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Category Archives: Health

Merle Haggard: From Prison to Country Music Hall of Fame

 

 

Merle Ronald Haggard was born on April 6, 1937 in Oildale, California. Merle’s parents James Francis and Flossie Mae Haggard had moved from Oklahoma three years earlier, when their barn burned during the Great Depression in 1934.

The album pictured above is one of the first Merle Haggard albums in my LP record collection.

Haggard lived out a lot of the songs he wrote and sang. He was a very prolific writer and wrote most of his major hits alone, but did collaborate on a few like Okie From Muskogee.

He grew up in a refrigerated box car, that had been converted into a house and was raised there, after being born in Kern General Hospital in Bakersfield, California according to his biography.

Left Home At Eleven

It was a jolt for Haggard when his father died, when he was only nine years old. Two years later he left home. His mother sent him to live with his great-uncle and great-aunt in Modesto, California.

He said that he really was 21 and in prison, but the part about life without parole was only used to fill out the line.

Haggard was not the kind to stay in one place long and talked two girls into hopping a freight train, that was headed to Los Angeles. They only had $5 so he bought what food he could to feed himself and the two girls.

Then they left the train and he stole a car by hot wiring it. Only problem was that the car traveled only five miles, before running out of gas, so they had to start walking. However, they were soon picked up by policeman in a squad car and Haggard refused to give his name, but the girls gave their names.

Ironically, when all three returned home they were kept from attending school, for three days by their parents.

Merle and some of his friends attempted a burglary of a Bakersfield bar in 1957 and he was meted out a sentence from six months to 15 years. At first he was a real troublemaker in prison, by being very uncooperative. This landed him in solitary for his 21st birthday. His time in solitary gave him the time he needed to get his act together and afterward he was a model prisoner. He was paroled at the age of 23 and then began his road to being a country music star. Governor Ronald Reagan would later give Haggard a full pardon.

A more recent photo of Merle Haggard.

Merle Haggard’s Music

His first Top 10 song would be (My Friends Are Going to Be (Strangers) in 1964, which went to #10 and is one of my favorite Merle Haggard songs. His first #1 hit was I’m A Lonesome Fugitive” in 1966. That would begin a string of 38 #1 hits from 1966-1987.

Even the great George Jones only had 14 #1 hits, so Haggard having 24 more songs reach the #1 spot tells me, that Haggard was even more popular than I had thought.

Surprisingly Swinging Doors, one of his biggest hits only climbed to #5 on the country music charts.

Branded Man would be his second #1 hit in 1967. He had too many #1 hits in his career, to mention all of them individually, but some of my personal favorites were Sing Me Back Home, Mama Tried, Mama’s Hungry Eyes, Workin’ Man Blues, Okie From Muskogee, Fightin’ Side of Me, If We Make It Through December, Big City (a song I never get tired of) and his last #1 hit Twinkle, Twinkle, Lucky Star.

His discography can be seen at this web page and when you scroll down to his list of singles, then you can see how successful he was during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s in particular.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merle_Haggard_discography

 

Personal Life

His personal life was not an easy one with four marriages, that lasted from 1956-1991. His second wife was country singer Bonnie Owens ex-wife of Buck Owens and she was a maid of honor, when he married his third wife. Haggard married another country Leona Williams in 1978 and they were divorced in 1983. He married Theresa Ann Lane on September 11, 1993 and they are still married 21 years later.

Haggard started smoking marijuana at the age of 41 and admitted buying $2,000 worth of cocaine in 1983. Part of his lung was removed in November of 2008, after he was discovered to have lung cancer.

Entered Country Music Hall of Fame

Twenty eight years after his first #1 hit I’m A Lonesome Fugitive Merle Haggard would be admitted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994. The following link takes readers to his page at the Country Music Hall of Fame website:

http://countrymusichalloffame.org/Inductees/InducteeDetail/merle-haggard

 

Summary – Merle Haggard wrote a lot of songs, that had to do with his life experiences, probably more than any other country singer, since Hank Williams did in the 40’s and 50’s. Like Williams he wrote a lot of his music by himself. He wrote songs about what life was like for transplanted Oklahomans, that moved to California and songs about how it was to be hungry. He wrote songs about his time in prison and how it was difficult to be a part of society again, after being released and his songs about patriotism, Okie From Muskogee and Fightin’ Side of Me and songs like Big City and Workin’ Man Blues that told the plight of people working for a living. He is now recording for an obscure record label Epitaph, but it doesn’t mean we have heard the last of Merle Haggard. He showed us all that being in prison isn’t always a bad thing, as he said he was one of those that prison helped and he is a testament, of how someone can change and be successful, even after being in prison.

