Monday, July 18, 2016

Birding as an excuse. A year passed. I'm back - briefly.

Geez! It has been  over a year since I put up a blog post. Several reasons actually, but I will try to summarize.

Last year we were late getting down to the Biggest Week in Ohio due to a fall and possible concussion the week before. Had to get doctor clearance to  travel. Anyway, this made me really start to feel "old". My hips are not what they used to be; bunions make it harder to hike; holding up a large lens is harder; energy level is lower; etc. No not "old" mind you. I am still the kid I was. Also I am still all the other ages I have been. The brain is an amazing thing! We are who we are - and everyone we have ever been - all at the same time.

Anyway, after returning from Ohio I decided it was about time to start "taking care of business". I realized I had been using birding as an excuse to ignore doing so many things put off while seeking immediate gratification and reinforcement.

While working for a living it was easy to ignore "stuff". The days were filled with get up, get ready, go to work, eat, sleep, get up and so on. "Stuff" came in. The immediate stuff like bills were acted upon, and piled, but never filed or cleared out. And then were all the articles I saved to pursue sometime. Places to go. Things to do. Things to learn more about.  Bags of stuff!

Then I started thinking about the weight of this baggage in terms of the fact that someone would have to deal with it when I passed. Yes, now thinking that I was over 70 and the inevitable would happen some day.

Similarly I had been putting off doctor appointments. Needed to schedule and follow thru on these.

Oh, it would have been so much more fun to keep avoiding responsibilities and just "playing" as always. Playing meaning actively pursuing learning and having new experiences like I have done my entire life. Before birding it was digital photography (which actually led me into birding as I started asking what the bird I had just photographed).

Before that, I include fishing, rock-hounding, fossil collecting, lapidary, great lakes freighters - on and on. Each chapter fascinating in its own right, and each with many stories that I may never have time to tell.  I started keeping files on a few books I wanted to write.

What I really need now is a "mentee" or a person who wants to learn fascinating things about the many worlds to explore. I would love to share my stories with someone! Even better if they would like to help me record them!!!

And I would like to pass along many of my treasures to someone who would really appreciate them. Projects I never finished. Just as a couple examples,  I have a couple cases of seaweeds from the 1890s. No data, so scientifically not valuable, but great material for art projects. A ton (literally) of documented collections of fossils in my garage. I was going to write a book, but some guy scooped me with one from the UM press. Chunks of wood from California that I never made anything from them. Old German mushroom teaching models from the turn of the century, Just "stuff" - but fascinating stuff. Probably all might just wind up in a dumpster on my passing. Would be nice to share before that.

I made quite a bit of progress over this past year! And, yes, I still had time for birds. I daily record my feeder birds. I try to put them on eBird, but seem to run out of energy as the spring brings back  more birds. I usually get to around the end of May, then never get around to entering the rest of the year.

Most records are "mundane" like my daily records of feeder birds. I put quotes around mundane because I believe there is a treasure trove of data here. Several years of consistently documenting the timelines of all my avian visitors. I have learned so much about not only presence/absence of the birds, but also have had a a great opportunity to study behavior!

But as for the "excuse" part of the title, I actually fought my urges that kept saying to me "It is a gorgeous day; let's go birding". Yes. In the past I had been driven outdoors on any lovely day with decent temperatures and humidity. And enjoyed the heck out of it! What a treasured life with my lovely companion wife Judy. We have fun!

But I did resist most (obviously not all) impulses. Maybe I am learning responsibility? Well ... somewhat perhaps.  I am still the kid who wants it all - and I still want it now.

But I really did make progress on the clearing out of stuff side! I sold my sports card collection. Eighty cases of sports cards!!! I had planned this to be a significant contribution to my retirement. Not so. Bought just at the wrong time when they started mass-producing millions of cards. If I had started collecting ten years earlier it would have worked, but not the stuff from early 1990s. I probably invested $25,000 and received less than $2000. Ouch!
But it did clear a huge area in the basement to allow attacking other things.

I fared financially much better with rock concert posters from the 1960s -  the good old days of peace, love and music. Most of these I took off telephone poles or received as fliers at the college. Wonderfully spacey artistic stuff! Fun to review and even to try to read (not so easy for many ...) the names of the bands they were advertising.

More recently I sold my vinyl record collection. Just a couple years ago they were practically worthless, but with recent revival of interest I was able to get a decent price. I had about 1400 records! First I had a dear friend drive up here and go thru the collection picking out her favorites. Several hours of chatting and sharing memories. A great day with records, followed by the next day of birding and a picnic at Kensington Metro Park with Donna, Paula and Judy. A wonderful life!

Then after many phone inquiries to local music stores, I hit the right place: People's Records in Detroit. It was quite fascinating to me that the young (early 30s?) man who drove up from Detroit actually knew more about some of the records than I did. Great conversations. This is what I am talking about when I say I need someone to share stories with!

I still have a HUGE collection of fishing tackle I would like to sell and share. Any interest?

How about lapidary stuff? Collectibles in general? What are your interests?

Now for other "stuff". Lots of articles I wanted to read; new things to explore. But amongst that, in the same bags, mostly crap. Bills and account records from a decade ago. Never disposed of any of that when working. And, how long do you really need to keep anything anyway? No one ever told me that. So lots of shredding, recycling and trashing. Bags of crap! But now significantly reduced!

