August Ends

Delve into the light and dark that is Mark
Delve into the light and dark that is Mark

September beckons with tomorrow’s sunrise. August is in its waning day. To think it will be three months in another seven days since I arrived in the Desert from the Cornfield.

Pink clouds dotted the sky to the east and to the south this morning when I rose at 5:30. The trees in the backyard and the condo edition across the road made capturing the beauty in a picture impossible. The temperature was a very nice, mild 82 degrees with humidity at 23%.

The hue disappeared leaving behind gray then white clouds, some wispy and some more full-bodied and fluffy. The sun continued to rise about the eastern mountains dispersing the grayness and ushering in the light.

Chooey ran around the yard doing his business and exploring. He chased bugs, the birds who tried to visit the fountain. Full of vim and vinegar, my little buddy is now 11 weeks old and growing.

While the pain continues in my right side, back and beneath my non-functional right lung, compared to what it was, I am in much better condition. The clusters, which took a vacation for the first time in 20 years, ended after a two-week respite. The headaches are once more my constant companion.

The depression continues to close in, blocking out the light whenever possible. The breathing concerns, while less, remain a major factor in my daily life.

With September on the horizon, the question running through my mind is whether I will continue my regimen of itraconazole, the antifungal combating the histoplasmosis, for another year or whether I will be ending the medication. On September 10, I will be seeing an infectious disease control specialist in Havasu City, who will make that determination.

Payday is also visible. A mere three days and I will have access to my funds. Sadly that same day, I will have empty pockets after paying out bills. Also on Wednesday, I have an appointment with the lawyer to move ahead with the divorce Iohn wants.

For now, I am trying to make it until midweek. I am trying to stay focused. I am trying to ignore the pains, the depression, the despair and keep faith that this too shall pass.

That’s the way it is this last day of August in Mark’s Den.

And how is your Monday going?

Sunday in the Desert

Delve into the light and dark that is Mark
Delve into the light and dark that is Mark

So we have come to the last Sunday in August.

A glorious morning greeted me in the Desert when I rose around 6 a.m. The temperature was a mild 90 degrees and the humidity sat at 22%. Fluffy clouds adorned the sky. The sun was rising over the mountains beyond the river.

With gratitude and wonder I surveyed the beauty around me as I sat on the patio sipping my coffee. Chooey scampered and explored the backyard with all the energy a puppy is endowed. He has yet to run down for his morning nap. Chooey goes from sitting on my lap, paws on the table watching me type to wanting down to attack his toys and bones.

My thoughts turn to how blessed I am to be where I am. To think that a year ago this time, neither I nor Iohn and my family thought I would make it until the end of the year. I was nearing the end of a very troubling seven week hospital stay as well as a week in hospice care.

In a few days I was to learn the outcome of the larynoscopy and biopsy of my larynyx. At the time, there was the fear it was cancer which had taken my voice and infected my voicebox. As it turned out, on September 2, 2014, I learned the cause of the destruction of my right lung, the ongoing infections, the reason I was in and out for extended stays in the hospital.

I had been infected by bat dropping containing fungal spores resulting in histoplasmosis. I was in the advanced stages as it had spread from my lung to other parts of my body, such as the larynyx. I had disseminated histoplasmosis.

I had already been diagnosed with presumed ocular histoplasmosis syndrome (POHS) which had infected my eyes. Seems the condition had not been limited to my vision, but had spread through my body.

If untreated, histo will result in death. Fortunately, it appears that those three years of borrowed time were not enough to kill me. I was immediately put on a regimen of antifungals to stop the spread of the disease. For nearly a year now, I have been on itraconazole. Good Lord willing, I will be off the medicine next month.

However, I may have to continue treatment for another year. The doctors were surprised I had made it through those three years when the infection had run rampant through my body undetected. I should have died – but I did not.

Now a year later, I am still here.

I am in a new location.

I am 2,000 miles from the Cornfield.

I am in the Desert.

While not cured, nor ever will be from the effects of the histo, which has result in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic bronchitis, I am more than 100% better than last year this time. I am able to function unlike I was able in the Cornfield.

I am far from out of the woods, but I am standing.

I am moving onward.

I am surviving.

