Continuing Progress

Healthwise, not much has changed since last week. I'm still on the IV and oral antibiotics and continuing to feel like I am finally recovering. The pulmonary doctor referred me to both a nutritionist and to Pulmonary Rehab again (I participated in the program last summer with good effects and progress, but that has been undone and then some by my long struggle this winter).

When I am free of infection, I can actually make progress on my chronic lung issues. The real trick is going to be staying on top things and catching infections early and not letting them get out of hand.

Getting Things Done

Sometime around a week ago, I was sitting at my desk at home shuffling papers and trash and lamenting that it seemed like that's all I ever accomplished. My dad said, "Pip! You need to read Getting Things Done!" So I borrowed his copy and read it cover-to-cover with great zest and enthusiasm.

Let me first say, this is a great book. It guides the reader to being at the top of his potential productivity. Some of the points that stood out to me are:

  • Your mind is horrible at short-term storage.
  • Unfulfilled obligations (even to yourself) cripple your productivity, creativity, and genius.
  • The next action is a very important concept.
  • Don't overcomplicate things.

Since I finished the book Wednesday afternoon, I have been working on implementing GTD (the fitting acronym for David Allen's "system") both at work and at home. I have started cleaning out and off both desks (not a modest task at either place), gotten my email inboxes to zero, given myself permission to let go of some projects that had realistically been long-dead anyway, and done a personal brain-dump (I'll do one for work this week).

I certainly have a ways to go. The biggest task is going to be getting a digital system set up that is cohesive and transparent. We use Lotus Notes at work, I carry a Windows Mobile smartphone, my primary personal email is through gmail. The biggie will be getting Notes to cooperate. I'm looking into it but any ideas are welcome.

As the days/weeks/months go by, I'll be posting on my experiences under the tag GTD.

Amortization Calculators and Aggressive Debt Reduction

Lately, I've been thinking about the debt that I have. I have an American Express credit card that I pay off every month - I don't think I've ever paid interest. I also have a sizable privately funded student loan from my undergraduate days (2000-2004) that has been in deferment to this point. Starting this summer, its term is ten years. Finally, I have my motorcycle loan from BMW, which has a five year term.

After all is said and done, I have a fixed amount "above and beyond" what I need for my usual budgeted living expenses (housing, groceries, medical, etc.) that is pretty much discretionary. Currently, I split that evenly between my Roth IRA and the BMW loan. Six weeks from now, my Roth IRA will be 50% funded for 2009. I have decided to shift gears at that point and apply all the "above and beyond" to the motorcycle. When 2010 rolls around, I will re-allocate these discretionary funds so that by the end of the year my Roth will be once again funded 50% and the rest will go toward the motorcycle. On top of this, "extra" paychecks (I get paid every Thursday and budget monthly so every 3 months there is a surplus) will be contributed 50% toward loan repayment. When the motorcycle is paid off, I'll simply apply the payments to my student loan.

Using a loan amortization schedule I found here, I calculated that this tactic will pay my bike off on May 14, 2010 (one year minus one day after I bought it) and my student loan will be paid off in June of 2012. At that point, I will step my Roth IRA back up to 100% annually. I'll probably increase my 403(b) contribution at work as well.

I don't feel like I will be missing out on anything huge by reducing my Roth IRA contributions - I will still be contributing and I have been contributing 8% of my pre-tax income (I don't remember exactly why I chose this number but I'm sure there was some logic to it) to my 403(b) since I started working full-time in January of 2005. In addition, my employer contributes 8% to a 401(a) in addition to my paycheck. To me, the peace of mind of having the loans paid off is worth the opportunity cost.

The Importance of Proper Diagnosis

As a result of last week's bronchoscopy, the doctors discovered that I have pseudomonas, a particularly nasty drug-resistant bacterial infection. The bummer of it is, I was diagnosed with the same thing back in February and I believe it's what's been plaguing me since as far back as November! They placed me on an aggressive regimen of oral and IV-based antibiotics. The IV is administered at home, twice a day, so hospitalization isn't required and I can pretty much continue with life as usual.