 

 

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President Reagan Assassination Attempt: 33 Years Later

 

                                                                                                                         President Ronald Reagan pushed by Secret Service agents into the presidential limousine.

 

The United States came very close to having two presidents assassinated in 18 years, when President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr. 33 years ago, who wanted to impress actress Jodie Foster, by shooting President Reagan the 40th president of the United States. President John F. Kennedy the 35th president had been assassinated only 18 years earlier in Dallas, Texas.

President Reagan had been in office only 69 days, when the assassination attempt took place on March 30, 1981.

Rohm RG 14 revolver used by John Hinckley Jr in attempt to kill the president.

 

The day started off as another normal busy day for the president and he entered the Washington Hilton Hotel at 1:45 PM ET. He was delivering a speech to AFL-CIO representatives. The president and his party emerged from the hotel, at 2:27 PM ET and chaos ensued as Hinckley fired six shots at the party, which took only 1.7 seconds to fire the six shots. The bullets were the Detonator type, that were supposed to explode on impact, but only the bullet hitting Brady exploded. Hospital staff had to wear bullet proof vests, when removing the bullet from Officer Delahanty’s neck, because the bullets still could explode at any time.

1st bullet – Hit White House Press Secretary James Brady in the head.

2nd bullet – Hit District of Columbia Police Officer Thomas Delahanty in back of head, as he tried to protect President Reagan.

3rd bullet – Hit window of building across the street.

4th bullet – Hit Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy in abdomen as he attempted to shield President Reagan.

5th bullet – Hit bullet resistant glass window of door of limousine.

6th bullet – Ricocheted off the armored side of the limousine and hit President Reagan in his left underarm, grazing a rib and lodging in his lung, stopping nearly 1 inch (25mm) from his heart.

                                                                                                                                                          Secret Service Agent Robert Wanko wields Uzi at shooting scene.

Aftermath of Shooting

Chaos ensued after the shooting as onlookers and Secret Service agents brought Hinckley to the ground and relieved him of his gun. Meanwhile, others at the scene were trying to assist the shooting victims.

The presidential limousine left the scene and Secret Service Special Agent in Charge, who had earlier pushed Reagan into the limousine had first thought Reagan was alright. Parr ordered the limousine to return to the White House, after saying Rawhide is OK, with Rawhide being the code name for the president.  However, after seeing that the president was in pain he ordered the limousine, to be driven to George Washington Hospital.

The limousine arrived at hospital only four minutes later and the president attempted to walk on his own, but his knees buckled and he had to be assisted, as he entered the emergency room.

President Reagan was upset that his suit was cut off of him, since it was a $1,000 suit and had been a gift from his wife Nancy. His systolic blood pressure was only 60, while it was normally 140. It helped the president by being shot  with a 22 caliber bullet, rather than a 38 caliber, which may have lessened his chance of survival.

The president’s wife Nancy had learned of his shooting and arrived at  the hospital in time for the president to tell her “Honey, I forgot to duck”.  He later would tell the operating room staff “I hope you are all Republicans”.

Benjamin L. Aaron the surgeon performed a thoracotomy which lasted 105 minutes. The president lost half of his blood volume during the surgery.

President Reagan was the first president to survive after an assassination attempt.

Vice President George Bush was in Fort Worth, Texas and when told the president was alright went on to Austin to make a speech. After learning the seriousness, of the president’s injuries Bush flew to Washington immediately.

Meanwhile back at the White House, Secretary of State Alexander Haig announced that he was in charge at the White House, despite being fourth in line of succession, when House speaker Tip O’Neill should have been next in line, since President Reagan was unable to govern and Vice President Bush was in Texas at the time.

President Reagan left the hospital on April 11 after 13 days in the hospital. He didn’t return to the Oval Office, until April 25 which was about 27 days after the shooting.

John Hinckley Jr. mug shot on day of assassination attempt.

Background of John Hinckley Jr.

John Hinckley Jr. was born May 29, 1955 in Ardmore, Oklahoma. He will be 59 years old next month and was 25 on the day, that he shot President Reagan 33 years ago.