Chooey has finally worn down. He is asleep on his blankey which he scooted under the chair. This glorious Sunday morning I am filled with thanksgiving.

Thankful to still be among the living, though still longing to go home and end the pain.

That’s the way it is in the Desert this next to last day of August.

And how is your Lord’s Day going?

Last August Saturday

Delve into the light and dark that is Mark
Delve into the light and dark that is Mark

Difficult to believe this is the last Saturday of August, 2015.  But it is.

Chooey is sitting, standing on my lap with his paws on the table in front of me, trying to get to the keyboard and help me make today’s blog entry.  This reminds me of a cat Iohn and I had when we first began our relationship, Snowy, who was all white. Snowy would sit on my lap for hours looking at the monitor as I wrote online or checked my email or monitored the groups I managed.

To think that was over 10 years ago now. Much has changed since those days.

Caesar, the handyman who cares for the house, picked up a job in Bullhead City today. Dutifully, I used what little gas I had left to transport him across the river to Home Depot to meet the woman who offered the work. There is the promise of gas money when I travel back across the state line to pick him up later today.

I barely was able to get a couple sips of coffee before we had to head out for the less than 10 miles one way trip. To say I was not functioning on all cylinders would be an understatement. But I managed and made it back to Mark’s Den and the needed infusion of my morning libation.

The humidity has been horrid. It is still high, for here, this morning, resulting in difficult breathing. Even with the barriers in trying to get oxygen in my system and allow me to operate at least at some form of utility is not easy, when compared to how this would be in the Cornfield, I am in much better condition.

Payday is way too far from today. Yes, I will have access on Wednesday evening, but I am out of coffee for tomorrow and the next few days. Oh the horror of it all! There is no bone in the cupboard or meat to be found. Mostly what I have left is cereal, milk and sugar.

Fortunately, come Tuesday I will be able to go to the Colorado River Food Bank for my September food box. Alas, for some reason, here in the Desert there is no meat included. I am not a vegetarian.

Back in the Cornfield, I always received enough meat to last for one week. Not so in the Desert. 

Wednesday I have an appointment with a law firm in Laughlin to consult about and hopefully file for the divorce that Iohn wants. Not that I look forward to this day, but you can’t hold someone when the person does not want to be with you.

The eagle has not even risen to soar from the aerie and I am already in the hole to start September. Such is my life.

No putting it off, later today I will be filling out the necessary information online to apply for service-related disability. If I am successful, perhaps I will no longer be making choices each month, each week, each day between my medicine and food.

That’s the way it is this last Saturday in August in Mark’s Den.

And how is your weekend going?

Call Me ‘Stubborn’

Delve into the light and dark that is Mark
Delve into the light and dark that is Mark

Alright, call me stubborn or obstinate. Call me a mule. Perhaps call me foolish or even chicken. I have not called my primary care provide yet about the pain which won’t quit even though an increase in my corticosteroid did not work nor use of the muscle relaxer is not working.

Why don’t I call rather than trying to ignore and bear it?

With my history and spending over a third of the year in the hospital in 2014, I am not too eager for a repeat or a new round of treatments and hospitalizations.

Yes, I know this adds to the anxiety which I suffer.

Yes, I know this deepens the depression and despair.

There is that pesky trepidation which keeps me from calling. Maybe I will break down and call once again today.

Humidity has been high for the past couple of weeks in the Desert. This has not been good on my body causing breathing to be difficult.

Most who read this say how high can it be since I am in an arid climate?

While compared to the rest of the country it is low to medium, when the humidity remains in the 20s, 30s, 40s and even gets up around 54%, it has a big impact on my ability to function.

On the up side, even with the higher humidity, my recovery and ability to function in comparison to how life was in the Cornfield is nothing short of amazing.

While I do have health benefits now through the Veterans Administration, I am not approved for disability benefits. I was of the thought that when I see the doctor for the initial visit on September 25 a determination or at least opinion would be rendered.

I now believe I am wrong in my thinking.

It appears that I need to submit a new application and request with information connecting one of my disabilities to my time in the Air Force in the late 1970s.

I was an inpatient at least twice, Howard Community Hospital and Wright-Patterson Medical Center, for treatment of my mental health issues. I was also under care and weekly sessions with the clinic psychologist at Grissom Air Force Base.

