Update One: The Leg Surgery…or How Six Weeks Became Five Months

•February 17, 2015 • 1 Comment

When last we left off, I was about to go into the hospital for surgical excision of an unidentified mass on my right hip. When I went to see the specialist, he assured me that since the tests came back “indeterminate” that the probability was high for the mass to be benign. He told me “If the mass was Very Bad Cancer, the tests would have come back saying Very Bad Cancer.”

I went to work out one Friday afternoon with my trainer, Chris. We were using the boxing gloves for an aerobic warm-up when I went to land a roundhouse punch, and in the process of aiming towards the practice pad I reached too far to my left.  I felt a terrible tear and intense pain.  I took the power chair from the gym to home, which is about a quarter-mile. Every bump, every curb, every curb cut, and the pain grew more intense. Finally when I got home, I called 911 and told the paramedics what had happened.  I got a ride to the University of Washington medical center because although I was having surgery at Swedish medical Center, I knew that the University of Washington was far more effective in pain management.  For the next two weeks, I was imaged within an inch of my life. Because I am so heavy, they had difficulty in getting accurate imaging to give to the surgeon. Once they did, it was decided to move my leg surgery from late October to the next day.  They transferred me by ambulance to Swedish medical Center, and the surgery was scheduled for the next morning.

The surgery itself was relatively uneventful. He said the surgery was estimated for three hours, and it took seven. Part of the reason was that the mass was unlike anything he had to seeing in his 16 years of practice. The surgeon opened me up, excised the mass, then took it into the Radiologists office for examination. They discovered this mass to be the size of a small Nerf football. When they sliced the mass for cell slides, they discovered a giant lump of nothing but dead blood cells, and bits of fat and bone. I tell people that it is the biological equivalent of having one of those giant patches of plastic garbage that float somewhere in the Pacific ocean.  Apparently, since I have had a gastric bypass, my body has difficulty reabsorbing waste products due to injury. That’s all this was. They confirmed there was no cancer anywhere.

after Swedish medical Center, they transferred me to kindred Hospital. I was very fortunate to get a bed at kindred, because much to my surprise kindred is one of the best hospitals for relatively long-term rehabilitation. It does not take long for my muscles to generate to the point where I have difficulty walking. Fortunately, since I work out a great deal, I have tremendous upper body strength. If you spend one day in bed, it takes three days of normal activity to recuperate. It was going to Take me several weeks of therapy in order to be able to transfer safely from chair to bed and back again. During this time, they put me on a very rigorous pain management program which lasted far longer than it really should have. I was on a great deal of strong injectables, and I found myself with a vicious addiction to narcotics. Fortunately, I’ve been here before. I am fortunate in that being a chronic pain patient, our bodies do not react to narcotics in the same way that people who are not in pain experience.

I was at kindred for a month and a half when they told me that they were very full, and since I was the furthest along in terms of getting better, they would transfer me to a nursing home – – excuse me, a “skilled nursing facility.” Well, I was in one of those “skilled” nursing facilities for nearly 5 years after I first became disabled, and I had no desire to go back to that situation at all! Just when things look gloomiest, and going back to one of those places seemed inevitable, suddenly the University of Washington had a bed available in their Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit.  This unit is considered one of the top three rehabilitation centers in the country, and that’s for good reason. The nurses, aids, and physical therapists are all at the top of their game. Sadly, I’ve been in and out of hospitals for the past 15 years and never, ever, have I experienced such a kind and generous care as I did at the University of Washington.

After the first couple of days in this Unit, I got very angry. When I left kindred, I have completed my physical therapy and was considered safe to transfer. Why am I going to the University of Washington, I asked? I got very angry when I arrived at the Unit and told them that I didn’t understand why I was there, that I had finished my physical therapy, and I was ready to go home.  Well, said that, that may be true. But we need to run you through the paces and find out just how strong you are and how ready you are to go home. That was on a Monday. By the time Wednesday rolled around, I had to go to this care meeting and they told me that yes, if everything maintained, they would send me home on Friday. Well, Fridayrolled around, and the doctor in charge said that yes, I was ready to go home, but I would have to undergo an assessment by DSH S. Unfortunately, there had been a phone outage at the DSH S Ctr., and they were backed up for their assessments so I would have to remain at the unit for another FIVE WEEKS.

