Monday, September 10, 2012

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +568

Riddle of the Sphinx

What walks on 4 legs in the morning 2 legs in the noon and 3 legs at night? In Greek Mythology, the Sphinx at Thebes posed this question to travelers. If they answered incorrectly -- they were killed. If they answered correctly, the Sphinx would kill herself. Watch out comes old Oedipus (and me).

The answer is: a human. He or she crawls on all fours at the beginning of life (morning), walks on two legs in the prime of life (noon), and uses a walking stick or cane at the end of life (evening).

I was pondering this old riddle as I finished my morning constitution. You see, I now carry a cane as I march along through the morning mists -- a very slow march, but ready, steady, go(ing) forward at my own pace. I have become a bit unsteady on my feet (because of the peripheral neuropathy problem in my feet, legs, and hands) -- so, I use the cane as an out-rigger -- to prevent tipping. I also lean on it when I stop momentarily to catch my breath. Most days, like today, I walk a six-block square -- about .75 miles. Yesterday, I must have been feeling my oats, so I walked from home to Hecla Street in Laurium and back -- about 1.5 miles.

I felt like I had run a marathon.

I may try it again, but not for a week or two. It's all part of learning to live within my new normal.

Batteries Included

I completed a battery of blood tests last Thursday. My doctor at Mayo Clinic told me the tests were good/stable. I hope to learn more details when I see my local oncologist on Thursday (after more blood tests, of course). It is not that I understand completely all the ramifications of the hard numbers, but they do help me make judgment calls about going outdoors and attending events where I may be exposed to infectious agents, etc. For now, I guess I remain both good and stable.

We are watching a new anomaly: When I get ready to retire, I have noticed on several occasions that my lower left leg and foot are pale and cold, and the right lower leg and foot are pink and warm. By morning, all is pink and warm again. I bumbled my way downstairs three nights ago and asked Marian (still up, watching the tube) to feel my left foot. After the initial quizzical stare, she obliged and was astounded at how cold my left foot was compared to my right. It's just one more thing I must check out.

Pins, Needles, and Numbness

Both of my feet, my ankles, patches of my legs up to my knees, and to some extent my hands consistently have that "pins and needles" sensation one gets when a limb "falls asleep." I wonder if little elf dentists sneak into my bedroom and practice injecting elf Novocaine into my extremities while I slumber. Navigating our stairway in the early morning dark takes a lot of focus and care. (My bedroom is upstairs, the bathroom is downstairs...)

Outside Influences

I don't need my medical problems to make each day eventful. For example, Saturday's post included eleven (yeah, 11!) envelopes from Blue Cross/Blue Shield, full of Explanation of Benefit statements, along with two new itemized charges lists from Mayo Clinic. Something fun to read arrives nearly every day. Joy!


Perhaps the most stressful has been our phone bill. Until this last bill, our AT&T phone bills have been free of problems, because we seldom use long distance on our land line, using our cell phone, Skype, or Google Voice to reach out and touch someone far away. Imagine my chagrin to find, on the latest bill, a series of long distance service charges from a company called American Phone Services, billing through another company listed as USBI. As if we would not notice a sudden $8.72 increase in our phone bill...

They were also billing for two calls I made using Google Voice -- a service which has been and remains free.

I contacted USBI via Internet and they responded almost immediately (next day). Their response was predictable...they are only the billing company, so they passed the buck to American Phone Services.

Today, I called American Phone Services. Their representative, obviously a native of India with a thick accent, insisted on three things: First, that our AT&T phone account is in Marian's name; second, that Marian requested their services on March 27, 2002; and third,  that we have been billed regularly and should not be surprised. She refused to cancel any services because she said Marian ordered them. So, I put Marian on the line. After some heated words, and a request to talk to her supervisor, they hung up on us.

There are three things VERY wrong with her statements: Our AT&T account, established more than 40 years ago, has always been in my name only; Marian never requested long distance services from any company; and such charges have never before appeared on our statements from AT&T. I verified this by calling AT&T customer service and talking to a representative, who checked back on previous bills for me. We will be paying our phone bill, but NOT the additional charges.

I don't know if we will get a correction from American Phone Services soon, however, I will be filing a complaint with the FCC. From what I read on their website, this problem is worsening because of all the things folks can charge to their phone bills.

The moral of the story is this (especially if you have a wire line phone): Read your phone bill carefully!

Maybe on my next update, I can complain about all the phone calls we receive for political surveys, political ads, and credit card scams. Maybe not...

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...

With apologies to Henry, the game is afoot once more as we journey to Rochester on September 18, for two more days of testing and consultations. I have appointments on the 19th and 20th. We hope to come home again on September 21. That is that plan. Perhaps my neighbors will hear a thready, wheezing voice calling to his redoubtable old Focus on that early morning: "Follow your spirit, and upon this charge; Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!' Perhaps not...

As always, we are thankful for your prayers and good thoughts. God bless you, and good night!


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