A major part of the determination of disability by Social Security in 2001 dealt with my mental health concerns.

Guess I will see what happens. If all goes well this could be a real blessing.

Can you believe that this is the last Friday in August already?

The month has both moved at a snail’s pace and a whirlwind at the same time. As far as payday which is a week away, the month is not ending soon enough.

Just another day in paradise on this TGIF.

And how is your launch to the weekend going?

No Let-Up to Pain

Delve into the light and dark that is Mark
Delve into the light and dark that is Mark

The pain in my right side and back continues to plague me this Thursday morning. Even after picking up the muscle relaxer prescription yesterday, it has had no effect.

I am use to pain. I have suffered with the cluster headaches and the excruciating agony caused for 20 years now. But this is different.

I did not call my primary care provider Wednesday hoping the relaxer would have an impact. Looks like now I must call today.

Practicing and pushing my internal ignore button is not working. At times I scream out if I move or turn the wrong way.

I press on. I do my best to live and fight when I want to give up. Why I struggle when it seems futile, I do not know.

Thursdays have been designated #TBT or #ThrowBackThursday. Used to be that Thursday was always referred to as Thirsty Thursday, a day to escape to the local pub for a libation before the weekend.

In honor of the current rave, check out these pictures:

Mom (Sharon Powell Ivy Hollifield) pregnant with Phillip, Mark right and Lyndale left.
Mom (Sharon Powell Ivy Hollifield) pregnant with Phillip, Mark right and Lyndale left.
Mark and Lyndale, St. Albans, West Virginia
Mark and Lyndale, St. Albans, West Virginia
OOPs! Mark getting best of Lyndale
OOPs! Mark getting best of Lyndale

That’s the way it is this Thursday in Mark’s Den in the Desert.

And how is your day going?

Why Laughlin?

Delve into the light and dark that is Mark
Delve into the light and dark that is Mark

Since living in Las Vegas, Nevada from 1981 through 1985, I have had an affinity for the desert Southwest US of A. There is just something about the combination of the bare to sparse desert floor and the mountains in the distance. I cannot explain why, but for me there is a certain beauty and contrast to the landscape.

For years I have wanted to journey back and live out my life not in the Cornfield, but in the Desert.

In October of 2011, while living in Farmersburg, Indiana, I became ill with what I thought was the flu. I lost over 30 pounds in the course of that month. I ran a fever and could move from my bed for a few minutes at a time. I could not eat more than a few crackers and sip on water.

Slowly, I thought I had recovered.

In February, 2012, in a matter of seven days I once more fell ill and lost another 15 pounds. Now I was scared, scared enough to seek medical treatment.

What followed was a lung biopsy resulting in three air tubes sticking out of my right side. I had a dual bronchoscopy. The biopsy came back inconclusive as to the cause of the problem. The surgeon told me my right lung had been reduced to a dried up sponge and was useless.

This was the beginning of a scenario which I am still wrapped deep inside the plot. It was not until 2014, a year ago this time, I was correctly diagnosed with disseminated histoplasmosis, a fungal infection caused by spores from bat droppings.

For most people, if affected at all, it is not much more than like the flu or a cold for a week. For a very rare few of us, it is a life-threatening disease if not treated and caught in time.

During these trying times over the past four years, my thoughts kept turning to the Desert. My life-partner and current spouse (for a few more days or weeks), Iohn, and I discussed moving to the Desert where the more arid climate would be better for a person like me with respiratory issues.

Opportunity, money and transportation were drawbacks. That changed when Iohn walked out on me the last Friday in May this year after we wed in December following over 10 years of living together.

Mentally, emotionally and financially, I could no longer afford to stay in the Cornfield. Thus I decided to make my move to the Desert. Which community I was unsure, though my mind and heart had focused on the unincorporated community along the Colorado River known as Laughlin, Nevada.

So why Laughlin?

Why not choose one of the Arizona communities: Kingman, Golden Valley, Bullhead City or Fort Mohave?

Those communities are wonderful, but there is just a certain allure I cannot explain with Laughlin.

Why not opt for Needles, California in the Golden State?

Cost of living in the West Coast state is not attractive. The community, though nice and neat, is not as up-to-date as Laughlin.

