Author Archives: James McCleary

It Must Be Said

I have listened to the CDC, Dr. Fauci, and the media, for the past 18 months, and I’ve concluded that they really don’t know what they’re talking about. Our supposed trustworthy sources have misinformed, misled, and have been inconsistent with their numerous recommendations concerning COVID-19 since the very beginning of the so-called pandemic. The virus is real, but there are many things that have not been said, but must be said. I’ve grown rather weary of the popular soundbite “I listen to the data and the science” from those pushing the coronavirus shots. Because I listen as well. I just decipher the data differently – without bias. And doesn’t science suggest there is no God and Creationism is purely a myth? Not on my watch!

Many folks presume those resistant to getting inoculated are either uneducated, anti-vaxxers, Trumpers, or Fox News viewers. I assure you, I am none of those. I simply use common sense and biblical principles to form my opinions and make my decisions. I also pride myself in dealing with facts. The fact remains that a minute percentage of the U.S. population has contracted COVID-19, and an even smaller percentage of those have succumbed to the virus. And we now know that the current vaccines are not anywhere near foolproof against the Delta variant.

We also know those inoculated can still be carriers of the virus. Yet the media, and seemingly a certain political party, is blaming the unvaccinated (me) for the latest increase in covid cases. So why would I believe, as the President has stated, this is now the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” when that sentiment is absolutely untrue? Another fact is that most people who contract the virus do not end up in the hospital. Therefore, understand that many of the reports touting overwhelmed hospitals are insincere tactics to make matters appear worse than they actually are. This leads me to my main point.

The powers that be have tried guilt, incentives and bribes, and now threats in an attempt to force their misguided will on to the general public. I can’t imagine anyone being okay with blatant discrimination and segregation in this day and age. However, that’s precisely what’s happening before our very eyes. Numerous U.S. companies are now forcing their employees to be inoculated or else be terminated. CNN just fired two employees for showing up to work unvaccinated. The National Football League now has two sets of rules this year: harsh ones for the unvaccinated and none really for the vaccinated.

Unfortunately, the only way to combat the spread of covid throughout the NFL this season is probably to require ALL within the organization to mask up and be tested daily (not just the unvaccinated). So, wake up Commissioner Goodell! And wake up America! We’re seeing the discriminatory vaccine passport implemented in – of course – New York and California. Soon, other extremely liberal states will follow suit I’m sure. How are these things even remotely acceptable in the good ol’ U.S. of A.? In France, things are even worse. COVID-19 health passes are required to enter cafes, restaurants, and “in some cases, hospitals.” Hospitals? You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

The thought of injecting a foreign substance into my body, with the properties of the virus I’m trying to avoid, doesn’t make much sense to me. And nobody – NOBODY – knows for certain if those inoculated won’t develop any consequential health issues in a year, 5 years, or 10 years from now. I believe social distancing, practicing good hygiene, and living a healthy lifestyle is the best defense against any virus. We should all be afforded the right to decide for ourselves whether or not to get the COVID-19 vaccination without being harassed or discriminated against. What’s the saying? My body, my choice!

We can choose to be fearful and stop living our lives, or we can treat the virus for what it is – just another possible health ailment to be aware of. I choose the latter. I have not once swayed from my position to not get vaccinated. Today, in fact, I have never been more comfortable with my well-thought-out decision. I won’t judge those who’ve chosen to get inoculated IF they don’t judge me for my decision to not get vaccinated. Now it has been said.                


It’s Official

It’s official. I am now a senior citizen. The world became a better place (regardless of what many may say) when I came into it 55 years ago this very day. Learning about my newfound senior citizenship was purely happenstance. This past Monday, I was pondering my upcoming age when this horrifying thought occurred to me: When does one become a senior citizen? One Google-second later, my lovely wife informed me of my dire circumstance. Hey, was that a fleeting smirk I detected emanating from my bride’s face? I suppose she does take some delight in lagging behind me by almost a full 18 months. I know if the situation were reversed, I would, too. But I’m certainly not going to complain about having a younger hot wife.

When on earth did I become a senior citizen? (I think we’ve already established that.) But how can this be? Shouldn’t a senior citizen feel old, or at least somewhat seasoned, or an established veteran of some sort or of some thing? I am a veteran of nothing! And I feel young – except for the aches and pains. But I chalk those up to lifting weights every other day and wogging (walking/jogging) with the missus a few times a week. And doesn’t a senior citizen membership come with a litany of medications for survival? I only take an acid reducer, daily, for my tum-tum. How can I be a senior citizen if I don’t feel like one?

