Monday, October 29, 2007

Pilgrim's progress

I want to elaborate on something I wrote about in my last post.

Walking lately has become excruciating, even at a slow pace, even on level ground.
My joints have given me varying degrees of trouble over the course of my fight against parathyroid cancer. And my knees historically have been a source of bother even before that diagnosis in 2001-02. I quickly became intimately acquainted with my knees when I took up karate in 1993, and we've had a love-hate relationship ever since as karate has become an integral part of my life. (And yes, I still practice, but very carefully and gingerly, sort of how our grandfathers would.)

My neck, elbows, hips and knees have at times been painful, and often just annoying, over the last several years. But the deterioration of my knees has come about suddenly, and scarily so. The base of my neck and back of my head rank a close second, especially when I wake up in the morning. My hip pain comes and goes, like the periodic (and often unwelcome) visits of an antagonist from one's past.

This rather sudden and hopefully temporary impediment to mobility is a great blow to me, seeing as how my photography -- a passion that burns within me -- depends on getting around from place to place, in no particular order, sometimes hurriedly, sometimes leisurely.

Being hobbled also is ironic given the importance I place on physical pilgrimage, whether it's circumambulating a Japanese island as part of a 1,300-year-old Buddhist ritual or walking the length and breadth of Manhattan and down into Brooklyn (haven't been able to do that in many, many months) or just going to the toilet to take a piss.

What I'm getting at is, LIFE itself is the pilgrimage and all of the activities on that path, from the sublime to the mundane, are part of the package deal. I place lots of emphasis on the physical aspects of pilgrimage (I like to think of my photographs as postcards from the path), and walking the walk has become increasingly difficult. Maybe I need to change my focus, photographically and spiritually.

So ...

My doctors suggest a few options, beginning with X-rays to see if arthritis is the culprit (and it is a likely one, given the bone loss that's part of the range of things parathyroid cancer can do). I'll also be tested for the uric acid content in my system because my illness also can inflict gout -- not in the big toe, which it targets in otherwise healthy people, but in the joints of those with this particular cancer.

There are medications that can alleviate my symptoms once I find out just what is behind them. That's quite heartening, even though I'm not really thrilled about having even more drugs to deal with than I already do, along with their potential side effects.

Plus, I need a new bed. I've been sleeping on a futon that leaves me feeling like a science fair project gone awry when I wake up in the morning. It's destroying my lower back, which in turn could affect other parts of my body. After all, the leg bone's connected to the thigh bone ...

"Every night I still ask the Lord, 'Why?' and havent heard a decent answer yet."
--Jack Kerouac,
"Desolation Angels"


YourFireAnt said...

Thanks for telling us this, Michael. I wish I could send you the gold of the tree just outside my office window here.. Locust in full yellow.

You are right; life is the pilgrimage.


Michael said...

Thank you, FA.

Matt K. said...

Sorry about the mobility troubles - it would aggravate me to no end to be in a similar situation.

Definitely ditch the futon - I would highly recommend a memory-foam mattress. TempurPedic is the most well-known brand, but there are others, such as Dormia, that are just as good and slightly cheaper (though no mattress in that category is a true bargain). If the cost is too high, then settle for a less-expensive memory-foam pad to place on a conventional mattress combined with memory-foam pillows - especially the pillows, if you have troubles with the neck and back of the head. I have such a mattress, with the pillows, and it's made a big difference in my comfort in bed as well as having a positive impact on the quality of my sleep.

Michael said...


Mike Cross said...

Hi Michael,

Yes, ditch that bloody futon. Well done for pinpointing the source of your suffering!

I am going to go and check out my sitting cushion. Following your line of reasoning, I begin to suspect that some irregularity in the cushion may well be the source of my own craving.

Good luck, my friend. And apologies for not having visited your blog for a while. Enjoyed the Gary Snyder post.

Backward and upward... (Pilgrim's Regress?)...

Michael said...

Thank you, Mike! I'm very glad to hear from you, as always.

Jean said...

Damn, this sounds really wretched. I hope that with your doctors you can find something that helps.

And then, because you cannot walk so far, you show us something of your home for the first time, which is fascinating and beautiful.

Michael said...

Thanks, Jean. I'm hoping a new mattress alleviates some of the problem. I'm going for X-rays of my knees today.