Monthly Archives: September 2012

A Guy in a Skewed World: Update

Okay, so I know it’s been awhile since I last updated this.  I think I left it a little too long.  Sorry about that.

Anyways, as I mentioned previously, I’ve been seeing a new rheumatologist for the last several months.  He and his staff have been wonderful.  They’ve even called me in on short notice after I called and said the meds they put me on didn’t seem to be working.  I was in their office for a scheduled appointment the next morning.

After a complete workup, including x-rays, blood tests, and a very thorough physical exam, he’s come to the conclusion that the FMS I’ve been dealing with for the last several years is a secondary condition.  The primary condition is an inflammatory arthritis (he’s not specified, yet but is leaning towards Rheumatoid Arthritis).  Since we started treating that with corticosteroids (prednisone) and methotrexate, most of the issues with my hands and feet have become bearable.  Along with that change, a good number of my FMS symptoms have come under control, as well.  They’re not gone, but they’re now at the level where I can deal with it.

Now, Methotrexate is a drug that has proven to work with RA, but it’s primary function (in much larger dosages than I am on) has been as a cancer treatment drug.  Because of this, the side effects can be rather intense.  Nausea, fatique, insomnia, loss of appetite, etc. are all part of the list of possible side effects.  I take it on Fridays, so that I’ve got all weekend to deal with the worst side effects to be able to work the following week.  Well, until the beginning of September, the side effects were so bad that I was out of work on Mondays quite frequently.  However, the docs made a change to the Floric Acid supplements I was taking (now a triple dose on the day before, day of, and day after taking the methotrexate).  Even with the boosted dosage they put me on, it’s made a world of difference.  I’m now able to do some things on the weekends where before I was practically incapacitated all weekend.  I’ve also managed to not miss any work for the last month.

Now, saying that, the first thought through a lot of people’s mind’s would be, “A month?  That’s not a big deal.”  Now, bear with me for a moment.  This is the first time in at least a year where I did not miss a single day of scheduled work time.  For me, that’s a big deal.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to drop me a line.


A Confused Conservative

I originally wrote this on another blog. The majority of the points are still pertinent.

I know what y’all are thinking. Any conservative person in America today has to be confused. Far be it from me to disabuse you of the notion.

I should say that I’m a confusing conservative. I believe in several things that put me in that camp.

I believe:

There is a God who sent His Son to die for us over 2000 years ago.
Every person (male, female, black, white, purple, etc.) has the right to my respect.
Every person has a right to lose my respect as soon as they prove that they are no longer worthy of having it.
Every person has the right to live their life as they choose, in the boundaries of their own values, as long as they don’t force those values upon me (see #3 above).
Every person has a right to be free of me forcing my beliefs on them. A corollary to #4 above.

Given these beliefs I tend to fit in to the conservative group.

Where things get confusing is that, while I am very conservative (Def: “Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.”, primarily the “oppose change” part), I am very much an independent thinker. I don’t fit into any one whole. I am an octagonal peg being shoved into a triangle hole.

I am pro-life. I believe that all life is sacred and special. However, I understand that not everyone agrees with me. I understand that others believe that taking that life before it ever gets a chance to start is acceptable.

I am for the freedom of speech. I won’t necessarily agree with what you are saying, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.

I am all for debate prior to making a decision. However, once that decision is made, our support should be behind that decision. A classic example of this is the war in Iraq. I did not believe all of the rhetoric given for going in prior to it starting (I still don’t), but I support the effort going now, because I believe our soldiers need all of the support at home that they can get. I’ve seen what happens when soldiers return home and get scorned, tormented and abused. I’ve seen friends’ fathers withdraw from their family and friends because of this treatment. This is a lesson we need to learn from Vietnam. These men and women need our support.

I am an avid gamer. I play all kinds of computer, board, and role-playing games. Yes, role-playing games. That’s a whole OTHER rant. I’ll probably get to that tomorrow.

My politics are even more confused that my personal beliefs.

