The Demons Within and Beyond: Opioids, Addiction, Depression – Part 1

I’m not suicidal, I’m depressed. Or is it the other way around? Okay, now I’m confused. I always get those mixed up.

Yeah, right!

Don’t worry, I’m not suicidal; I don’t need a rubber room or padded cell (and, no, the freight elevator doesn’t count). Alas, I have been fighting depression for several years now. Longer, probably, but it’s only been within the past few years that I’ve been taking some medicine for it. Unfortunately, it seems there is a majority of us out there.

I prefer to write about positive and creative things; however, this blog is about my personal journey through life and my “enjoyment” of all the potholes I have traversed. There are times when I feel it necessary to write about troubling issues and aspects of survival that are, well, not too prideful.

This is one of those times.

It has taken me awhile to actually get these words on paper, so to speak. I realize that some folks who know me may be surprised while some may take pity or even be appalled that I’m admitting this type of stuff.

Too bad!

Who knows, maybe this and subsequent posts will help someone get a better perspective on their “Hell.” Maybe this will help them get a better grip, especially when Hope and Faith seem to be all but dried up.

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“Pamela’s Voice” from Rod Serling’s Night Gallery

It has also taken me quite a long time to get my head around how I want to approach this topic of depression, and the various meds to help deal with it. The problem is complicated with not just one solution.

Personally, it’s not merely depression; I’m also putting up with back pain I suffered a few years ago when my wife suffered her stroke. I fractured a couple of vertebrae and messed up portions of my lower back. Since then, I’ve been taking pain meds – opioids.

I can easily see how people can and do get hooked on some of this stuff.

I am not, however. I am, though, probably taking more prescription meds than at any time in my life. Can’t be helped, I guess. The pain med, the lone opioid, is hydrocodone or Narco for short. The “anti-depressant/anxiety” med is, currently, Fluoxetine. It’s less expensive than the first one I was prescribed.

The nice thing about Narco, for me, is the overall relaxed state it gives, allowing me to de-stress and be almost pain free. Yet, I’m no longer taking them at present. I’ve run out and don’t know how soon I can get another Rx.

I’ve never liked being dependent on one thing like a drug to get by on a daily basis. As I’ve gotten older and, unfortunately, contracted Leukemia (CLL) several years ago, I am taking a special drug specifically for Leukemia, Venetoclax, every day. However, I’m in complete remission and want to stay that way, so my taking of this miracle drug may continue for some time to come.

Pain meds are another matter and this country, along with others, has its fair share of addicts, not to mention those folks who legitimately need these drugs to help them through their days.

Because of a variety of reasons and personal conflicts this past year, including my wife’s continued but difficult rehabilitation, there have been days that I literally don’t want to get out of bed. I don’t care to do anything.

It scares me when I don’t care or am not interested in some aspect of creativity. That’s what drives me. That’s why I try and keep writing, keep thinking, keep the creative juices flowing. When I would take a Narco in the morning, it would relax me and help me maneuver. It improved my attitude and, yes, lessened my back pain.

There are still days I miss not having any to take. There were days that I thought, “Geez, am I on the way to becoming an addict?” It is so very easy. But, I’m a far cry from an addict looking for his nearby needle for a fix.

Others, however, are not so lucky.

Gut-punching ad campaign

According to an article in a recent issue of AdAge/Creativity, there’s a long-running anti-smoking campaign, Truth, which is now combatting another epidemic of addiction: opioids–and it’s not pulling any punches in a new series of ads that go to painful extremes to illustrate the severity of the problem.

The “Truth About Opioids” campaign doesn’t shy away from scenes of brutality, in these cases self-inflicted.

The campaign features four true stories of young people who fell into opioid abuse. Each of the protagonists find themselves caught in a cycle of addiction to painkillers, and the only way to get more of the prescription drugs is to end up in the hospital. Those who can’t wait for an injury manufacture one instead. There’s Amy and Chris, who are addicted to Vicodin and Kyle, whose weakness is Oxy.

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Careful, this series of ads will make you flinch.

The campaign was created in partnership with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Ad Council, along with creative agency Haymaker. Amazon, Facebook, Google and YouTube, NBCUniversal, Turner and Vice have already agreed to run the spots.

“We understand that opioid misuse is a complex issue that needs to be tackled from many angles,” says Robin Koval, President and CEO of Truth Initiative. “We are deeply grateful to the young men and women featured in the launch effort for sharing their painful and powerful truths about opioids misuse to educate others about the risks.”

