[Pulmonary] Of Discipline And Desire

For those of you really, really good at calendars, it has been almost 6 weeks since my last update. Now for the mea culpas that really don’t matter as to why it took me so long.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have a couple of goals that are still being defined for this blog, and by extension, my life going forward. The main one is to use the blog to retain the relevance, impact, growth, and happiness that I enjoyed in my previous career and find a way to remain relevant to myself and others for my future. The other is to communicate with others who share my lung disease to simply say “I’m here if you need me”.

OK, I lied. There is one more than a couple of goals. That would be to entertain and interest you enough that you want to come back to have more of a conversation with me here, as well as on my Twitter and Facebook pages.

Now that we are past all the mea culpas, time for the real reason.


I’m not talking punishment, repetition, or lockstep actions. When I talk discipline, it is a state of mind, an ability to organize, prioritize, and exercise what you want to accomplish.

At St. Thomas More High School in Philadelphia, Mr. Pyne was our “disciplinarian”. The job description of this position is a major reason why DISCIPLINE is assigned such a negative mindset. If you saw Mr. Pyne, you had committed an infraction and were about to be punished.

You would be sent to DETENTION!!!

Detention consisted of sitting quietly in the school auditorium for an hour “reflecting” on what you did. Kind of a teenage “time out”. As hard as it may be to believe, I only had detention once in my four year high school tenure. I got it because I was the “one too many” who used the excuse that I got stuck behind a trolley on the way to school.

In reality, I was not a daredevil in school. Aside from just narrowly missing being caught when we explored the catacombs above the auditorium (they had been sealed off for years), I simply sucked at detention worthy efforts. When I was in second or third grade, I played hooky for a day. However, I spent the day laying on some lawn furniture right outside my house, like I wouldn’t be seen or caught. Diabolical!!!

Even in real life, discipline is too often associated with punishment . I have found out that, especially recently, discipline is an essential element in any effort that you undertake in your life.

For example, I used to weigh 420 pounds( I am now at 260 and counting). I weighed that for years. However, I substituted satisfaction with myself for the ability to see what I could be. That was not to be more handsome or ripped, but simply more able.

Still, discipline was terrifying, because it meant change. The trouble is that the word itself implied forced change, not willing change. That thought process went out the window when I finally got my head convinced to get my body in better shape.

The gastric bypass required a lot of preparation, including psychological, to make sure I was mentally ready to make this work. Otherwise, it would have been a total waste of effort and potential. However, the discipline came into play because what followed the actual procedure demanded a progressive discipline. Not one borne of remorse and punishment, but one born of renewed potential, energy, and life.

The discipline required after gastric bypass extended to learning and understanding a new way to eat as well as discovering other ways to make the weight loss work. As you probably know, gastric bypass is not magic. The surgeons do not simply cut fat out of you. The operation will start you off, but if you do not find the discipline to follow new dietary requirements and lifestyle changes, you will wind up failing at the effort.

This newly discovered discipline extended to how I approached everything else in my life. I found myself more focused on planning and executing anything that I undertook. And it worked. I found that, for the first time in my life, I actually had total control of my successes and decisions, that blind luck played less of a role in my life.

The same happened with my knee replacements. This operation removed excuses and allowed the discipline required to recover to morph into the discipline needed in other areas of my life. Mea culpas took a back seat to my actions.

Then along came my Interstitial Lung Disease. This too requires discipline to handle it, but a much more exhausting discipline than anything else I have ever undertaken required. It is a discipline borne as much out of a desire to survive as it is a desire to progress. So much that I now do is to slow down the progression of the disease.

Now, I attempt to find relevant ways to channel that survival discipline into as productive a discipline as I can muster to feel as useful as I did when I was able to work. That involves this blog.

I have written over the years, including a few years of covering children’s videos for an industry trade publication. However, when I’ve written in the past, there was always a defined subject, one that related directly to my position. Now, I have no defined position, so my writing has taken on a more exploring tone. My blog posts cover what I have lived, what I hope to live, what I love and what I hope to learn to love. Aside from the lung disease updates, I try to write with an eye towards what I would want to read and share with others.

Discipline to write consistently has been lacking recently. I cannot really mea culpa this. Part of it is that I still have not found my relevance in my current and future world. This leads to confidence that what I write appeals or informs at least one other person.

