I touched on that the other day. I said, “Living is fraught with peril.”
And so it is. Everything has risks. Every action has a reaction. Newton and his third law of motion says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Sometimes we get the planned reaction. Occasionally we get a reaction we were completely unprepared for, one that overwhelms us.
With medicines, they are called reactions or side-effects. Some side-effects are more common than others. Some are deadly. Deadly is always an uncommon side effect else no one would prescribe nor take the medicines.
“Here’s an ounce of deadly nightshade,” said the local holistic compounding pharmacist. “Just take half-a teaspoon and by tomorrow your pneumonia will be gone.”
“But I’ll be dead!” I exclaimed.
“But no more pneumonia,” replied the pharmacist.
“The cure is worse than the disease.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. The only way nightshade will cure pneumonia is by killing its host. At this stage, the pneumonia is likely to get you anyway. Take the nightshade and forget about the pneumonia. You’ll have to pay up front for your medication. We won’t be able to charge this on your account. Too messy to try and collect from your estate,” explained the pharmacist.
I walked out the door more than a little confused. I felt as if I had spent the last two hours reading the pamphlet that came with my prescription of Levaquin, or ruxolitinib, or acyclovir, or the rotigotine patch I wear, or the clarithromycin that replaced the Levaquin, or the ibuprofen I am now taking large doses of. Confusion, dyskinesia, muscle spasms, tremors, seizures, liver, kidney, and thyroid failure, delirium, psychotic episodes, suicidal thoughts, multiple organ failure, stroke, blood clots, bleeding, lymphomas, skin cancers, bruising, cardiac arrest, death. None of them sounded pleasant to me.
Benefits? Well, according to the myriad pamphlets, there may actually be some. I may actually feel better if the medicines don’t kill me first. Some may lower my fever. Some may kill off undesirable monerans that have taken up unauthorized residence like claim jumpers on a gold mine; possession being nine-tenths of the law, try to get the squatters off by taking them to court. It could take months, even years. They will not go willingly, having their own purposes, and in the meantime, they are stealing your gold from your mine. Many a movie was made about this. Some of them starred John Wayne. Some, Randolph Scott. Some, Jimmy Stewart. Various entities from the Biological Domain of Monerans, bacterium from the kingdom of eubacteria, or from the separate kingdom of Archaebacteria, or malevolent Protists such as the amoeba N. Fowleri, anxious to eat my brain, or viruses, unable to be classified as living or not living, but simply strands of genetic materials, DNA or RNA, encapsulated in a protein shell, anxious to bond and use my own cell’s genetic material to reproduce. So many things waiting to do me harm, and only so many things to subdue them. And none of them without risk. The pathogens present risks. The treatments present risks. I am averse to risk. Hmmmmm! What to do?
Paralysis, or in other words, a fear that leads to doing nothing sets in. But if one does nothing, the pathogens have their way until our own immune system finds a way to deal with them, or not as the case may be. In the meantime, we could die while our immune system is producing the solution. Perhaps our immune system needs some help. Thus, the medications…the medications with risks…risks perhaps greater for some than the pathogens.
It is a terribly complex world.
Having been on a recent binge of watching old episodes of Gunsmoke, there was always the gruff but lovable old Doc Adams, able to remove the bullet from the wound, but when faced with sickness always shaking his head and rubbing his hand across his three day old beard saying, sadly, “If there was only something more that I could do!” 1870’s Doc Adams didn’t have the benefit of antibiotics such as penicillin or their many synthetic surrogates we have today. Every bug was a superbug. Doc did not have the benefits of Measles, Mumps, and Whooping cough vaccines, nor Smallpox vaccines, nor polio vaccines. Doc buried a lot of children.