Whether or not we want to admit it, we all have demons, within and beyond. The more we can hone up to that, and talk about it, at least to some degree, the better. I’m at a stage in my life where I feel I’m undergoing another transition. As before, this time has its dark sides but with various little sprinklings of hope.

To be continued . . . 

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Personas, Personalities and Peanuts

Ever feel not quite right or out of sorts?

Ever feel like you wanna be someone else?

Sometimes we need to be serious, while at others, we need silliness.

If we can’t make fun of ourselves, then who can we make fun of (I know, there are endless possibilities)?

Do you have a photo of yourself on your resume? I do not. Critics have said that you should not include one because it just aids hiring authorities in weeding you out. That would depend on how the resume is being used, for what kind of job. If you’re an actor or voice talent, you betcha; a welder, not so much.

What about a photo version that is not so professional or serious? You wanna illustrate your sense of humor, just be sure you do it in good taste.

Oh, wait, I forgot; hiring authorities usually don’t have a sense of humor.

Then there’s LinkedIn and Facebook. What kind of portraits do you have posted on these sites? What sort of personas shine through? I hope they are different since the nature of the two sites is different.

LinkedIn is, presumably, more professional oriented while Facebook is not. That doesn’t mean one should have the stereotypical, stuffy photo attached to your profile. It does mean that you should have a photo that serves you well.

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Taken by a professional photog friend of mine, this portrait has served me well for many years.

The same should be said for your website. Our presence on these social media outlets is an extension of our personalities, our personas. We shouldn’t be embarrassed by that.

Since I’m in a creative field, I’m aware that folks not familiar with me or my work want to see what I’ve done over the years as well as recently. I need to make sure that my online presence reflects this, and does so in a positive way. I also like to have fun.

I just recently changed my LinkedIn profile photo, updating it a bit. There was nothing wrong with the photo of myself I replaced but I thought it was time to have a different look.

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This is current LinkedIn version. Really like the straw; adds a bit of panache.

I use a totally different “photo” for my Facebook page (had to convert my FB profile to a page so I could still use the WordPress software in linking the two). I wanted to have some fun and used a program that the Peanuts Movie folks provided so that one could custom design one’s own Peanuts character. I think Snoopy and I look rather dapper in this illustration, don’t you!?

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Oh, to be reincarnated as a new Peanuts character. Whatchathink, Snoop?

Every one of us is different. Each is unique. We should treasure that and exhibit our uniqueness whenever possible.

I’m a Gemini, the Twins. I definitely have a split personality (Snoopy has quite a few); I can be quite serious while other times very silly. However, I try at all times to exercise my imagination, to let my creative soul voice itself.

That’s in part why I decided some years ago to create two different blogs, one for personal stuff and one for business and creativity. My topics, as you might think, vary as does the tone of my messages.

I’m currently working on a future blog post dealing with depression and medication, especially opioids and addiction. The tone will be decidedly different from this post’s tone. It needs to be. It reflects a different type of me, another persona.

There are days when we feel like crap, when we really don’t give a damn. There are others wherein we feel a bit relieved of stress, a bit more relaxed. I cherish those times more because I don’t like being depressed; too many things do I worry about and when they all seem to gang up on me, my personality takes a nose dive.

I hope you have more than one persona, so you can fall back on it when you get down and depressed. Don’t be afraid to let your silly side come out and play. Creativity resides in all of us, just to varying degrees. We owe it to ourselves to explore our personas and let our imagination take us to wherever it needs.

Oh, and should you see me and Snoopy around the neighborhood, be sure and say Hi!

 

 

 

A French Quarter Tale: The Can

Note: This is a different kind of blog post. It’s my take on a short, short story; a brief tale, if you will. It’s also my take on where my imagination lead me following a dream I had recently. Submitted as a tribute in memory and in honor of the late Rod Serling, whom I regret I never got the chance to meet. Maybe someday. 

The corner store. The neighborhood grocery. Every town has one, except there’s no town quite like this one. There’s no store quite like this one. It befits its neighborhood, however. Both are quaint, old and, like the city, both have history.

Some would say colorful. Some, macabre.

By all appearances, this quaint neighborhood grocery store is not unlike many others. The shop owner is friendly, if not a bit surly at times. He stocks a small but ample variety of goods in keeping the interests of his neighbors in mind.

However, this is no ordinary neighborhood grocery. Shelf life, for some items at least, can seem to last longer than the items would like. Whilst sitting on the shelf and being on display, what goes through their minds?

Oh, come now, you say; they’re inanimate objects, they have no minds. Well . . .