I went to the radiology department at Torrance Memorial Medical Center to get a PIC line inserted into my upper arm so I don't have to get stuck over and over. The PIC line placement process is rather fascinating, utilizing both ultrasound and x-ray technology for feedback. At one point they "tickled a nerve" and I felt tingly all the way down in my forearm, even though they had injected a local anesthetic and had a tourniquet on my entire arm.

As a result of treatment, I am already feeling better. The chest congestion has cleared to barely a trickle. I can breathe more easily but have definitely been weakened by the months of infection - it'll take a while and some work to return to "normal."

Since the IV line is in anyway, I asked my doctor about the possibility of intravenous nutrition. He instead prescribed me an appetite stimulant. Hopefully this will help me gain some weight. I haven't been to the gym in about a week and a half - getting all this figured out was quite an ordeal.

For the first time in quite a while, I actually have a sense of hope and even a glimmer of optimism (although I am a realist, which optimists usually mistake for pessimists). My emotional and psychological well-being are better than they have been and I have some zeal and energy for life.

Happy Father's Day!

I'm probably biased, but Pop is the best!

He also fixed the creamed corn and warm potato salad for his own father's day dinner. Good stuff, along with Daniel's BBQ chicken and Stevo's butterscotch pudding.

Re-commitment to Changing My Mind

Some time ago, my friend Laura wrote about Mental Transformation. Unfortunately, the page she references is no longer available. The gist of it was that it is easy to change your worldview to be more Christlike. Simply read a book of the Bible - twenty times. Repeat this for the rest of the books.

I modified the process slightly - I purchased ESV mp3s from The Listener's Bible and began listening through each Old Testament book a dozen times. I made it through Genesis, Exodus, and then seven times through Leviticus and then kind of fizzled out. I'm officially re-committing myself to continue the practice. It's very easy to put it on while I'm at work and let whatever comes through come through. Although it's just in the background, it really does start to sink in after a few times.

I'll post my progress here occasionally to keep me accountable.

Bronchoscopy, Massage, and Returning to Work

For the last week and a half, I have felt adequately unwell that I haven't been able to go to work. Yesterday morning I had a bronchoscopy whereby they also cleared a bunch of mucus out of my lungs. It has been easier to breathe since, but I am still coughing up stuff. I spoke to the doctor and they did find a bacterial infection in the culture, but haven't determined what drug it is responsive to. At least this is somewhat encouraging that they might get me on something that will help.

I went to get a massage today - my dad referred me to his massage therapist. He's talked to her about my health issues and she is hopeful that massage will improve my circulation and perhaps stimulate my immune system since the spine is integral. I can say for sure that it was about the most relaxing hour I can remember and I felt better afterward. I definitely plan to return, probably every couple weeks.

I'm planning to return to work tomorrow. My job is, fortunately, not physically taxing but it's still tiring to be at work all day long. It will be nice to see my coworkers again and of course there is work that must be caught up.

Grace Ford Cordell: February 10, 1908 - June 10, 2009

My great-grandmother, Grace Ford Cordell, passed away last Wednesday while sleeping peacefully under qualified and loving care at hospice. She was 101 and 4 months to the day. Here she is on her 100th birthday with all her great-grandkids:

I will miss her dearly but am glad that she is now at home in the presence of God.

May 2009 Budget

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, this month saw a few large expenditures that indeed deviated from budgeted expenses. The big one was, of course, my new motorcycle. Associated with that purchase was the requisite safety gear - my old stuff had served its purpose. I also bought a new mattress as more of an investment in getting better sleep and thereby better health. I shopped around quite a bit and got a nice one with a 10-year warranty for a good price. The timing belt on my car broke the day before I got my motorcycle (uncanny!) but it was relatively inexpensive for a timing belt replacement since my engine is non-interference, meaning it doesn't eat the valves when it fails.

The one area where I really let it get out of hand was grocery/eating out/entertainment. I've found that with an appropriate balance, I can enjoy life and get by on my $15/day with little problem. The idea is that groceries are cheaper than eating out, so it's a balancing act. Well, I ate out way too much this month. I also spent a lot at the cafeteria at work - instead of bringing healthful inexpensive food from home, I'd eat less healthy overpriced food there. I ended up $125 over - an average of $4 a day!

