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Posts Tagged ‘surgery’

Trigeminal Neuralgia Situation

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 12, 2016

Okay. Update. This post is largely in response to a request from a reader. As many of you might remember, I have Trigeminal Neuralgia. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s a neuropathic disease which affects the trigeminal nerve, the largest nerve in the brain, causing unbelievable head and facial pain. Most scientists, doctors, neurologists, health care professionals, and patients widely consider it to be the most painful disease known to mankind. I’m not kidding. Google it. It’s also widely known as “the suicide disease.” I’m not kidding. Google it. Look at the Wikipedia entry. The last time I looked at it, it was there.

Not many people have it. Somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 Americans have TN. That’s all. That’s why there’s virtually no R&D done on it. There’s no money to be made in it. There are two major types of TN: Type 1 and Type 2, often also referred to as Atypical TN. I have Type 2. It’s extremely rare. Only about 5,000 Americans have it. I’m one of about 5,000 Americans who have this rare, unbelievably painful facial disease.

The pain is hard to describe accurately. I can only under-describe it. Type 1 pain feels like sharp, electric shocks coming in quick, hard jolts through your face in 15, 20, 30, 40 second episodes over and over again for 30, 40 minutes, one hour, three hours, five hours, then maybe a break for awhile, then perhaps days, etc. It’s unrelenting. The electric shocks are supposed to be ungodly. I don’t experience these with Type 2. The pain usually centers in eye sockets, temples, cheeks, and jaws, although sometimes teeth and gums, as well as foreheads are also impacted. Sometimes even the back of the head. There are triggers. Eating, dental work, brushing your hair, wind, rain touching your skin, foul weather, anything brushing your skin, occasionally stress, it can be just about anything. Sometimes there’s no trigger.

Type 2 is different and a lot harder to diagnose. Instead of a series of short, sharp, insanely painful attacks, Type 2 people experience nonstop, usually all day, unrelenting dull, aching, yet also sharp (if that even makes sense), intense, otherworldly pain centering in similar locations. Allegedly, the pain is slightly less severe, but because it lasts virtually all day, every day, often for days, and in my case, weeks and months and even years, every day, I would assert that in some cases, such as mine, it’s much, much worse. You get no break. It’s horrible. It’s incapacitating. The first year I had it, beginning in the summer of 2010, through the summer of 2011, I spent most of my afternoons and evenings in bed, unable to function, able only to do things in the mornings when my pain was less intense, and even though I’ve not always been bedfast this whole time, I still schedule all of my appointments for early in the mornings and run all of my errands early in the mornings when I am able to, because by my early lunch, I’m usually in a great deal of pain and by after lunch and for the rest of the day, am unable to function as well as I would like, sometimes not at all.

There are treatments, medications, and some temporary surgeries, but only one possible cure, through a risky brain surgery. There aren’t any medications specifically for TN. There’s no money to be made in developing a medication for something that so few people have, so none of the companies have done so. Thus, neurologists and pain management specialists give out other types of medications for pain. The most commonly prescribed medication is Tegrotol, which I’m allergic to. The second one is Neurontin, which did nothing for me. Most TN patients are on incredibly high doses, usually well past the daily maximum recommended doses. Often they don’t get pain relief. Lyrica is another popular medication. There are many others. Sometimes people take Klonpin. I’ve taken that for years, but it does nothing for my pain. Two I take that have helped are Keppra and Topamax. After I started taking them together, I didn’t get a TN attack for some months and that was nice. Of course, there are often side effects and with those two, I had severe drowsiness for two months and fell asleep in my chair every morning and every night at 7:30 pm. It was annoying. Of course, most people with TN have extremely severe pain and these types of anti-seizure and anti-depressant medications only do so much. Sometimes people with 10 out of 10 on a 1-10 pain scale need something stronger. Unfortunately, as I’ve learned with some research, people with Type 1 are not helped with narcotics. People with Type 2 are. I have been taking narcotics since 2010. They used to help quite a bit. However, my pain levels increased threefold over a year and a half ago, and they ceased working like they used to and I had to start taking more and more for less than half the aid they once provided. This was annoying, in part because I didn’t even like taking them in the first place. Indeed, the first thing I normally do is take over the counter medications. I don’t even know why. They’re useless. I just don’t like to jump straight to the heavy stuff. I start with Advil, Tylenol, etc. Then move on to Excedrin Tension and Advil Migraine. Then I go to the prescription non-narcotics, such as Treximet, which used to help, and Sumatriptan and Naproxen, which has torn my stomach to shreds. Then it’s on to the heavy stuff. However, a couple of months ago, I had to bite the bullet and after five and a half years, admit with the help of four doctors and two pharmacists that I had reached my tolerance level and it was time to move up to something more powerful. When my pain management specialist gave me my prescription, I was horrified, because it was for a medication I’ve always heard about and had always heard negative things about and I’ve always heard it’s risky as hell to take this and indeed, when I did research, there were all sorts of warnings everywhere about it. I talked to another doctor and to two of my pharmacists and they assured me they thought it would be safe and good for me and would help me, so I got it filled and pondered things and several days later, started taking it, wondering what the hell would happen. Well, I’m still here. And it has helped. Some. I was hoping it would eliminate my pain, but it has not. I did further research and talked to my doctor and found out, it will not. My doctor told me their goal was to minimize my pain and restore my quality of life. Well, it’s definitely cut my pain, some of the time, perhaps even a lot of the time, certainly in the mornings, so that’s good. I’m also taking a second narcotic for “breakthrough pain” when needed, which is more often than I would prefer, but I’m still getting significant pain episodes, so it’s necessary. But less often than before.

So, what kind of procedures have I had and what are available? Well, I started out having Gasserian Ganglion Blocks. You have to be put out for those. They involve putting a needle through your cheek up through your mouth to your middle cranial cavity housing your V2 trigeminal nerve “tendril” (that’s what I call them) — there are three on each side, giving you sensations in three quadrants of your face on each side —  and anesthetizing the end of the nerve. They have to put you out because if you felt the needle connecting with that nerve end, the screaming would unnerve the entire hospital. Allegedly. I’ve had quite a few over the past five years now. Many don’t work at all. Not even for a day. Total waste of time and money. A couple have worked for several months. One worked for a year, so that was a good investment.

I’ve also had Botox injections, which haven’t helped me much. The longest any have helped my pain levels have been two weeks, reducing my pain about 50%. They’re supposed to help for 2-4 months, reducing your pain 100%. There are also steroid injections. Lately, I’ve been having Trigeminal Nerve Blocks, which I don’t think I’m reacting well to. With the last one I had, last week, I had significantly bad pain afterwards for three days. In fact, the third day afterwards was one of the most painful days of my life. It was absolute hell. If it were possible to rate pain over 10 out of a 1-10 scale, this would have been perhaps a 17. I couldn’t move, think, function, could barely talk, couldn’t read, nothing. None of my pain medications helped. I wanted to die. I actually thought about killing myself. Twice. That’s the first time in a very long time I’ve thought about that. It was horrific.

