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Catching Up!

Written by Jeff Drake
9 · 29 · 23

Wow, it’s been more than a month since my last blog post. I guess a lot has been going on, so I thought I’d drop this post just to share.

As usual, Fall 2023 entered with what can only be described as someone flipping a switch! It’s like this every year. Two weeks ago we had 90-degree temps, this week the rains arrived for real and our evenings see temps in the 50’s, and we’re off to the races. As much as we miss summer when it passes, fall brings it’s own seasonal beauty to the Pacific Northwest. While we don’t get much of the candy-red foliage we looked forward to every year in Minnesota, we get other colors, yellows, some reds, a thousand shades of green, etc. Oh, and let’s not forget the mists that shroud our majestic trees. Yeah, it’s beautiful.

We had a wonderful visit in August with our son, Jason, daughter-in-law Rachel, and grandson, Markus. It was Markus’ first visit to our home and I think it’s safe to say he had a good time. Our best Portland friends, Jim and Kathy, who also have a grandson, lent us a huge container of Lego blocks, plus another full of the cars Markus loves to play with, so he was all smiles from the moment he saw them. We also got to introduce him to the ocean for the first time, which was cool. We had 3 days of really hot weather, but set up a sprinkler in the years for Markus to run through, which he did with lots of grins and shrieks. LOL!

The week they visited brought even more company to our house. My cousin, Josh and his wife Yvette and their little girl spent 1 night with us as they traveled to California. Josh and I found each other through genetic testing around 6 or 7 years ago. He’s a Lee, as was my biological father. It turns out he and Jason are not that far apart in age and I was very happy they got to meet, as I think the world of Josh and his family. Additionally, another cousin, Amber, and her hubby, Tobias, stopped by to meet Jason. So yeah, it was a good week!

Some time this past month has been consumed by some growing concerns about my health, sadly. Health info is personal, so at the risk of over-sharing, I’ll try to tell you what’s been going on with me.

As some of you may remember, I have COPD, a rather serious lung disease. The first thing people (including myself) think when we hear COPD is, “Aha! A cigarette smoker!” And in my case, I’d have to plead guilty as charged. The odd thing that has my doctor puzzled is why I didn’t develop COPD until a few years ago. You see, I quit smoking cigarettes in 1983, about 34 years before I was diagnosed. Yes, I smoked cigars off and on for a few years in the 90’s, but my doctor says that wouldn’t have been enough to cause COPD.

It turns out that nearly 30% of the people who get COPD were never smokers. Other causes, including environment, second-had smoke, are usually blamed for these. For the Iraq vets who breathed in toxic smoke, the case is clear. For those of us who lived, crawled, breathed the dust, and filled hundreds of sandbags using agent-orange contaminated soil, nothing.

Okay, I’ll stop complaining. The bottom line is that COPD is progressive. It gets worse. That’s what it does. Like asthma, one can get COPD attacks, called “episodes.” However, unlike asthma, where lungs return to whatever normal is after the episode is over, when a COPD episode is over, your lungs are further damaged. I had two serious episodes this summer, which damaged my lungs further. I now use an oximeter to measure my oxygen daily. Sitting there, I’m fine, but then I exert myself, even just a little bit, and I struggle to breathe. My doctor has also prescribed me a nebulizer. Fortunately, the nebulizer appears to really be helping, which is a relief. But, I worry about  another visit from Covid. I’m one serious illness away from stage 4. Stage 4 prognosis, as I mentioned, is not good. The average life-expectancy is 4.8 years.

The revelation of how serious my COPD has become put both Lisa and I into bit of a tailspin this summer. It’s certainly given Lisa and me a lot to think about. I now realize that there are things I wanted to do in the time I thought I had left on this planet that are now out of my reach. The thought of not being able to see our grandson grow up is devastating. I was so looking forward to going camping with Markus and Jason, but that ain’t happening now. I was also hoping to be a shoulder our son could continue to lean on in the future. So many hopes and plans. Sigh. One could spend a lot of time crying about such things, but I choose not to. So, moving on…

While a shorter life is not guaranteed, I think it’s safe to say that it is more than likely in my case. For me, my primary concern right now is for Lisa. I want to make sure that any transition she has to experience, from life with me, to life without me, has been planned and prepped for and will be as smooth as possible. In the meantime, I’ll keep taking my medications and becoming close friends with my pulmonologist! I’m also going into the VA to get tested for COPD and get all of it onto my VA record. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have a second opinion.

One specific area that has been very much impacted by my worsening COPD this summer is… travel. As you know, we love to travel the world. However, my current breathing struggles has forced me to make some changes. I cannot do “elevation” anymore. Just a few years ago I was hiking at 9,000 feet. Now, being just a mile high and I really feel it. Trying to hike at a mile high… nope, not happening. So, we’re making adjustments accordingly and are going to visit some domestic places we still want to see via plane/car, like the Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge area which we are visiting in a few weeks, as well as some sea-level adventures that can be done on a nice cruise ship (we’re off to Italy, Greece and Cyprus next month). Life, such as it is, goes on.

LOL! I had hoped to avoid over-sharing, but I suspect I failed. Oh, well. At least, those of you that are interested in such things, now know. You may not realize it reading this blog post, but I’m actually in good spirits. The time that I have left with family and friends will be treasured and I will do whatever I can to keep the Reaper at bay. Fuck him!

Thanks for listening.

P.S. Lots happening on the AI front. I will be posting more about this soon!

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Jeff Drake

Retired IT consultant, world-traveler, hobby photographer, and philosopher.