My major financial goal for June is to get that category reigned in and brought back to a more reasonable level.

I have already developed a payment plan for my bike - I'm going to divert everything from my student loan principle to that through the end of the year. At the end of the year, I'll re-adjust my Roth IRA contribution for 2010 and increase my motorcycle payments accordingly. Although my loan term is 5 years, I am on track to pay it back in less than half that if all goes well. Then it's on to the student loan...

Book Review: unChristian

A friend of mine recently sent me the book unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity... and Why It Matters. I finished reading it last night and thought I would share some thoughts.

The book examines how Christianity today is perceived by young adults (~16-30 years old). The authors did a good amount of research to determine the following 6 big issues (each topic gets its own chapter):

  • Hypocritical
  • Get Saved!
  • Antihomosexual
  • Sheltered
  • Too Political
  • Judgmental

Each chapter examines some issues and comments (gleaned from both Christians and "outsiders") associated with its topic. At the end of the chapter appear several relevant anecdotes or thoughts from notable Christian leaders.

The ultimate finding is that Christians have, in both perception and reality, become too concerned with rules instead of people. Christians need to become more like Jesus and less like the Pharisees - we should be a picture of Christ.

The book is well-written and not difficult to read or digest and it does a good job pointing out shortcomings without being overly accusatory or negative - there are some good counterexamples presented that show more Christlike behavior. I see a lot of myself in some chapters (but not necessarily all) and will readily admit that I find it easy to try to project my values on others, whether they are Christians or not.

I would recommend this book to any Christian, anyone in the 16-30 age range that the book focuses on, and especially to church leaders or teachers who have direct influence or interactions with people in that age range.

Health Update 06-09-2009

Last weekend was pretty good. I ate pretty well, felt decent most of the time, got enough rest, and caught up with a couple friends. I had my monthly IVIG infusion on Friday, which didn't knock me out as badly as it usually does. However, I have been feeling lousy the last couple days - tired, very congested, and generally kind of fuzzy in the brain. I've been staying home from work to rest but really feel like I need to get back. I'm still taking all the supplements and sticking to the Maker's Diet. I'm going to try to cut out ALL dairy, including goat and sheep, for the next couple weeks and see if that is indeed contributing to the congestion.

Follow-up to Yesterday...

Just thought I'd post a quick update to yesterday's post - I actually feel marginally better today than I did yesterday. I coughed up less junk this morning and generally felt a bit better rested. One thing I changed - I had a tea last night right before bed made with ginger, lemon, and honey - all of which are supposed to be beneficial to the lungs. I think I'll keep it up as it is very tasty as well. Tonight is my first night on my new bed so we'll see how that does for me.


As I mentioned in last week's post, I saw the pulmonologist on Wednesday. He prescribed me another inhaler and encouraged more regular usage of The Vest. I had not used it much as it made me feel beat up and cough up bloody mucus. However, my mom came up with the idea to wear a down vest underneath it for a bit of padding. This seems to help. The idea is that it loosens the phlegm and I can cough it up more easily. Doing this coupled with going to work a bit later seems to be improving my quality of life in the mornings - I basically get all the junk out at once instead of over the course of a few hours. I really wish the phlegm production could be stopped or minimized, but it's better than nothing.

After a week off the antibiotics I haven't had a relapse, so I think it's just a matter of my lungs getting back to "normal." I'm going to get back to the gym starting Thursday and will probably take it easy the first few days back. I've decided to focus on weight training at least 1-2 days a week so I can start building some muscle - especially on my legs.

The new mattress I bought on Sunday which will be delivered tomorrow - hopefully that will help too. I am the 4th or so person to have my current one, and it wasn't great to begin with. I imagine it's full of dander and dust mites as well.

I'm trying to be consistent with supplements as well - both those recommended by the Maker's Diet and the Oxymatrine from my Infectious Disease doctor (the antiviral). Hopefully something of this multi-tiered approach will start to make a difference (or, I suspect, they may work best in concert). I continue to hope but it is easy to get discouraged sometimes.

I think I should start keeping a hand-written health journal to track how I feel, what I eat, and what exercises I do. This may help paint a clear picture as well.