What about my looks? I don’t look nearly as old as those other 55 year-old folks, on my television screen, promoting Depend undergarments and ED medications. I see senior citizens among us all the time, but surely I don’t look like them. Could it be that I’m not as young-looking (and as good-looking) as I think I am? I recently read somewhere that a mirror depicts a truer sense of how one appears to another more so than what a picture captures. The reason being (airbrushing aside) is that the viewer has more time, without appearing rude, to stare and scrutinize any and every flaw of a photograph. Time to get rid of all my pictures I guess. I can recall many times while in my thirties, and even in my forties, when people complimented me on looking younger than I actually was. But more recently, whenever I state my age, no one seems to bat an eye. Maybe there’s the demoralizing proof that I only think I look younger than I actually am.

When I was a punk kid, I assumed all people in their 50s were old and decrepit and probably ready to cash it in, but boy was I wrong, and my apologies to all previous generations. If age is just a number, please explain why I must now be classified as a senior citizen simply for having a 55th birthday. I still periodically drink from my coffee mug which says I’m “The Big 30” for heaven’s sake. (I do like my other, more relevant mug a bit more though which states, “I’d worry about getting older if I wasn’t still so darn cute.”)

In the name of full disclosure, I’ve been calling every 24th day of February my deathday (instead of the more conventional candy-coated version) since I turned 40. Something about THAT number just rubbed me the wrong way. Let’s face it; Each birthday realistically means you are one year closer to your impending and imminent demise. Bummer! I’d probably be very worried about all this, if I wasn’t so certain as to where I’ll someday be spending eternity. In fact, for whatever reason, I was once convinced that I was destined to die at the age of 33 – like Jesus. But my Savior obviously had other plans. Regardless of whether or not I look or feel like a senior citizen, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. God willing, I’ll be writing about becoming elderly in precisely 15 years. But for now I’m just a senior citizen. It’s official.

An Unexpected Journey (Part 11)

Radiation 3/31/20

A dozen down. Four more to go. Rhonda’s having her twelfth radiation treatment as I write this. Initially, the doctor presumed my lovely wife would require 20 treatments after her breast cancer surgery, but that number was quickly reduced to 16 soon after she started. Praise God! I’m not exactly sure why the reduction, but common sense assures me ’tis better to need less radiation than more radiation. Before treatments began, the doc did say Rhonda was a good candidate because she appeared to be healthy, and she was tall and thin. That was a bit of an ego boost that the missus has reminded me of more than once since then.

I am sitting in my car while Rhonda is enduring her treatment, as has been the norm for me the past couple of weeks. I’d certainly like to be inside the building, a little closer to my brave wife, but that just isn’t an option at this time with the coronavirus changing the ways businesses are conducted – medical facilities included. The missus has her temperature taken by a masked assistant each day before she is even allowed to enter the building. I realize precautionary measures must be taken in times like these, especially at healthcare centers, but I still wish I could be nearer to my wife instead of occupying space inside my Dodge Dart. (Don’t get me wrong – my baby blue Dart is one sweet ride, but it’s just not the same as being indoors to show Rhonda all my love and support.)

My wife’s radiation treatments are going quite well. No pain. No nausea. Only a tinge of swelling last week, but that is perfectly normal sayeth the doctor. The missus has also been more emotional and teary-eyed than usual, as of late – also normal since discontinuing her birth control pills, for health’s sake. In addition, Rhonda recently became weepy when simply picking up her prescription for Tamoxifen. The drug can prevent breast cancer from recurring and is specific to her body’s chemistry. I think it was a moment of astute awareness of the journey Rhonda has been on up to this point and the journey still up ahead that led to her emotions temporarily spilling over. I must admit I get extremely uncomfortable, although I try my best not to show it, whenever my lovely wife cries.

Boy, am I one to talk about emotions and crying. I truly wish I could say that I am the MAN in our relationship, but just last week, while pulling weeds in our front yard, I couldn’t even contain myself when listening to Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes In Me” on my portable discman. Anyway, our unexpected journey seems to be coming to a close. I think the love of my life and I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Well, actually the Light has been with us the entire time.

An Unexpected Journey (Part 10)

Life On Hold (3/6/20)

Today, we’ll finally get to see my wife’s radiation doctor for the first time. You know the old adage “life goes on”? Well, that is not always true. Life is definitely on hold for me and the missus. I suppose technically life does go on, but Rhonda and I have been in a holding pattern since her breast cancer surgery in January. She needed time to mainly heal before radiation treatments could even be considered. We hope today’s consultation with the doc will offer some clarity for our future.