There are more major surgeries. There are four long term temporary surgeries, including Gamma Knife and Radiofrequency Ablation. I’m thinking of having a Balloon Compression surgery, which is long overdue. I finally made an appointment this week with a strongly recommended Nashville neurologist for next month to discuss this and other surgical options. Why Nashville? There’s only one group of neurosurgeons in Chattanooga and they’re idiots. I met with one last year for this same purpose. I told him my situation and he had never heard of TN Type 2. I was stunned. He didn’t know what it was. I explained it to him. He didn’t believe me. I had to provide documented proof. It’s his fucking field! I know it’s rare and only 5,000 people in the country have it, but if specialists in this field don’t even know of it, you’re pretty screwed. Indeed, I’ve been trying to find help elsewhere for sometime now. Last November, I went to Vanderbilt’s Neurology Headache Clinic. It was a waste of time. They didn’t do anything that my current, local neurologist wasn’t doing. I was turned down by the Mayo Clinic last month. I have no idea why. I’ve decided not to apply to Johns Hopkins. I don’t like their program. The Cleveland Clinic doesn’t even treat TN! Shit. What do you have to do? The one major, biggie surgery is called an MVD. It’s a brain surgery that involves cutting open the back of your skull, going in and rearranging the arteries around the trigeminal nerve and anything else that might be touching it and aggravating it, and if necessary, simply cutting it in half, which is a bit extreme. It used to take a long time to recover from, although that process and time length has really improved. It’s a risky surgery though. It used to be slightly lethal and some neurosurgeons were reluctant to do it. It still can be lethal. A little fewer than 0.05% of people (I think — could be a little wrong with that figure…) undergoing it die on the table. But most people consider it a worthwhile risk. Apparently, the more experienced the neurosurgeon, the better your chances of survival, so it’s in your best interest to find someone good. People travel all over the country to find someone good.

And why has my pain increased threefold? Well, over a year ago, I started getting extreme back pain out of nowhere. Since then I’ve been to my orthopedist and rheumatologist umpteen times, as well as physical therapy for six months, which did nothing at all. After getting all sorts of x-rays and other images and tests and whatnot, I found that I have severe curviture of the spine, spinal stenosis, massive amounts of osteo-arthitis throughout my entire body, worst of all in my hands and lower back, severe disc degeneration in my lower back, so much so that it’s bone on bone in the bottom of my spine and discs above that aren’t much better. I also have severe nerve damage in my lower back and a broken tailbone, as well as pain in my hips and legs stemming from my spinal and disc problems. I wrote a blog post about some of this not too long ago: CT Myleogram and Emergency Procedure. Additionally, about a year and a half ago, I started getting a new and different type of head pain. It was bilateral — TN is almost always unilateral — and felt different. It also wasn’t responsive to any of my procedures and not really to any of my medications, except occasionally to my narcotics. My then-new neurologist diagnosed me with three new head pain disorders: tension headaches, severe migraines, and cluster headaches. For those of you who don’t know what cluster headaches are, many scientists and doctors also feel that cluster headaches, like Trigeminal Neuralgia, are the most painful disorder known to mankind and they are also called “the suicide disease” by some. I don’t know how you reconcile the two, but in any case, I allegedly have both, so I’m totally screwed. However, my wife and I feel there’s a FIFTH undiagnosed, untreated head pain disorder that remains undiscovered that we’re really frustrated about that we feel my doctors aren’t really trying to find. Thus the desire to go out of town. The reason is, I’ve been given a ton of old and new, even experimental, migraine and headache medications and these headaches respond to absolutely none. Not one. They’re responded to no procedure. They’ve responded to nothing. At least the clusters often respond to TN treatments. So in our opinions, this can’t be a migraine. So what is it? So, Mom keeps asking when I’m going to have brain surgery. Like it’s nothing. Well, there are two reasons. First, Type 2s don’t respond nearly as well to any surgery, especially MVD. They just don’t and no one knows why. Second, even if I did respond well to an incredibly expensive, risky surgery and it eliminated my TN pain, I would still have my daily 10 level severe head pain and have to take my same pain medications and it would be pointless. Until this other head pain is diagnosed properly and treated, I see no point.

Surgeries. My back doctors are recommending back surgery to repair my nerve damage, a possible spinal fusion, surgery to remove my tailbone (which I refuse to have), and down the road, two probable hip replacement surgeries. Great. I already mentioned the balloon compression surgery for my head.

Get this. In the past three months, I’ve already had SEVEN minor surgical procedures! Seven. I’ve had four in the past three weeks alone. One was an emergency procedure for a procedure that went bad. I’ve had four procedures that have gone into my spine in the past two months. I can’t tell you how exhausted I am. I’m so tired out by all of these procedures, I don’t want to have another in a long damn time. But I probably will. That’s just how things work out.

I have Trigeminal Neuralgia Type 2. I have a shitload of other problems to contend with right now too. All seem and probably are serious. All are relatively debilitating in one form or another. I haven’t been able to work in over five years. I miss working in an office, doing something productive, interacting with co-workers. I miss having a social life. I feel badly that I can’t take Gretchen out on the town like I’d like to. I feel like I’m screwing her over badly. But she’s got a really good attitude and she’s incredibly supportive and I really couldn’t make it without her. She lets me talk and she listens. She offers input when I ask for it. She takes care of me. It’s damned nice of her. That’s true love. I’m very lucky to have her.

If you ever meet anyone with TN, I hope that this blog post will have helped you to understand their situation to a certain degree. I hope you will understand their feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. I hope you will be supportive. I hope you will say a kind word to them. Meanwhile, thanks for reading this, if you did. And have a good weekend.

 

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Minor Surgery on Monday

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 18, 2015

I’m having a minor neurological surgical procedure Monday morning to hopefully relieve some Trigeminal Neuralgia-related head and facial pain I’ve been having. This will be at least my eighth such procedure since summer 2011. Some have worked and some haven’t. I had three last year and none of them worked at all, but one I had in 2012 worked for nearly a year. However, no matter how successful this is, I don’t think it will help my overall pain level that much and that is frustrating. Let me explain.

