Ode to my dear friend, Tamar.
Ode to My Brother
It is with tremendous sadness that I make this blog post about my oldest brother, Rodney Olin Havens, who has passed away at the too young age of 67. We’ve learned his death is possibly due to a heart attack. I was very close to my brother, even given our great distance apart (he lived in north Texas and I in California) and even given the distances between our various personal beliefs. Rodney was always there for me, even as a kid. At 6’2″ he was a hard mountain of a man with big, strong hands that he used in his bricklaying business. He intimidated all the would-be suitors when I was a teenager. He had a great love of family, first and foremost. He also adored native American artifacts and lore; in fact in one of our more recent conversations he talked poetically about wanting to visit a tribe in Oregon. He wanted far more life experiences than he ever obtained; and I know all about the demons that held him back in life because he was always open and honest with me about his internal struggles. I loved it when he rang me up – I would need to find a place to settle in because our phone conversations could last for hours, and we talked about everything under the sun. He would always say, “I love you baby sister,” and I think it’s the sound of his deep bass voice saying those words that I will miss the most. I love you too, my big brother. I wish you eternal rest and peace at long last.
Innocence. I remember when Bruce Hornsby sang about its untimely end, and back then (unlike now) I really didn’t know what that loss truly meant. The 1980s are considered my lost decade for a very good reason. However, 1989 was a particularly memorable year. It was considered a “turning point in political history” as a wave of revolutions arose that culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall. That November day, when close to if not more than a half million people gathered in East Berlin to demand change. Just remembering that time brings to mind another song that to this very day sends chills through my body.
Take me to the magic of the moment on a glory night, where the children of tomorrow dream away, in the wind of change…
Have you ever seen that music video? It’s incredible. There is real video footage from the moment the Wall “fell.” Why was it even built to begin with? The story of its invention is interesting, and the parallels can be seen today. The victors of WWII had divided Berlin into four sectors, obstensibly in an effort to prevent another Hitler from emerging. But the Communist-Capitalist Conflict would instead divide the land mass of Germany into the Federal Republic of Germany (West) and the German Democratic Republic (East). The West aligned with NATO while the East allied to the Communist Warsaw Pact. Meanwhile the capital city Berlin remained under joint occupation and there was little in the way to prevent East Germans from defecting to the West in search of a higher standard of living and more personal freedoms. 2.5 million mostly young people fled to the greener pasture, leaving “brain drain” and a labor vacuum in their wake. During the summer of 1961 the exodus reached critical mass. The Communist government of the East gave unholy birth to the famous wall on “barbed-wire Sunday.” It was doomed from the outset, and it did finally die in 1989.
1989 was also the year I had a nightmare about the war with the Middle East playing out on US soil. 1989 was the year I had another dream about leaving for California with my little blonde daughter, five years before I actually had that little blonde daughter and eight years before I did in fact leave for California.
Fast forward to the present, right before I sat down to write my blog post about a completely unrelated topic, I learned that protests have popped up in our country over “safe spaces.” Do you know what a safe space is? I actually didn’t, and had to look it up. It sounds a lot like my office, in fact; and if you’re employed by someone other than yourself your workplace will be the same. Its an ordinary place where violence, harassment, discrimination and hate speech aren’t tolerated. Groups of people who are ordinarily targets are able to exist and go on with their lives without overt fear.
But, somebody out there is so filled with internal misguided hate that they can’t even allow their favorite punching bags a brief reprieve. Might I remind these fools that freedom isn’t about the right to be hurtful. You aren’t practising your freedom of speech by bullying others. In fact, freedom of speech only protects you from the federal government prosecuting you for voicing an opinion. Don’t confuse that with the misconception that you can freely commit hate crimes, etc. Don’t allow your heart to fill up with so much negativity that you can’t even allow another person to just be. As has been demonstrated over and over and over in our world’s history, this kind of personal and physical wall DOES NOT SUCCEED.
If only those same bullies could experience what it’s really like to be on the wrong side of the wall, maybe they would learn what true freedom is, and why it’s worth fighting for.
November 7th is the date set for my surgery. For this past week I’ve been trying to come to grips with what is going on with my body. On one hand, I know all the various studies and statistics surrounding my diagnosis and that surgery shouldn’t be necessary, even when you take my age into consideration. One thing I’ve learned is that doctors really pay heed to medical studies that give them statistics. Statistics are supremely important when it comes to diagnosis and remedy. Even though the vast majority of women my age who develop ovarian cysts never develop cancer, there is a reason ovarian cancer is called the silent killer. For starters, small “bad” cysts don’t cause symptoms. Minor symptoms can be ignored. If a woman has greater symptoms, they can easily be dismissed or misdiagnosed as other mundane things (IBS for one). By the time symptoms are obvious enough for a gynecologist to pay attention to, the cancer is already far beyond the early stages. Survival rates plummet.