Hinckley moved with his family to Evergreen, Colorado when his father moved his Hinckley Oil company headquarters from Dallas.  He graduated from high school, but seemed to have little ambition. He attended Texas Tech University from 1974-1980.

The movie Taxi Driver released in 1976 had a character played by Robert DeNiro, who was planning to assassinate the president. Hinckley saw this movie many times and the movie also starred Jodie Foster. He would become obsessed with Foster and went so far as to enroll in college at Yale, when he heard she was attending there and stalked her with notes and telephone calls.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                  Jodie Foster stalked by John Hinckley Jr.

John Hinckley Jr.’s obsession with Jodie Foster led him to also stalk President Jimmy Carter during the 1980 presidential campaign. He was in shooting distance of President Carter once, but had left his guns at the hotel that day. He posed for a photograph in front of Ford Theatre, where President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated. Incidentally, President Reagan had visited Ford Theatre only 9 days, before the assassination attempt and mentioned, that if anyone really wanted to assassinate a president, that they would be successful.

This poem written by Hinckley shows how troubled of a mind he possessed:

Guns Are Fun

See that living legend over there?
With one little squeeze of this trigger
I can put that person at my feet
moaning and groaning and pleading with God.

This gun gives me pornographic power.
If I wish, the president will fall
and the world will look at me in disbelief,

all because I own an inexpensive gun.
Guns are lovable, Guns are fun
Are you lucky enough to own one?

Back to Hinckley and Foster, he called her and wrote notes and letters to her many times. This is the letter that Hinckley wrote to Foster on the day of his assassination attempt, but it was never mailed:

3/30/81

12:45 P.M.

Dear Jodie,

     There is a definite possibility that I will be killed in my attempt to get Reagan.  It is for this very reason that I am writing you this letter now.
     As you well know by now I love you very much.  Over the past seven months I've left you dozens of poems, letters and love messages in the faint hope that you could develop an interest in me.  Although we talked on the phone a couple of times I never had the nerve to simply approach you and introduce myself.  Besides my shyness, I honestly did not wish to bother you with my constant presence.  I know the many messages left at your door and in your mailbox were a nuisance, but I felt that it was the most painless way for me to express my love for you.
     I feel very good about the fact that you at least know my name and know how I feel about you.  And by hanging around your dormitory, I've come to realize that I'm the topic of more than a little conversation, however full of ridicule it may be.  At least you know that I'll always love you.
     Jodie, I would abandon this idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you, whether it be in total obscurity or whatever. 
     I will admit to you that the reason I'm going ahead with this attempt now is because I just cannot wait any longer to impress you.  I've got to do something now to make you understand, in no uncertain terms, that I am doing all of this for your sake!  By sacrificing my freedom and possibly my life, I hope to change your mind about me.  This letter is being written only an hour before I leave for the Hilton Hotel.  Jodie, I'm asking you to please look into your heart and at least give me the chance, with this historical deed, to gain your respect and love.

I love you forever,

John Hinckley

http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/hinckley/hinckleytrial.html is a website with much more information about John Hinckley Jr. and excellent source of trial information.

 

 

The above letter shows just how deranged of a mind Hinckley had, at the time of the assassination attempt. This letter was written less than two hours, before his assassination attempt to kill President Reagan. The timing of the assassination attempt may have been influenced by the ultimatum by his parents, to move out of their home by the end of March.

This is strictly my opinion, but I think if John Hinckley Jr. had not seen Taxi Driver he would not have had the motivation, to attempt to kill President Reagan and his obsession with and stalking of Jodie Foster would never have happened.

 

The Trial

John Hinckley Jr. went on trial in 1982 and the trial ended on June 21, 1982, when the jury rendered a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. If he had been found to be sane, then he would have probably would have been sentenced to life without parole, but instead he was sent to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC, where he still resides 33 years later.

The prosecution insisted that Hinckley was legally sane, while the defense said he was insane. Jodie Foster was distraught to know that Hinckley had been found not guilty. She may have not been shot on March 30, 1981, but her life was forever changed, by Hinckley stalking her on the Yale campus and then finding out, that John Hinckley Jr. had attempted to kill President Reagan to impress her.