Then there was catching up on the doctor appointments on  my to do list. Should have done these much earlier of course. But you know the drill. I kept taking the car in for regular maintenance (hey guys do the car first, right?), and I did have annual physicals, but never spent time with specialists. With Medicare and insurance it would have been cheap, but never pursued it.

Finally changed my heart doc. The prior one was maybe not a quack, but I could make the case he was close. My new one ran a series of tests -  mostly ultrasounds - and these plus a cardiac cath I had done a couple years ago showed my heart and associated tubes were in great shape. This made a great impression on me.  Maybe I will live quite awhile more. Let's get back  into better shape.

Went to a podiatrist. For some time I have had problems with a bunion, foot pains, and these in turn affected my hips. Hip MRI had turned up nothing serious. The podiatrist installed a special insole in my sneakers and cut a device to protect the bunion. Geez! I could walk without pain much farther again! Let's get back on the trails! Feels so much better!

My PSA (prostate indicator) had risen over he last three physicals, so I went to a urologist. He took twelve samples from the prostate. Two indicated neoplasia, but no big deal. Just something to watch.

I had a full body scan by a dermatologist. Did not even realize that was an annual option. All outdoors folks should have this done! Amazing the stuff you learn is available when you delve into it! He found two possible things to sample. My main doc had been missing these. One came back benign. The other was a basal cell carcinoma. I had this removed by a specialist trained in the Mohs procedure. Great way to deal with it!

Overall I felt very confident. Felt like I was really making progress. Getting rid of stuff. Looking good on the health front. Can I finally quit fighting my urge to deny myself birding (my excuse) and get out on the trails again? I was ready for  another decade or so.

My lung doctor ordered CT scans. Found 4mm spot on one lung, but it did not grow from one year to next, so was some artifact or something. I had been having breathing episodes for over a year, but usually a week of steroids would put me back on track. And, yes, I was cutting back on smoking and had even set a quit date. Damn life-long (over 50 years!) addiction. What the doctor did not tell me was that I had very little lug capacity left! Quack - or maybe just half-quacked. I would think that he might have looked at scans for the general health of the lung tissues besides just looking for cancerous signs.

In any case, I had an acute breathing episode at the end of April that put me in the hospital for 10 days. Some virus hit my lungs hard. Basically took out most of the good tissue I had left. Unfortunately lung tissue does not regenerate. Then (!) the same lung doc finally looked at the rest of the portions of the prior scans as well as an MRI I had at the hospital and determined that I should be placed on hospice care.

Hospice care basically says that two docs agree that a patient has six months or less to live. Whew! What a shocker! Hospice!

So that is the current story. I am on oxygen 24 hours per day. Some days are not bad. When it gets humid, I have trouble breathing. It is weird because with the oxygen, my pulse oxygen can be running 95%, but it is hard to draw a breath. At night I use a BiPAP machine that forces air to inflate my lungs, so I sleep comfortably. I just cannot exert myself very much and need to take more breaks. And I need to haul around oxygen tanks everywhere I go. Sure limits the distance and terrain I can travel! But I am getting used to how to handle this.

But I note that I keep a positive attitude in this like I have about everything in life. I think most people hear "hospice" and think someone is going to die in a few weeks. It does seem to happen that way. But maybe for a couple of reasons. One reason certainly could be a fast-acting disease. But another reason could be that maybe some people are on hospice for quite some time before they let anyone know until right near the end. On the other hand, my hospice team says that many people live much longer than the predicted six months. Well I still have a ton of things on my "to do list" (which by reference includes several more to do lists...) so I certainly do not plan to go easily!

I still record my deck birds daily, and being more focussed on them allows much better observations on behaviors and offers great chances at pics. I will try to share some of this thru my bird blog posts, but realize that my to do list must take priority before I use my birding excuse to ignore responsibilities. But I do have some great pics to share from "window birding".

I hope y'all have enjoyed my "rambles" and will continue to follow me. You can also follow me on Facebook where I tend to post most info. Facebook  is so much quicker to just pop up a note or pic. I do not have the energy or time for some of my longer "rambles".

I plan to start up a new blog regarding my physical experiences on hospice. Like everything in my life it is all about the attitude with which you approach it. I am planning on using my time productively. Too catch up on things I have put off. To prepare and plan. And also to have as much fun as possible along the way. I see it as a chance to "clear the decks" for the next phase.  And also to possibly provide encouragement to others. I am not sure how often I will take the time to do this, but I am well-intentioned.

Anyway, I now will return "Dr. Bob's Bird Blog" (the blog you are reading now)  back to its original titled intent and just post birding stories here.

But, I did want to let you all know "the story". And especially I want to let you all know how important you are in my life. I have felt so very welcomed in the birding community! I am energized, fascinated, delighted, and downright humbled by the many friends I have made while birding. And I thank you all for this!!! Yes! You are so very much appreciated! And, yes, I have SO many memories of friends and trips to share I will never run out of rambles on the past! I will not be able to share most, but do know that I have daily flashes of  pure joy in my memories!

Catch y'all on the "flap side"!

- "Dr. Bob" Setzer - 2016