Then again why not Las Vegas where I once worked and lived?

I will admit to having a special love of Las Vegas. There is something about the city that is so appealing and not because of the casinos.

Yet, there are issues with Vegas which I do not have to contend here in Laughlin.

The air is cleaner in Laughlin than Vegas. There is not the worry with crime that there is in Vegas. The traffic is so much lighter and easier to navigate in Laughlin than in Vegas.

With my health conditions, walking down the street in Vegas would be much more difficult. Having to parse my way through the homeless, those waiting to take advantage of someone weaker, unable to defend himself is not an issue in Laughlin that there would be in Vegas.

Part of the concern with Vegas versus Laughlin for me is that I prefer downtown, Fremont Street, to the Strip. This is even though I worked both on the Strip and downtown.

Laughlin gives me the feel, the Desert beauty without the encumbrances that Vegas affords.

Why Laughlin?

For sure it is not about the casinos. Though I will admit I would love to go in and play a few games a keno every now and then if I ever have a few cents to afford to lose.

What with Casino Drive a short five-mile drive down the “mountain” from Upper Laughlin, it is not as if I have to travel. Then there is the Avi which is about 15 miles away, but an easy drive down Needles Highway to Aha Macav Parkway and back toward the river.

The people are more than nice in this unincorporated area of southern Clark County which sprang up in the Desert in 1965 with the vision of Don Laughlin, for whom the area is named.

While I still become winded and tire easily, I am able to live more actively than I have in years. When I am sitting and gasping, someone always checks on me to be sure I am fine.

Another great benefit of Laughlin is that Live Oak Family Medicine clinic and the Veterans Affairs outreach clinic are in the same complex and a mere mile away. Two hospitals are within 10 to 20 miles away, not much different than in the Cornfield when I had to travel 12 miles to Regional Hospital for all those extended stays so common last year.

Down the hill about half a mile is a gas station, the Department of Motor Vehicles, a pizza place, a Mexican food restaurant as well as a local grocery store when one can’t get across the river to the supermarkets.

Then there is the bus system when driving is not an option. For seniors and the disabled like me there is even a free service that operates on donation basis, if you have it, to go to the store, pick up medicine, go to the doctor. The system even provides trips to specialists in Las Vegas!

This slice of paradise in the Desert is well-protected with a force of Metropolitan Police officers. Unlike what you see on television on such shows as CSI, crime is not the issue here that it is in Sin City. Not that there is not miscreants, there is not the fear or worry that our big city neighbor 100 miles to the north presents.

Why Laughlin?

God has truly showered His blessing on the move. Although I am going through personal travail, out of the blue I was offered the master bedroom and run of a four-bedroom house in Canyon Terrace with all the amenities. I share the house with the handyman who looks after the place for the absentee owner.

The view in the morning or at sunset is awe inspiring. Whether looking out from the balcony or at the beautiful backyard from the patio, it can take your breath away. Sometimes in the mornings, I love sitting on the front porch looking at the neighborhood and the mountain to the west.

So peaceful and quiet.

What more could I ask?

True my youngest son, Kev, and his wife, Hailey, are 1,000 miles away. But they were a thousand miles away from the Cornfield as well.

True, my oldest son, Dave, and his wife, Anna, and my beautiful three granddaughters: Dylan, Alaina and Amelia, are now 2,000 miles away. Even when 100 miles away in the Cornfield, logistics made it difficult to impossible to visit.

I stay in contact with them all the same way I did in the Cornfield – through the internet.

With my siblings, Mom and Dad, there is little change as well. Most of the communication was online and still is. The only difference is I don’t see Mom at least once per month.

Yes, I am alone in the Desert – but I was alone in the Cornfield and would be more alone now that Iohn has left.

Why Laughlin?

Because this is where I am suppose to be. In time, I believe, I will be blessed to take in the world-class acts that come to the area.

In time, I will be able to occasionally sit and enjoy a game of keno or two.

In time, I will make friends to have a cup of coffee or play some cards.

In fact a woman in one of the local Facebook groups did offer to meet with her friends for coffee at the Aquarius shortly after I arrived. Unfortunately I was having one of those days I have. I could not find a place to park and become frustrated. Sadly I was unable to make the meet and greet.

