Musashi Mix Inq

Palliativity 213: the unencumbered mind

Posted on October 17, 2013

My new daily muscle relaxant dosage is effective enough that I haven't taken vicodin for a week. It's been great to have my evenings back rather than just waiting until I am free of responsibilities in order to take pain meds. Although my personality doesn't change much on opiates, there is a tinge of guilt when the venn diagram of the time I am with with my partner and the time I am on meds looks a lot like a circle.

My pain condition and the respective heavy meds I used to take all had the side effect of weighing me down. It's pretty awesome that on the eve of my thirtieth, I am more energized and optimistic than I've been in a long time.

Although I am still conditioned to be methodical and over plan, this year has taught me that I really enjoy the thrill of spontaneity. This past Sunday, my partner and I decided to head out on the lakefront for a bike ride because it was a gorgeous autumn day. Sounds simple, but that's the whole point. It felt great that I didn't have to weigh how many spoons this would cost. I didn't need to shoot-up with lidocaine beforehand or check that I had enough pain meds before heading out. I didn't have to worry about how this would effect my sleep that night or where I would be on the pain-scale when I got home. My only concern that day was that I couldn't shift my bike into third gear and I should probably try to fix it before our next ride.

Chronic pain isn't  just a physical condition. It changes the entire way you live your life. Now I wake up each day excited because I am just starting to.


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Palliativity 212: Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

Posted on October 10, 2013

This past year in treatment has completely reconfigured my life, all for the better.

In January, following my first solid diagnosis for my chronic pain condition after 15 years, I underwent Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) for cervical facet syndrome. The effect was almost immediate. I experienced a 90% decrease in my baseline pain. There aren't words for such an experience. For the first time since middle school, I allowed myself the luxury of optimism in regards to my condition. This meant that my general outlook in life also sky-rocketed to new heights.

Going to rehab wasn't just the same old exercise of fighting back the tide. I was actually getting results. My left arm went from being essentially dead to 100% functionality. I no longer had to carry my ridiculously large bag of palliatives everywhere I went. No more injecting myself with lidocaine multiple times a day. The end of late-night stress eating combined with the ability to work out once again allowed me to lose over 20 pounds without really even trying. I even started contemplating a return to my own judo fighting career. I weened myself off of most of my liver and wallet-killing meds and went from two vicodin a day down to just one pill every other week. All of me was recovering.

My first solo art show opened at the height of my elation in Spring. This new chapter in my life came on suddenly and I didn't think that anything could ever take me down from this high.

In May, I started to falter. Pain returned, dull and short-lived at first.  Isolated to the right side this time, I met with my doc and had another session of RFA. The recovery experience was not at all like before. I began experiencing 5 day cycles of pain drifting from one side of my neck to the other. I was crushed.

Even so, I rallied and made a point of appreciating how far I'd come. I gathered my strength and picked myself up for the next stage of this quest. New meds, opiates and very aggressive massage helped to manage the pain by sumer's end.

It wasn't until this week's check-in with my doctor that I could appreciate a broader perspective of this year in treatment. 15 years of pain is going to take time and determination to fully mend. My doctor is confident that my goal is still firmly within reach.

The original RFA back in January relieved me of most of my chronic pain, but it took a few months for my body to recalibrate to this completely new state of being. All the aches and pains that I am experiencing now have probably existed all along but had been overshadowed by my damaged nerves. For years, my soft tissue had settled into a routine of functioning just enough to get by. This year as my expectations and optimism grew, I was suddenly pushing my body to work like never before. I couldn't recognize it at the time, but since May I've been steadily continuing to gain back functionality and minimizing the pain.

As with anything worth finishing, the last 10% with the goal in sight feels like the toughest part of the journey.

Can't stop. Won't stop.

"I was left to my own devices.

Many days fell away with nothing to show.

But if you close your eyes,

Does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?

And if you close your eyes,

Does it almost feel like you've been here before?

How am I gonna be an optimist about this?"


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Palliativity 211: cover me

Posted on October 3, 2013

I love covers. They allow you to experience a band or song in a completely new way.

The best covers are not mere renditions, but when an artist totally geeks-out on a song enough to completely reinterpret the composition with their own aesthetic and style.

Some combinations can even help you learn to love those tunes you hate. It's really jarring when I find myself able to sing along to incidental waiting-room pop radio without having heard the original tune more than once. Interweb sound-stages like youtube only serve to make this crossover culture deeper and more complex every day.

The stranger the juxtaposition, the better the results:


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Palliativity 210: pop rocks

Posted on September 26, 2013

Pop-music, guilty pleasure notwithstanding, this is how it's done:


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Palliativity 209: shake it out!

Posted on September 19, 2013

My chronic pain condition continues to linger on in its new muted form. Although the root cause, Cervical Facet Syndrome, has been dealt with, I have some residual myofascial nerve issues. I'm still better than I ever was before this year, and my current course of aggressive massage combined with amp-wave stim is helping loosen things up so that I can truly heal.

I'm still trying to figure out how to make this body my own again.

cervical spine MRI

When the autumn wind drives the cold into my bones, I just need to keep reminding myself:

"It's always darkest before the dawn— It's hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake him out!"


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Palliativity 208: Gas Panic

Posted on September 12, 2013

Fire Dance on the Western Front, ©MMXI

The last century of war was dominated by an ever accelerating competition for who held the deadliest arsenal.

Although most weapons strive for ever greater accuracy and adaptability over time, some are simply meant to efficiently kill as many people as possible.

Chemical warfare got its start about 100 years ago. This new technology dealt quick deaths but without discrimination.

With these weapons, there are no such thing as bystanders. All damage is as merciless as it is incidental.

But, like everything of lethal importance during WWII, the US government knew just how to make its citizens feel safe enough to go about their lives:

The next clip shows how chemical warfare developed between World War II and Vietnam.

Enter sarin gas.

This is not for the faint of heart:


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