Hinckley was able to book several flights in various places, during October of 1980. He was in New Haven, Connecticut at least three times in that October, and he flew there at least twice that month. Just my opinion, but I don’t think an insane person is capable of  booking flights and being on the plane in time for takeoff.  That brings to the mind, that Hinckley was not working, yet was able to fly around the country many times, while being bankrolled by the wealth of his parents.

The not guilty by reason of insanity verdict for Hinckley has brought about changes in some states. Those changes have made it more difficult in those states, to receive a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict.

Addenda

It was ironic that all four shooting victims were Irish with surnames of Reagan, Delahanty, McCarthy and Brady.

John Hinckley, Jr. is now permitted to spend 17 days a month, which is 204 days a year at home in Virginia with his mother Jo Ann who is now 86. Hinckley is now 58 and is even allowed to drive a car and likes to buy cheeseburgers at Wendy’s. James Brady will be in a wheel chair the rest of his life, while Hinckley can drive his Toyota Camry around and walk wherever he wants.

Hinckley still was obsessed with Jodie Foster as late as 1987, when he still had a collection of Jodie Foster photographs.

It is being requested by Hinckley to have 24 days of freedom a month, but so far that request has been denied. That would give him 288 days of freedom a year, if allowed in the coming months or years.

George Bush I would have been president 7 years sooner, if President Reagan had died on that day in 1981.

The Daily Mail from Great Britain has an article in today’s edition about John Hinckley and shows several photographs of him today at 58 and a photo of his 86-year-old mom Jo Ann.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                   

 

 

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Danny Thomas: Founder of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital

 

The St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was founded in 1962 by actor/philanthropist Danny Thomas. He promised St. Jude Thaddeus that he would build a shrine to St. Jude, if he would help him support his family financially.

He was able to amass a fortune and kept his promise and the shrine he built for St. Jude was St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which Thomas founded in 1962.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Samuel Stritch of Tennessee suggested, that Thomas build the hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. 52 years later the hospital has played a part in saving the lives of many children, who may have died without the medical care provided at St. Jude.

The Chili’s restaurant chain donated $50 million toward the construction of the Chili’s Care Center in 2007, which added 24 labs and 16 beds to the campus.

Sterling Jewelers opened a lounge area named Kay Kafe. It has become a place where families and staff can relax, when the children were not undergoing treatments.

Marlo Thomas, the daughter of Thomas is the National Outreach Director for St. Jude. His son Tony is also very involved in the administration of St. Jude.

The survival rate of  acute lymphoblastic leukemia has improved from 4 percent in 1962 to 94 percent today.

Families of the patients only pay what is covered by insurance and no family without insurance is turned down for treatment. Patients are also provided with a place to stay, while the children undergo treatments, to lessen the financial burden for families.

Many corporations like CVS/pharmacy, Dollar General and Kay Jewelers assist in finances for the hospital, in addition to too many others to name them all.

Wikipedia tells about a million dollar winner of the McDonald’s Monopoly game donating their winning card to St Jude:

McDonald’s Monopoly

In 1995, St. Jude received an anonymous letter postmarked in Dallas, Texas, containing a $1 million winning McDonald’s Monopoly game piece. McDonald’s officials came to the hospital, accompanied by a representative from the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, who examined the card under a jeweler’s eyepiece, handled it with plastic gloves, and verified it as a winner.[36] Although game rules prohibited the transfer of prizes, McDonald’s waived the rule and has made the annual $50,000 annuity payments, even after learning that the piece was sent by an individual involved in an embezzlement scheme intended to defraud McDonald’s.[37]

 

Danny Thomas
1912-1991
Founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

 

Danny Thomas along with Jerry Lewis are the best known celebrities, who have shared their fortune and time, to help less than fortunate children, who are battling health problems at a time, when they should be out playing, with the other kids in their neighborhood.

Thomas was born as,Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz  in Deerfield, Michigan on January 6, 1912. He would later change his name to Amos Jacobs, then later to Danny Thomas.

He would make his radio debut on March 5, 1944 on the Radio Hall of Fame program. He could be heard in 61 episodes of radio programs from 1944 to 1983.

 

Marlo Thomas

His daughter, Marlo Thomas went on to have her own acting career and was best known for her series That Girl (1966-1971). Actress Loretta Young was the godmother of Marlo, who also became very involved with the work of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and can be seen on commercials for St. Jude today.