I believe in a small, minimally interfering government. However, I believe in a state supported welfare system.
I believe in a state supported welfare system. However, I believe that it should be limited in scope, time, and have responsibility on the part of the recipient to earn/work for these benefits.
I believe in a strong, well paid/supplied military. However, I think that some of the decisions made by said military are down right stupid.
I believe that killing people is wrong. Period. Full stop. HOWEVER, comma, I believe that the death penalty is a viable punishment for certain offenses. One way that my thinking has changed over the years since this was first written. Anyone who threatens my life or safety or the life/safety of my wife and children are taking their lives into their own hands. I will not refuse to use force, up to and including the use of deadly force, if my life, or the life of my family is endangered. While this might seem like a stretch, it’s just a tweaking of my thoughts on the death penalty. It’s just a little more immediate. If someone chooses to violate the social contract to the point of jeopardizing me ore my family, well, they made their choice. I’ll deal with the consequences to my conscience, but I’ll still have my family around to help me with that.

In this past Presidential election, I was in a bit of quandary. I disagreed with all of the candidates. And I agreed with all of the candidates. See what I mean about being confused?

Oh, well.

*wanders off scratching his head*

— sham

A Guy in a Skewed World: Better Living Through Modern Chemistry

One of the things that I’ve had to come to grips with while dealing with my FMS and other arthritis conditions (little of which actually shows up on x-rays. Go figure) is the experimentation that doctors go through. Let’s try this drug and see if it helps. Take this drug for a couple weeks and then come see me. Anybody with a chronic, long term condition is familiar with this cycle of ups, downs and completely freaked out reactions of your body.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I appreciate the hard work that doctors do to try and help us reach a point where we can live a functional life or put us back together after we do something monumentally stupid. My rant (because it’s not really a complaint, because I can see and understand the logic behind it) is born out of an overloaded sense of frustration.

It’s frustrating to deal with the cycle of hope and disappointment that comes with each new treatment plan.

It’s frustrating to have something start working, and then having to quit because the side effects are more dibelatating than the condition being treated.

It’s frustrating to realize that there might not be a way to actually bring my health levels back to a point where I can remain a functional member of society.

A recent visit to a new rheumatologist (and one that doesn’t think it’s all in my head) has me hoping again that we might be able to find something that’ll work. New tests, x-rays, and a willingness to not assume that I’m making it all up for attention. Those have sparked something that’s been missing for awhile (despite my family’s best efforts).

Here’s hoping that we can finally break this cycle of hope and despair and get something accomplished.

— Sham

Originally posted at on 03/23/2012.

A Guy in a Skewed World: Intro to FMS

For a good number of years, I dealt with issues that baffled me.  You see, my family has a history of autoimmune disease.  My grandmother suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) for many years before passing away due to complications. Several years back, I started feeling chronic fatigue (often even after a full night’s sleep), muscle spasms, frequent and excruciating muscle cramps, frequent muscle aches and muscle weakness. I went to my normal doctor to see if we could figure out what was going on.  With the family history and being the primary means of support for my wife and family, I was concerned about what could be happening.  Fibromyalgia (FMS) is diagnosed, not through positive test results, but an elimination of other conditions. My doctor ran tests (and reran the tests) for lupus, RA, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune diseases.  Over the course of several years, the symptoms only got worse.  It got to the point where I was going to work maybe 3 days out of 5 due to dealing with the symptoms.  My boss was very … lenient … where my absenteeism was concerned.  After approximately 3 years of trying to figure out what it is, my rheumatologist tested me for the 18 tender points usually associated with FMS. Out of the 18 points, I was (and still am) tender in 16 of them.  She then diagnosed me with FMS.  Not that having a diagnosis made life any easier, but it did set my mind at ease.  I had some idea of what I was dealing with.