For the past year, I have been in a great deal of pain. I have had Trigeminal Neuralgia Type 2 since September 2010, but it had improved with surgical procedures and medication. However, about a year or more ago, I started getting another type of head pain, a bizarre almost normal, but incredibly severe, headache that responded to virtually no pain medication whatsoever and attacked me at all hours of the day. Since I have severe insomnia and average about three hours of sleep a night, this meant I have been having 9-10 out of 10 pain levels 20-21 hours a day every day for a year or more. Combine that with the occasional and increasingly frequent TN facial attacks, which are 10/10 minimum, and it’s agonizing. To make matters worse, about 10 months ago, out of the blue, I developed agonizing back pain. It was also 9-10 out of 10 pain, daily, for nearly the whole day. I’ve had some back problems for the past three years, but they haven’t bothered me a great deal, at least not without some movement, and this was just from sitting or standing or doing nothing at all. It was bizarre. Nothing helped. So between the two to three types of pain — head, facial, and back, all 9-10 out of 10 — it’s been a damned brutal year. I went to my orthopaedist some time back and she took x-rays and looked again at my old MRI and sent me to physical therapy. I also went to a rheumatologist I had to wait seven months for an appointment for. She did extensive testing and took more x-rays and between the two of them, they informed me that I have spinal stenosis, which I knew, degenerative disk disease, which I also knew, massive amounts of osteo-arthritis throughout my entire body, and a broken tailbone, which explained the coccyx problems I had been having awhile ago. I was told I would need to have my tailbone removed via surgery, although three of my other doctors have strongly recommended I not do this, that I’ll probably have to have two hip replacement surgeries in the not too distant future and there’s also a decent chance I may have to have spinal fusion surgery. Great. After four months of physical therapy with virtually no progress and pain still at 9/10 out of 10, my doctor sent me back for four more months, which is where I’m at now. If PT doesn’t end up significantly reducing my pain, it’ll probably be surgery and I really am not looking forward to that.

Meanwhile, back to my head pain. I have been to several doctors, including my main doctor, my pain management specialist, a neurosurgeon, and a few neurologists in different cities and I have four head pain diagnoses. In addition to TN, these include tension headaches, severe migraine headaches, and cluster headaches. For those of you who don’t know, Trigeminal Neuralgia is extremely rare and extremely painful. I believe only about 40,000 Americans have it and only about 10,000 have Type 2, which I have. It’s hard to diagnose and harder to treat. It’s also considered by many to be the most painful disorder known to mankind. Look it up. The last time I looked at Wikipedia, it referred to it as “the suicide disease.” Likewise, the cluster headache is ALSO considered by many to be the most painful disorder known to mankind. I guess it depends on what your resource is. But look it up. So I’m essentially doubly cursed and basically screwed. And the thing is, I don’t think that’s all of it. I think there’s more that they’re missing. I know there are a number of rare neurological head pain disorders, many TN-related, which go undiagnosed, that could more realistically explain my head pain. Cause I’m possibly willing to believe cluster headaches and I know I have tension headaches, but I’m not willing to believe severe migraines are causing the kind of 21 hour a day daily head pain I’ve been having for a year, as the head pain isn’t consistent with typical migraine characteristics and responds to absolutely no migraine medications I’ve been given. None. So I think it’s something else. But my doctors are reluctant to go that route. One former neurologist thought I might have something called Pseudotumor Ceribri and I had to have a spinal tap to test it. I was very, very close but he decided I did not. My present, local neurologist is giving me Botox injection treatments, which is common and expensive, and next month may give me facial steroid injection treatments, but after that and one more Botox treatment, if I don’t respond, he too may send me for a lumbar puncture to see if it’s that. I don’t want that but am willing to undergo that again just to see.

In the meantime, on Monday I have to go back into the operating room. It won’t take long, maybe 45 minutes. A few hours in recovery. Outpatient, home by mid-afternoon. Unfortunately, my wife has to take a lot of time off from work since I obviously can’t drive myself due to the anesthesia. And it always takes a long time for it to wear off for me. Like a week. I will drag all week. That sucks. But hopefully it will help some, because lately I’ve had quite a few vicious TN attacks and that’s got to stop. Cause I’ve got to focus on getting rid of all of this other shit. Please wish me luck. I definitely need it.

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Rheumatologist Appointment

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 1, 2015

This week, I had an appointment with a rheumatologist. I had been waiting nearly SEVEN months for this appointment! I was not happy about having to wait so long. However, I was increasingly desperate and was hopeful this doctor could help me.

I’ve always had strong hands and have always been able to give long, strong massages my whole life. That stopped several years ago. I developed pain in my hands, particularly around my thumbs, that made it impossible for me to go on longer than just a few minutes. Furthermore, over the past two years, my hand/finger pain has gotten a lot worse. I can’t grip things. I can’t mow anymore. For one thing, I can’t grip the mower handle. For another, my orthopedist tells me I have arthritis in my hips and it hurts horribly to move more than 10 steps. So the past two years, I’ve hired a lawn care service to take care of our yard and our lawn mower has gone unattended. I feel guilty for this, but literally, the last many several times I attempted to mow our small yard, I had to stop many times to give my hands and hips a rest and it took quite awhile to get it done, and with quite some pain. I also have a hard time vacuuming. Not only does it hurt to grip the handle, but now it hurts my back too. Apparently, that’s because, as my orthopedist told me, I have arthritis is my spine too. I’m in physical therapy for it, but it’s not doing much good. My back hurts like crazy all the time. Additionally, I’m old fashioned. I like to write checks. I like a paper trail. So I pay a lot of bills the old fashioned way. I sit down to write seven or eight or nine checks for bills and after the first one or two, I have to stop for five minutes or so, because my hands and fingers hurt so much. And then after I write another check, I have to stop again, and so on. The point is, it’s pretty debilitating. So I wanted to go to a rheumatologist. A long time ago. And this is the earliest they could fit me in. I sure hoped they would be good.

My appointment was for 8 AM, but since they never mailed me my new patient paperwork to fill out, I had to show up early do fill it out there, so I got there at 7:15. My new doctor was named Dr. Braggs. I really didn’t know much about her. I was hoping she would be good. I haven’t always had the best luck with specialists here in Chattanooga. After I got the paperwork pretty much filled out, they called me back and put me in a room. They took down all my medications, which took a long time since I’m on so many, but eventually I was ready and then, to my surprise, I didn’t have to wait too long. Dr. Braggs came in my room quite soon and it was apparent she wasn’t a southerner just based on her accent alone. Also, she didn’t engage in idle chit chat, like all southerners do — which drives me nuts sometimes — and was very professional and businesslike. I appreciated that. And she was thorough! She asked me a number of questions, tons of them. All types of questions. She went over all my meds. She talked me to about pain meds and about my misuse of over the counter pain meds, including even Tylenol. She told me what I could and couldn’t take, how much, and why. She conducted a very comprehensive physical exam, including even taking my shoes and socks off and examining my feet, toes, and ankles. We were in the professional building of a huge hospital in town and she was able to call up all of the images the hospital system had of me dating back all the years I’ve been here. She looked them over and while admittedly, many of them weren’t recent, she was able to determine a number of things. She showed me what she was talking about on her computer while she talked about them, which was very helpful. Apparently, then, I have massive osteoarthritis spread throughout my entire body, mainly in my hands, entire spine, and hips. I knew the thoracic area of my spine had it, but I didn’t know my entire spine did. She also told me it’s likely I’ll need a couple of hip replacement surgeries in the not too distant future, which was quite depressing, although she encouraged me to do everything possible to hold that off for as long as possible. She sent me to have blood work done to see if I have gout or Lupus or anything like that and she sent me over to the hospital to have my hands x-rayed, since she actually didn’t have hand x-rays. She was pretty sure my hands were bad though, especially — and much to my surprise — virtually every knuckle she touched on both hands were very sensitive to her handling of them. It really was pretty uncomfortable.

