance (kidney stones) and this time the ambulance was like a Brinks truck. Much better, more privacy. You're right, I got to get off of my "doom and gloom" postings.

  2. Anonymous9:21 AM

    A positive and a negative comment on your PSA rise (both of them from my "internet knowledge" originated by my paranoic research as a PSA high potential patient; I am not an specialist): Negative first: Being below 4 is the (very much discused) criterion to suspicion before diagnostics. You have been diagnosed and treated, it does not apply for you. Any PSA rise can be worrisome. But... positive now: A PSA bounce is usual after radiation treatment. You have two effects here: destruction of most prostate cells, which comes first giving a big decrease in PSA, and inflammation that can overtake giving the temporary bounce. I hope this is your case. (If you do not believe me, I will not blame you, just type "prostate radiation PSA bounce" in Google.) Juan.

    1. Juan,
      Thanks for this helpful information. I am concerned. I am hoping this spike is a normal occurrence. We shall see at the next blood test. Like Bette Davis said "Getting old isn't for sissies!"

  3. this was a thoughtful and well-written post Ron.


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