For those that aren’t aware, Fibromyalgia Syndrome is called a syndrome for a reason.  Not everyone who has FMS has all of the same symptoms.  Some deal with muscle aches, sleep deprivation, depression, joint aches.  Others deal with the muscle aches, muscle spasms, cramps and fatigue.  Others mix and match the symptoms in different ways.  That’s part of why it’s so difficult to diagnose FMS.  It’s also part of why there are still doctors today who don’t believe that FMS is real.  If you’d like more information on FMS, check out the nice WebMD article about it.

As a male with Fibro, I’ve managed to beat the odds rather dramatically.  It’s a disease that’s currently diagnosed in females more than males.  Depending on which set of statistics you pay attention to, it’s either 95% or 10:1.  Now, this could be a gender bias on the syndrome.  My take (and this is backed up by some studies that I’ve managed to lose the links to), it’s probably more common in men than is currently diagnosed, but due to male pigheadedness (aka machismo), help is not sought, so no diagnosis.  Most of the symptoms, taken separately, are all things that men are taught to ignore or work through.  Men don’t admit (to themselves, much less others) that they’re hurting, tired, weak or any of the other myriad symptoms.  It’s seen as being weak.  It’s seen as being less of a man.  It’s. Just. Not. Done.  Ergo, fewer men get diagnosed with fibro. 

Even with the limitations on my activities due to the fibro, I’m still working.  It’s been hard.  Some days, it’s all I can do to climb out of bed and get ready for work.  I’ve been blessed with a boss that’s been extremely lenient and willing to work.  I’ve come close to being fired several times, especially during the period where I didn’t have a definitive name to put on what I was dealing with.  There were several times where I think my boss stepped out on thin ice to give me the time to work through it.  I’m glad he did.  Earlier this year, I hit 16 years with the company. 

I will say that a good part of why I’ve managed to make it and get back to a semblance normalcy is my family support system.  Through it all, I’ve had the unconditional support of my loving wife and our children.  My-in-laws and my parents have all shown considerable support over the years.  Between their support and a wonderful doctor (who also happens to be one of the last old fashioned country doctors), I’m back to something that vaguely resembles a normal life.  I do have to be careful in what I do because overextending is very easy.  I’m back to working 19 out of 20 days.  Which, as an American Male – I’m glad for it.

Looking at it, I’m looking at turning this into an extended series.  Look back for more.

— sham

A Guy in a Skewed World: Next step

One of the things that I deal with regularly is skepticism. There are a lot of people (quite a few of them in the medical professions) who don’t see Fibromylagia as a real condition. They see it as someone trying to get attention or faking to get out actually being a productive citizen. I’ve dealt with several doctors, rheumatologists even, that did little to help me find ways to remain productive and able to provide for my family.

Having said all that, I’m happy to say that I’ve found a new doctor that is actually trying to help. For once, someone’s looking at my symptoms and actually trying to figure out if there’s an underlying problem that triggered the FMS (likely Rheumatoid Arthritis or RA) or if the FMS is just tagging along on it’s own. He’s seems sincere in trying to find a way to get me back to some semblance of normality. It’s been only one visit, but that one visit has given me the hope that someone out there does believe that there’s actually something going on and is willing to work with me to find out how to stall it. It’s going to take time, effort, and many small steps (even some backwards), but I’m willing to put the time in to be able to live a somewhat normal life.

— sham

Originally posted at on 03/22/2012

Days that suck

You ever have one of those days that just truly suck? Days that suck your energy, patience, and desire to accomplish anything right out of you? Well, today is one of the days for me.

My fibro limits me in various ways. When I overextend, like I did this weekend wtih laying tile in one of my mom’s bedrooms and the helping my son stay up prepping for a sleep deprivation EEG and then taking him to said EEG. When I overextend, my body reminds me of it for several days. Aches, dizziness, cramps and muscle spasms, heavy fatigue, and loss of appetite all are ways my body (because of the fibro) remind me that I over did it. The flare hits worse the day after but normally lasts for several days. The severity diminishes somewhat as my body manages recover from the overwork that I out it through.

That’s something that a lot of folks don’t understand. I can do a lot of things that are considered normal. They don’t see the torment that I go through on the following days. That’s why I have to be careful and pick and choose which activities I will do.