Thomas was a standup comedian and also acted in movies and television. His first movie appearance was in The Unfinished Dance which was released in 1947, when Thomas was 35 years old. He became a major star, his show Make Room For Daddy debuted in 1953 and would be on network television till 1964.

He would make his last appearance as an actor in the Empty Nest in 1991, which was the same year as his death.

Thomas was a producer or executive producer in many well-known television series, which included Andy Griffith, Real McCoys, Joey Bishop Show, Dick Van Dyke, Rango, Guns of Will Sonnett and Mod Squad.

He was a founding minority owner in the Miami Dolphins professional football team.

His only marriage was to Rose Marie Mantell in 1936 and they remained married till his death 55 years later in 1991.

Mary Tyler Moore was chosen by Thomas to co-star in Dick Van Dyke show.

This quote by Thomas personifies the way he lived his life “Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.”

Danny Thomas died of heart failure on February 6, 1991 in Los Angeles, California. He and his wife both were buried on the grounds of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Most of us will remember Danny Thomas portraying Danny Williams on the Danny Thomas Show, but his most lasting contribution was the founding, of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. There are a lot of children laughing and playing today in their homes, because Danny Thomas cared enough to build a hospital, that treated their cancer and best of all never turned anyone down, because they didn’t have money to pay, after the insurance had paid their portion or had no insurance at all.

If only more of us could leave a legacy like Danny Thomas, who may have died 23 years ago, but his promise to build a shrine, which turned out to be the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has brought hope to families, who had no hope by providing a hospital for their children, where they can be treated for cancer.

Thank you Danny for caring about the children with cancer.

 

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Cancer Surgery: A Year Later

Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas

This time last year I was in the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas. First, let me go back in time to some of the events that may have led to me having duodenal cancer.

May of 2012 was a traumatic time for us, after being evicted from our house in Sulphur, Louisiana. We then moved to DeRidder, Louisiana on July 20 and it took almost two weeks to move our belongings to a trailer. I think the eviction and move took a toll on me emotionally and physically. I truly feel that financial stress played a part, in me acquiring cancer last summer.

I began to lose an alarming number of pounds in July and would have lost 45 pounds by the time I entered the VA Hospital in Houston in October. I vomited 17 times in a two-day period, which contained blood. I went to the VA Hospital in Pineville, Louisiana and they thought at first that I had acid reflux, peptic ulcers, duodenal ulcers and H pylori. I was sent home with various prescriptions that didn’t control the vomiting.

Finally on September 28 of 2012 I was admitted into the VA Hospital in Pineville and the next day September 29 they transported me via ambulance to the VA Hospital in Houston.

One of the first things they did in Houston was insert a tube down my throat and connected it to a container that received the contents of my stomach continuously to prevent any more vomiting. The inserting of the tube was one of the most stressful medical procedures done, while in the hospital and very uncomfortable having a tube, but it did prevent any further vomiting.

It took almost two weeks before the oncologist determined that I had duodenal cancer, after unsuccessful CT scan which was too cloudy because of a recent CT scan at the Pineville VA Hospital. Then the doctors tried an endoscopy, which didn’t work, since it the instrument wasn’t long enough to reach the blockage, which they were trying to biopsy.

The oncologist still could not get a biopsy, so they tried another endoscopy that reached the blockage and then prescribed a Petscan to get a better look at the blockage. After these two procedures they determined that I did have duodenal cancer, a cancer that is in beginning section of small intestines. It is also referred to as adenocarcinoma.

The Petscan was a unique experience. For 45 minutes they started and stopped the scan. I had the sensation of being on a train. The only thing missing was that no conductor was saying “All aboard”.

My birthday was on October 14, which was two days before the surgery. My wife Rhonda had made a Happy Birthday poster for the door of my room and my daughter, her husband and two grandchildren were there to celebrate. My two sons, who had already arrived a few days earlier were also there, along with my ex-wife who came with my daughter.

I still have the poster that Rhonda made in our bedroom and it has a lot of sentimental value. Rhonda had to sleep in a chair the first few days, that I was in the hospital. She found out later there was a place called Fisher House on the grounds, so she could have a place to eat and sleep during the night.

One of my brothers also made two or three visits to the hospital, while I was there and his ex-wife and my niece also made visits to see me.

The Surgery

I will never forget the day of the surgery, which was Tuesday, October 16, 2012. I was rolled into a hall where patients were lined up for surgery. I recall the nurses were asking about a patient who didn’t show up for surgery, because he tired of waiting for the surgery and had left the hospital.