Between the doctor’s office, the lab, and the radiology department, I was there for over three hours. She wrote me a prescription for a medication which hopefully will help with my back/joint pain, or something like it, and then told me to get three supplements I should start taking right away. She also told me I couldn’t take any more NSAIDs like Advil or Anaprox and had to limit my Tylenol intake to a maximum of six per day, but that for every Percocet I take for head and/or back pain, I had to subtract a Tylenol, so it’s tricky. She wants me to start swimming, although when I told her I can’t swim, she then said water aerobics. I’m to see her again in four months. That was Wednesday, I guess. On Friday, someone from her office called to let me know my blood work lab results came back showing I don’t have gout and most things looked fairly good and that my hand x-rays showed quite a bit of osteoarthritis, which didn’t really surprise me. So, I felt really good about her. I thought she was very competent and knowledgeable. I thought she was professional and appreciated the hours she spent with me. Even though the idea of a couple of hip replacements is depressing and scary, I was glad to come out of there with more knowledge and a better idea of what’s going on with me and what, if anything, can be done about it. And apparently, not too much can be done about osteoarthritis. It’s not curable, I learned. It’s somewhat manageable, and perhaps many of you already know that. I truthfully didn’t know much about this. In fact, until a couple of years ago, I thought arthritis was just an annoying little pain old people got in the fingers. Boy, was that stupid! Although the doctor did say I was awfully young to have so much osteoarthritis. Anyway, that’s my update. Glad I did it. This month, I have a lot of doctor’s appointments. The one I’m most excited about — and nervous about too — is at Vanderbuilt’s Neurology Headache Clinic in Nashville in a less than a couple of weeks. So far, my pain management specialist, neurologist, and neurosurgeon, among other doctors, have been unable to help me with my extreme head pain over the past year, so I’m going out of town to find help. I’m hoping a major research institution can do just that. I’m scared they won’t be able to identify the problem and fix it, though, and that’s a depressing thought. Still, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I hope everyone had a happy Halloween. Cheers!

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2014 in Review

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 31, 2014

At the end of the past two years, I believe, I’ve written about what took place during that year, so I’m doing so again. Here’s the synopsis, as best my memory can recollect.

In January, my mother celebrated her 84th birthday, so we spent a little time with her. The month was otherwise uneventful.

In February, we put our old house on the market and moved to our new house. We’re pretty grateful for the trade. Our old house was in what looked like a nice neighborhood, but it was actually nearly a ghetto. It was very loud and had a lot of crime. Now, we’re up on top of a mountain in a quiet neighborhood with no crime. We feel good about that.

February also saw the death of our beloved cat Toby. He was only six and it didn’t seem fair. He essentially died of kidney failure, although we sadly had to put him to sleep (which seems to me to be a pansy way of saying we killed him). We had him cremated and keep his ashes with my late cat Rocky’s ashes. We still miss Toby a lot.

We also got a membership to a good shooting range in February and have enjoyed that a lot.

March was pretty uneventful.

In April, I got a new car. I traded in my lemon BMW 530i for a 2011 Toyota Camry and couldn’t be happier. I found it on Autotrader at a dealer in Atlanta and went down there, beat someone else coming to buy it — barely — test drove it, and left with it to come home. It’s been a great car.

Sometime around April also saw the return of my head pain that I’ve had since 2010. I have trigeminal neuralgia, so I have to take a lot of pain pills and have had a number of procedures to try and combat it.

Additionally, Gretchen’s birthday is in April, so we went up to Baltimore to celebrate it with her friends and family. We had a very good time. It was great to see everyone and we got to go to an Orioles game, a museum, some good restaurants and even saw some friends in Virginia on the way.

Finally, we celebrated our one year anniversary in April. It was pretty low key, but we had a good time remembering our wedding and honeymoon to the beach the year before.

In May, I got a SCCY CPX-1 9 mm through an online auction site for a very good price and a Beretta PX4 Storm at a gun show. Neither gun has turned out to be my favorite — a Ruger SR9c is — but I was happy to have them. Meanwhile, Gretchen turned out to be a pro with our Marlin .22 rifle.

I believe it was May, too, when Mom moved from here back up to Knoxville, her old home. It was sad to see her go, but it was good for her to be back with her many friends and at her old church, which she had missed. She got a nice one level condo and is living on her own. We do worry about her though.

In June, we thought we had a buyer for our old house, finally. We had had to lower the price three times and it was going for practically nothing. We were about to take an $18,000 loss on it. However, the financing for this buyer fell through, so we were back at square one.

In June, I also had a disability hearing. It was my second time in court for it and I was denied for the fourth time. However, my lawyer appealed. And the judge left open the chance that he might rule in my favor if my orthopedist provided appropriate information.

July was the one year anniversary of my father’s death. That was very sad. We went to visit his gravestone in the cemetery where he’s buried in Knoxville. In July, I also had the first of three neurological procedures for my head pain. It didn’t really work, so that was disappointing.

We also had a new buyer for our old home in July. They were doing FHA financing though, so it would take awhile. They agreed to buy the house at very nearly the price we were asking. The closing was set for October.

I think August was pretty uneventful. I had been doing a lot of traveling back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville to help Mom out with things. That got old. We also started looking for a new church, even though I was on the vestry of our old church. It was simply too small and too old. We were the youngest people there and people were dying off and no one new was joining. It was a dying church. So we started going to other Episcopal churches, as well as Methodist and Presbyterian.

In September, I celebrated my 48th birthday and tried not to get too depressed.

During that month, I also had two more surgical procedures for my head pain, but neither helped. It was discouraging.

October came around and the financing for our house’s buyer fell through the day before the closing. We were livid and so were they. However, our realtor worked the phones and found a new lender within two days, so they were approved and a new closing was set for about two weeks away.