Our tale centers around an everyday object in an everyday place; however, this object can’t see; it can only experience and sense. What it “sees” is hazy, blurry. It can sort of “hear” but it’s not sure what the sounds are or from whence they come. It doesn’t know where it is or even what it is. It only knows it is content and happy to be wherever it may be, peering out through some hazy blanket of blur as the world passes by.

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Courtesy of Pixabay & Photorama

This is our brief tale on life’s perspectives from a can on a shelf in a grocery store in the French Quarter in New Orleans . . . as told from The Twilight Zone.

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“There’s that blasted ringing, again! For some reason, everytime I hear that, a voice says ‘Hello’. A form of greeting?”

“Why can’t I move? Am I supposed to move? How long have I been here, wherever I am? I don’t seem to have any connotation of time or even what form I’m in. I don’t know why but I sense there are others around and beside me. Are we all the same?”

“Why do I have so many questions? Am I even supposed to “think,” whatever that is. Why is everything blurry? I get a feeling I’m inside somewhere. Wait, I see movement in front of me, but there’s something between me and the movement. ”

“What are those objects? They move in both directions, and some even stop and look toward me. Then they move on by. Why?”

“Whoa, what’s that? I’m moving! I’m being lifted off this shelf-thing. I, I’m being turned on my side. Hmmmm, I didn’t know I had sides. What’s happening to me?!”

“It’s blurry. Some figure is right in front of me and, whoa, I’m being put back on this shelf-thing. Why? What did I do? This figure in front of me seems to be picking up something next to me. But, wait. The figure takes it, emits a sound and drops it in some sort of carrying device. Why it and not me?!”

“Though I can’t quite make it out, there appears to be another figure pressing up against something and looking in. What is that? Wait, it appears to be looking right at me. Should I feel nervous, even though I don’t know what nervous is?

“Wonder what it’s like on the other side of that something? There appears to be lots of movement beyond me, in both directions.”

“There’s that ringing again. And the ‘Hello.’ Am I imagining all this? I dunno. Wait, now I think I see more figures slowing down in front of me. They both have those carrying devices like before.”

“Oh, boy, here we go again! I’m being picked up, turned on my side . . . and, nothing. What’s going on? ”

“Whooooaaaaa! I’m airborne. I’m upside down, then right side up, then . . . OUCH! I seem to have left my shelf-thing. Now, I think I’m on my side. Could it be I somehow landed in this figure’s carrying device?”

“WOW, what a different sensation!

As an aside, our can is now experiencing a sensation it has not “felt” in some time; not since it was first shipped to the store, unpacked and carried to the “shelf-thing”. It doesn’t know how long it’s been in the store nor where it’s next destination will be. 

“What’s happening to me? I feel like I’m moving, yet I’m in close quarters with other objects all around me.”

“Wait, what’s that? I sense that I’m in a different type surrounding than before. There are a lot more blurry figures all around. Is this “outside,” wherever that is? I don’t know what I’m feeling but my sides are getting warmer, and things seem to be, uh, brighter?”

“Where are we going? I demand to know! Put me down this instant!”

“What’s this? We seem to have arrived somewhere. There are more blurry figures but I think we’re inside some other place now.”

“Ah, finally, my colleagues and I are getting out of this contraption. Whoa, here I am again, airborne!”

“‘Umph!’ rough landing, there. Okay, I don’t recognize this place but there seems to be a lot of activity here. Good. Maybe I can acquaint myself with some of the others who made this jaunt with me.”

“Wait, I’m getting dizzy, I’m going upside down. What’s happening to me? Gaaa!”

“I’m being shaken. Whoa, this is not good. I, I’m losing something. Oh, my, it appears to be what I’ve been holding inside me all this time. What is that? I can just barely make it out; it’s blurry but it appears to be . . . Ahhhhhhh!”

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Courtesy of Pixabay & markusspiske

“I’m airborne again, twisting end over end; getting dizzy and lightheaded. Now, what. All has stopped. I’m not moving. Everything is dark. I feel funny. I don’t like this.”

“‘OUCH!’ What the . . . something just landed on top of me. Where am I? Hello, anyone there? Hello . . .?”

The hustle and bustle goes on. The blurry figures continue with their appointed tasks. This kitchen, you see, is busy getting orders ready to serve their demanding customers. A variety of culinary delights are being prepared with ingredients from all over the city. Even though fresh vegetables and fruit are a vital part of this kitchen, every once in awhile, canned goods are utilized in a mix of seasoning. Simple but tasty.

