Thursday, August 27, 2009

Feeling a Little Mortal?

Several weeks ago I began noticing, for want of a better term, a bit of pressure in my forehead, no pain, just a kind of pressure. I also noticed that along with the pressure came fleeting bouts of a kind of dizziness. If I turned my head quickly, it was like the scene before me kept moving a split second or so after my head stopped. I found that not just a little disconcerting.

These bouts have persisted and become somewhat more pronounced over the past few weeks. The pressure comes and goes, but often lasting a couple of hours or more, usually early in the day. These bouts make me tired, and all I want to do is lie down. Needless to say, this has been really disturbing. I kept my own council about this as the family - my wife, Jo and both of our kids - have enough problems to deal with without worrying about the old man.

About ten days ago I finally got in to see my doctor at the VA, and I apprised her of what had been happening. I'll take this moment to give kudos to both the VA and my primary care doctor out there, Dr. Rashida Shah. Dr. Shah didn't hem and haw, didn't hesitate. My visit with her was on a Friday. I had an MRI done the following Tuesday morning. Not bad.

I hadn't heard anything for a couple of days after the MRI, so I called the VA last Thursday and was first told that they didn't have the results. (The MRI had been outsourced.) However, within an hour, Dr. Shah called me back with the news that the MRI results indicated a "spot" on my frontal lobe. Not the news I was hoping to hear. The written report did say that it was not definitive and could in fact be an anomaly. Maybe I belched at the wrong moment, or, uh, something.

Nevertheless, Dr. Shah ordered yet another MRI, only this time using "contrast." Friday afternoon I was back getting my head examined magnetically once again. Last week-end was one of the longer ones I have ever spent. I didn't actually get the results until yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon when, again, I called the VA. I got the same song and dance that the results were not back yet, but again, Dr. Shah called me soon after, and in her words "you have absolutely nothing going on in your head."

Well, that's been suggested to me on many occasions - more than I would like to admit - but this was one time that I was glad to hear it. There are no masses, no lesions, no aneurysms, no "spots." The first reading was apparently a hiccup. Woohoo! Relief was just a phone call away. Of course, that still leaves me with this pressure, the dizziness, and the tiredness. What now?

Dr. Shah thinks that it might be a sinus problem. She has prescribed some kind of steriod nasal spray. She has also ordered an appointment for me with an opthalmologist to see if it could be something with my eyes. I hope to figure out what the hell is going on soon.

As the title of this piece suggests, I have been feeling quite mortal over the past few weeks. Brain thingys are not to be sneezed at; just ask the surviving Kennedys. My wife, Jo's oldest cousin succumbed to a brain tumor in about 6 months from diagnosis. She was in her mid 40s. So, too, did a fellow about my age who lived down the street from us a couple of years ago.

Of course, when I had been set up with the first MRI, I told Jo all about it. As of this writing, all my kids know is that I haven't been feeling well, and I'd been to the doctor. I know I'm not out of the woods yet. I suppose that the MRIs could have missed something. But, at least the reported results made feel less like I have one foot in the grave. I had about convinced myself that I did.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More Cosmos

Just a few more Cosmos. A little closer this time.


All god's chillin got Cosmos! You got your white, you got your purple, you got your orange, and if you look close in the bottom photo, you got your pink.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Sky is Falling!

Early Wednesday morning I was having trouble sleeping, which is unfortunately all too normal for me. Sometime after 3 AM I decided, what the hell, I'm going outside to check out the Perseid meteor shower. I slipped on a jacket and put on my old grass-cutting shoes and headed out into the darkness.

Well, it wasn't quite "dark." Unfortunately, high in the eastern sky was a nearly full moon which tends to wash out the view of most of the stars or anything else that one might care to see in the night sky, including meteors. Also, we live on the suburban south side of Indianapolis. While we are some five miles from downtown, there remains a great deal of ambient light from numerous sources which has the effect of washing out the sky even more.

Undaunted, I got a lawn chair and moved around to find a spot affording the broadest view of the sky while blocking out the moon as much as possible. So oriented, I sat watching for nearly half an hour, spotting nothing meteoric.

My first experience with the Perseids goes back to the mid-1960s (yeah, I'm kind of an old fart) on a clear, moonless night, spooning with a young lady out in northern Minnesota lake country in my dad's black and canary yellow 1965 Pontiac Bonneville (it was pretty cool, by the way). I didn't know of such things – meteors, that is. We stopped our "spoonin'" and watched amazed as literally dozens of the damn things whisked across the pitch-black sky. Hell, I thought we were being invaded. "War of the Worlds!"

Since that wondrous night, I have tried numerous times to catch more such glimpses of the Perseids and a number of the other yearly meteor showers with generally disappointing results. Oft times an overcast sky obviated even the possibility.

A few years ago local weather forecasters predicted that that particular year's Perseid shower would likely be the best in many a year – that at its peak, one might see as many as a thousand or more meteors every minute! Well, maybe not a thousand. More like three or four, but still... There was to be no moon.

I was ready, by God! I put on sweatpants and a sweatshirt, and brought a light blanket and a thermos of fresh coffee, as it was a rather uncharacteristically chilly and damp night for mid-August. I grabbed a lawn chair from the patio and, following the weather forecaster's instructions, set it up facing east and slightly to the north. I was comfortably ensconsed by about 1 AM - primed for checking out prodigious hordes of meteorites, or shooting stars, or "St. Lawrence's tears" as some refer to them.

I sat there for over an hour. Nothing. Nada. I then remembered the weather prognosticators had said that viewing would likely be best at around four to five AM. I was frustrated, but not defeated. Anyhow, I needed to pee. So, I went back inside, tinkled, then hunkered down in bed and caught a few Z's. I actually managed to wake up a little before five. Groggy, and somewhat less eager, I nevertheless toddled back outside and retook my seat, adjusting it to enable a view more directly overhead and to the west as per those afore-mentioned instructions.

There I sat. By a little before six dawn was definitely creeping up on the eastern horizon. The western sky remained dark, but, once again, nothing. Not one goddamn meteor! What a crock! The next evening's weather segments included ardent testimonials of those who had spent a glorious night being dazzled by literally dozens – nay, hundreds – of fantastic streaking meteors, a veritable light show. What the hell?! Were they watching the same sky I was?

Well, I digress. It appeared that my experience this time round was destined to mirror that of a few years ago. But, after a hapless half hour or so, and having shifted my position a number of times, I suddenly caught sight of a white streak directly overhead. Yippee! Then, just a few seconds later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw another, then one more. Holy Comet Tails, Batman! I moved my chair out further from the house, sat down and leaned back. Over the next fifteen minutes or so, I was treated to about a dozen more fiery streaks through the night sky. None of them was particularly dramatic or unusually spectacular. But they did make me smile.