KingMidget's Ramblings

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An Update to My Update to My Update`

I have ideas for posts to write these days, but I’m somewhat stuck with those ideas. I want to write about the voting rights war going on in the United States. I want to share more music with you. I want to write about what’s going on in my fiction writing world (there are things going on there). But I find myself somewhat frozen. I feel like I’m in a holding pattern, not sure whether to look forward, to look back. To do what I’ve always done. Or to change the dynamic. I don’t know what to do these days, so I end up not getting into those topics for other posts. Because there is this thing hanging over me.

In the last 24 hours, a couple of people have reached out to me to see what’s going on. One is a social media friend. The other is a friend of almost 20 years. As I’ve said before, I’m incredibly touched by people who have expressed their concern for me here, on Twitter, by email, or in person.

One of the reasons I didn’t disclose this news when I first was advised to get a bone marrow biopsy was because I didn’t want to weigh other people down with it. This is my burden to bear, my challenge to face. Depending on what the news ends up being, of course. That said, once I shared the news here and in other ways to friends in real life, the support and love I received in return made me realize the error of my ways.

So … if you hear from a friend or family member or anybody else in your life that you care about that they are going through something and you aren’t sure whether you should reach out, I’m here to tell you to do it. All you need to say is “how are you?” or “hey, thinking of you” or any other formulation of words you can think of that communicates that you care and that the person who is going through with the thing matters to you. It means a lot. A hell of a lot. And no, I’m not struggling to hold back the tears as I type these words. I am not. You are, as you read them!!!

That all said, another reason I hesitated to share the news is that there isn’t any news. There is still a lot of uncertainty around what is going on with my health and why say anything without that certainty. Who knows, maybe I needed the support and love generated by my first post on this topic? Maybe I couldn’t do it alone.

But once I shared the initial news, I also placed an obligation on myself to let those people know what is going on as I go through this. Otherwise I would leave them hanging and I don’t want to do that. So … here’s the latest update.

When I went in for the bone marrow biopsy, the doctor told me that three different tests would be done. Two would take a week. The third would take three weeks. I asked him if the results would show up on the on-line portal my HMO provides. He said they would not because the tests are performed outside of the HMO, by other companies. He did say, however, that if those two one-week tests came back with anything, I would hear from him before the third test came back. Well, it’s been two and a half weeks and I haven’t heard anything, other than the scheduling of a follow-up appointment on February 7.

And then … yesterday, I got an email from my HMO about new test results. I logged in. Yep, it was one of the tests from my biopsy. From what I could glean, it looked good. “No abnormalities detected” is a good result, right?

After seeing that, I wondered if I would also get to see the results of the second test before February 7. Well … the answer to that question is yes.

Today, I got another email alerting me to new test results. I logged in. Yesterday, with the first test, as I logged in, I was somewhat positive about it. “Let’s see what it says!” Today, not so much. As soon as I saw the email, I just got … anxious. I wasn’t sure I wanted to look. But I did.

Here’s what I saw. This second test has a lot of components to it. Everything I could glean that was definitive was positive. All sorts of things are normal and all sorts of things weren’t found. Red blood cells are good. White blood cells are good. Mast cells are good. This is good. That is good. But … there are other elements of the test results that I simply cannot make heads or tails of. There is a list of different antibodies and other things that simply say … positive … or negative. Some have numerical values. Some have a little more detail. But none of them are interpetable based on what is presented. And when I go to Dr. Google, I can’t find anything anywhere to explain those tests and the identified results.

I’m still in limbo. Waiting. I messaged the doctor and asked him if I was really going to have to wait until February 7 to find out what these results mean. I’m waiting for a response.

My somewhat laissez fair attitude I expressed in my last update has been shaken a bit. I’m a little more scared. A little more worried. A little more unsettled. I remain optimistic that, even if there is a bad diagnsos out of all of this, it will be more in the chronic category than in the acute category. I mean, I’ve been dealing with the rash off and on for three years now. So … chronic, right? (And, if it’s chronic instead of acute, it is more treatable and survivable.)

So, that’s where I’m at. No certainty yet, but more information. Most of which is good, but some of which is like a black hole sucking me into a world of greater worry.

Keep the positive vibes going. I appreciate it.

Explaining Our Days of Rage

When World War II ended, there was a general consensus in this country about how to achieve the things we needed as a country. I’m not going to get into the details or the evidence of this, but a lot of good things happened in the post-war years because of that general consensus.

Sure, there were still extremists on both sides of the political debate, but they were relatively small in number and didn’t gain much traction except on the fringes. For some time, those extremists when they made their way into Congress were referred to as backbenchers. They sat in the back rows of Congress and lobbed verbal bombs every now and then. But for the most part, they never gained any real power. They just made a lot of noise, while those in charge of the consensus engaged in political warfare but made peace regularly to pursue the logical outcomes of the general consensus.

That consensus was promoted by politicians (most of them, anyway), mass media (most of it anyway), academicians (most of them anyway), and most Americans bought into the consensus, while agreeing to disagree on some issues along the way.

I’m not suggesting that all was perfect in those post-war years and that extremists didn’t occasionally gain a larger voice. Barry Goldwater, for instance, gained the Republican nomination for President in 1964 and famously stated that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Dems also had occasional extremists pop up every now and then.

But the general consensus created by the establishment was a pretty powerful thing. I’m not suggeseting that the establishment was necessarily right in its consensus. There are plenty of things the establishment got wrong, but still, there wasn’t the bitter divide then that exists now.

So, how did this come to be?