Our subject in this tale has involuntarily offered up its flavorful contents to please the palate of a waiting and hungry patron. Its journey has ended as it now rests among others experiencing a similar fate: The darkness of despair, which some of us would refer to as a garbage heap.

Postscript: This brief tale is offered up to the everyday shoppers, consumers and others who go about their daily lives perhaps pondering if this is all that life presents. The curious among us may pursue but we suggest one simply enjoy what some may deem merely an imaginative tale from the perspective of a can in the French Quarter . . . as told from The Twilight Zone.

 

Cancer, Caregivers, Breakthroughs and Birthdays.

Cancer and Caregivers

Recently, June 2, the nation celebrated National Cancer Survivors Day. Appropriately, the Texas Gulf Coast Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) presented a workshop geared toward cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. As a CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) cancer survivor, I attended the workshop and wanted to share some info I learned.

According to LLS, the emotional, physical, and educational needs of patients and their families change over the course of the cancer experience. This special Health and Wellness for Caregivers workshop provided information and resource materials on how caregivers can maintain their own health and wellness while caring for a person with cancer. We learned about strategies to deal with changing family roles, coping with stress and fatigue, and about resources available.

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Brennan M. Parmelee, MSN, RN, CNE, with Houston Methodist Hospital Cell & Gene Therapy presented some interesting facts.

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Some highlight slides:
(Please excuse some formatting weirdness)
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For more information, contact: Erika Pomares at 832.463.3613 or Texas Gulf Coast Chapter, 5433 Westheimer, Ste 300, Houston, TX 77056 | 713-840-0483

Patti Robinson Kauffman First Connection Program

Finding out you have cancer can be a very lonely experience, so First Connection peer volunteers are in a unique position to provide one-on-one support and community resource information to others facing a similar medical journey. Requests are matched by disease, mode of treatment and experience. Support is open to patients, caregivers and cancer survivors who were treated anywhere, and we’ve made connections around the nation.

If You’d like to talk to someone with a similar diagnosis or treatment, give them a call:

Toll-free: 800-955-4572

 

Breakthrough Treatment

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a promising development for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and small lymphocytic leukemia (SLL). I’m excited about this news because this is the treatment I’m currently using and have used the past couple of years during my clinical trial.

The FDA expanded the approval of a targeted therapy called venetoclax, giving patients with CLL, the most common leukemia in adults, and SLL, a closely related blood cancer, the opportunity to take an oral-based, chemotherapy-free regimen. This regimen might allow patients to stop their treatment after about two years.

Venetoclax, or as it’s known commercially as Venclexta, is now approved for use in combination with the antibody therapy, rituximab, which I’ve also taken, or alone for patients with CLL or SLL who have relapsed or did not respond after at least one prior therapy. Before the decision, venetoclax was only approved for certain CLL and SLL patients with a rare subset known as 17p deletion, in which a portion of a chromosome that suppresses cancer growth is missing.

Since 2002, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has invested more than $15 million in pioneering research through their Specialized Center of Research grant program.

 

Joe’s Birthday Fundraiser on Facebook

I have a birthday coming up this next Tuesday, June 19, and have decided to use that day and this month to raise awareness of blood cancer and leukemia, specifically. I’d appreciate it if you helped me by donating whatever you can to my cause. Thank you!!

someday is today - LLS logo

 

(In)action By Louisiana Legislature Height of Stupidity.

Morons! Not all, but most. I’ve read with disgust the goings on in my once second home Baton Rouge and the state’s legislature over their repeated inaction to pass a budget that realistically works for the fine people of Louisiana.

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Louisiana State Capitol Building – Associated Press

I’m a native of the Pelican State even though I’m now living in Houston. Because I have fond memories of my growing up in Southwest Louisiana (Lake Charles), I try to keep up with what’s going on back home.

I also have a fondness for politics, especially the home-grown variety served up Cajun style. While at LSU in the mid-seventies, I served in the state Senate as aide to then Senator Bill McLeod. I learned a lot back then, especially considering that’s when the legislature was debating Right-to-Work.

Intimidating Victor Bussie, the Godfather of the AFL-CIO. The birth of LABI, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. The professional “hit” on lobbyist Jim Leslie across from LSU. The Jupiter Incident, with mobs and tempers overflowing.

Them were scary times! And deadly.

Another Edwards was governor then and he knew how to work a legislative body. Alas, times were very different, even when it came to partisan politics. However, both houses just seemed to get it done despite various differences.

Not now!