I should have been kinder. I should have been more understanding. But at this point, I was both physically and emotionally stressed out of my mind, recovering from severe narcotics addiction, working through some PTSD related issues, my testosterone level had gone from 1399 to 71. In every way that a person could crash, I did. Needless to say, I was in a foul mood for the first couple of weeks while I was there. Fortunately, there was a physical therapist there named Brandon who found out what I was all about and managed to find a way to get me re-motivated and re-energized. In every single situation where I was stressed and in pain, the University of Washington took care of it. Never in my life have I met people who, in some of the worst, grossest, most challenging situations were kind, friendly and thoughtful. I owe them more than I can ever repay.

I got home the third week of January. The next few weeks were terrible, still suffering from withdrawal, barely able to finish a sentence, think a complete thought, and I had the awful experience of saying things that I never intended to say out loud.  I started going back to the gym the first week I was home, not expecting a lot out of myself, and working as hard as I physically could every day. Now, A little more than a month later, I am getting close to returning to my previous strange. I was worried about this because even after intense physical therapy, I discovered that my total body strength had diminished quite a bit. But both Chris my trainer and his girlfriend Logan told me not to worry, that muscle memory would come into play and I would recover much faster than I was thinking. So far, this is true.

I am back. If not completely back, been much closer to it than I was when I left the UDub.  As it turns out, I will need this strength for the next phase of my life.

See, there’s this great guy named Abe…

Updates Aplenty

•February 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog. Much has happened in the intervening months. Not only a change in my position, but many life changes as well. It’s going to take a while for me to sort everything out and organize my thoughts. One of the first things we’ll deal with is the leg surgery and the aftermath. But one of the most important things is that I’ve been battling, praying, crying, and even succeeding in a new relationship. More to come sports fans.


•April 26, 2014 • 1 Comment

I’ve changed my health care from the University of Washington to Swedish Medical Center.  My first appointment about the radiology testing that was done will be on Monday.  It’s then we’ll schedule the open bone biopsy.  After that, we’ll know whether all this is cancer, and what we’re dealing with.

I’ve come to the point where I feel the problem now, especially laying on a very hard mattress.  it’s there and it’s deep.

I had a great lunch with my friend James.  James has been a good, loyal, steadfast friend through all these years.  (We met after he started commenting here.)  I made what might have turned out to be a large mistake.  I do believe that when you speak the things that are inside your head, you give words an intense power.  And I told him that I am considering foregoing treatment for this mass, if it is indeed cancerous.  I am poor, overweight, disabled, unemployed, dealing with profound and horrible loneliness attached to this whole gay issue.  So I am treated and lose so much of what I’ve worked hard to recover these last two and a half years?  To what end?  To what purpose, what quality of life?  To fight hard and get well as I can go back to being poor, with no life, no love, no future?  No hope but to wait the years and months until Heaven?

Whatever for?  Why?  Is this God’s best and highest for me?  Is this my role, to fight hopeless odds for the rest of my life for worthless ground?  I know God Himself did none of this to me; He did, however, allow it.  To make me fight in this endless war He’s already won, to strengthen and sharpen me.  But it all feels like overkill:  Enough of the fighting for worthless treasures.  I am tired of fighting, I am tired of losing, and I am tired of my life being doled out in dribbles, only to escape my grasp and roll down the drain.

As James stated, and I agree, it is useless to fight these questions until I know anything for certain.  That much is true and I hold onto that as the rest of the battle rages on.  I fight, however, with the cold dread that I may have popped a cork from of the bottle and some horrible black djinn just escaped to finish me and the fight once and for all.

The Next Battle

•February 23, 2014 • 2 Comments

Morbid Obesity

20 percent under the poverty line


Reconciling my faith and my orientation

All of these are difficult crosses to bear in themselves.  I had only recently come to a reluctant peace over the last issue and had come to the point where I believed that having an intimate, joyful same-sex relationship would never be mine and if that was the cross I had to bear for His name, then so be it.