Take your own walk through an old cemetery and look for yourself. There, buried next to the pater familias of a large family is at least one, perhaps two wives, maybe three. Some of the wives died in childbirth, or from an ectopic pregnancies which used to kill women, or perhaps a ruptured ovarian cyst. Then look at the graves of the little children. Some died at childbirth. Some at six months. Some at one year. Some at four years. Then keep on looking until you find the grave of four children of various ages that all died on the same day…smallpox, whooping cough, measles, and think of the mother who mourned the loss of four children and the doctor who cursed himself because he could do nothing to save them. If he were alive today, ask that doctor if he thinks the benefits of vaccinations outweigh the risks of the diseases they prevent. Ol’ Doc Adams would take a buggy whip to you if you risked the death of your children in some pseudo-new-age-holistic-naturopathic-refusal to have your children vaccinated from diseases that killed and maimed children on a daily basis in his day. If you’ve never taken a walk through an old cemetery and looked at this for yourself, you are missing out. You owe it to yourself to do so and see just how hard life was for many in the good ol’ days, which weren’t so good, nor so long ago.
Everything has risks.
I risk cutting my finger off to chop celery to put in the soup.
I risk death from my own poor driving to go and pick up my medicine that has its own set of risks.
I risk death from YOUR poor driving as I go to pick up my medicine that has its own set of risks.
I risk death from the armed robbery of the pharmacy while I am waiting to pick up my medicine that has its own set of risks.
I risk death from a terrorist attack by Islamic Jihadists blowing up the pharmacy while I am there to pick up my medicine that has its own set of risks.
Now the risk of being blown up by Islamic Jihadists in rural Mississippi while waiting to pick up my medications is pretty small, but increasing. It is a calculable risk. I could indeed find myself on the wrong side of the numbers. The same thing is true with the risks from medicines. There are risks, but they are small. Still, since I must fall somewhere within the numbers, what’s to say I won’t fall on the wrong side?
“One in nine-million people developed a case of terminal flatulence,” reads the warning label in a font size requiring a jeweler’s loupe to read. Unknown to me, twenty-two million five hundred thousand people were prescribed this medication. Two-and-a-half of them farted themselves to death (both-and-a-half of them men, no doubt, and were perhaps murdered by their spouses, but dead, nevertheless).
The odds say you will NOT win the Powerball Lottery, and most likely you won’t. But someone wins. Someone beat the odds to win the $400,000,000. Someone also beats the odds and dies from taking Levaquin, while most folks were helped by it.
I wonder what the odds are that one is fiscally damaged from buying lottery tickets? We don’t see those published, or at least I haven’t. I’m sure some study exists. I am much more likely to develop an addiction to gambling and damage my finances and the finances of my family than I am to win the Powerball Lottery, yet I run the risk in the hope of receiving the bonanza.
In a similar way, I run the risk of incurring perhaps deadly side-effects from taking antibiotic medications that are designed to prevent me from incurring deadly effects of moneran pathogens that have invaded my body and begun to set up housekeeping, reproducing themselves exponentially and spreading deadly toxins that will cause multiple organ failure if not treated. Hmmmmm! Certain multiple organ failure from bacterial infection vs. the chance of multiple organ failure from taking an antibiotic strong enough to hopefully kill the microbe that is infecting me without killing me itself? It’s not quite as easy as deciding on white or wheat bread for a baloney sandwich, is it?
Just treat the dog for his heart worms. The treatment may kill him. The heart worms will certainly kill him. In the long run, the dog will die one day anyway. In the meantime, he may had a good life.
So, what am I saying?
In the end, if we are lucky, all we buy is time. If we are really lucky, we buy quality time.
The peripheral neuropathy my late friend Rick developed from treatment of a fungal infection in his lungs he got while having a compromised immune system he incurred during the treatment of Hodgkins Lymphoma plagued him for the rest of his short life: a dangerous deadly disease, a dangerous deadly treatment, dangerous, debilitating side effects, a short life afterward. In the meantime, Rick and I laughed together. We cried together. There was life mixed in with troubles…grandchildren born…children married…birthdays celebrated…time spent with friends and loved ones in a way that only one with limited time can comprehend. It was not all bad, though there certainly were some bad moments, and a bad outcome, but an outcome we all face in the end. It is what happens between that makes our lives worth living
We are all here for a short while. Some of us longer than others. It is what we do with the time we have that makes our time worthwhile. Being fearful of everythng is not a good use of our time, because fear paralyzes us to doing. It is the doing that is worth doing. It is the doing that is worth our limited time. Fear yields nothing.