We are so thankful for the apparent outcome of Rhonda’s operation as she continues to heal. We are thankful to God for being next to us on this unexpected journey. God is not some indifferent entity in a galaxy far, far away. (I believe that’s a Star Wars reference – although I am not a fan of the beloved sci-fi saga. Sorry if I offend.) The one and only God is in the heavens indeed, but He’s also right beside us – and in our hearts if we let Him in. Of course, the wife and I are also extremely grateful for all the love and support, and the oodles of prayers on her (and my) behalf, from all the mere mortals down here.

Our life has been on hold because we truly cannot make any plans until Rhonda’s anticipated treatments are over. We should find out today when we can expect to resume our life together as we once knew it – the pre-cancer days, if you will. Cancer is incredibly inconvenient, to say the least. Pre-cancer we played tennis. Pre-cancer we planned on celebrating St. Paddy’s Day with family in Iowa. Instead, this March 17th, my corned beef and cabbage, my wife’s tasty Reuben sandwiches, and my world-renowned (not to brag) Guinness cake will have to remain in Arizona.

The missus has stated, repeatedly mind you, that she deserves to take a cruise when all this cancer nonsense is said and done. She is quick to then point out that she really doesn’t deserve it. I would have to argue that she certainly does! (The missus has even invited me to come along.) However, we still can’t plan a darned thing until we at least hear what the radiation doctor has to say. And do we really want to be saying “bon voyage” any time soon, with the coronavirus seemingly running rampant? In the meantime, I reckon my lovely wife and I will continue snuggling on the couch watching Hallmark movies, while our life is on hold.

An Unexpected Journey (Part 9)

Normal…Yet Better (2/12/20)

Normal…somewhat. That’s where life seems to be at this moment since today is my wife’s second day back to work, and I’m at Starbucks doing my thang. Yesterday, Rhonda worked about an eight-hour day, after taking a two week vacation (aka recuperating from breast cancer surgery). My hairstylist missus made it through the day, taking care of her clients’ hair-care needs, although afterwards her left armpit was extremely tender. It was sore enough to require an ice “pad” before bedtime. I fetched for my missus the cushy round pad, given to her by the nurse after surgery, many times throughout the evening.

I also made us dinner. That is not normal – at least it wasn’t until two weeks ago. I have been at my lovely wife’s beck and call since her operation – but only because that’s what I’ve insisted upon. I’m normally a pretty good guy within the realm of our holy matrimony, but now I’m a really good guy; I am more domestic, more attentive to Rhonda’s needs, and a little less about me, since her cancer diagnosis.

The familiar adage “don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” is absolutely true. Even though thankfully I still have Rhonda, I was forced to imagine, at least on some level, my life without her. Not interested!!! Therefore, I demand, whether we have one day left together or another few decades, that I’m a better husband from this point on.

I suppose life as the missus and I know it will never be the same, regardless. There’s that unavoidable anxiety when pondering the possible future “what ifs.” I will not dignify cancer by listing any of them here. Anyway, I think there’s a saying, “I have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me.” Rhonda has lived this truth since her initial diagnosis. God has her!

An Unexpected Journey (Part 8)

The Caregiver (2/20/20)

The thought of solely taking care of my wife after her surgery (“in sickness and in health”) was a no-brainer for me. Acting as my bride’s caregiver was even appealing to me since I’d been looking forward to us spending a full two weeks together 24/7. But now I felt so helpless and inadequate as the newly discharged patient and I pulled into our driveway. Rhonda was pale, frail, and still quite high from the administered pain medication which was expected to last a good three days. She was also sick to her stomach from the anesthetic – as was evident when we were forced to pause midway through the garage so she could make good use out of her barf bag. The short distance from the car to the house became a worrisome saunter that lasted several minutes. It was difficult seeing my lovely wife so unsteady and fragile.

Once inside our safe haven, I cautiously positioned Rhonda into MY chair. Oh yes, I felt the comforts of my La-Z-Boy (aka the old gal) was the place for the missus to be at this time. Unfortunately, within a couple of minutes I needed to start all over and reposition my wife. I had spilt water on her, and a decent portion of my La-Z-Boy, so I had some sopping up to do. I had tried giving Rhonda a few sips of water through a straw (her first drink of anything since the night before) when I carelessly tilted the glass too dang far. I was extremely embarrassed by my untimely negligence, but hopefully the missus was still too hopped-up on drugs to remember that. Anyway, about three hours later it appeared as though “death” had finally left the building. My lovely wife was no longer pale, and she was beginning to act like her old self: scrolling through her phone. (That’s my Rhonda.)

