Posts in the “personal” category

Why am I always sick? (or, “Why are you always sick?”)

“Why am I always sick?” That’s a question I used to ask myself a lot. Other people asked it as well: “Al, why are you always sick?”

“You get sick a lot”

I remember one time I was in the same room as my wife while she was on the phone. She was taking to her sister, who was talking about her husband (my brother-in-law), and their conversation went on for quite some time. Afterwards I said, “Wow, I hope you guys don’t talk about me all the time like that.” My wife said, “No, we just say that you seem to get sick a lot.”

The Soul Game

[Note: This is a chapter from a currently-unpublished book I’m (slowly) writing on meditation and mindfulness.]

As a spiritual being, one possible way to think of life here on Earth is as a “game” that serves as a training ground for the soul. It’s a game like other games, so it has many levels, and they get harder and harder as you progress. So in this case, the better you become at the game of spirituality — The Soul Game — the harder the levels become.

Self-administering intravenous medicine with a PICC Line

A bit of personal health history, including having a PICC Line in my arm:

April 24, 2014: I learned that I’m going to have my thyroid removed tomorrow because of thyroid cancer.

April 24, 2015: These days I spend 40 minutes each morning administering intravenous medicine to myself via a PICC Line that has been inserted/installed in my arm and chest. You can read about the whole experience in my diverticulitis diary if you’d like.

April 24, 2016: Doctors think I may have a pheochromocytoma, which has a 10% chance of killing you when they try to remove it.

April 24, 2017: Today marks the 11th consecutive month that I haven’t required a trip to the ER, which is pretty much a record for my last four years.

I believe that collagen helps with diverticula/diverticulosis pain

I took a very long time before writing this blog post because I wanted to be sure about what I’ve experienced. But I believe it to be correct, so I’m now sharing it here.

Collagen and diverticula pain

In short, I believe that collagen products like these help to significantly diverticula/diverticulosis pain:

And when I say significantly, I mean like an 80% reduction in diverticula/diverticulosis pain.

How long does Angio-Seal leg pain last after an angiogram?


Caution: If you’ve had an angiogram and now have an Angio-Seal device in your leg (or arm), and you have medical concerns about that device, don’t waste your time reading this article. Call your doctor, or call 911 if you think it’s an emergency situation.


After having what I call a “fake heart attack” — something that was really Kounis Syndrome, also known as allergic angina — I had an angiogram in May, 2016, at which time an Angio-Seal device was used to help seal the hole that was put in my femoral artery after the angiogram.

Update: In 2019 I would have to have a second angiogram procedure with a different cardiologist after having chest pain due to pericarditis. The following text is a summary of my notes about the angiogram recovery process from these two events.

The Angio-Seal device

As I understand it, the Angio-Seal device is used to place a collagen seal around the artery. The collagen is shown in this image, which comes from the link in the previous paragraph:

Angio-Seal diagram shows artery, collagen

I think the collagen material is most of the lump that you feel in your leg/groin. (Part of the lump may also be due to swelling.) In my case the cardiologist performed my angiogram by going into my body through the upper-right part of my right leg (the groin area). Unfortunately he went in right in the area where the leg joins the torso (the groin), so any time I bent my leg upwards I had pain/discomfort.

Angio-Seal pain and discomfort

From my own experience, I can tell you that the pain and discomfort lasts several weeks. I document this in the sections below, but event today — more than three weeks after the angiogram — I still prefer to sit in a recliner rather than a normal chair.

Days 1 to 3

The initial pain isn’t bad at all; it’s more long a strong, dull ache, though it also often feels like someone is stabbing me in the thigh with an old plastic Bic pen. What’s worse is that it feels like it’s easy to tweak the AngioSeal, which is very discomforting.

Therefore, during the first three days I laid in bed 18-21 hours a day. This is because of three things:

  • As mentioned, when you move, it’s easy to feel like you can tweak the AngioSeal, which is an unpleasant feeling and can also make you concerned that you’ve done something very bad/harmful to yourself
  • You don’t feel great after the surgery
  • The only comfortable positions are laying down and standing, and standing makes the pain/discomfort worse

My AngioSeal was in the right side of my groin, just above the point where the upper leg joins the hip. Because of this I could only lay on my back or my left side.

When I walked, I walked very, very slow, as the doctors advised. I didn’t wear slippers because (a) it doesn’t feel comfortable to reach down and touch your toes, and (b) I don’t want to trip or slip with my slippers on. During this time I never tried to sit in a chair, and I could only sleep on my back or on my left side.