I also had my third court hearing for my disability. My lawyers prepared me for disappointment. They said everything would hinge on what the medical expert would say and they didn’t expect much. When the judge started questioning the expert, though, I was shocked to hear him say my back was too bad to work and that, combined with my trigeminal neuralgia and other assorted things, meant I couldn’t work at all. So the judge finally ruled in my favor and I got disability. I was shocked and elated, because I had been trying for this for over three years and now finally I got it.

During this time, my insomnia had gotten worse and I was consistently getting up between 2 and 3:30 AM, which was frustrating.

We did something pretty fun in October. For my birthday, Gretchen got me Penguins tickets to go see them play the Predators in Nashville. So we went up there, went to Bridgestone Arena, which was nice, and saw the Pens win 3-0. It was very fun and we had a great time. We also had a fantastic meal at a nearby restaurant before the game. Oh, and there were a ton of Pens fans there too!

October is also the month for Halloween. We never had kids come to our house at our old place, but we had about 25 kids come to our new house, so we were tickled about that.

In November, we traveled to Saint Simons Island GA, where I used to live, to go to the beach and take a nice vacation. The weather was still good and we had a nice time. We also went to Savannah and Jekyll Island. It was a great vacation.

In November, we also finally sold our old house and with the money I was able to pay off all of my old student loans, which was a sizable sum, so that was great. However, we discovered a water leak in the kitchen the day before the closing. The buyers still bought the home, but we went through a nightmare getting repairs to the floors and cabinets done while these people got impatient waiting to move in. I don’t blame them, but they drove me nuts.

Additionally, we had a new addition to the family this month. Ace, a three month old tabby cat, joined, per Gretchen’s strong wishes. He’s a bundle of energy, but he’s been fun.

This month, in December, I finally got my disability award letter and a lump sum for my back pay. I also got my Medicare card, even though I’m retaining my Obamacare insurance cause it’s frankly better.

We also found a new church we’re joining next week. It’s Rivermont Presbyterian Church, which is a UPUSA church. It’s bigger with more people of all ages and has a number of Sunday Schools to attend, so we’re excited.

We celebrated Christmas last week and had a great holiday season. We sent and got a lot of cards and exchanged some great gifts and had a good time. Of course it’s also bowl month, so that’s good.

In sports, my Steelers have made the playoffs, so I have big hopes for them. My Pirates made the playoffs for the second year in a row, but didn’t get anywhere. There’s always next year, right? My Penguins made the playoffs, but got bounced out in the second round by the Rangers, so that was disappointing. They’re playing now and even though they have a TON of injuries, they’re still having a good season. Meanwhile my Vols made a bowl game for the first time in four years and they’ll be playing Iowa on January 2. I’m hoping for a win.

So, it was an up and down year. I still have head pain. I still have insomnia. Gretchen was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and lupus. That’s bad. But we got a new house, a new car, paid off my student loans, and I got disability, so that’s all good. We’re hoping for a great 2015 and we hope all of you have a great 2015 too. Cheers!

 

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A Follow Up

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 9, 2014

Well, I had my surgery yesterday. It was my third in the last four months. I guess it went okay. Although it’s taking awhile for me to recover. I’ve gotten really woozy, very dizzy, and have had a sore jaw and a real headache — very bad — ever since waking from the anesthesia. At least this time, the anesthesia worked. I don’t have high hopes for this, although my wife does, but who knows? It might work out. It might help my pain. I sure hope so.

As a follow up to my last post about our old house, it was a disaster! I wrote about the flooring specialist and said it can’t be too bad. I was wrong. He came in with a meter of some sort and found the kitchen floor and the eating area off the kitchen saturated. Then he found the hardwood floors in the dining and living rooms also saturated! I didn’t believe him. Then he went to the giant den, which had no water exposure, and claimed it too was saturated and I basically called him a liar to his face. But what could I do? I’m no expert. He climbed under the crawl space and took pictures, which told me nothing. And he recommended tearing up the kitchen and kitchen area floor and wood beneath it and replacing it, somehow drying out the hardwood floors (thank God we don’t have to rip those us!), and tearing up the carpet and carpet pad in the den and replacing them. Oh, he also insists we have to replace the cabinetry in the kitchen. Excuse me, but WTF???!!! The closing was that very day. What the hell were we supposed to do? I called regarding homeowners insurance to get the ball rolling on that while my realtor called the buyers’ realtor to explain the situation and see if they wanted to once again delay the closing or still go ahead with it. And to our relief, they still wanted to do it that day. Thank God! So, we set this flooring a**hole up with State Farm, who has been giving me nothing but grief ever since and things seem to be progressing. We went to the closing and met the buyers. They are from Haiti and seemed very nice. I hope they like living there. It was explained to them that the floor repairs could take anywhere from one to five weeks, and they seemed okay with that. Whew! We got a whole lot less than we should have gotten for it, a whole lot less than what we paid for it, a whole lot less than what we originally listed it for, but after having been on the market for so long, we were just glad to be rid of it. And guess what I did the following day? With some of the proceeds of the sale, I was able to pay of the entirety of my student loans! I’ve been paying on those for YEARS and still had many years and tens of thousands to go. What a relief to have that off my shoulders. The rest of the money went to my mother. Many thanks to her.

Meanwhile, Gretchen had a big doctor’s appointment on Tuesday and was diagnosed with probable fibromyalgia and possible lupus. She’s now taking medication for lupus and I don’t really know what they’re going to do about the fibromyalgia. Still, after searching for answers for a very long time, it’s good to finally know.

I guess that’s it for now. Isn’t that enough? Some good, some bad. Could be worse. I hope I recuperate fully soon, because I’m sick of feeling poorly. I hope this eliminates, or at least diminishes, my head pain. At least for a good, long while. Cheers!

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Miserable Week

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 1, 2014

It’s been a pretty tough week, although I’m going to start with last Friday night.

Last Friday night, at 10 PM before we went to bed, I opened the freezer door and discovered the entire thing was melted. We have a huge ice tray and it was full to the brim with melted ice — water — and water was everywhere, including leaking down into the fridge and down the fridge onto the floor beneath. We weren’t sure what to do. I’d never faced this before. I poured out the water and we mopped up the floor. We turned the temperature all the way up and hoped for the best. We thought about calling someone, but didn’t want to wait up til 1 AM for someone to arrive and til 3 for them to finish, so we left it til the morning.