The rest of it is simply losing the discipline to not mentally dismiss your own efforts and not feel so important to yourself anymore. That is a tough discipline to get around. That leads you back to the old “I’ll get to it soon enough” mindset. That leads to doing it later. That leads to a loss of the discipline that I now cherish. It isn’t a lack of desire, it is a lack of self-motivation.

And that it the essence of discipline, at least according to the ADIMIKE55 DICTIONARY. Discipline is simply self-motivation. And self-motivation is something very precious that should never be lost.

Let’s just say that I misplaced it recently while trying to figure out my life. But I think I found it under my skin and am ready to rev back up from discipline to desire.

So, back to writing on a more regular (and hopefully consistently informative) basis. And if you find me lacking in discipline, feel free to send me to detention. After all, I can no longer blame the trolley for being in my way on my own tracks.


[Pulmonary] Of Anniversaries, Happy And Happier

Anniversaries are odd things. Because the word is often proceeded by the word “Happy”, you tend to think of Hallmark moments and celebrations. Yet, all of these words, when absent of the qualifier “happy” can take on a lot of very different meanings.

This month is the 2nd anniversary of a hallmark moment for me that would not initially be seen in even the same town as the adjective “happy”. However, I still choose to celebrate it, because a celebration reminds us of how far we’ve come and how far we need to travel to get to the next “celebration”.

This month is also the 5th anniversary that deserves the word “happy” leading it proudly. For the sake of proceeding in a calendar fashion, I’ll visit that celebration first.

5 years ago, on a Friday the 13th in the month of April, I weighed over 420 pounds. I had been big for a long time, but when I turned 50, all of a sudden things changed. I was still outwardly the same person, but in my mind’s eye, that was no longer something I wanted to accept.

I used to give a lot of presentations and speeches concerning the video industry and other topics. As I planned for these events, I had a mental picture of myself successfully imparting my knowledge and ideas, and looking much thinner. It was a pleasant and professional vision, because I believed in my knowledge so strongly that I felt it so overwhelmed my body image that my message would still be received with great enthusiasm.

However, as I hit 50, I began to feel the “I’m getting older” thoughts elbowing their way into my life. The biggest way that they manifested themselves was in my confidence with others. No longer could I picture myself on stage, making a presentation in front of hundreds or thousands with a confident body image. I saw myself as I was, and it took a toll.

Since I had tried without success to diet, I decided that a scarily big decision had to be made. I had not been hospitalized overnight since I had my tonsils out as a child. However, I investigated having GASTRIC BYPASS SURGERY. I underwent the full procedure, simply because there is no turning back in major life decisions for me. Since then, my weight dropped as low as 250 pounds and my pants fall down much more pleasingly a lot.

This was a hard decision, and while I enthusiastically support anyone who wants to do it, I also advise them to choose a program that will get them ready for it. I had 6 months of psychological and motivational meetings to make sure that I was ready for major surgery.

So, a 5th anniversary of losing 170+ pounds is a good thing, a “happy” anniversary.

Two years ago in April, about two months after I had my second knee replacement surgery, I went to my pulmonologist because I had a terrible cough in the morning, a dry cough that made it tough to breathe and even stand up. My pulmonary doctor checked me over and took me for a walk in the hallway. I did not make it the length of the hallway before my oxygen levels dropped to very low levels.

They admitted me for some testing and then decided that a biopsy was needed. I had lung problems, but all the tests they ran were inconclusive as to just what kind. I never smoked and really didn’t drink, so they needed to see exactly what I had. I had the biopsy the following week and was diagnosed with an ILD (Interstitial Lung Disease) classified as NSIP (Non-Specific Interstitial Pneumonitis). My feelings and fears were as vague as what that diagnosis implied.

It was not a cancer, COPD, or other more easily recognized conditions. I was terrified, since this was just a beginning of exploration. This followed 8 months of highs and lows, from being laid off from my general manager position at TLA Video because the stores were being phased out, to successful double knee replacement that allowed me to bend at the knees, which you really don’t miss until you cannot do that.

If you click the PULMONARY tab in the masthead above or in the KEYWORDS, you will find more details on my disease. I don’t want to repeat them all over again to save space for the current 2nd anniversary update.