Once I entered the surgery room the anesthesiologist began sticking with me with needles which were very painful and I was surprised how many times I was stuck and awake to feel the pain. I could hear the surgery room nurses make clanging sounds similar to the sounds of pots and pans being put on tables.

The next thing I knew it was 11 hours later and my surgery which was supposed to have taken 5 or 6 hours had lasted 11 hours, because I had been nicked in the liver and it caused massive bleeding, which required four units of blood to replace the lost blood. The surgeon told Rhonda that they were close to losing me, so I am very fortunate to even be writing about the surgery.

Recovery

I remember being in a very strange room, after the surgery which I assume was the ICU. It seemed like it was very dark in the room and I almost felt like they had sent me to a secluded cabin to recover from the surgery. I still can’t remember much about this phase in my recovery.

One of the results from the surgery was the finding that I had Stage III duodenal cancer. Duodenal cancer is extremely rare and only accounts for 1 percent of gastrointestinal cancers.

At some point before or after the surgery I had a picc line inserted in my arm, so the nurses wouldn’t have to give me so many injections.

However, I still had blood work done every morning at about 5AM. I had insulin shots in my stomach at least once a day, even though I was and am not now diabetic.

One thing I remember is watching the 2012 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and the San Francisco Giants. I tried to watch all of the games, but would sometimes fall asleep during the games.

About a week after the surgery I was finally allowed to eat real food, for the first time since arriving at the hospital three weeks earlier. However, my appetite was not that great and would only eat part of the food most of the time.

It was great to have the tube removed from my throat, even though it was uncomfortable feeling for it to come out. Needless to say I talked differently while having the tube in my throat, so was happy to talk normally again.

It was Halloween night (October 31) when I was finally released from the hospital. The day started off well as I started being readied for release, but I waited a very long time for the Picc line to be removed. The technician came in the room and had me in more of upside down and sideways position, so that he could remove the Picc line.

My high number on the blood pressure reading was 181, when I was finally released late that night. Blood pressure was a serious problem in the hospital, since it spiked to about 220 at one point, so I was given blood pressure medication and wore a blood pressure patch to bring it down.

Returning Home

Immediately after being released I stayed with Rhonda at the Fisher House that night, to prevent traveling immediately after being released.

We made the 160 mile trip back to DeRidder the next day and began the long road to recovery. I was feeling a little better each day and felt much better, when we made a visit to the VA Hospital in Houston in November, to see the oncologist for a checkup. He told us that duodenal cancer has a history of returning, which sort of caught me by surprise.

We drove home on Thanksgiving morning and we were slowed by a massive traffic jam before we arrived at my daughter’s home in Groves, Texas. When we arrived there they told us, that many cars had hit each other in the fog on Interstate 10, so we were fortunate to miss the accident, but were detoured so we never saw the scene of the accident.

Chemotherapy

I started 91 days of chemotherapy after returning home at the VA Hospital in Pineville. There is no chemotherapy for duodenal cancer, because it is so rare, so was treated as if I had colon cancer.

When I told the doctor I read that there was only a 30 percent chance of surviving duodenal cancer he told me not to worry, since my life expectancy was only 76 since I was a male. I relaxed after that figuring what is two years less or more, since I will be 69 this week.

The chemotherapy had many bad side effects, with sensitive to cold, jaw pain when chewing foods, unsteady on my feet and the oncologist in Pineville switched me to another form of chemotherapy.

It wasn’t much better as it caused another set of problems, so my chemotherapy was stopped 91 days into the 5 month treatments. The oncologist told me my quality of life was being affected too adversely by the chemotherapy. I was relieved to not have to make the weekly trips to Pineville for the chemotherapy treatments and I started feeling better after the treatments stopped with the side effects no longer a problem.

CT Scan in May in Houston

We went to see the oncologist/surgeon at Houston VA Hospital last May. The first day there we underwent another CT scan and did bloodwork. Then the next day we talked to the surgeon and he said everything looked good on the scan and it was clear. However, he said he was concerned that when he lifted the cancerous blockage off the liver, that some cancer may have seeped into the liver and may sprout up at a later date.

Our next CT scan is scheduled on December 11. Hopefully, the scan will be clear and if not will know it is God’s will being done, so not overly worried about the results.