As recently as today, June 8, Gov. John Bel Edwards called for yet again another special session (3rd one) beginning on June 18 and ending on June 27. This version will be the seventh budget-focused special session since Edwards took office in January 2016.

The upcoming third session is a “final” attempt to address and fix the $650 million budget gap or “fiscal cliff” Louisiana faces in its budget that begins July 1. You see, more than $1 billion in temporary tax measures expire June 30 unless the gap is closed.

Two competing proposals – one would extend one-third of the expiring 1% sales tax and the other would extend one-half of the sales tax – have been at odds, with this last session having “debate” (another word for arguing and name-calling) right up to the midnight hour when the session was bound by law to end.

The difference between the two proposals means to the taxpaying consumer a relatively minimal 17 cents on a $100 purchase, for example.

All three previous special sessions, at a cost to the taxpayer of $60,000 per, have not accomplished a damn thing other than to raise tempers and frustrations.

A scary aspect of this last-minute approved budget in the House is that it has no major revenue-raising measures. So, deep cuts to higher education, public safety, various state services including health care (though it may very well get protection before all is said and done), services for the poor, inmate housing and others are quite likely. The state’s food stamp program could be eliminated altogether.

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Louisiana Legislature House Chamber – Associated Press

It appears a small bunch of conservative Republican House members want to stubbornly stand on an anti-tax platform while Rome burns to the ground. Nobody really like taxes but they are necessary in certain places. Thankfully, even some conservative Republican colleagues believe that because these proposed cuts would be too severe, they couldn’t vote for this bastardized budget.

Yet, pitiful, putrid, partisan politics is having its way in Baton Rouge and from what I gather from readers of The Advocate and other news sources, the citizenry is fed up. Reporter Elizabeth Crisp has done a wonderful job of keeping tabs on all these shenanigans. It’s not as if the legislature has just recently become aware of the mess; they’ve had the past two years to do something about it!

And, they have: NOTHING.

The Louisiana Legislature, especially the House of Representatives and in particular a minority of conservative Republicans, is acting like a bunch of buffoons. It’s embarrassing and the fine folks of the Pelican State don’t deserve this.

Though I think it unlikely, it is possible that tremendous, damaging cuts are yet to come to the state’s colleges and universities. If this happens, a worse-case scenario could end up right smack dab in the Legislature’s front yard: Can you imagine the revolution arising from no football on a Saturday night in LSU’s Tiger Stadium?

If that happens, the citizenry should run the bastards out of town.

What’s on the Horizon for CLL, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia?

I was diagnosed with CLL about four years ago. Since then, I’ve learned about the importance of clinical trials, shared decision making about treatment, and I’ve paid special attention to the types of resources and research that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) provides.

A recent webinar on the history and current status of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, CLL, was presented by LLS and the recording is posted on their website.

Though a transcript is to be provided later, please give this new presentation a listen. It’s important for both patients and caregivers to hear the latest on such topics as: Diagnosing CLL, New and emerging therapies, Supportive care and side-effects management, Importance of shared decision making in discussing treatment.

Those of you newly-diagnosed with CLL will no doubt be learning about the medicines mentioned in this lecture. Those of us who have been participating in a clinical trial like yours truly, have been well versed in these almost unpronounceable meds.

Rituximab, Obinutuzumab and Venetoclax are all meds with which I am very familiar. During my three year clinical trial at Methodist, I have been on all of them at some point. I am currently using only the Venetoclax as the Trial has wound down to completion. It’s also the only drug of which I am aware that is just now being introduced to the commercial market by abbvie and Genentech.

Its name: Venclexta.

The lecture highlights recent studies touting various combinations of these and other drugs, depending on the type of cancer one has as well as the makeup of one’s DNA. We’re all unique; so, too, is the treatment.

We’ve come a long way from the days of standard chemotherapy treatment where the main downsides were hair loss and nausea. Since I was first introduced to chemo treatment, my initial phases centered around pills and IVs. Not too bad.

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Dr. Matthew Davids, MD, MMSc of Harvard Medical School leads the presentation and subsequent Q&A.

All due respect to Harvard Medical, we’re fortunate here in Houston to live near the Texas Medical Center where the likes of Methodist Hospital, where I undertook my clinical trial, and MD Anderson Cancer Center are located.

Dr. Davids Bio from May 8 CLL

His bio is offered in both JPG (above) and PDF (below).

Dr. Davids Bio from May 8 CLL

 

This isn’t the Sixties, is it?