I also had several periods where I have felt light-headed and/or wanted to vomit. I don’t know if this is a side effect of the angiogram, the pericarditis, or the medicine for the pericarditis.

Day 4

Late on Day 3 and then on Day 4 I finally started to feel a little better. By the morning of Day 4 I was so well-rested that it became hard to stay in bed. I was probably upright about 6-8 hours today, compared to being upright only 3-4 hours per day for the first three days. I was also able to sit up in bed for a little while, though it eventually made the Angio-Seal area sore. I could not find a comfortable way to sit in a recliner.

Day 5

On the morning of Day 5 I initially felt very energetic and had little discomfort, but then I ran out of gas and became sore after standing up and walking during the morning.

Days 6 to 10

After those first five days I was able to walk a little more — or maybe I should say that I pushed myself to walk a little more, in part because I needed groceries. When I went to the grocery store I moved very slow, and wore sweatpants (so that the blue jeans that I normally wear wouldn’t rub against my leg/groin).

That was the only time I sat in a normal seated position. I often stood up while working on my computer, or I sat in my recliner, with it open to a pretty wide angle to keep pressure off of the Angio-Seal area.

During this time I continued to sleep only on my back and left side. I tried to sleep on my right side, but I immediately felt pain from the Angio-Seal, so I stopped trying to do that.

After two weeks

Some time after the first two weeks the pain/discomfort improved quite a bit, and I was eventually able to sleep on my right side. At first I only slept for short stretches before I could feel some pain from the Angio-Seal, but now, after three weeks, I am able to sleep normally in any position.

After three weeks

As I write this (after my first angiogram), it’s now 23 days after my angiogram, and while I can still feel discomfort in the Angio-Seal area, it no longer hurts. It’s more like I can feel it, and if anything it’s a very mild pain. The page I linked to states that it can take 60-90 days before the collagen seal goes away completely, but since I can walk at a normal pace and also sleep on my right side, I’m much happier these days.

Update: After my second angiogram and Angio-Seal, the recovery is going much slower. I tweaked something in my leg around Day #20, so now on Day 25 after the angiogram I’m still spending the majority of my time either laying in bed or standing up. I can sit down to drive back and forth to the grocery store, but other than that I’m generally laying down or standing up.

Update 2: Finally on Days 28 and 29 the pain subsided enough that I can generally stand, walk, and lay down on my back and left side without much pain or discomfort. I still get pain when sitting down for more than 10-15 minutes, but hopefully I’ve finally cleared this hurdle.

After five weeks

On Day 35 of the second procedure I was finally able to sit down for 90-120 minutes during the day.

The meaning of the song “Levon,” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin

I’ve always wondered about the meaning of the song Levon, as performed by Elton John, with lyrics written by Bernie Taupin. After a little research, this is what I’ve been able to find out about the meaning of Levon.

Elton John on Levon’s meaning

The best information I’ve found comes from the songfacts website. There, one contributor states the following:

In Susan Black’s book, Elton John in His Own Words, Elton says of Levon: “It’s about a guy who just gets bored doing the same thing. It’s just somebody who gets bored with blowing up balloons and he just wants to get away from it but he can’t because it’s the family ritual.” (thanks, Alexander - London, England)

Two notes about that quote:

Bernie Taupin on Levon’s meaning

Since Bernie Taupin wrote the song, I thought he would be a better source of information about the meaning of Levon. On that same page someone else added this:

When Rolling Stone asked Taupin about the song in 2013, he insisted that he has no idea what he intended as the meaning. “It was a free-form writing,” he said. “It was just lines that came out that were interesting.”

The names “Levon” and “Alvin Tostig”

The Wikipedia entry for Levon adds:

According to Gus Dudgeon, Bernie Taupin, who wrote the lyrics for Levon, was inspired by The Band’s co-founder, drummer, and singer Levon Helm to name the title character after him. The Band was apparently John’s and Taupin’s favorite group in those days. However, in 2013, Bernie Taupin said that the song is unrelated to Levon Helm.

They also state this:

The “Alvin Tostig” mentioned in the song (Levon’s father) is, according to Taupin, merely fictional.

An Elton John fan website adds some speculation regarding the name “Alvin Tostig”:

Tracing the name “Alvin Tostig” is fairly straightforward, but with a bit of a twist. Taupin has said the name was fictitious. There was a historical “Tostig,” who was the Earl of Wessex back in the 1040s, perhaps Taupin pulled the name out of history without realizing it. Also, some have speculated that Levon contains veiled references to a popular book of the time, “Future Shock,” by Alvin Toffler.