Since NSIP is progressive, you cannot cure it, you cannot reverse it, you cannot ignore it. The best you can do is to slow it down to as close to a glacial pace as you can and work to figure out how to live as relevant and useful a life as possible. Knowing that you will probably never be able to return to a work environment, the vague future needs to be rethought and that is what you now strive to do for the future.

I do a series of tests every three months in addition to checkups and doctor visits. These tests usually are two parts and I do them at the Penn Lung Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The tests are strenuous and a little daunting, if only because you know that the next phase of action is based on what these tests show has occurred to you since the last set.

They are not physically strenuous, like the pulmonary rehab exercise sessions that I do a few days a week. The first part is a six-minute walk, which is exactly what is says, except that you have monitors present to gauge your oxygen levels, pulse, heart rate, BP, and fatigue. There is no right or wrong with these tests, you simply proceed at the best pace that you can and periodically give feedback on how you are feeling.

Six minutes can seem really really really long when the walk is in a bare long narrow hospital corridor that looks like a Hitchcock trick shot. However, your progress here shows what you can expect on your own and also boost your confidence when you are out in public, walking to get here and there with your oxygen buddy.

The second set of tests is the most exhausting. These are the PFT’s or the Pulmonary Function Testing. This is not physically strenuous like exercise would be, but it involves a series of breathing tests that are designed to measure your lungs capacity, power, ability to exhale, gas exchange levels, and other things. This usually takes about 25-30 minutes or so. The exertion is purely the result of so much intense breathing in such a short time.

The test themselves are performed with a clip put on your nose so that you must breathe through your mouth. I hate the clip because the sinus pressure is then felt in my ears. It feels likes cabin pressure on an airplane. Some of the tests are perform in a chair, with a mouthpiece attached to the unit. You breathe normally and then must inhale quickly and deeply, then exhale for a few seconds, seeing how smoothly and completely you can clear your lungs.

The other part of the test is conducted in a closed booth that would have intimidated Charles Van Doren on THE $64,000 QUESTION. These tests also include the introduction of some carbon monoxide into your system for the gas exchange, as well as some very odd feeling resistance from the machine as you attempt to inhale and exhale. One of my problems is that, at times, I would cough before it was finished. Totally unavoidable, but a reason to have to repeat it again. My record is four times on the same test.

Finally, I see my specialist and we see what the plans are for the next three months.

The good news is that I am now off of the evil, nasty, weight adding steroids! HUZZAH!!! We have been decreasing them over the last six months. At one point, I had put 45 pounds back on and got really puffy from the prednisone, topping out at 298. However, as I adjusted my diet and got off the steroids, I am now down to 268 and hopefully getting even lighter. The only concern is that I have to monitor the weight loss, because a rapid weight loss could be a sign of disease progression.

I also now get to see the results of my PFT’s, even though I may not really understand some of the medical terms. The tests see a PREDICTIVE level for each test based on my height, age, and weight if I was healthy. This is compared to the ACTUAL , which is what it says, the actual ability of my lungs. In percentages, these results show around a 50% loss of capacity and ability in my lungs, mostly from my left lung. This has been steady for almost a year, so we have this mother tamed for now.

However, this will someday not be the case and when that starts to happen, I will look back on this anniversary to celebrate what I have accomplished so far, and happily look to our next step.

The great thing about anniversaries is how they are numbered for each passing year. My intention is to be numbering these “anniversaries” into a very high and very happy double digit future.

My buddy

My buddy 🙂

Pulmonary Tales: Crazy In A Birthday Way

Crazy In A Birthday Way

On Dec. 6th, 1955, at 8:31 PM, a crazy guy came into this world. He probably came out blowing raspberries, but out he came anyway. The same year, this crazy guy’s favorite animated film LADY AND THE TRAMP was released and the original DISNEYLAND opened for the first time.

In 1955:
* Marian Anderson become the first black singer to perform at NYC’s Metropolitan Opera
* The game of SCRABBLE made it’s debut
* Ray Kroc opens his first McDonald’s
* BLACKBOARD JUNGLE opens in theaters, causing an rock and roll uproar
* The WARSAW TREATY is signed
* THE $64,000 QUESTION premieres on ABC
* GUNSMOKE begins its run on CBS
* JAMES DEAN is killed in a car crash
* OKLAHOMA is the first 70MM film shown in theaters
* ROSA PARKS refuses to give up her seat to a white person on a city bus in Montgomery, AL and is arrested.