I know, I know, I’ve been away far too long. I didn’t exactly plan on my absence from this portal being this duration. Life and a few other mishaps got in the way since the end of last year. Countless times I’ve thought about doing a blog post and then . . . poof; the urge and/or interest vaporized. I’ve been through a lot and am still going through some of life’s potholes. But now, I’ve touched on some feelings that I really do feel need to be shared. It’s amazing to me that the more things change, the more they stay the same, unfortunately.

Storms notwithstanding, the heinous acts of violence and evil-doing that have cursed our globe these past few years always seem to end the same way:  Deadly. These attacks/events never seem to stop. Lawmakers attempt, sometimes, to pass laws to end this nonsense but the laws never seem to be enough.

Something I saw on TV recently reminded me of a speech decades ago from a memorial service. As I re-read the eulogy, I learned a few things I didn’t previously know and I realized that what was said and felt back in the sixties is, alas, still true today; at least that for which we strive is. I’d like to share some of this with you.

The following is an excerpt from the eulogy for Robert Kennedy given by his brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy at the public memorial service held on June 8, 1968, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. 

A few years back, Robert Kennedy wrote some words about his own father which expresses [sic] the way we in his family felt about him. He said of what his father meant to him, and I quote: “What it really all adds up to is love — not love as it is described with such facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and respect, order and encouragement, and support. Our awareness of this was an incalculable source of strength, and because real love is something unselfish and involves sacrifice and giving, we could not help but profit from it.”

And he continued, “Beneath it all, he has tried to engender a social conscience. There were wrongs which needed attention. There were people who were poor and needed help. And we have a responsibility to them and to this country. Through no virtues and accomplishments of our own, we have been fortunate enough to be born in the United States under the most comfortable conditions. We, therefore, have a responsibility to others who are less well off.”

That is what Robert Kennedy was given. What he leaves to us is what he said, what he did, and what he stood for. A speech he made to the young people of South Africa on their Day of Affirmation in 1966 sums it up the best (excerpt of what I feel is still pertinent today):

Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. And I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the globe.

For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. But that is not the road history has marked out for us. Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty. But they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. All of us will ultimately be judged, and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that event.

The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society. Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live.”

That is the way he lived. That is what he leaves us.

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.

As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:

“Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”

 

Politics aside, these words ring true for me today just as they did in yesteryear. We should always “see wrong and try to right it, see suffering and try to heal it, see war and try to stop it.”

This must be true whether it be in our own backyard, in our neighborhood, across our cities and states, and, yes, even across the globe. This includes social injustices, human rights, religious intolerance. We’ve got to stand up for one another and not be afraid of the consequences.

Alas, there will always be some moron who thinks he/she knows best and will attempt to shut one down. That has gone on in society for eons. So has our determination.

Change is never easy; change for the better is always difficult because someone is always asking “how do we define ‘better’ “? One definition I offer would be “one step up from the status quo.”

I guess I haven’t realized it until I re-read Teddy’s eulogy for Bobby, but his last words referencing Bobby’s belief still resonates with me: “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”

I try to live this everyday. Won’t you join me?

 

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Birthday, Happy Kwanzaa . . .

 

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for a while. However, I still intend on continuing this blog, even amidst the trials and tribulations of daily existence.

Certain days, like today, compell me to post something meaningful, if not interesting as well. I don’t know that today’s post falls into those categories, so bear with me as I’m not in nearly the Christmas spirit of past seasons.

Today is Christmas in the US of A. It celebrates the birth of the Christ child even though the day, and weeks preceding it, intermingles with commercialism.

It’s a celebratory day.

Today also marks my father’s birthday. That’s right, Joseph Gilbert “Sonny” Fournet was born on the same day as Jesus, though a few generations apart. I know of at least one other friend of mine who also celebrates his birthday today. Happy Birthday, Daddy and Steve!

I read various posts on FaceBook earlier today and noticed most, if not all, were happy and had photos of family and friends gathered around. That’s the way it should be. These photos brought back memories of my past, of Christmases long ago. I miss those times. I miss my family. Some have gone on to Heaven, some are still here; we just don’t talk or see one another anymore, and I’m somewhat at a loss as to know why.

Aside from my “extended family” on FaceBook, in the American Advertising Federation-Houston, and special friends/family in various cities and towns scattered across the country, Pam and I have no family. We both miss that, especially today.

Don’t get me wrong; we are both grateful that we have each other. Our health is alright, though Pam is still struggling through rehabilitation from her stroke and she needs daily help. My CLL cancer is in remission, thank God, but the mental and physical strain Pam’s care has taken on me, especially this month, is taking its toll.