When symptoms warrant it, TVUs (transvaginal ultrasound) are what gynecologists use to find the cause of problems. In my case, symptoms have been developing for at least a couple years to the point where now I have daily *ache in my lower right back, *cramp-like pain that sometimes wraps around my right side to my lower abdomen, *pain when walking *increased urgency to urinate, *interior pressure, *bloating in my abdomen *tingling in my legs *fluid build-up in my right foot (sometimes in my legs also). Sometimes at night, my right leg/hip aches so much it’s hard to sleep.
Although some of the symptoms are deemed “classic signs” of ovarian cancer, they don’t match the ultrasound findings. In fact, my doctor said “You don’t have any pain, right?” I stared at him in confusion. Did he not read my chart? “Yes, I do,” I said. That’s what brought me here to begin with. He had just explained to me the ultrasound findings: an almost 5cm “simple” cyst, aka “unilocular cyst” aka “functional cyst.” Functional cysts do not cause symptoms unless they are large (over 10cm.) Source: Cigna. 90% of unilocular cysts are < (less than) 5cm and 100% are < 10cm. Mine falls into the 90% range, being just under 5cm. The risk of malignancy in unilocular ovarian cystic tumors less than 10cm in women 50 years or older is extremely low. The majority will resolve spontaneously and can be followed conservatively with serial (multiple) TVUs. Source: US National Library of Medicine-National Institutes of Health. Other equally reliable sources state simple cysts are almost NEVER associated with cancer.
So why do I have symptoms where there should be none?
Instead of managing conservatively with follow-up TVUs, my doctor thinks a procedure called a Salpingo-oophorectomy is the best option. This is an out-patient lapriscopic surgery (very similar to the one I had in 2010) that would remove not just the cyst but the right ovary and fallopian tube. His reasoning is that my age and medical/family history puts me at greater risk for developing ovarian cancer. He isn’t saying that my current condition is suspicious of ovarian cancer (in spite of the neon-sign symptoms my wee simple cyst shouldn’t have) but rather that the “conservative” management of my gynecological condition is to prevent future development of cancer.
I’m going to wander a bit back in time and talk about 2014/2015 because these seem to be two key years in terms of my health. At some point in 2014 I had developed tinnitus in my right ear. I went to my GP in December, but he found nothing physically wrong, except my vitamin D level was very low. Around March-April 2015 I noticed that my hearing was quite diminished in that ear. I went to an ENT who performed a hearing test and tinnitus test, then ordered a brain scan for a suspected acoustic neuroma (a non-cancerous brain tumor). The test was negative, but no determination could be made to explain my “unilateral sudden hearing loss.” In late 2015 I had started having night sweats and foot cramps. I think this was associated with menopause, even though I never really had hot flashes except a few times this year. I also had pain in my ovary area, in fact I thought I had a cyst burst and missed a couple days of work. Further, I had intermittent pain in my hip that sometimes caused me to limp. Another odd symptom was sometimes my feet hurt when I walked. The foot pain eventually became persistent. About 1.5 years or so after my brain scan, I noticed my hearing was worse. I had read good things about House Ear Clinic, so made an appointment for another hearing test. This revealed that indeed my hearing was further diminished and I’d lost about 40% of word recognition.
As a side note, I want to say this sucks, especially at work or when out shopping.
Dr House (yes, that really is his name) didn’t recommend another brain scan, but said if I developed new symptoms to let him know. All the while, the symptoms related to my ovary continued. In mid-August of this year, in the middle of the night I woke up with severe vertigo and nausea. It was so bad, I couldn’t walk unaided. I went to the urgent care that morning and was given medication, etc, but the vertigo lasted for two solid weeks. (I still have intermittent dizziness, btw) I called the House Clinic (in Orange County) and told them I had developed vertigo. Was that something Dr. House thought was related to my ear problem? He referred me to an ENT here in San Diego — and I have an appointment scheduled in October.
I don’t know what to think about all of these unrelated physical problems, but I am looking forward to their mysteries being solved at long last.
