The Rundown Lite: Taking Some Time Off and Thanking Our Readers

  • “To learn one must be humble; but life is the great teacher.” – James Joyce
  • “Inspiration, move me brightly. Light the song with sense and color, hold away despair. More than this I will not ask, faced with mysteries dark and vast…statements just seem vain at last. Some rise some fall, some climb, to get to Terrapin.” – Robert Hunter, Jerry Garcia

There is an informing joy in writing, in which one’s verbal flow spills from one paragraph to another with a great deal of ease and pleasure, particularly when the subject matter, like baseball, is something beloved. That joy is there even in the communication of pain or sadness. The trick, as William S. Burroughs once intimated, is to seek, and be greedy for, honesty. So believe it or not, each morning I must first vacate my mind of any preconceived ideas in order to lead with my heart before I can communicate a single thought.

Jack Kerouac once said, “Don’t think of words when you [pause], but to see the picture better.”

I never really knew what he meant until today.

There is something terrifyingly divulging when you are forced to confront your greatest fears while masked up. Conversation pales in comparison to the story that unfolds in the eyes of the teller, and a genuflection or pause is far more revealing when it is communicated as a visual concept only. Suddenly the words mean far less than the delivery mechanism, and if that mechanism is indeed the window to the soul, you learn the sleight-of-hand that is everyday verbal communication.

I’ve just used 250 or so words to beat around the bush a little, so I’ll follow with this: Things didn’t go very well during my visit to the transplant center Monday. In fact, as my doctor spoke to me, I could see in his eyes that the news was more grim than any words he could use to somewhat deflect his message. You have no idea how dark the word “manageable” sounds when coming from a masked physician.

Here’s the facts:

  1. The damage is expanding. In layman’s terms, the liver has an incredible ability to repair itself when we punish or abuse it. In my case, soda, or rather, unhealthy amounts of high fructose corn syrup, is one culprit. Up until March I was drinking eight cans of soda per day. The medical profession is continually learning more about the dangers of that sugary additive, and I’m living (or dying) proof. My liver can no longer discard and repair damaged cells. So, the organ accumulates that mess and slowly dies.
  2. The damage is irreversible and unstoppable. I can slow its progress but managing the disease is all I have left going forward. I was healthier yesterday than I am today, and I am healthier today than I will be tomorrow (I know Evan will edit this sentence because as is, it is driving him insane).
  3. My doctor indicated that I am unlikely to be approved for a transplant because of some pre-existing health conditions, namely my vagal response. The vagus nerve is the thermostat and regulator of our major organs, and mine has been inefficient since birth. That I’ve survived this long is a testament to my fortitude. For instance, when I am sick, I get very high fevers before my body is triggered to cool itself down. I can also test diabetic or hypoglycemic in the same day. When I sleep, my heart rate will drop as low as 40 BPM. When I am excited or scared, I go into near fibrillation.
  4. Scaling upward on point 3, the vagus nerve is likely part and parcel of the failure of my liver to repair itself. Giving me a new liver won’t change that, which was the most troubling news I received. If you are wondering how I looked when told, think of Craig Kimbrel at the end of last Wednesday’s game in Kansas City, right after David Ross took him out.

So is there any upside? Well, as I am buried in debt and unsure how I will make it through the remaining three weeks of this month, I can rest assured that I won’t have to deal with a massive out-of-pocket expense tied to a new liver and a lifetime of anti-rejection medicines. Being a couple thousand dollars short of meeting expenses is much easier to navigate than trying to pay off a few hundred thousand dollars. And I have an 83% survival rate over the next three years based on age and health, while that rate is only about 70% for post-transplant patients of similar age. The rate drops well below 50% during years four and five in either instance.

I’ll also eat better and exercise more as part of the disease management procedure, and my new dietitian sure is a swell looker. Best of all (if I’m reaching for silver linings), end stage liver disease is a relatively pain- and symptom-free ordeal up until the very end.

We’ve used the word “reckoning” to describe the Cubs last few seasons, and when applied to life, that seems far more burdensome. I’m very unhappy this evening because my reckoning came today. As such, I need to take a few days off from writing to mentally prepare myself for the challenge ahead, and to concentrate on finding a way to cover August rent and utilities, and simply buy groceries. I’m also going to dive deeply into the CDs that so many of you have sent me. Music provides a great spiritual healing for me, my vagus nerve be damned.

Besides, life is too short to read a bad blog and I’d rather not go through the motions just to pump out daily content if I am unable to fully clear my mind before writing. I owe each of you much, much more than to half-ass it. That you have been here with me for three-plus summers of Cubs baseball means more than you will ever know, and as long as Cubs Insider and our readers will have me I intend to stick with this. I’ve said it before, and it’s true every day: CI is family.

On Deck

I’ll be back next Monday.

They Said It

  • “[Those] that tend to respond to adversity the right way and triumph in the end are strong [in] character. If you have enough guys like that in the clubhouse, you have an edge on the other team.” – Theo Epstein
  • “Baseball is Heaven’s gift to mortals.” – George Will
  • “If you think nobody cares if you are alive or dead, miss a couple of bill payments.” – Bernie Lincicome

Monday Night Walk Off Music

Winning Streak by Glen Hansard – Earning the win is being asked to write for this site, and getting the save is not being asked to leave. But it is the readers and our followers that make our staff the champions we are. Thank you all for that.


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