So….I had a good checkup in Houston. The ruxolitinib is doing its job, admirably. Nurse Alice examined me and will report to Gooday, who was out sick with a fever of his own, or so it was reported. I think he was being a slacker. He will read this and be infuriated. He hates, above all things, to be accused of being a slacker. It is he and his colleagues that will find a cure for this Leukemia of mine, but they won’t do it, by Gooday’s own admission, by being slackers. On the other hand, coming to a Leukemia ward with a fever is simply bad form. I was in perfectly good hands with Nurse Alice and Nurse Coy. They know what to do. They did it well.
My White Blood Cell count was still high. It should be back down, but it is not. My guess is that in two months when I return, it will be as high, or even higher, but still far below the mark of what it could be. I am thankful for where I am.
I am glad to have the pneumonia behind me. With Leukemia, it is not usually the leukemia directly that claims you….it is the recurring infections your compromised immune system can’t deal with that claim you. Right now, I am doing just fine as far as where I am in the course of my disease. Everything I write is not some veiled reference to impending death, so please do not be fooled or deceive yourselves into thinking that I am not leveling with you, that something far more sinister is going on. If it were something very sinister, I’d likely not write about it at all.
I am told I need several more days to recover from the unpleasant side effects of the Levaquin, if I am going to recover from the side effects of the Levaquin. It is possible that the side-effects are permanent and will increase in severity. What is possible and what may actually occur are very likely to be two different things. I will not dwell on the this any further, but deal with what I have. What I have is a body feels like it got run over repeatedly by a sheep-foot earth compactor. There is nothing they can do for the painful tendonitis, other than to have me take large does of ibuprofen, and perhaps give me some corticosteriods, which will be a last resort for me because while they may reduce the inflammation and give me some relief, they have their own set of side effects which I detest beyond measure. I am managing, and the side effects do seem to be getting better. I like this trend and think I will keep it.
I also need a day or two to recover from a two day trip to Houston in a blinding rainstorm. I am thankful for my life’s partner and soul-mate, my wife Debbie, for going with me. She drove most of the way there and nearly most of the way back. I was unable to drive on the way because I had been three days without sleep. I did sleep good Sunday night, but now Sunday night was two days ago. Where, oh, where, does sleep go?
Odysseus had a long trip home, filled with peril. It is a classic story of life. We all have a long trip home. All our trips are filled with unimaginable peril at every turn. Any day now, I am waiting for the seven headed hydra to appear, but until it does, I won’t lose any sleep over it. I will have lost the sleep in spite of it, and because of that, will most likely be alert and wide awake when the hydra appears. Hydra, beware! My, won’t she be surprised to find me ready with a sharp blade! We’ll cut off heads until there are som many she can’t decide which ones to use.
What would we do without faith?
What would we do without literature, music, and art?
What would we do without family and friends?
What would we do without time?
I am so thankful for what I have that I do not have time to spend in mourning what I may have lost.
I sure am thankful for Papadeaux’s restaurant in Beaumont, Texas, for the three fabulous soft-shell crabs I ate. I might remind you that eating them was not without risks or possible side-effects. So far, I am only able to describe the benefits. All I can be certain of is that you should have been there. I’d have shared them with you, then we’d have ordered some more.
Thank you, Nurse Alice. Thank you, Nurse Coy. Make Gooday go the to doctor!!
Thank you Chief Bellman at the Rotary House. Take care of my Ole Miss Yeti cup I carelessly left behind until I return in July.
Thank you, all you readers. I am continually amazed at how many of you there are. I appreciate you, every one.
And please don’t mistake this as having been written mostly about me. Most of this was written about you and for you.
©2017 Mississippi Chris Sharp
2017 Mississippi Chris Sharp