But it turns out, I’m not done fighting yet.  There’s a new battle on the horizon.



At the beginning of the month, I got desperately sick.  It’s part of having a pretty large abdominal hernia.  Sometimes  a loop of the bowel gets wedged, food gets jammed up, and I get very sick.  I made it to the ER barely in time.  My admitting blood pressure was 65/50.  The doctor actually asked me why I was conscious.  (“Too stubborn to die yet, doc.”)

They took a CT scan of my midsection to look at the bowel and found that during the coma and subsequent infections that caused me to become disabled in the first place, I developed some pretty severe adhesions in my intestines.  Adhesions are when infected flesh heals over and produces scar tissue.  Sometimes organs can stick to each other or narrow.  Some of that narrowing causes the internal problems.

When they ran the scan, they noticed a very large mass on my right leg.  The mass has been there before and was considered fairly harmless, but now the mass had grown considerably and some of the bone in my leg had begun to dissolve.  Bone involvement, they said, was either a massive infectious process, or cancer.  They took me in for a biopsy of the mass and ran tests.  The tests were indeterminate for cancer, but definitely negative for infection.

There are two possibilities here:  the first is something called a lipoma.  Literally, a cancer of the fat.  It is THE most benign kind of cancer that you can have.  They go into your leg, dig it out with a dirty soup spoon, then sew you up and wait for you to heal.  The other kind of cancer is something called a liposarcoma.  This is when the fat becomes malignant and begins to affect other tissues…including bone.  This kind of cancer can be treated by every manner up to and including the loss of my right leg.

There is a point where your prayers go from thanksgiving for peace…to “I trust You, Your will be done”…to ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS CRAP?!?!?!?  But I’ve been trying to get into the hospital to have a bone biopsy done in these last two weeks, and in the process of all of this, a change.  I’m at peace about this and, more often times than not, I am eager to take this battle on.

It is so simple to blame God for all the problems and all the heartache caused by this war.  It is too easy.  BUT ALL THIS HAD TO GO THROUGH YOUR HANDS!!  WHY DO YOU ALLOW SATAN THIS GROUND??  I CHOOSE TO DENY MYSELF, PICK UP MY CROSS TO FOLLOW YOU AND YOU LET HIM BEAT ME WITH IT?  WHY?  Fact of the matter, I can see His hand in all of this.  God is not raising up a big old sissy boy.  God is raising a warrior and it will not be long before He allows me the joy of setting down my crosses and beating Satan with His.

It is a lonely haul, this, but I am blessed here too.  I may be poor, but I have a handful of men that have all told me, in their own way, that when the darkness gets darker, they will not leave, they will not run.  They will be there to hold the hand and wipe the brow.  That is a blessing that not many people have and it strengthens me to know I am blessed beyond reason.  One of my best friends in San Francisco will drop everything to fly up when the big excision surgery happens.

I wish this were all different.  I wish that I could believe that there were incredible joys and wonderful surprises ahead.  I don’t.  But in place of that knowledge, I savor each day I have.  Today I had no appointments or responsibilities other than to rest, and I am resting like a boss, believe you me.  I wish the bank account weren’t so low, but as I survey the kitchen I am stocked with frozen veggies, lean proteins, and all the low-glycemic carbohydrates I could ask for.

There is still so much I long for, deep in my soul.  I crave being touched, holding and being held.  Greedily, there are things I want to have.  Places I want to go.  Accomplishments yet to be realized.  But to trade them all for a simple appreciation of one day at a time is an amazing thing for me.  I pray for that to continue, throughout these days and the pain yet to come, but even that peace and appreciation can only exist one day at a time.

More to come.  This is enough for today.

Your Life in Print (or, a Small Progress Report)

•January 2, 2014 • 1 Comment

So, last we left things these many months ago, I made the vital mistake of trusting someone for counsel that I should never have gone to.  My fault entirely.  Burn me once, shame on you.  Burn me twice, shame on me.