Stephen Hawking wrote in his book, A Brief History of Time, that time is a relative, personal concept unique to the observer who measures it. The laws of science do not distinguish between the past and the future. Backward time movement is forbidden by the second law of thermodynamics. This particular law, as we watch it play out in physical experiences on Earth, is bound by the rule of Earth’s gravity. In the example Mr Hawking gives, a cup of water falls to the floor, the cup shatters and the water scatters. Whilst water droplets might coagulate into a puddle and are molecularly unchanged, the pottery or glass cup is reduced to shards that will never reassemble themselves in any way. More importantly, time will not reverse. The cup of water will not go back to its intact state on the table. Time does not stop, reverse, and move forward again. This ‘always going forward’ behavior is called an “arrow of time.” Mr Hawking states there are three distinct arrows of time: thermodynamic (where entropy gradually increases); psychological (our perception of the passage of time and how we remember the past but not the future [more on that later]) and cosmological. This latter, he says, is evident by the expanding universe. (PS p.183 Loc.2953 “…the expansion of the universe is [truth]..”)
The psychological arrow is determined by the thermodynamic arrow and these necessarily always point in the same direction. Using the same analogy of the cup of water, I can follow along with Mr Hawking’s entropy analogy (he uses a puzzle, but I like the water cup better). His scattered puzzle pieces represent disorder vs. the put-together puzzle that represents order. If a system begins with some kind of order (put-together puzzle or full cup of water) then over time it will become disordered, because disordered states outnumber ordered states.
I don’t necessary agree that the nature of our universe can be reduced down to a single concept of entropy or order because it then becomes dependent on a fixed beginning, i.e. the big bang. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying there wasn’t a big bang. I just don’t believe it was the first. I have never believed in the beginning there was nothing. The way I see it, the universe is in a constant state of life and death. Think of the Klein Bottle, or the Ouroboros, and there’s another one I can’t remember the name of at this moment. I don’t ascribe to a singular beginning any more than I can ascribe to the boundary condition. I’m also not saying that the 2nd law of thermodynamics isn’t a thing, of course it is. It just isn’t the thing. Mr Hawking uses it to substantiate the psychological arrow of time by concluding that our brains use energy to recall a memory, and the by-product of that energy increases entropy, and therefore “we must remember things in the order in which entropy increases.” Disorder increases with time, he says.
As he weaves through his chapter on the arrow of time, he evolves – saying, “The collapse of a star to form a black hole is rather like the later stages of the collapse of the whole universe.” The universe expands and expands until at some point it begins to contract. It contracts and contracts, condensing down until it reaches that moment of singularity – or collapse. (I am reminded that this process is a lot like the birth, growth, decline and death of a person). He hypothesizes that the thermodynamic arrow reverses at the beginning of contraction and entropy decreases towards order. But, I’m not convinced that the arrow reverses, instead it seems to me it would just curve along with us and continue to move forward toward a new, albeit violent, outcome. Boom! The big bang again. But, as Mr Hawking points out, life won’t be around to witness much of that contraction phase. In fact, we won’t come along (again) for a really long time.
I started this topic to help myself work through the idea of getting over the past and look toward the future, and as always, Solace in Science! I’m reminded how my oldest daughter always teases me, “Mom, your sense of humor is ridiculously diminished each day you work in that humorless job,” so I take my ha-ha’s where I can get them. Thus, it’s humorous to me that Hawking started this chapter from the point of view that we humans can only see now and the past. And that’s how we know that the arrow of time moves forward. That’s why we don’t see time pause, reverse and start again. I think I find this overall approach to understanding time to be a faulty one. If you are the Curiosity Rover on Mars (literary license here, please) and the little computer eyes look up away from the dusty, seemingly dead landscape, and ponder the concept that there are no beings anywhere in the solar system, time still marches forward. The fact that We Humans see now, but we only remember the past doesn’t prove anything about the nature of time itself. Human remembering is really dependent on how strong our recall mechanism is. The information is there, stored perfectly unless our storage mechanism is faulty through some trauma or illness. Our recall mechanisms can be amazing or awful or any shade in between. Just because we can’t remember it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen – anymore than if we can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
It’s my opinion and maybe I’m alone in this – we do perceive the future. I’m not sure how it works though. We don’t see it the same way we see the Right Now. Right Now is gone at the speed of light. The future is always just a SOL increment away.
Once upon a time I thought about how a multiverse would have independent bubbles of time, and what would happen when bubbles bump into one another and merge. (Also see ekpyrotic theory.) A topic for another day…
PS: check this out Arrival