I must say the locals are very welcoming and friendly. The local groups have made this outsider feel right at home.

In time, I hope to have the funds to renew my membership at what is a very active American Legion Post here in Laughlin.

Why Laughlin?

Better question would be: why anywhere else?

Mild Midweek

Delve into the light and dark that is Mark
Delve into the light and dark that is Mark

What a beautiful and mild middle of the week in the Desert! Though there are clouds in the sky, which look as if rain may fall, the mercury is at a low 86 degrees and not expected to rise above 101 today. For the Desert that makes very a mild and comfortable day.

The humidity is another story. Yesterday it did not fall below 25%. Most of the day it was in the 40-50% range. This is not good for someone like me with respiratory issues. The pressure is telling. Currently this morning, humidity stands at 48%.

The expected thunderstorms, flash floods and even a dust storm did not materialize on Tuesday.

Received my identification card for Veterans Affairs medical benefits yesterday. The picture makes me look so old! LOL

My initial appointment at the VA clinic right here in Laughlin is scheduled for September 25. At that time there is a good chance of learning how much disability benefit I may be eligible to receive.

With a history going back to my days in the Air Force when I was an inpatient for depression at least twice and being under the care of the clinic psychologist for the last two years of service, there is a good chance I will qualify for service-related disability.

When you consider that depression is the major factor in my 100% disability, according to Social Security since 2001, the amount of disability very well could be between 60-100%. This could be a real financial blessing.

No change in the pain that has grasped a firm hold on my right side for going on two weeks now. The increase in prednisone has not alleviated the pain. Not sure what course of action my primary care provider, Nurse Practitioner Crystal Voit, will take at this time.

The x-ray revealed there is compression along the 8th middle vertebra on my back. That definitely could be the cause. I do have a muscle relaxer to pick up at EZY-Fast Pharmacy, which I can do thanks to the mother of my youngest son, Kevin.

I continue to fight the demons of depression and despair which have made a full-out assault on my mind for the past few weeks. The fight has not been easy. There have been those moments I have been to the edge and peered into the abyss.

That’s the way it is this Hump Day in Mark’s Den.

And how is your Wednesday going?

Overcast Tuesday

Delve into the light and dark that is Mark
Delve into the light and dark that is Mark

An overcast sky greeted me this morning as Chooey and I made our way downstairs. As he started his constitutional, I turned on my coffee to brew before joining Chooey out on the patio.

The grayness of the day matches the mood inside Mark’s Den. The depression has taken hold like a snapping turtle waiting on a clap of thunder.

Not only am I still in pain, but I am hurting emotionally and mentally. I am disbelief that Iohn has not simply left me, but has no concern for my well-being.

Such is life.

Then there is the issue of family who may be supportive emotionally, but none seem that sympathetic to my current situation. I am doing my best with what I have available to me to hold on and keep from drowning, but I feel I am losing the fight.

Crystal, my primary care provider, finally called me back late yesterday afternoon with the reading of my x-ray. While there was nothing new, nothing remarkable showing on my right, non-functioning lung, there was a concern noted. It would seem there is compression showing along the 8th vertebra in my mid-back.

Crystal recommended that I drop from 60 mg to 40 mg of prednisone yesterday and today, to rule out possible infection of some sort in my right lung. Should the pain continue, on Wednesday the compression will have to be addressed.

I have been taking one hdracondone each day to combat the pain. A muscle relaxer was also prescribed, however, I have not been able to pick up the medicine. While the co-pay is only around $2.50, I do not have any money until next Thursday to get the med. I also am out of gas and no funds.

This is what I find so discouraging from Iohn. So he could get to work, I loaned him my last $15 three weeks ago.

Has he or will he repay me now that he has had two paychecks so I can get my medicine? No.

He is getting what he wants next week and within a week or two – a divorce. But that doesn’t seem to matter as well.

Fortunately, I was able to pick up my senior box at the Colorado River Food Bank yesterday. I do now have food – but no meat. I do not understand why in Nevada there is no meat. In Indiana, back in the Cornfield, there was always meat – but not in the Desert.

Will I survive the next nine days until payday? I am not sure.

While Crystal said that if the pain is not gone, the compression will be treated starting tomorrow. But how is that going to happen when I don’t have any money to get my prescription and no gas to go to the clinic or pharmacy.