In the morning, we checked and everything in the freezer had frozen over. Apparently, more water had leaked out, but then it all froze up and everything was iced over in the freezer. But at least it had stopped leaking. At 7:45 AM, I called an appliance repair place. They said they’d get here sometime in the morning. This was important, because we were expecting our friends, Chris and Stephanie and their two daughters, from out of state for a visit at lunchtime, so we wanted to get this out of the way. Well, 10 rolled around and then 10:30. I called for a status update. I was told it’d be a half hour. At 11:30 I called to tell them to cancel it and do it some other time, only to be told they were down the road and on their way. So “Serg” got here, looked at it for two minutes, and told us we needed a new ice maker and another part to the tune of $410. Yep. I wanted a working ice maker and didn’t want to go buy a new fridge, so I agreed and we arranged for someone to come this morning to install it. I had to pay half as a deposit that day, which I did.

The gang then arrived and we ate. They headed to a tourist attraction called Ruby Falls before we met them at the Tennessee Aquarium, which was really cool. Then we ate at a local restaurant called Food Works, which was really nice. Good times.

Sunday was pretty laid back, except I had to deal with the Steelers and the Pirates both losing, the day after the Vols lost. That sucked.

Monday I had an appointment with my pain management doctor. It was a follow up to my surgery of two weeks ago. The results have been disappointing and I’ve had significant pain every day for the past 10 days, so we scheduled yet another surgery for October 8th. This will be my third in four months. It’s getting old and it’s kind of depressing. I also don’t think it’s going to help. I have Trigeminal Neuralgia and most the the pain I’ve been getting has not been that type, so I fail to see how these surgeries will help me.

Then yesterday, just as I was getting ready to take a nap, since I had been up since 2 AM — I have bad insomnia — I got a call from the appliance repair place. They said they were on their way. I said they weren’t scheduled until today and they said I was scheduled yesterday. We argued back and forth before I gave in and said just come. They said they’d be there in under an hour. An hour and a half later, they hadn’t shown, so I called and they said they were just leaving a town about a half hour away. Then, 15 minutes later, they called and said they got the wrong part, could they come by late in the day. I told them, no, come by today at the scheduled time. Geez!

This morning I got a call from them telling me my part was on back order and that it’d be tomorrow. Then later I get a call telling me they have the part and that they’ll be in late tonight. Not this morning, as scheduled. By this time, my wife is livid and I’ve lost all confidence in these inept fools. Gretchen wanted me to cancel our appointment with them and I agreed, so I did, with no argument from the girl who answered the phone. Twenty minutes later, some idiot called to tell me he was on his way to my house with the parts.  I told him I had cancelled and he wanted to know why. I tried to explain, but he kept interrupting me and argued with me for five minutes about why I should not cancel.

Meanwhile, I had called the owner to request a refund and had left a voicemail. I took my nap. When I got up, I had numerous messages. One was from our realtor.  Our house we’re selling tomorrow had a bad leak in the kitchen under the sink and the floor was flooded! Damn! If it’s not one thing, it’s another. I called around to try and find a plumber, found one who could get right out there and called the realtor back, who had to be there to let him in, since I no longer have a key. Then another message was from the owner, insisting there had been a mixup and that I give him a chance and he guarantees he’ll do a great job and I’ll be fully satisfied. While I’m texting the realtor, the owner calls. I tell him to call me back in half an hour. I text my wife. We tentatively and a little grudgingly decide to give him a chance. He arrives at my house just as my realtor calls to tell me the plumber fixed the problem and the floors had been cleaned up, and the buyers had done their final walkthrough, but they found a problem with a part of the kitchen floor that they thought was soft that they want addressed, so I had to scramble to find a flooring expert to go over there to look at it. Gretchen found him for me. I just got a text from my realtor that they’re both going to be at the house first thing in the morning and I need to be there too. I hope nothing serious is wrong. The closing has to go through. There have already been two screwups. We can’t afford a third! Meanwhile, the appliance guy got the new ice maker in, but it’s not making ice. I’m hoping it just takes awhile. Does anyone know how long it takes before a new one starts working? I’m really stressed. Klonopin, take me away! At least, hopefully tomorrow we’ll sell our old house and get that out of our hair. It’s been a nightmare to get rid of and I can’t wait. Hopefully this floor situation won’t be too bad and hopefully the ice maker will start working. Surely this week can only get better, right?

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Surgery, Birthdays, Etc.

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 17, 2014

I had another surgery on Monday. A little neurological thing (two actually) called a Gasserian Ganglion Block and a Radiofrequency Ablation. I’ve had them before, so no biggie, right? Wrong. They couldn’t knock me out! The anesthesia wouldn’t work. I laid there for 15 minutes with the anesthesiologist telling me to breathe deeply the whole time and nothing happened. Finally they said that I would have to go through this procedure awake. This procedure involves putting a hole in my face, inserting a long needle, finding a socket in my skull where a tendril of my trigeminal nerve (the biggest nerve in your brain) resides, and then burning the shit out of it. I’m not staying awake for that! Finally the surgeon came in and they asked him and he said under no circumstances was I to be awake — I was to be asleep for the duration. So, it took another five minutes, but I finally went under. And woke up awhile later, good as new. It always takes me a long time for the anesthesia to wear off, so I’m woozy for a few days and tired, but I’m glad to be done with it. I had another one done at the end of July. These are done because I have Trigeminal Neuralgia, an incredibly rare and very painful disease impacting the face. Not much can be done about it. You have to live on Percocets and hope for the best. It gets old. Hopefully these surgeries will help diminish the pain for awhile. How long? Who knows? I’ve had them last as little as 18 days and as long as several months. Someone asked me once why I don’t just get them done every month, but the easy answer to that is they’re not free. They cost thousands and even though insurance covers a good part of that, I still have to pay a chunk and I can’t afford unlimited procedures.

Meanwhile, this coming Friday is my birthday. Normally I’m a little depressed about it, but this year, I’m actually slightly excited — and I don’t know why! Maybe it’s cause it’s not a milestone birthday. My wife is making me a requested lasagna dinner and the next day, we’re going up to Knoxville to hang out with Mom. Apparently I’m getting a couple of presents too.

On a side note, we’ve been trying to sell our old house since February. The first buyer’s credit fell through. We got a second buyer though and things looked good. The house has been off the market the past two months as we headed towards closing — or so we thought. Closing was to have been last Thursday, but Wednesday night, the buyer’s lender said they had to delay it — they were still working through some things. Finally, today, they denied the buyer their preapproved loan. Why? Cause they’re foreigners and they don’t lend money to certain foreigners. WTF??? If that’s the case, why couldn’t they have figured this out in Week 1 and saved us all the hassle??? Why drag us all through this? Now, we’re back at square one and who knows when we’re going to sell this damn house. It’s a real nightmare. I had already turned off all the utilities, so today, I had to turn them back on again, and the gas company charged me a $225 nonrefundable deposit, even though I just terminated my account with them last week and was never late on a bill. Bastards. What a nightmare.