Thank You

I want to thank all the doctors and nurses at VA Hospital in Pineville and Houston for their excellent care. I want to thank all the family members and friends who visited me at the hospital in Houston and those who stayed with me in the hospital, after Rhonda began staying at the Fisher House.

I would like to also thank those who called my room during my stay in Houston. Those phone calls meant more to me, than you will ever know.

In addition I would like to think those who sent gift cards or checks,  to help pay for Rhonda’s food and expenses, plus help pay our bills, while staying in Houston.

Plus I would like to thank those who contributed to the cancer fund my son started,  in conjunction with his bicycle tour starting this week in Kansas City, Missouri.

My goal is to keep a positive attitude regardless of what the results of the scan show, in December and to continue to sing and praise the Lord.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Christian, Doctors, Family, Food, Health, Photos, Religion

 

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1948 Killer Smog In Donora, Pennsylvania

Killler smog that engulfed Donora, Pennsylvania in October of 1948.

I have been reading Stan Musial: An American Life which mentioned that a killer smog had took 18 or more lives. Stan Musial’s father Lukasz already had health problems before the killer smog and died less than two months after the smog hit Donora, Pennsylvania, late in October of 1948.

The smog first started engulfing the city on October 27 and remained until October 31, when rain dispersed the smog. Poisonous gases from the Donora Zinc Works and American Steel and Wire plant usually left the area, but this time the poisonous gases were trapped in smog that covered the area nearest to the plants.

Driving was risky during the smog, since visibility was close to zero. Drivers had to drive with their head out the car window to see where they were going.

Surprisingly, a high school football game was played during the killer smog, but no passes were thrown, since they couldn’t be seen through the smog.

Fluorine gas was the cause of the deaths and illness experienced by Donora residents. Some of the victims had 20 times the normal fluorine in their bodies.

Nearly 7,000 people became ill from the killer smog, which was about half the population of Donora. There is no telling how many deaths were a direct result of the smog, in the years following the smog.

Boston.com website has an excellent article on the Donora killer smog:

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/11/02/pa_town_remembers_killer_smog/

Historical marker commemorating the killer smog in Donora, Pennsylvania in October of 1948.

The killer smog in Donora eventually brought about change in the way poisonous gases were released into the atmosphere when Clean Air Act was enacted by the government.

It is possible that young kids living in Donora in 1948, who would be about 65-75 today could someday too be victims of the 1948 killer smog if they ingested smaller amounts of the poisonous gases.

 

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Health, Natural disaster, News

 

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Immortality Reality Check

I was recently researching the survival rate for my duodenal cancer, which has a history of returning. I found out at one website that I had a 30 percent chance of living past five years.

The oncologist when told about this survival rate gave me a reality check, by telling me the average life span for an American male is only 76. Since I will be 69 later this year that means I may be down to my last seven years of life, regardless of how the cancer situation may change. The five years survival rate doesn’t sound so bad, when I may have only seven years left anyway.

Chemotherapy has gone well during the first ten weeks, which ends tomorrow leaving me with fourteen more weeks left. If the Catscan shows that the cancer has returned when the chemotherapy ends, then I may be forced into making some very difficult decisions. Don’t know whether I would want to start a new round of surgery, if surgery is even an option and whether continuing chemotherapy would even be an option.

It would be easy to be selfish and continue to pursue any surgery or chemotherapy, that may rid my body of the cancer. This cancer has reduced me to a man who has ostrich legs, which really indicate that something is seriously wrong with my health.

One of the main reasons for me to try to go to any length to keep fighting cancer, if it has returned would be to see my grandsons a few more years. I have a grandson who was 14 yesterday that dreams of playing major league baseball. He will be trying out for his high school team in Texas in the spring of 2014. I would like to be around if and when he plays baseball on the professional level.

His brother who will be 12 in October likes to play soccer and does extremely well in school, since he loves to read books. I would like to see him grow up and start a career, while I am still living.

The worst thing about leaving this world is those I would leave behind, including my two sons and daughter and my wife Rhonda and my stepson Justin.

My father is 98 and will be 99 in November of this year. It is now a possibility that he may outlive me and I am happy for him. He made the right health choices to eat almost exclusively healthy meals and very seldom ate out at fast food places. He worked in his garden till well into his 90’s and also mowed the yard.