56 years later, I love, admire, and respect those things and a lot more from 1955.

CRAZY IN A WAY THAT NO ONE ELSE COULD BE is a line from my favorite Barry Manilow song ”ALL THE TIME”. Yep, I love Manilow music. I’ve been a Fanilow ever since my little brother Tommy started to love his music and respond to the rhythms and the words. This song is the story of someone who has always been blind to what he has. He constantly searches without stopping to see that he may already have what he needs. He is crazy in his own unique rhythms and thoughts and actions. He is not nuts but just too driven to stop for a second.

As I battle this Interstitial Lung Disease and work to delay the inevitable for as many years as possible, I also am “crazy in a way that no one else could be”. I’m still crazy in my dreams and expectations, but this craziness is not tempered with reality. Reality intrudes all too often. Reality must be obeyed. However, “crazy in a way” people will always challenge reality, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But challenge they will, and always will.

As this disease progresses, it is crazy in a way to think that something that will eventually get progressively worse can be turned into a positive. It is crazy in a way to think that something that physically disables your ability to do some basic daily things can be held at bay by exerting yourself as much as possible. It is crazy in a way to dream of doing what you used to do or what you were once capable of with your oxygen buddy now tagging along. It is crazy to think of and mourn the loss of the past without using that to drive your future as far as you can.

And it is crazy to want to sit and mope on your 56th birthday but you do it anyway. ALL THE TIME is about missed opportunities, missed connections, missed chances and missed craziness. But it is not about regretting them, it is about embracing them and moving on. That is what today is like for me. Missing what I had and could have had. Embracing my dreams and not letting my crazy in a way reality hold me back from trying.

It is a daily struggle turning 56 when you don’t know how much farther you will count. It is crazy to hope to find 10, 20, 30, or more fingers and toes to count as high as you can dream. It is crazy in a way to think you can tackle your own personal Everest going forward. But it is crazy in an irresponsible way not to remember the outpouring of love and support from family and friends both near and far. Just a check of my Facebook and Twitter feeds will show you how crazy in a way it is to have such treasured people along with my on my journey.

Today I had a good checkup with my primary care doctor and on Monday I see my lung specialist at Penn Lung Center to see how our crazy in a way method of attack on this disease is going. I still have my maintenance workouts twice a week and Bryn Mawr Hospital. Thanks to a good friend, I am going to tackle my crazy in a way fear of large crowds while wearing my oxygen by going to the PHILADELPHIA FLYERS game on Saturday.

If you want to read more about my lung disease, check out this link from the MAYO CLINIC.

Mayo Clinic Interstitial Lung Disease Info

I am turning my attention to developing a support network among other ILD patients so we can share our crazy in a way life. There are so few out there for my disease and frankly very little real world knowledge of it.

And I am going to try to enjoy my birthday in my own crazy in a way method. That will involve family and friends.

in a wonderful way, that ain’t so crazy, is it?

Born on Dec. 6th: Judd Apatow, Larry Bowa, Dave Brubeck, Tom Hulce, Joyce Kilmer, Agnes Morehead, Baby Face Nelson, Randy Rhoads, Ryan White, and Steven Wright, among others

ALL THE TIME by Barry Manilow.

All the time I thought there’s only me
Crazy in a way that no one else could be
I would have given everything I own
If someone would have said “you’re not alone”

All the time I thought that I was wrong
Wanting to be me but needing to belong
If I’d’ve just believed in all I had
If someone would have said “you’re not so bad”

All the time, all the wasted time
All the years waiting for a sign
To think I had it all
All the time

All the time I thought there’s only me
Crazy in a way that no one else could be
I can’t believe that you were somewhere, too
Thinking all the time there’s only you

All the time, all the wasted time
All the years waiting for a sign
To think we had it all
All the time

Pulmonary Rehab 9/24: Doxys Are The Best Medicine.

Note: At the end of this post are links to previous posts about my lung disease. I’ll keep these links at the end of each subsequent post or figure out how to add a Table Of Contents.

This is “Chipper”. He is also known as “Swyper”. With an innocent face like that, you know he would have to have an alias.