Three weeks removed from her breast cancer surgery, Rhonda has not experienced much pain. Severe bruising and discoloration, yes. A twinge (as she calls them) every now and then, check. Two fairly sizable, itchy incisions, and one sporadically uncomfortable armpit area – presumably due to the removal of a lymph node, check and double check. But pain? No. This cancer ordeal has been a new experience for us, and I would not wish it on anyone, but we are both very grateful because we know Rhonda’s situation could be a whole lot worse. By now, you should know WHO we are thankful to and WHO is worthy of our praise!

An Unexpected Journey (Part 7)

Going Home (2/20/20)

Death. That’s how I would describe how Rhonda looked immediately after her breast cancer surgery. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting…but certainly not that. Prior to the shock of seeing my wife in such a sad state, a hospital liaison had ushered me past several “rooms” divided only by long white curtains. The representative had also informed me, on the way to meet my missus, that she’d already be dressed and ready to go home. With a hesitant smile in tow, I slowly stepped into the appointed room. I intentionally entered the makeshift room in a gingerly fashion, as if playing a game of hide-and-go-seek, in order to playfully welcome my lovely wife back from unconsciousness. But she wasn’t there.

However, soon thereafter I spied the missus in a wheel-chair being pushed toward me. I mustered up another mischievous grin upon my worried mug, but Rhonda wasn’t having any of it. With a glum expression on her face, she simply shook her head from side to side. My faint smile dissipated as I attempted to decipher what my wife’s no actually meant. I had only a quick moment to contemplate because the attending nurse, even though seemingly compassionate, appeared all too eager to send us on our way. Post-Op instructions, an ice pack, and a barf bag were Rhonda’s parting gifts.

Before I knew it, I was driving home with “death” riding shotgun. I had never driven those familiar streets that slow before – hardly ever reaching the posted speed limit throughout the duration of the trip. But then I had never been so aware of the precious cargo I had onboard either until that exact moment in time. This drive home was similar to when we brought our newborn home from the hospital decades ago. In both instances, I found myself wondering, “What the hell, now?”

An Unexpected Journey (Part 6)

The OR Waiting Room (1/28/20)

Bad coffee. Numerous conversations. Concerned looks. An unwelcome guest. What are – nix that – I suppose this is more like a $100,000 Pyramid list than a Jeopardy question. So, the answer is “Things found in the OR waiting room.” My lovely wife is having breast cancer surgery…and I am here. I was one of only three people waiting, while our loved ones are being sliced and diced, just a few short minutes ago. But now there’s over a dozen anxiously awaiting family and friends occupying this OR waiting room. A place where everyone’s welcome. Well, apparently almost everyone.

A portly fellow, I’d say probably straddling the age of 40, was just surprised by a female visitor. Presumably she came to show support for him and his loved one, but the befuddled fella immediately asked, “What are YOU doing here?” The apparent “intruder” responded with something akin to being able to fit this stop into her hectic day before her 10:00 a.m. appointment elsewhere. My hunch is the portly one wished she wouldn’t have arrived at all, for he did not utter another word.

The intruder spoke non-stop (at a high decibel) for a good while, until she whipped out a sandwich from her purse and eagerly began ingesting. That was the only time the poor fellow had a little relief, except for when the one-sided conversationalist made good use of the coffee machine around the corner. I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically (on the inside) when the woman, returning from the coffee area, quipped, “I got decaf. I don’t think I need any more caffeine today.”

I’m glad I started this entry, this way. I think it has made time go a little faster during this waiting period. The waiting room’s message board shows that patient #517 entered the OR at 8:06 a.m. Number 517 is Rhonda, and it is now 9:24 a.m. My wife’s surgery time was estimated to be approximately 90 minutes. We are getting pretty (BREAKING NEWS – I just shot out of my chair after hearing the waiting room spokesperson, addressing those of us assembled in the room, softly say, “Jim?” Speaking of hearing, I guess the representative had said, “Jenny?” How embarrassing.) So, what I was trying to say before was that we are getting pretty close to that estimated time of 90 minutes.

I am thankful my mind has been preoccupied with this pen and paper in front of me, instead of being consumed with what’s happening to my lovely wife somewhere in this hospital. Rhonda has not had a broken bone or a torn anything, let alone a surgery of any type, in the 36 plus years we’ve been an item. This is a new experience for us both. As we’ve grown older, the missus and I are more about having experiences than receiving gifts. But this is NOT what we had in mind! It is what it is. Rhonda’s a trooper. I’ll have to deal with the situation the best I can. And God is good!