In the meantime, I’ve been sick and I’ve given it to my wife. Nothing too serious, hopefully, but enough to be aggravating. Speaking of the wife, she wants a new cat. The problem is, we don’t know how our current cat, Henry, would get along with one. He’s very territorial. I’d hate to get one and then have to return him a few weeks later. That wouldn’t be good. Not sure what to do. We do miss Toby though and the thought of getting a new cat is attractive….

I guess that’s all for today. Cheers!

 

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Random Stuff

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 6, 2014

Hi. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last wrote here! I just feel like I have nothing of value to say. I’ve also been feeling very unmotivated lately too and I’m not sure why.

Well, what’s going on in my life? I’m having another minor neurological  surgery a week from Monday. Hopefully it will help my pain. After my last one in July, it helped on one side of my head, but pain exploded on the other side of my head, so here’s hoping this will clear things up, at least for awhile. TN sucks. I also have a birthday coming up soon. I’m going to be OLD! I’m trying not to be too depressed about it. My youngest step-son is celebrating his 21st birthday this Monday, so that’s cool. Additionally, you know how we’ve had our old house on the market for months? And we’ve had to keep coming down in price? Well, we’re finally selling it — at a loss, which irritates the hell out of me — and the closing is next Thursday. And we’re going to use part of the proceeds of that to pay of all of my student loans, which will be a real load off my mind. Seems like I’ve been paying on those things forever and I still had about 15 more years to go! It’ll be good to get rid of them.

Do you remember our beloved cat, Toby? The one we had to have put to sleep the week we moved in February due to kidney failure? Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. I really miss him so very, very much. I never thought I’d miss him this much. I find myself crying at the most insipid thing, thinking about him. We’ve talked about getting another cat, but the remaining cat, Henry, is very territorial and barely put up with Toby and we’re not certain he’d do well with another cat. We think he likes being an only cat. My wife also wants us to get a dog, perhaps a beagle. That’s something else altogether. That’s a lot of responsibility. Sure, they bring a lot of joy to the house, but we take trips up to Knoxville to visit Mom and what would we do then? We don’t know anyone who could come care for the dog. I just don’t know….

I’m all excited about sports these days. My Pirates are tanking, of late, but are still in position to get into the playoffs if they could just go on a winning streak. My UT Vols just won their second game of the year today and have looked pretty good so far. Much better than the past few years. So far, we’re 2-0, but next up we travel to #4 Oklahoma, so that will be a real test of how good or not good we are. The Steelers finally start their regular season against the Browns this weekend. I’ve been looking forward to this season for months, thinking we had drastically improved the team, but our preseason was so damn dismal, that I’m already depressed thinking about the upcoming season. Finally, hockey season starts in a little over 30 days and I’m anxious to see how the new look Penguins do this year. It’s all very exciting!

I’m still poetry editor for Ray’s Road Review, but I haven’t been motivated lately and I’ve been completely overwhelmed by submissions. They come in all the time. I always seem to have dozens and dozens of them and I’m always behind in reading them. Most of them aren’t very good, but some are fairly decent and those are hard to make decisions about. It’s rare that you get one where you know immediately it’s good enough for publication.

My mom is doing kind of okay on her own. She’s going to her doctor practically every week, with what I think are imagined problems. She’s scared of everything, has severe anxiety problems, and depression as well. She wants to see us every weekend, but that’s not possible. We went up a week or two ago and went to the Knoxville Zoo with her, where we all had fun. It was hot though. She wants us to take a vacation with her, but we don’t know about that. She can be a very trying person and the notion of spending a whole week with her is daunting, to say the least. But I’m proud of her for doing so much on her own with Dad gone now. She’s holding up, so that’s good.

Last weekend, I went to a local gun show. I took my S&W Bodyguard to sell and sold it in less than five minutes after my arrival. And I went looking for a specific gun — a Sig Sauer P938 subcompact 9 mm. And found a few. And got one. But because of arm problems, for which I’ve been undergoing physical therapy for the past few months, I have yet to fire it. It’s killing me too! I’m going to fire it at the shooting range next weekend if it kills me!  Or my arm, I guess. It looks and feels very good. I hope it’ll be everything it promises to be.

I guess that’s it for now. Thanks for putting up with my rambling. More book reviews are on the way. Cheers!

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Snippets of 2013

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 5, 2014

Last December 31st, I wrote an End of the Year Post where I wrote about highlights (and lowlights) of each month. In fact, I did so for the previous year as well. Well, obviously I didn’t this year. However, I thought I’d take some time to write a few snippets about some things that happened in 2013.

In April, Gretchen and I got married. We had a lovely wedding and an awesome reception attended by a number of close friends and family members. Then we headed for the beach at Gulf Shores, AL, where we had a blast. The weather was perfect, we did a lot of fun things, went over to Pensacola FL for a day trip, and returned home feeling good.

However, on July 28, my father died while mowing my grass, completely unexpectedly. I was at a meeting and had returned home just in time to hear him stop mowing. Minutes later he was on the ground moaning, and as Mom and I tried to give him CPR, he died. Ten minutes after we were at the hospital, the doctor came in with the bad news. It was devastating.

Three days later, our house was broken into while Gretchen was at work and I was on my way home from Knoxville with Mom. These thugs had kicked in our wooden front door and took our big screen tv and my iMac. We felt very victimized and we couldn’t get anyone to come replace the door, so I sat up all night watching the door with my Glock to make sure we weren’t invaded. The next day, we had a metal door installed. Days later, we had an alarm system installed. We felt a lot safer, but not completely safe.

On August 8th, Dad’s funeral was held in Knoxville TN. About 1,000 people attended. I spoke, as did two others. Afterwards, Gretchen, Mom, and I had to stand in a receiving line for about four hours as everyone tried to speak with us. Many of my friends came, even from as far away as Nashville and Virginia, and I didn’t really get a chance to talk to them because we were crushed with people. Family came from all over and that was nice. Sad circumstances, but good to see them.

I spent much of August and September traveling back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville with Mom to deal with funeral directors, pastors, financial advisers, lawyers, insurance professionals, and more. Mom has gotten increasingly flustered over the course of the year and relies on me a lot for things that Dad used to do for her, which truthfully doesn’t make me entirely comfortable. But she’s old and lonely and needs help, and I’m the only one there for her, along with Gretchen.

On a different note, I  had only two very minor surgical procedures last year — one in October and one in December, both on my back. I don’t think they’ve helped and am looking at major surgery or living in constant pain. Neither option seems good.

In sports, my Penguins nearly made the Stanley Cup last year and are doing well this year, while my Steelers recovered from a horrible start to nearly make the playoffs. The Pirates did make the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, and the Vols football team had a rough year, but with a new coach and decent recruits, so I have high hopes for the future.