(Note that some of this text may be copied verbatim from, or vice-versa.)

Personally, if you want to speculate on the name “Tostig,” I’d add that it’s close enough to “Taupin” that you might speculate that Taupin was potentially writing about himself.

On book banning and censorship in Winchester, Kentucky

In December, 2022, in Winchester, Kentucky, the Clark County Public Library Board of Trustees took up the matter to potentially ban a book in the library they oversee. The book is an award-winning LGBTQ+ memoir that was already located in the Adult section of the library, but that wasn’t enough for the “conservative” trustees. While the library has many other sexually-explicit books (think Fifty Shades of Grey), the trustees singled out this one book, eventually voting that this award-winning book “is restricted to individuals over 18 unless a parent or guardian gives written consent.

I was going to share my opinion on censorship when I saw the quote in the image I shared (from this article): “Censorship is like a forest fire. It begins with a single ember, and if it is not extinguished at the outset, it becomes a raging conflagration that consumes everything in its path.”

Song of the Day: Minutes to Memories, by John Mellencamp

Last night I had a dream in which a woman picked up a stone, turned it over, and showed it to me. A burning image of Jesus on the cross was on this other side. Skipping over some stuff, it eventually reminded me of this Gospel of Thomas quote: “Jesus said, ‘The Kingdom of God is inside you, and all around you, not in mansions of wood and stone. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift a stone, and you will find me.’”

This morning this makes me think of the song, Minutes to Memories, by John Mellencamp. (I used to link to the video on YouTube, but it has been removed.)

Zeus, the best dog ever

Once upon a time there was a dog named Zeus. Before we met him, Zeus had a very difficult life, having been abused by two different owners. When my wife saw Zeus on a local tv station, and they said the Animal Care Society was going to be extremely careful about who adopted him next, she seemed to know that she had to take care of him.

As you can see from the following pictures, when we first adopted Zeus, he was very sick, with a horrible case of mange.

Mast cell activation disease vs histamine intolerance (differences)


October, 2016: I’m pretty new to learning that I probably have Mast Cell Activation Disease (MCAD) — also known as Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) — and as I’m learning more about it, I’ve been wondering, “What is the difference between MCAS/MCAD and histamine intolerance?” In this article I’ll share what I’ve learned so far.

(Note: I take a little time to explain mast cell activation disease in this article. If you just want a quick overview, see the Summary section below.)

TV series “Becker” now on DVD

The tv series Becker was one of my favorites back in the day, and I always wondered why it wasn’t available on DVD. I just looked, and it’s now available at Amazon, just released in 2018.

A favorite episode that helped me snap out of a personal funk was when Becker finally got to be with his long-lost love, a woman he pined for for many years. When he finally had a chance to reunite with her it turned out she was wild, crazy, ran up his credit card bill, then took off. In its own way, that episode helped me get over someone I had felt the same way about. (It was like seeing a comedic version of your own life that turned out to be a great slap in the face moment for me.)

Pink/orange Moon rising over Greater Chicagoland

I drove through Chicago recently and with my crappy old phone’s camera I got this photo of the pink and orange Moon rising over Greater Chicagoland. It was a clear night and the Moon was visible for the entire drive.

My gallstones diet advice: how to live with gallstones

Note: I originally wrote this article in the summer of 2010. I survived on this diet for a long time, but eventually gave up my gallbladder to a surgeon.

My gallstones diet advice: Ugh, my health has destroyed my productivity lately. Due to a mysterious stomach ailment, I’ve had a lot of “stomach” pain, visited the ER several times, met a lot of doctors, had many tests, and lost thirty pounds in less than seven weeks.

“The Man in the Arena” speech by Teddy Roosevelt

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong woman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.”

“The credit belongs to the woman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends herself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if she fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

~ “The Man in the Arena” speech by Teddy Roosevelt, with a few minor changes, which I was reminded of by this article

MCAS/MCAD: What an activated mast cell looks like

At some point somebody was like, “Let’s get a mast cell — a type of white blood cell — from a bone marrow biopsy, magnify it 1,000 times, piss it off, and see what happens.”

The result? Ka-boom! It looks like a little firework went off when it released its histamine, tryptase, serotonin, superoxide, heparin, thromboxane, PGD2, PAF, and other granules.

That’s pretty much what it feels like, lol. I used to tell doctors that it felt like I had been drugged, and indeed, I was.

(Image from this research paper.)