Again  this is where Iohn’s lack of compassion comes into play.

For those who keep saying that I should be back in the Cornfield – it would not change anything. I still would be without the money for any medicine. I still would not have gas to go to a doctor or pick up any prescription.

I would have even less at the beginning of the month than I do now. Instead of $50 per month for food, medicine, gas – I would be in the hole each month and without even more.

Yep, it is not only an overcast sky in the Desert, it is overcast in Mark’s Den.

That’s the way it is this second day of the last week in August.

And how is your Tuesday going?

Uncertainty Starts Week

Delve into the light and dark that is Mark
Delve into the light and dark that is Mark

The new week begins with uncertainty. Uncertain whether my lab work and x-ray may reveal a new problem or a worsening of a current issue. Uncertainty whether I may find myself in the hospital before the week is out. Uncertainty whether I will survive until the new month begins next week.

Uncertainty followed with more uncertainty.

At the same time, people across the US of A are waking up to uncertainty as the stock market is plunging south. Retirement accounts are seeing massive losses in the thousands of dollars. Uncertainty greets us all this August Monday.

Waiting for a call from my primary care provider Crystal. Wondering if she will have good or bad news for me. Wondering if I will be making a trip across the river. Wondering if the remainder of the week will find me making an unexpected extended stay.

Iohn has not come through as he continues to promise he will. Says he doesn’t have the $20 to at least allow me to get my medicine, food, gas. Yet he was able to go out on a first date over the weekend.

I do not begrudge him moving on with his life. But he needs to meet his obligations first.

According to him, the company messed up his paycheck and underpaid him. But I am not asking for the full amount owed me at the moment which is over $100. I am only asking for a mere $20 to get my medicine, food and gas.

How could  I have been wrong about this man for over 10 years?

How blind was I to who he really is?

What did I do so wrong to deserve this?

I sit here in pain. The pain has subsided, but it is still there.

While the pain has receded, the depression, the despair deepens and darkens. There is no reason to keep fighting. There is no reason to keep keeping on.

Uncertainty is all I see and face as this new week begins.

That’s the way it is this first day of a new week in Mark’s Den in the Desert.

And how is your Monday morning going?

Then Again, Maybe Not

Delve into the light and dark that is Mark
Delve into the light and dark that is Mark

On Saturday I wrote about how I thought the increase in my dosage of prednisone from 10 mgs to 60 mgs may be working on the pain and discomfort I have had in my right side, back and under my right, non-functional lung for over a week.

This Sunday morning I am thinking: then again maybe not.

While the pain has eased to a point, this morning it is being a real pain – pun intended. The depression and anxiety are not helping either as both are growing darker and pushes me farther and farther down the tunnel toward despair and hopelessness.

I almost forgot to mention again something else that Crystal, my primary care provider, said when I saw her Friday. Even though I received the vaccination earlier this year, she is concerned that what may be my issue is the onset of shingles! Yep, shingles which can be very painful and blotch the body of those of us 60 and older who had chicken pox as children.

Keeping my fingers crossed that it is not shingles or a liver or gall bladder issue.

Iohn remains non-responsive to my need – not want – but need for assistance to obtain the medication I need. He seems to be ignoring my pleas for help to not get the med, but also for gas and food. This is after he promised and promised not to leave me hanging when he walked out on me.

Naturally, this feeds the anxiety and depression.

I understand he is working a lot of hours with two other managers on sick leave. I understand he is having to struggle somewhat to rebuild, but that was his choice when he left. I continue to be punished for having loved and believed and supported Iohn for 10 years.

What will this Sunday bring?

All I can do is put my trust in the Lord. There is no other option, nothing I can do. As Paul wrote, when you have done all you can do to stand – stand.

It is not that I am asking for much from Iohn. I am only asking for $20 – $15 of that was my last bit of money in the bank which I loaned him over two weeks ago to get gas so he could go back and forth to work.

But apparently I am the bad guy.

So I sit here on this beautiful, sunny Sunday morning in the Desert without any recourse, without any reserve, without any arms to hug and say it is all going to be OK.

That’s the way it is this Lord’s Day at Mark’s Den.

And how is your Sunday going?