Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lessons Learned from Billy Joel and God

So, yesterday as I left the second-opinion-surgeon's office, in tears, after hearing that my pain has an unknown cause, that I'm too fat to operate on, but I'm "young and healthy enough" for lapband/gastric bypass surgery (wtf? that's way more major than lap cholesystectomy), that I should go to a seminar to learn more, and that I need to lose weight (which is what got me into this pain in the first place), I sat in my car and cried for a good ten minutes because of the pain, because the cold I have is making me feel like shit, because I drove three hours and spent $50 for an appointment that involved the dr taking to me and not even laying a palpitating hand on me, and because pain, long-term pain drains you.

After I got my eyes tear-free enough to drive and I paid for some gas at a ramshackle "El Cheapo" station in downtown Columbia staffed by a coughing hacking rice-pudding-eating Middle-Eastern woman who looked really pissed the entire time I was in her shop to buy an A&W, I got on I-20 and drove home. It was a blustery day in the Midlands. We're at the middlemark of Winter, and all is dead, gray, dreary, and dry. The ground crunches wherever you walk, all feels washed in a tinted-out feel like when you screwed with the tv knobs as a kid, and it feels like the Earth will never Spring up again. I loathe Winter. When I die someday, may it be the end of August when the sun is high, the forest green, leafy, and dank, and the Earth is full of life. O Lord, let me die in an August!

My thoughts on the drive were permeated with twinges of pain from my side since I couldn't take analgesics while driving. I elected to drive in silence, to be alone with my thoughts. I thought, probably the darkest thoughts of my life, that I understood how people in chronic pain could want to end their suffering by their own hand....but that I had too much to live for to ever consider that option.....also that my pain isn't always unbearable (this doesn't hurt anywhere nearly as bad as an acute gout attack). Don't worry, it was an academic exercise; this isn't a plea for help, rather, I felt like God was using someone else's vainglory to comfort me yesterday.

You want an explanation....I know, I know. Billy Joel isn't necessarily a tool in God's hands, but as the old yarn goes, "He moves in mysterious ways." "Come out Virginia" is devilishly catchy as a young man tries to get a Catholic girl to sleep with him, and many of his songs contain braggadocio-type lyrics that go against certain Christian mores. About halway home the silence grew too much to bear, so I turned on the radio, eschewing all the talk radio fiends dickering over anything Obama or Congress may do to fix the soapy economy for some comfort music....first Boston, then "Time of my Life" from that movie where somebody tried to put Baby in a corner, then Billy Joel's "Keeping the Faith" came into my car and the lyrics, while at first listen might seem like Boomer-glory day revisiting came to me as if from On High, the way in November Wyclef Jean might say, "and then my voice comes in Pow!, in the middle of the night, and this is what I told you for Him:"

You know the good ole days weren't always good
And tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems

Now I told you my reasons for the whole revival
Now I'm going outside to have an ice cold [root] beer in the shade
Oh, I'm going to listen to my 45's
Ain't it wonderful to be alive
When the rock 'n' roll plays, yeah
When the memory stays, yeah
I'm keeping the faith
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, keeping the faith
I'm keeping the faith, yes I am
You know I'm keeping the faith, oh yes I am
You know I'm keeping the faith, oh you are

Thank you Mr. Joel & thank you God for reminding me that it is wonderful to be alive, even in pain.


Dusty said...

I am glad you found some solace in music, Mac. I, maybe more than anyone you are close to, know the demons of both chronic and acute pain. Please know Jackie and I are thinking of you and yours, and not a day goes by without one of us asking if we had heard from Kelle or how you were doing with your doctors, etc. Just take each day one minute (heck, one second)at a time and pour yourself into your work and that beautiful family you and my darling daughter have created.

You have a genuinely great little family, and I am so grateful for all of you. Please know you and your wife and kids are in our prayers and always will be.

Forget about the MD who was so detached with his diagnosis; I once had an orthopedist tell me my pain was all in my head and I should essentially "cowboy up" and deal with it. Six weeks later, a more compassionate and hands-on neurosurgeon found the disk @ level 6-7 completely herniated and it was sitting vertical in my canal against my spinal cord. He also saw that I had one of the worst cases of spinal stenosis, premature bone density and disk degeneration he had ever seen.

My "cowboying up" turned into a determination not to let my spine adversely affect my work, family, etc. As you know, I have paid a great price since, and am now considered disabled after 15 spinal surgeries.

I ache knowing how you hurt, but keep the faith, like the Piano Man (and one of the best sections of the New Testament admonishes)says.

Thank you for loving my daughter and my 2 superb granddaughters and that handsome studpup, Jack. They rely on you, never forget that, OK?

We send our love...and prayers...

Cindy said...

Dear Mac, I'm truly so sorry for all you're going through. Please know that you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. Please let me know if I can help in any way.

Susanna Williams said...

Best blogpost ever, Pooks. I love you.

swampbaby said...

Sorry you are in pain and I hope you get some relief soon.

Mike and Kristin said...

Hey Mac, two thoughts. First, you're not going to find the answer from a private practice doc, even a specialist. You need somebody whose used to seeing tough cases. I'd try an academic center before packing it in. They see the cases the private guys can't figure out. Second, western medicine doesn't excel in treating chronic pain. Maybe accupunture or pressure or other asian technique might have something to offer. Hang in there, we miss you guys.