A few months ago, Gretchen joined the bell choir at church, and last month, I was voted onto the Vestry. I am to be installed today. It’s a weighty responsibility and I hope I do well.

A few weeks ago, there was a shooting with a fatality at our only local grocery store about a half mile from us. And there is so much crime in this neighborhood that even though we love this house, we’re looking for a new one in a crime free neighborhood, probably closer to Mom — although she’s thinking about moving back to Knoxville. We have found three good houses so far, with one being on top, so now we have to seriously clean our house and pick it up before we can put it on the market. The main problem is even though we live in a nice middle class neighborhood, the general area isn’t too good and there’s so much crime, that property prices are severely deflated and we’re not bound to get very much for this awesome house and will have to pay a lot more for the next one. That blows.

On an unrelated note, after two months of trying, we were finally able to sign up for Obamacare last month! We’re getting a great deal with Blue Cross with a $1,000 deductible for the both of us and a subsidy, making our payment only $35 a month! That’s sweet. Last week, I paid our first premium. Gretchen’s been without health insurance for over a year and desperately needs to see a doctor, and I’ve been on COBRA, which is about to run out, so we have high hopes for this. The only hitch is that it doesn’t cover all of my meds, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that, but hopefully something will work out.

Finally, on New Year’s Eve, we spent the evening and the night on the Delta Queen riverboat hotel, celebrating with a bunch of people we didn’t know, listening to a covers band that ranged from horrible to decent, depending on the song. We had champagne and kissed at midnight, and we had a good time, although our cabin room was tiny. Heh.

I guess that about covers it. Hopefully 2014 will be a good year. 2010, 2011, and 2012 were horrible years for me, while 2013 was mixed, so I’m hoping 2014 will be the best of the bunch. Cheers!

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An End of the Year Post — 2012

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 31, 2012

Last December 31st, I wrote an End of the Year Post where I wrote about highlights (and lowlights) of each month. I don’t know that I’m going to do that this year, but I’m going to try to list some of the same types of things for 2012.

In January, I was still recovering from a major December surgery — a sigmoid colectomy. They took out 25% of my colon. They also took out my appendix while they were inside me. It took me a full 10 weeks to recover from that surgery. January was a month spent resting and recovering. My mother had her birthday and we celebrated. She’s getting fairly old though and that’s a little depressing. My father celebrated his birthday in February. He and Mom are in fairly good health considering their ages. In February, my then-girlfriend and I traveled to Maryland to visit her family. It was a good visit. We saw 18 cops in Virginia on the way up and 18 on the way back. All but one had a car or truck pulled over.

In April, my girlfriend celebrated her birthday. She looks 10 years younger than she is. She’ll age most gracefully.  🙂 April also saw a new issue of Ray’s Road Review come out. It’s the online literary magazine for which I’m the poetry editor. Another issue came out in June.

We found a little Episcopalian church near us in May and started attending. We like it infinitely better than the Presbyterian one we had occasionally attended before. The music was better, the sermons were better (non-politicized), and the people were very friendly. We felt accepted right away.

On Independence Day, in July, I proposed to my girlfriend and she said yes! We’re getting married April 6th, 2013. On July 10th, we went to see one of Gretchen’s favorite bands — Crosby, Stills, and Nash. They can still rock it. Good show.

In August, I had to have another surgery, a neurological one to treat the pain caused by my Trigeminal Neuralgia. It worked for three weeks. Additionally, we were supposed to go to Knoxville to see Van Halen and we were pumped, but VH cancelled all of their shows and that really ticked us off. Very disappointing.

I had a birthday in September and tried not to be too depressed about it. That month, we were also undergoing pre-marital counseling. We want to get married in the little church we attend. Additionally, I was able to go see my longtime favorite musical group, Dead Can Dance, in Atlanta with my friend, Chris. We got second row, middle seats, and it was awesome. This tour was to support their first studio album since 1996, and it’s quite good. I wrote about the concert here and posted many pictures.

In October, I had to have two more neurological surgeries — one to anesthetize the Trigeminal nerve in my brain, and the other to literally burn it. These were my seventh and eighth surgeries since December, 2010. It’s gotten quite old. Another issue of RRR came out that month too. Meanwhile, Halloween 2011 had been a bust for us. We only got six kids, so this year we didn’t get nearly the candy we got last year and we didn’t even carve a pumpkin. And how many kids did we get? None! That’s right — not one. What the hell are all the kids doing for Halloween??? We live in a decent residential neighborhood. It’s not right.

November was pretty quiet, but the pain caused by my TN had been tempered by the surgeries, so that was good. Of course, Obama was re-elected and we celebrated our not having to move to Toronto if Romney won. LOL! Seriously, we were relieved and elated.

In December, Gretchen and I celebrated our second anniversary together. It was a more quiet affair this year than last, but it was still great to reflect on our past year together. In addition, another issue of RRR was published. I also had a job interview here that went great and I was told by the recruiter that I was one of two finalists for the position. I just had to undergo a second phone interview. I did and it was a complete disaster, which I wrote about. I’ve been looking for work for a little while now, so that was depressing. I think the person interviewing me thought I was interviewing for a different job, because he asked nothing about the position and all questions were about other stuff.  Of course we just celebrated Christmas, and it too was low key for us, but I was able to give Gretchen several Baltimore Ravens apparel items and some books while she got me a cool DVD, a Journey t-shirt and a Steelers stuffed bear. I’ve named him Beardy the Bear (I think) after Steelers defensive lineman Brett Kiesel. I’m still considering naming him Heath, after tight end Heath Miller, a Pro Bowler who’s had a great year.

All in all, it was a tough year for us health-wise (but better than 2011) and financially, but we grew closer together and bonded more with our respective families, so that was great. 2013 looks to have some challenges to it (I need a job!), but I think and hope we’ll have a good year and I’m looking forward to it. I’m especially looking forward to our April wedding. So, I wish everyone reading this a happy New Year and I hope that 2013 treats us all well. Cheers!

____________________________________________________

Oh, I forgot to mention the death of my favorite aunt — Aunt Katherine — late in 2012. We all traveled to Winston-Salem, NC for the memorial service. There I was reunited with several great cousins and even met some new ones I’d never met before. That was awesome. On the way back, we stopped in Asheville to visit my old friend, Ami. It was wonderful to see her again.

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My Preconceived Life

trying to add another person to the planet

Drunken Dragon Reviews

A Fantasy Blog Gone Horribly Wrong.

Lynette Noni

Embrace The Wonder

Chapter TK

Question Everything

Megan Has OCD

About Mental Health, Daily Struggles, and Whatever Else Pops in My Head