When Pam asked me recently what I wanted for Christmas, I quickly and simply replied, “Peace of mind.” And it doesn’t even have to be wrapped!

I know that around our globe there are thousands, perhaps millions of people who are living in dire straits, much worse off than we. The slums, nursing homes, hospitals, the homeless, the broken, the disheartened and disenchanted, the hopeless; I feel your pain though I can’t imagine that which some of you are undergoing.

I can’t do much about or for them because I’m having difficulty taking care of myself and Pam. Sometimes, hell, most times, all I can do is pray and hope, and pray that hope doesn’t run out. Lessee, where’s that mustard seed? Jesus said it was here, somewhere.

Sigh!

It is my sincere hope and prayer for all of us that the coming year is healthier, prosperous, fun and fruitful, much more so than 2016 has been. Personally, I’m hopeful that work rebounds and I can get some consistent revenue generated. I hope and pray that Pam can become more independent and is able to walk and move around without much assistance.

I hope to laugh more in the new year. I hope to make new friends and rejoice with some old (existing/familiar) ones. I hope to continue with my disturbed, warped and dry sense of humor, which most of you have enjoyed over the years, or at least endured!

Speaking of that, I have included a special photo of some of our family. The “kids” decided they wanted a Christmas photo taken together and expressed their desire for me to include in this Christmas blog posting.

So, here it ’tis . . . Merry Christmas and Joyous Spirits throughout the coming year.

Joe, Pam, and the Gang.

A Family Photo featuring Snoopy & Woodstock

Some of our “kids” wanted a Christmas photo together.

Cancer Doesn’t Discriminate; Just Ask LSU’s Mike VI.

Diseases rarely cooperate. They’re not racist; they don’t discriminate. They’re destructive by nature, but, occasionally, are defeated. Cancer is one of those diseases.

As many of you know, I was diagnosed a couple years ago with Leukemia, a form of blood cancer. After undergoing various treatments since, including the clinical trial drug, Venetoclax, I currently take, I’ve finally attained the status of CR, complete remission. I just need to stay that way.

During these years, I’ve been touched by the many difficult situations involving others who have been diagnosed with a form of blood cancer. Some are surviving, some not.

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Cancer hits everyone, all ages. It doesn’t care. It doesn’t even care if you’re not human; at least, not the two-legged variety. Animals are not immune. Not even the mighty, majestic tiger.

mike-vi-wcaptionIn Baton Rouge, LA Wednesday morning, LSU announced that their tiger mascot, Mike VI, has seen a return of cancer, and it has spread. Mike has only 1-2 months of life left. Unlike most humans, Mike doesn’t know how sick he is. Maybe he’s fortunate.

I’m an LSU alum and native of Louisiana. In fact when I attended LSU, we were celebrating Mike III (seventies). So I join the LSU Community with a heavy heart.

This coming Saturday night at the University of Houston main campus, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is hosting their annual Light The Night Walk. We’re raising funds to not only battle, but defeat cancer. All cancer. We’d love to see you out there.

It is not too late to become involved and join us at our Light The Night Walks. Patients/survivors who attend will receive a white illuminated lantern to carry, a t-shirt and food; those who have lost loved ones to cancer can join us for a brief Remembrance Ceremony and remember their loved one by carrying a gold lantern; supporters will carry a red lantern and be surrounded by others who share their passion to find a cure!

You’ve read about our fundraising requests before and will likely see them again. Please, go to my fundraising page and donate now. The dollars you give today may save a life tomorrow.

Thank you in advance for your help and support.

Oh, by the way, this is what I looked and felt like after last year’s Walk . . . 

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Attaining “CR” and the Death of a Childhood Hero

** A Special Saturday Edition of Joe’s Journey **

I am finally approaching the weekend. It’s beautiful outside while it has been turmoil inside. This has not been a good week for me, save and except for one thing.

I have now attained the status of being in full “CR”, complete remission from CLL, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. I just need to stay that way. I learned the news on Monday.

Yet, I was pretty much numb from the evening before through all day Monday. You see, I learned late Sunday night that I had lost a special friend, a childhood hero, a person I looked up to and respected, just like my Dad.

When the past collides with the present, it can be gut-wrenching.

My life these past few months has been up and down, very uncertain and nervous about the future. My health seems to be returning and, apparently, I appear to be defeating that bastard known as cancer.

Still, I’m worried about the prospects of my wife, Pamela, walking again. She’s continuing to undergo rehab but progress seems to be minimal, and it’s been almost two years since her stroke. This is another sore spot with me as it pertains to the inconsistent care she has received.

