THE CARROT AND THE STICK [PERSONAL WARS] HUNTER GRAY JULY 21 2007 WITH COMMENTS
I like carrots. But I don't like sticks.
And more of that in a moment.
[This is not a grim report -- but is genuinely, and with some good grounds,
optimistic. I want to say that I and my entire family and entourage of
friends will always be eternally grateful to those good folk who gave us --
during a hideous period -- extremely valuable moral support in many
I watch the Harry Potter phenomenon with cool and detached sociological
interest. I am more personally attuned to George Bush's colonoscopy. While
I certainly grant that the process "has its uses," I am not impressed with
the glib media assurances that it's a "perfectly safe procedure" of which
every good American from mid-years onward should periodically avail
himself/herself. I'd suggest, more fundamentally, good, healthy eating
[judiciously laced with natural vitamins] and a reasonably temperate
approach to certain beverages.
My own colonoscopy was, as some are aware, a very, very near-lethal
It's broadly clear now that the Systemic Lupus [SLE] with which I was
finally diagnosed late in 2003 -- a genetic inheritance from my Native
father's side [it missed him] -- is something I have had for most of my
life. But we knew nothing of it then and, when it flared for a time 41
years ago, I kept working, slept much, ate good food -- and it faded. It
appears to have flared somewhat in the mid 1990s but did not inhibit my
activities. Things were quite "normal" in ethos until the summer of 2003
when it hit full blast on a number of key internal organ fronts. I refused
for some weeks to go to a doctor -- and at the end of the summer a
traditional firery rash on my upper chest and back was fading, my appetite
had returned, and our imported [Teton] water once again "tasted normal" to
me. But I was still very weak, obviously extremely anemic, and my feet and
legs were swollen. Finally, in September, I surrendered to family pressure
and went to the local "urgent care" facility. The intake doctor had two
graphic comments. One was to the effect that I had the largest prostate he
had ever seen but it was completely normal. The other comment was ominous:
"You have no blood", he exclaimed in a loud voice audible to others in the
facility. I kept my usual poker face.
I was hospitalized and the next physician, taking a jet black pen from his
jacket, asked me if my stools were that color. My answer was negative.
While I was being given blood transfusions, which had no effect, he
explained his theory: I had a bleeding polyp, in all probability
non-cancerous [this was a psychological reassurance stretch on his part] and
that would explain my obvious anemia. Privately, I was dubious. I have
been in several situations where I lost much blood without incurring that
condition. He said a colonoscopy was imperative -- to remove the presumed
polyp. This was scheduled for the following early evening. The next day,
even as I drank, glass by glass, the noxious liquid which was designed to
clean out my system -- and did, dramatically -- I began to have serious
doubts about the colonoscopy. I raised these with the physician who handled
the process when he came in to conduct his intro and initial visit.
Surprisingly, he said, "I'm not so sure you do, either." He was checking
stool samples. From a phone outside my room, I could hear him telling my
then primary doc, "But the numbers don't support it." They argued.
Finally, he came back in, telling me in effect I might as well go through
with it -- and assuring me that I would be back in my hospital room in 40
minutes or so. So I went off to the appropriate room and family members
Then they heard a Code Blue, doctors and nurses all running down the
I was the Star of that drama. When I initially passed under the anesthesia,
I immediately entered a wild, techni-colored dream in which, on horseback, I
was wildly gathering and herding horses in southwestern Wyoming. [In
actuality, I am more of a mule man.] But this pleasant adventure was
interrupted by my sensing heavy, battering pounding on my chest. I had a
"football" feeling. The pounding on my chest continued. Then I heard, very
far off, excited voices. And then, eventually, a woman [with a pleasant
Western accent] was saying, in a slowly increasingly audible fashion, "Come
on, John. You can make it." After a time, the pounding stopped and I found
myself surrounded by more than a dozen heart specialists, and some nurses.
Thomas, our faithful grandson-son, had attempted to enter the room but had
been blocked. [After that he accompanied me to every single medical
appointment of any kind that I had for two years -- consistently asked
excellent and probing questions -- and is now a third year Med student at
University of Minnesota.]