What really matters the most is that whatever happens will be God’s will, so I am ready to accept whatever God has in store for me.

I may live another 10 or 15 years, but on the other hand I may not even be around this time next year.

I want to see all the baseball and football games I can see while I am still around. I want to listen to some of my 17,000 old-time radio shows from the 1920’s through 1962 when old-time radio died on September 30 of that year.

There is a lot of music I would like to hear again, while I am still around and enjoy nature and see the stars in the night sky.

Only God knows what my future holds and how much time I have left. Time will tell how all of this plays out.

One of my main objectives is to be the same person I have always been, no matter how good or bad the news may be about my cancer as the years roll by. I don’t want anyone feeling bad for me, because I will be worried about the ones being left behind more than myself.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2013 in Health, Music, Religion

 

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Memories of a Lifetime: 2011-2013

2011 – We were living in Sulphur, Louisiana, a city of about 20,000 at the start of 2011. We were living on Live Oak Street in Sulphur and we found a home church in Calvary Baptist Church on Lewis Street. We were impressed by the pastor Rev. W.D. Darnell, who lived what he preached and only used the King James Version of the Holy Bible. We made many friends, among the members of the church. Rhonda was very involved with the activities at the church and I often sang special music on Sunday and Wednesday nights. Rhonda and me sang duets a couple of times and she sang On The Wings Of A Dove with another lady one time.

Rhonda liked living in Sulphur, since she had a sister and her mom living there. We lived close to the neighborhood, where my daughter and family had lived before moving to Groves, Texas.

I would return to working as a caregiver again in November of 2011. I worked with a disabled man with diabetes and lost the job at the end of the year, when his family changed to another caregiving company.

An international news story was when an earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan took 15,840 lives.

President Obama announces the death of Osama bin Laden on May 1.

Casey Anthony was acquitted of the murder of her daughter Calee Marie Anthony, in a controversial verdict by the jury.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Computers dies on October 5 of cancer.

House were renting at $955 a month in 2011.

A gallon of gas cost $2.89.

Movie tickets were selling for $8.20.

 

2012 – I worked as a crossing guard at a school in Sulphur for a few weeks, toward the end of the school year. It was interesting work and enjoyed the job. The job could turn out to be the last job I will ever work, since I haven’t worked since becoming sick a couple of months later.

We moved to DeRidder, Louisiana in July and are living in a trailer, that is about halfway between Merryville, Louisiana and DeRidder. We are living in the country and liking it so far.

Knew something was wrong when I began vomiting up blood and lost about 35 pounds in less than two months during the summer. Found out in October in Houston VA Hospital, that I had duodenal cancer. It was a very disease to diagnose, since it mimics acid reflux and duodenal ulcers. It is very rare disease with only two percent of gastrointestinal diseases being duodenal cancer.

Surgeons in Houston performed a resection surgery on Oct. 16 to remove a blockage, which was cancerous and was successful. However I found out in November, that duodenal cancer has a history of returning and has a relatively low survival rate.

Chemotherapy started at the VA hospital in Pineville, Louisiana on Dec.13 and have had three chemo IV’s since that date, with five more to go. Have finished six of a 24 week program of chemotherapy. It seems like the side effects have been worse with each chemo IV. Had difficulty walking in a straight line after the last IV and sort of lurch from side to side.

2012 was a life changing year for us, with us being evicted, moving to a new city and finding out that I had cancer and had surgery a few days later. Spent a total of 32 days in hospital in Houston.

July 20 would be the first of two mass shootings in the United States, when a gunman killed 12 and injured 58 in an Aurora, Colorado theater.

December 14 would bring the second mass shootings of 2012, when a man kills 20 children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, along with six adults, before killing himself.

A gallon of gas would rise to $3.89 during 2012. It is about 64 cents a gallon cheaper now in 2013.

House rent average goes over the $1,000 mark for the first time, as it rose to $1,045 a month.

A pound of bacon which was $2.96 in 2008 had risen to $4.48 in 2012.

 

2013 – This year should be a very interesting year, as the chemotherapy continues through May and it will be interesting to learn the results of the bloodwork after the last week of chemotherapy. May 21 will be another important date for us as we return to Houston for another C-scan, which will show if the cancer is completely gone or has returned.

We don’t know what this year holds, but we plan to remain positive, even if the news is bad and I don’t plan on being negative, regardless of what happens in 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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