But God has a funny way of putting what you need right in plain sight sometimes, and He did just that.  One friend was there on a phone call and provided an open heart and a fully engaged ear.  The other, and a semi-surprising one at that, has pointed me to a book called Washed and Waiting.  It is stuff that I have known, stuff that I have studied before, but there are passages in there about the loneliness and the epic cross we are called to pick up that brought me waves of peace in between the constant teardrops.  She is a very good friend and has said, on more than one occasion, “I want to walk with you through this.”  THAT’S the voice of Jesus talking.

It does not make the burden any easier, though.  In fact, one of the best places to bring that loneliness, the author says, is the Church. After Mars Hill, THAT’S a thoroughly intimidating, horrifying option.  But it also feels like the right one.  Maybe.  God’ll have to change circumstances and find me one that will fit.

It feels like there is a course correction in progress.  It doesn’t heal the hurt, doesn’t make the tears stop or the ache lessen, but I read this man’s life and I feel understood and less of an outcast because of it.  And that is something.

As always, your prayers are appreciated.

Any Time Now…?

•August 22, 2013 • 2 Comments

Got a call today from my case manager with the City of Seattle.  I’m disabled and she manages the red tape for me.

To make a long, sad, horrible story short, my income is taking a major beating this next year.  After expenses, my income was about $400 a month.  Now it will be $127 a month.  Food stamps will also be dramatically cut.

Lord Jesus.  Waiting for you to ride over the hill with an answer.  Rescue your lost and hurting son.   Annnnnny time now.  Any time.  Over the hill.  Waiving the sword.  Hero shot from the ground as the horse raises itself defiantly, ready at the charge.

Waiting.  Any time now.  The splintering grows louder.  Something has got to give and give soon.


•August 8, 2013 • 1 Comment

There’s a weird scene from the John Travolta movie Phenomenon that has stuck with me for years.  In a moment of anxiety, George Malley, the Travolta character, furiously digs in his garden in a moment of frustration and rage.  A wind picks up and he looks up into the trees.  The wind is heavy, but the trees flex and sway against the wind.  So does George, and in a few moments the last traces of his anxiety seem to disappear.

I am trying to remember this, to be flexible, to bend gently against the onslaught.  But the wind has picked up and I’m beginning to splinter.  I have no problem with picking up my own cross, but it seems that unlike so many, I’m called to call it all loss, all failure.  Everything.  No job, no purpose, no heart to share and to receive another.  So much has been lost, yet the call seems to be everything.  I feel my heart dying.  Love is being replaced by rage and loss and pain.  To this point, I have been a proverbial camel when it comes to hope.  A drop of hope, a sign from God, a scripture that applies, and I’ll work that hope for another hundred miles of bad road.

And here’s where the sadness and loss moves into depression and the depression moves into some honesty:

I am angry.  For what possible purpose does God want my heart to die?  Part of me suspects that my own pride, arrogance and self-righteousness in this area have gotten me to this point.  I know more acutely now what gay men feel when they attend church and their struggles, desires and loss are put down to a few conservative talking points or, worse, when it’s met with hatred and derision.  I think back to my time at Mars Hill and I burn with rage and shame against the jokes made at the expense of those who sat in the seats, quietly dealing with their struggles, yearning for a word, a touch, ANYTHING from God, only to be met with scorn.  I get that now.  I get the difference between a straight single person who has the someday hope of a sanctified relationship and gay men and women who are asked to find their peace and joy in something other than what their heart says is right.  Look, but don’t touch.  Smile, but don’t be so gay.  The church has thrown out the proverbial gayby with the bathwater — your acts are offensive and sinful and in order to fit in, you must completely change and find an understanding woman to marry.  And if celibacy isn’t your bag, you selfish sinner, well then you don’t belong here.  Good luck at the monastery.

Is that the calling?  Is this the reason for the pain?  Is this the next battle for me?  Is this my stand?

All I know is God needs to bring some rain soon.  A tree can bend only so far before it breaks.