It turned out that I had had two cardiac arrests -- and had, each time,
almost been "lost." Nothing was found in my colon. Initially, the hospital
didn't want to tell family members that -- but Peter [Mack], a shrewd
newspaper editor called from Nebraska and, in a few minutes, had the full
story from a head nurse. Eventually, we all got the full account -- which
was blamed on anemia.
Now with me badly weakened, the SLE became much worse. There was almost
every kind of diagnostic test -- countless blood works, x rays, cat scans
[one of my brain while I was at that point unconscious]
nothing about Lupus, the medics pursued the blood cancer theory but, once in
the hands of a excellent hematologist, a bone marrow test ended those
possibilities and about 500 other things [but did not relate to SLE.] The
Lupus rashes returned with a vengeance, along with spectacular mouth and
facial sores, The hematologist and an equally excellent dermatologist took
samples of the rash for biopsy. Seemed to be Lupus. Much blood was taken
and flown post haste down to Salt Lake for a number of intricate tests and
SLE was soon formally confirmed. In the end, more than a dozen physicians
agreed jointly that it was a "full blown" case. Before long, I was
hospitalized two more times -- with near death experiences.
After that, of course, there were the struggles and hurdles with medicine.
I refused, with the concurrence of Thomas and others in our family, various
chemo drugs [which can sometimes cause cancer.] Prednisone, one of many
meds, gave me diabetes and 85 pounds of excess weight. The younger person
who wound up early on as my primary physician is medically conservative and
I like that. [He is also a Mormon who, although I assume he doesn't drink
coffee, assured me that I could -- and I certainly do. A couple of other
medics had earlier advised me against that.]
Early in 2004 I began, initially forcing myself, to walk -- ever further,
and ever more strenuously.
In time, we stopped the Pred for Plaquenil. The diabetes disappeared and I
lost 85 pounds. Vanity returned and the SLE will always remain.
But the Lupus is now 'way down. In the past 4 1/2 months I have taken,
almost daily, a walk which covers three quarters of a mile of steep downhill
and steep uphill. [My Lowa mountain boots weigh six pounds.] So far, there
have been almost 130 of these junkets. Initially, it took me 40-45 minutes,
had to use a cane, had to stop for rests. Now I do it in 20 minutes, no
cane, no rest stops of any kind.
A few days ago, I visited my good doctor. He said I looked fine. Checked
me over and found that all vital signs were quite OK: heart, blood pressure,
lungs, etc. [Thomas had, during a recent visit, done the same thing for all
of us here and had found nothing outwardly amiss.]
And walking is damn critical for me.
And so I continue to think much and ever more often about a several days
trip down through the extremely rugged and remote Sycamore Canyon Wilderness
Area early next spring. If you missed that Plan, see
The other day, I asked those family members heading out to garage sales to
keep an eye open for a damn good -- really good -- backpack.
And they came back from the Idaho State University area with a
top-of-the-line full-blown North Face -- in perfect shape. Retails for
about $250.00 and they got it for fifteen bucks.
It hangs on my bedroom wall. It's my carrot.
As I say, I like carrots.
But never sticks.
Hunter [Hunter Bear]
Response by Hunter:
Thanks for your note, Michael. If, re "coffin nails," you mean cigarettes --
well, I stopped two decades of those cold turkey in 1966. Two years later, I
began pipe tobacco smoking ["Dad's piping," Thomas, always a non-smoker,
used to observe as a child in the 1980s.] I stopped that cold turkey in 1989
but resumed late in 2005 with the comment which some may recall: "Lupus will
kill me before my pipe does." Now, I really don't think either one will.
How are you doing?
Sounds really encouraging.
I am in Oregon, still working on the [Akha] project.
Martha Elizabeth Ture:
I wonder did they find Bush’s brain in the colonoscopy.
O, that polyp!
You keep a walkin, in solidarity,
PS I’m with you on the mules.
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
Check out our Hunterbear social justice website:
[The site is dedicated to our one-half Bobcat, Cloudy Gray:
Sycamore Trek: http://hunterbear.