Now, while this is a bit of a rant, I want to make it clear that I do not ever intend for this disease to keep me from doing what I want to do. I will do what I need to do and accept the consequences. At that point, it’s my choice to be a stubborn, pigheaded Polack. Everyone else just needs to get out of my way. I don’t need to be babied. I am learning the new limits that my body has decided to enforce. I am also aware of the consequences of going beyond those limits.

I will not let this disease beat me. I will not let it dictate to me how I should live my life. I acknowledge the limits and their consequences. I will not let them stop me from helping my family and doing things with my family. My family is too precious to me for me to allow it to take them and activities with them away from me.

I apologize that this is a little ranty and a lot incoherent. I’m dealing with the consequences of overextending this weekend. My brain and body are barely functioning today. I’m lucky to have made it into work today.

— Sham

Originally posted at on October 25, 2011.

Stupid People are Stupid

I really don’t know which part of this story gets my goat more – the fact that the local NBC station is going into PSH over it or the guy thought he could bring a loaded weapon (even if the weapon itself was not loaded, his magazines were, ergo…) in his carry-on luggage. Note – I wanted to include the TSA in that little rant, but it appears that the TSA found it during screening, before the passenger could board a plane.

To summarize – a passenger attempted to bring a Ruger .45 and ammunition past security at Richmond International Airport earlier this morning. Why this qualifies as BREAKING NEWS 5 hours after the fact … I’ll leave that for y’all to figure out.

Now, the guy could’ve very easily forgotten it was there if he routinely carries in the bag he had on the plane. I know I’ve had items in my laptop bag that would’ve made airport security rather … excited … if they’d found them. 😛 While explanatory, it’s not exculpatory. It was a stupid move. If you’re transporting your weapons (and yourself) by plane, follow the rules and procedures. Yes, it’s a pain in the butt. Yes, it’s an intrusion into privacy, etc. etc. But (and it’s a big but), it prevents you from violating any number of federal laws. Which means, you’ll be able to keep that nice, shiny CHP (oh, and the firearms, too) that the Commonwealth of Virginia was nice enough to issue to you.

The local station is starting to get on my nerves with the hysterical rants about guns, lately. Now, I know this isn’t a change for them, it’s just that I’ve started paying more attention to articles/stories about gun usage. We’ve had several stories over the past couple weeks that the hysteria became in-your-face-obvious. The first was a local deputy that used a personal weapon (not even his duty sidearm) to defend himself and his home from a burglar. The local papers and TV news tried to play the story off as a vigilante mission by the deputy and were making calls for something to be done to the deputy. Now, VA is NOT a Castle Doctrine state (yet, that is). The legal precedents in the local courts strongly lean that direction, however. The deputy was doing what any homeowner should be allowed to do – protect himself. Almost two weeks later, the state police are still investigating, but likely won’t do anything to the deputy. However, the article makes it sound like the homeowner was in the wrong for shooting someone WHO BROKE INTO HIS HOUSE and THREATENED HIS FAMILY.

The second story happened just this past weekend and is making the rounds of the gun blogs. Sebastian at Shall Not Be Questioned is just one example of the reaction. Now, the guy was carrying a loaded Glock in his waistband without a holster. Definitely falls into the category of Less Than Intelligent Moves. Guy did something stupid and paid the price. His wife is quoted as seeing him move it around when it went off. GAAAAH! Modern firearms (yes, even Glocks) don’t just “go off”. On a bad day, surrounded by idiots, *I* am more likely to “just go off” than your standard firearm. Holsters, in this case, are good for two things – making sure that the weapon doesn’t randomly drop out and keeping outside objects from interacting with the bang switch. Especially your finger. The local coverage of this story played up the “evil gun decided to take the guy’s life” angle instead of using it as a reinforcement of the importance of safety. Yes, the man was less than bright for carrying that way. A $10 piece of cheap plastic would’ve done him better. Playing to peoples’ fear, instead of using it as a means to instruct, is just sad.