I’ll not bore those who read my blog posts (THANK YOU) with details, but suffice it to say, I have had a few thousand things on my mind and it feels like very few of them are being solved. One main reason I try and contribute something in these blogs is to keep my creative juices flowing and to comment and offer constructive observations on life’s goings-on.

This week has had many twists and turns, thanks to Mr. Murphy (infamously of Murphy’s Law) who must have taken up residence on our front lawn. Seems every time I settle in to do something constructive in order to generate some income, I always get interrupted by something not always minor. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve started to write this blog post before something would distract me. That’s what those blasted emotions do.

Adding insult to injury, our air conditioning unit (relatively new) decided it didn’t want to work yesterday, and as I write this, is “in the process of being fixed.” Thank God for ceiling fans and cooler (slightly) weather.

It’s Friday, the last day of September, the first day of the 2016 Ryder Cup, golf’s international showdown between the USA and Europe every four years. I’m a fan, a golfer who as a young lad practically grew up on the golf course. I haven’t played in years, though.

The whole event, however, is bittersweet for me, and for millions the world over who follow golf and who are fans of one man in particular.

umbrella-logoYou see, my special friend and childhood hero I lost this past Sunday was Arnold Palmer, known the world over simply as Arnie. An icon, a legend, a multimillionaire, a friend to millions everywhere, an everyman.

Sitting on my couch this past Sunday night trying to relax, I was not looking forward to Monday’s visit to Houston’s Methodist Hospital. I’ve been fighting with insurance and billing for months, and to little avail.

Then suddenly, I get notice that “golfing icon Arnold Palmer has died at the age of 87.” I sat there, stunned, thinking I had misread my phone. Then the notice reappeared, and from additional sources.

I just blurted out “No, No, No, No, No . . .” I couldn’t think of anything else to do but run into the bedroom and tell Pam, “Arnie’s gone. He died.”

Then, I just broke down. Like a little child, I sobbed and could not stop.

Another one of my heroes had fallen.

“He sat with kings and queens and presidents, and he was just as happy as sitting with a bunch of guys from the mills or coal mines. He wasn’t pretentious. He’s what everybody calls a good egg,” said Gabe Monzo, executive director of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority, which is responsible for the operation of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, PA.

Arnold PalmerAs I’ve made it through to this weekend, I fondly remember watching Arnie on television. I’m a child of the 50’s and 60’s, so I got to see Mr. Palmer during his glory years. I even got to, briefly, meet him when he was playing in the Administaff Small Business Classic in Houston in 2005. That’s when the Golfing Gods must’ve been shining on me because I was lucky enough to capture his autograph on my special Administaff hat.

Arnold Palmer signing cap at Houston golf tourneyI remember following Arnie (along with Tom Kite and Larry Nelson) around the course that Friday. Several times during the day, in walking from one green to the next tee box, I came within arm’s reach of Palmer. Like some little embarrassed kid, I couldn’t muster up the courage to blurt out “Hello, Arnie. Welcome back to Houston.” I also couldn’t find a nearby 5-year old to blurt it out for me!

I was in awe of this man. As was everyone else on the course.

Larry Nelson, a superb gentleman whom I met later in getting his autograph, was the defending champion of this tournament. He and Tom Kite, also a class act, were no match for Palmer’s celebrity and megawatt charm.

As a kid playing golf with Dad, one major thing I learned from both Mr. Palmer and Daddy was the not-so-simple trait of the handshake, and its significance. A handshake is how Palmer sealed the deal with Mark McCormack on becoming his business manager/agent. A handshake and giving one’s word seemed to work wonders for both Arnie and Dad over the years. They both put more emphasis on it than a signed piece of paper.

I think we’ve lost that aspect of society, and, clearly, it’s not nearly seen as the big deal that it was in Palmer and Dad’s day. That’s sad.

A memorial service is planned for Tuesday, October 4, at 10AM CST. It most likely will be televised by Golf Channel, which Mr. Palmer co-founded.

I suggest to those who are fans of the man or the sport or both that a donation be made by joining Arnie’s Army and the Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation. I have.

I’d also like to ask your support of me by donating to my fundraising for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society’s Light the Night Walk. The Houston Walk is just one week away – next Saturday, October 8 at the University of Houston.

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Forgive me for this long post. It’s been a long week.

I can’t help but wonder, though, how long it will take Arnie and Dad to arrange to play a round “up there.” I’d love to be the caddy, provided, of course, I have a return ticket.