I’ve been reading Kevin Drum for years. He’s a liberal blogger who has an occasional moderate and sometimes even conservative perspective that comes out. He cannot be viewed as strictly a radical, extreme progressive. He wrote at Washington Monthly for a time, then at Mother Jones, and now at his own WordPress-enabled website …

For some time now, he has been pushing the idea that Fox News is the biggest cause of the political divide, the right-wing conspiraces, and the never-ending rage that exists in this country today. Sometimes, I think he overstates the case, but this post does a good job of presenting a data-driven explanation for his opinion. Read it and make sure to look at the graph at the end of the post. There certainly is a correlation, but as smart people say, correlation does not equal causation.

That said, there are those who think Reagan started all of this. I reject that notion because what is happening now couldn’t have been caused by a politician.

No, it’s a combination of things. There was a time after Reagan was elected when some right-wing voices of extremism entered the mainstream. Sadly, to say, the guy with the biggest megaphone and biggest impact on this element of the division was created in my hometown. Rush Limbaugh had a morning talk show on a local radio station in the 80s. He took that show and went national and spread his own brand of toxic misinformation to millions of listeners across the country. Dittoheads galore!!!

I think one can draw a line directly from Limbaugh to Gingrich and the GOP revolution of the mid-90s, where the back benchers took charge and started to grind down on that general consensus that had informed American life and politics in the post-war years.

And then, in 1996, Fox News came along — a cable news channel owned by an Australian designed specifically to appeal to a conservative audience. Unlike other news channels and media organizations that, at that time, aimed to push the consensus and appeal to Americans, Fox had a politically-driven motive that has been clear from the beginning.

But … if all Limbaugh had was a radio show and all Fox had was a cable outlet, we still might not be here, in our permanent days of rage.

Add the toxicity of Limbaugh, Fox, and their compatriots in toxic, right-wing misinformation, to a world in which social media provides amplification and magnification never before seen in our human existence, and it simply isn’t possible for a general consensus to exist anymore. Every lie, every piece of propaganda, every intentional effort to mislead and misinform … every single one is multiplied and sent out into the world to fester and create rage. In a world where everybody has a megaphone, everybody gets to be angry.

And, as I’ve written about before, the sad thing is that our leaders are letting it happen. By that, I don’t mean that I think government should shut down or censor social media or the news media. No, what I’m referring to is that our leaders are playing into the rage rather than trying to quell it. The backbenchers are no longer just throwing occasional bombs that most people can ignore. Nope. The backbenchers are firmly in control of both major political parties. It’s a shame.

Regardless of whether one believes in the consensus of the establishment in the post-war years, it was a far more functional, successful system than what we have now.

A Song For Today

Yes. I can’t stand The Stones, but they have a couple of classic songs. This is one of them. (I was going to post a live version, but I couldn’t stand Jagger’s act on stage.)

An Update to My Update

The last couple of weeks have taught me a lot about being humble and about grace. Once I decided to start telling people about what is going on, so many people have reached out. It has humbled me and filled me with a such a feeling of being loved and cared about, I can’t help but feel like I’m experiencing grace in some form. To all who have texted, called, emailed, or commented here … thank you. I always wondered if it meant anything when I reached out to say a few words to others who are going through a thing. Now, I know it does.

With that in mind, I just want to let you all know the latest. Two tests were supposed to take a week to come back. The doctor told me that if either of those tests came back with anything, I’d hear from him sooner instead of later. Which means some time this week. If I don’t hear from him this week, I’m considering that good news.

The third test, however, takes around three weeks. I just saw on my on-line portal for my HMO that I have a follow-up appointment scheduled with the hematologist for February 7. Yes, they scheduled it without contacting me to confirm I’m available. Sigh. But regardless of that … February 7 is apparently when I will know more.

Until then, I’m doing fine. It’s an odd thing. I’ve spent my adult life convinced there was a poison lurking in my body that would take me away from this world before I was ready. This fear really developed when my kids were born and I was afraid I wouldn’t get to see them grow up. Well, they’re 27 and 24 now, so I guess they’re grown. But besides that … now that I’ve got closer than ever before to a possible diagnosis of one of those “poisons,” I’m not in a panic. I’m not overly concerned. In this purgatory between test and results, I’m basically in a “we’ll see what happens” mode combined with a “it is what it is” afterthought. Of course, if there is bad news on February 7, my happy-go-lucky attitude may completely change, but for the moment, I am at peace with whatever the outcome may be.

There will be a lot of twiddled thumbs between now and February 7, but I’m also continuing to do my thing every day. Bicycling, cooking, baking, napping, reading, and writing. Something has happened in the couple of months that has renewed my interest in writing. I spend a few hours at it almost every day, which is far more than I can say about any of the last 5-7 years. I’m enjoying it again and actually, almost look forward to that time of the day.

Thank you again to all of my friends “in real life” and here on social media who have reached out. You are the Most Valuable Players in my life.

A Song For Today

I was going to post this song without comment and then I realized that people who read my last post might want an update to my update. So … here it is, briefly. The biopsy on Monday went fine. It wasn’t the terror I was expecting, but it also wasn’t pleasant at all. Some pain and discomfort and some really odd sensations while the biopsy was being performed, but it was okay. Now, I just have to wait. Three different tests being performed. Two take about a week. One takes three weeks. If those first two come back negative, I won’t hear anything until the three week test is back. So … waiting is what I’m about at the moment.

But here is the song for today. I have been meaning to dive back into Tracy Chapman for a couple of weeks. I finally did so yesterday and this song came up. It’s one of those perfect songs for me. Hope you enjoy it.

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