I better stop this here, because the more I think on this, the angrier I get, and my co-workers would rather I keep the angry mumbling to a minimum.

Someone thinks I’m not crazy …

Rather, someone thinks I’m not crazy ENOUGH. 😀

I know it’s a bit late, since it actually came in before Thanksgiving, but the Commonwealth (and my local county) decided that I wasn’t crazy enough to deny a Concealed Carry Permit.

Now, if only I can get my wife to finish the paperwork and get hers and I might not worry as much about her out and about with the kids. Maybe when she sees what I got her for Christmas, she’ll be inclined to stop procrastinating.

Sadly, working on a Federal reservation (not naming it due to privacy issues), I’m forced to be unarmed on the way to/from work. When I run errands after work, it’s a choice between driving home first (which usually means I’m going to end up NOT running the errands ’cause frankly I don’t want to leave again when I get home.) or going unarmed to run the errands. Hitting the grocery store – not a problem, usually as it’s literally on the drive home.

Ah, well. It’s all good for driving me even crazier (and yes, the peanut gallery will say that it’s a really short trip).

— sham

Originally posted at on 12/11/2011.

Seventeen years of Marital Fun

It’s been 17 years (to the exact day – it was a Friday, it’s now Friday) since we held a small ceremony in my father-in-law’s church. 17 years where things have been up, down, sideways, bent, spent and mutilated. 17 years that I don’t regret for even a moment. As Garth Brooks said in “The Dance”, “I could’ve missed the pain, but then I would’ve missed the dance.”

For Better or For Worse – We’ve had rocky patches over the years. What pair of humans can live in close confines with each other without SOME disagreements? And if you says “My parents didn’t fight”, I just say – they were better at hiding it. It’s natural to disagree, even with your mate. What’s not natural is for you to allow that disagreement to come between you. We’ve had to work hard (extremely hard at some points) to manage the disagreements in a healthy manner, but we did. Still together 17 years later and she’s still my best friend.

For Richer and For Poorer – We’ve never been rich, money-wise. Many years ago, we made a decision that I do not regret. Even knowing what I do now, I’d still make the same decision. We decided that the best thing for the children (of which we have been blessed with four) would be She Who Must Be Adored would remain home with them. It’s made it … interesting … from time to time dealing with a single income, but with loving family on both sides, we’ve managed to survive. Seeing the way the kids have turned out, we would do it again. She Who Must Be Adored is a wonderful mother (even if she doesn’t always think so) that has done right so far by her kids. Oh, and by me. But I tend to forget about me. 🙂

In Sickness and In Health – Both of us have health issues that make it difficult sometimes. Between her health issues and my fibromyalgia (and associated conditions), it’s been difficult sometimes. When the pain or the depression hits so bad that it’s hard for the other person to understand what’s going on, that’s when we depend on each other the most. I know that I would’ve been hard pressed to make it through the last couple years as the FMS symptoms have gotten worse and my arthritis has become almost unbearable, at times. Having the support of a loving, caring mate has helped me get through the worst of it. Having her and the kids in my life gives me a reason to push myself to not allow this disease to beat me. From the bottom of my heart, her unwavering support for me during this time says more than she’s ever been able to vocalize (and since she’s where the kids got their chatterbox tendencies from … that’s saying something. 😀 )

Til Death Do Us Part – Today marks the start of our 18th year of marriage (21st year of being a couple). For me, it’s just a down payment on the time we’re going to spend together. She Who Must Be Adored completes me (and this is just one of the reasons she must be Adored. 🙂 When we aren’t together (I’m away on business or she’s off with the kids somewhere for a couple days, what-have-you), I feel a chunk of myself missing. The bed feels empty. The house echos. There’s a feeling of missing something. When she returns, all of the emptiness is filled again and I feel complete, once more.

For my beautiful wife, thank you for making the last 17 years special for me. Happy Anniversary, love, and here’s to another 53 years. ’cause 70 years together has that nice round feeling to it, don’t it?

— sham

Originally posted at on 11/25/2011