An Unexpected Journey (Part 5)

A Side Note (1/17/20)

On a side note, God is good! His timing is sometimes unexpected, sometimes surprising, but always precise. Besides Rhonda’s cancer situation, I’ve been thinking of something else lately – death. My lovely wife’s recent diagnosis ferociously awakened something inside of me that we are all very aware of, yet I hadn’t really thought about…until now. Mortality. My wife’s, mine, yours. This has been a lot to process in my mind alongside Rhonda having cancer.

I am not nearly as concerned with my mortality as I am with my loved ones’ earthly demise. I have been struggling a bit with the no longer dormant knowledge that the chances of losing several dear ones in my lifetime are extremely great. The fact of the matter is this: Whether a person lives to be two, one hundred and two, or somewhere in between – life on earth is microscopic in comparison to eternity. Pondering these thoughts got to be somewhat exhausting, but this is where God’s timing is no accident.

Yesterday – and I mean YESTERDAY – I was reading The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Truth In God by Dallas Willard when the following words, undoubtedly meant for me at this time, jumped off the pages: “So as we think of our life and make plans for it, we should not be anticipating going through some terrible event called ‘death,’ to be avoided at all costs even though it can’t be avoided. That is the usual attitude for human beings, no doubt. But, immersed in Christ in action, we may be sure that our life – yes, that familiar one we are each so well acquainted with – will never stop.”

The Christian author continues his take on the topic of death with, “How then are we to think about the transition? Failure to have a way of thinking about it is one of the things that continues to make it dreadful even to those who have every confidence in Jesus. The unimaginable is naturally frightening to us.” Mr. Willard then relays a superb picture as to what a Christ follower can expect when leaving his or her earthly body. The depicted, and I think comforting, scene is that of a woman who walks to a doorway between two rooms.

The author conveys, “While still interacting with those in the room she is leaving, she begins to see and converse with people in the room beyond, who may be totally concealed from those left behind. They come to meet us while we are still in touch with those left behind. The curtains part for us briefly before we go through.” Dallas Willard ends his enlightening view on the subject of death with this simple, yet profound statement: “It will be our birthday into God’s full world.” Just what I needed at this particular time in my life. Thank you, God!

An Unexpected Journey (Part 4)

A Scheduled Surgery (1/17/20)

Rhonda had a follow-up consultation with her surgeon on Monday (January 13th) to schedule her lumpectomy. It has now been over six weeks since my wife was told she has cancer. (This would most-likely be around the time when I’d “let the cat out of the bag” to my family and friends in regards to if I were experiencing a medical condition. I am an open book when blogging, but at the end of the day I’m usually a very private person.) I have been doing about as well as I can, knowing the disease continues making its home within my wife’s left breast.

My lovely wife has mainly been concerned about her clients, and the probability of not being able to take care of all their hair-care needs, during her ordeal. I keep telling the missus that her health should be her #1 priority at this time. (I know it’s mine!) But that’s my wife. Her concern and consideration of others is part of what makes her, her. And Rhonda considers a good portion of her clientele to be good friends as well. Therefore, she’s almost always willing to do whatever she can (go in early, stay late, work an 11 hour day) to accommodate her clients/friends.

The consultation with the surgeon was full of positive news. We already knew the MRI was clean, and although it was greatly assumed that the genetics test showed nothing to worry about – it had now been confirmed. (You see, shortly after Rhonda’s genetics test had been performed, we both had reservations about learning the results, so my wife had informed her surgeon of our desire not to know. However, when the surgeon called with the positive MRI news, during our Christmastime in Iowa, she also alluded to the genetics finding in an optimistic, but coy, “wink, wink” sort of way.) We were then told the cancer was a mere 3 millimeters and that “we caught it early.” Great news!

But alas. My heart instantly dropped when the surgeon mentioned lymph nodes. (Do I detect another roller-coaster ride on the horizon?) Once again, the missus and I heard things a little differently. Rhonda heard the doctor say she would remove at least two lymph nodes from under her armpit during surgery. But I heard she might remove up to two lymph nodes from under her armpit. A bit of confusion, once more.

Nonetheless, either way I viewed this lymph node talk as “poking bears” again. I’m sure the surgeon was just being thorough and trying to ease our minds by attempting to explain everything to us. But it ain’t working! Anyway, my lovely wife will have her lumpectomy on January 28th. The scheduled date for Rhonda’s surgery is very much to her liking since the timing is the best case scenario for her clientele. For me, I’m sure the 28th will be a day of concern, reflection, and prayer. So, this is where we are.