Chipper is my sister’s Dachshund, one of three that she had, but “Slinky” passed earlier this year.

Chipper is a young boy of almost 2. He may also be the most active dog since Lassie discovered that town full of kids who constantly fell in wells.

Chipper is on again/off again best friends with “Angel”, who is also “Momma Dog”. Dogs have too many names. This is the two of them in a rare tolerant mood. Angel has her butt to the camera and Chipper is camping under the blanket. Chip loves to burrow and sleep totally covered. You haven’t lived until you’ve sat down and then noticed that the throw blanket is snoring.

Chip has been “fixed”. Yep, they are gone. He doesn’t seem to notice though, since when Angel is in heat, Chip feels like he has to at least try. We call it “playing leap frog”. Chipper never wins. Neither does Angel. We still only have two Doxys, no little yippers running around.

Chip is extremely active and stands sentry duty on the back of the couch by the front window. Aided by the bush in front of the window, Chipper channels his best Doberman Pinscher bark at anyone who dares to breach the perimeter of our house. Chipper’s perimeter seems to encompass most of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Of course, if he is challenged back, it is burrow time.

Angel cannot climb or jump like Chipper, she is content with simply egging him on to bark. Angel can tell time, as long as that time corresponds to meals and bedtime. Angel has a rhythmic “yip” bark that is very effective. She has a toy called “baby no face”. I’ll let the dog psychologists among you figure that one out. Angel also does a trick. She knows how to unplug my sister’s laptop when she is ready for bed. Not my sister’s bed, but Angel’s.

They love treats. If it is edible, it is edible by them. I’ve guiltily spoiled them. When I head out for rehab or the newspapers in the morning, I will come home with a bag with the letters ‘WAWA” on it. Heaven help me if that bag does not contain a cheese stick for each of them. Nothing else will work.

Chipper will see my car pull up and Angel will hear the engine noise. That will set off hysteria. Chipper does circles on the back of the couch while Angel runs to nose open the front door. They then make sure that I do not forget or lose the Wawa bag. After the each get their cheese sticks, they look at each other to ward off any attempt to steal it from them.

So, where does that fit in with my pulmonary rehab?

We used to own dogs growing up, but as it just became my Dad, Tommy, and myself, it became too hard to care for them. In addition, we would not have been allowed pets at our last apartment, so we’ve lived a puppy free life. Our visits to my sisters were where we got to play with the doxys.

Now that I have moved in with my sister, the dogs get to serve another purpose, and that isn’t just following me excitedly to the kitchen whenever I go out there, nor sitting next to the table praying the prayer that dogs say to make me drop food.

The dogs become a comfort blanket to me. While I have to be careful of smells and whatever they may have rolled around in, the doxys get to sit with me, stare at me until I pet them (a lot) and keep me company if I need it. They also get to cheer me up when I’m a bit depressed (a lot) over all that I face and when I am frustrated with the limited availability of my options.

Chipper especially likes to be held in very unique ways. He is a great lap dog for 5 minutes, then he runs downs, checks the suroundings, and jumps back up.

Essentially, Chipper and Angel are reasons to relax for a few minutes, to laugh a bit, to marvel at how they communicate. They relax me in times of worry and excite and entertain me in times of activity.

And they give love back, though Chipper may have inherited Gene Simmon’s tongue.

The more around you, the more the reason to keep trying to handle your obstacles. The more to distract you, the more to involve you in life.

I’ve got two dogs again. They are my breath of fresh air that my body needs.

Chipper And Angel thank you for reading about them.

They say “Bark”!

They also say “Do you have cheese sticks?”


Pulmonary Rehab 9/19/11: Decisions, Decisions

Pulmonary Rehab Tales 9/7/11: Clout Vs. KLOUT

Pulmonary Rehab 9/1/11: Earthquakes, Hurricanes, And Steps To Climb

Pulmonary Rehab 8/19/11: When We Last Left Our Hero…

Pulmonary Rehab 8/17/11: Adrian Is Doing Well. Give Him A Sticker.

Birthday Wishes And Pulmonary Dreams 8/11/11

Pulmonary Rehab Tales 8/10/11

Pulmonary Rehab 101: 1 Of the Future

Tomorrow Starts The Next Phase: Pulmonary Rehab And Education

Expecting Expectation, Getting Ramblings

Those Three Words