Monthly Archives: August 2014

My Life Story

The end of this post is basically the same as my previous post: A Personal Struggle, which I have finally resolved. Just a heads up; there is no new information there. I should say also that I am an only child and both of my parents have passed away.

I went to the University of Illinois in Chicago, where I was born and raised, as an undergraduate. I majored in Biology and then, attended Purdue University for 5 1/2 years to get my PhD. After a 3 1/2 year postdoc in Hawaii (1980), I went to work at Phytogen in Pasadena.  Phytogen was a gene company for which David Anderson, an old friend from grad school, was the research director.  I left there after only ~ 13 months to go back to Hawaii where I was going to have my own research program, teaching duties, etc., but I was not a tenure track Assistant Researcher and was physically located in Dr. Tom Humphreys’ lab.  Let me just say here that I never made the right choice when I was applying to grad schools.  Because I can do really well if I am given a research project, I should have gotten a Masters degree and been a technician.  I simply cannot come up with a good area to look into if left to my own devices.

In 1983, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.  Looking back on it, I should have been diagnosed when I was in the 4th grade, but children didn’t go to psychiatrists with any regularity in those days.  The last 2 years in Hawaii, I worked for Dr. Ian Gibbons. They decided they would get the sequence of dyneine by cloning the messenger RNA and I helped them set up that whole technology.  Tom got me the job when my grant was running out and was not going to be renewed.

I left Hawaii in 1989 for another post doc at Monsanto here in St. Louis. The idea was to learn something new besides cloning and genetic engineering, but that didn’t happen.  After 3 1/2 years at Monsanto, no one was going to hire just a PhD cloner, so I hired a career coach to try a different line of work completely.  After 6-8 months trying to get a job in the non-profit sector without success, a friend from Monsanto set me up with a job in a lab at Wash. U. Med. School here. I bounced from lab to lab every 2-3 years as each director ran out of money.

Then, my anxiety troubles got worse about 9 years ago, I lost 2 jobs and went on disability.  This was actually a blessing in disguise because after a few months of being on disability, I realized I wasn’t feeling so anxious. Then, after a year had passed, I realized I wasn’t having any periods of unexplained high anxiety as I had when I was working. I began to feel like a regular guy.

I worked part-time for Walgreen’s until 2011 when I developed degenerative disc disease in my cervical spine.  This disease is a real bummer because I have chronic pain. Over the past 3 years, the pain has lessened considerably. It is like sudden bursts of pain against a dull background, but I still have to be careful about how I move and take pain medication to combat it. I also have to take a laxative since opiates cause constipation.

In 2012, a sleep disorder set in which causes me to wake alert a couple of times per night.  It can take 30 minutes to an hour to put myself back to sleep again, so I don’t really get enough sleep.  I was initially diagnosed with moderate sleep apnea and now sleep with a CPAP machine, but that hasn’t stopped the waking.  I spent a year seeing 2 different sleep doctors, but I just stopped nothing was helping

On the personal front, I met a man here in St. Louis about 17 years ago and we became a couple and bought a house.  His name is Terry Buckley.  I broke it off after 9 years he was verbally abusive and drank too much.  I spent a little over a year dragging him to 2 different counselors to save the relationship, but he just wouldn’t open up.  We’ve been “apart” for about 8 years, but we are still room mates.  We own a big, 3 story house and we couldn’t afford to sell after the break up because of the bad housing market.

I haven’t been seriously involved with anyone else since.   Although I would prefer not to live with him, I don’t feel sorry for myself. As I said, it is a big, comfortable house and we can help each other by sharing expenses.   Also, I find the emotional distance between us now that we have broken up very liberating and stress reducing.

To be sure that we are all on the same page to start, my housemate Terry Buckley and I are NOT partners/lovers/spouses. We WERE together for 9 years from 1997 to 2006, but I broke it off as I said. Besides the bad housing market, there was a very old woman (Marge) who lived with us who was Terry’s responsibility until her death. Had we sold our house, Terry would have had to buy something larger than he needed to accommodate her, only to have her pass away, etc. That was the other reason we agreed we would try to continue living together.

I think that is all you really need to know about our 17 years together. We are probably closer than regular housemates because of our past history, but for the last 8 years since the break up, we have only been housemates; there has been no sex between us. I think the most intimate thing we do is almost always give the other guy a hug to say good night before bed. We have each seen other people, but it never became anything serious. I’m 63 and he is 74.

So about 2 years ago, we were ready to sell the house. The interest rates were great and it had become just too big and too much work for 2 old guys. About 3 months into that, Terry was diagnosed with lung lung cancer. That was a real blow and sent both of us reeling. But we got it together and realizing that the average person with Terry’s kind of cancer, etc. has 3 to 5 years to live, we continued with our selling of the house.

As time passed, less and less got done in that regard because Terry became increasingly tired and sick from the radiation and chemotherapy. Eventually, he didn’t even want to think about the house. The Realtors were hounding us, Terry was reluctant to hire workers because he “used to be able to do” stuff and he wouldn’t let me do anything significant or make any significant decisions because he didn’t trust me to do the right thing. Terry was living in the past (and may still be) always reminding people of what he used to be able to do. Terry doesn’t think I know much about the real world of houses and such because when I worked (as a Scientist), he took care of all our housing matters. I finally resigned myself to work on giving the house a good cleaning, and packing up stuff that wouldn’t be on display during the sale, but would either be sold at an estate sale or put into storage.

Then, last Spring, Terry was pronounced cured of the original cancer, but over the following few months, they found 2 new tumors of a different sort which gave him about a year to live. Terry wanted very much to die in the familiar surroundings of this house and I said fine. I reasoned that I could put my life on hold for one year to give him that comfort, and sell the house after he died next Summer. Terry was unwilling to go through another entire round of chemotherapy like he just finished to try to kill the new tumors.

However, the doctors came up with a different chemotherapeutic drug. It is milder and is not designed to kill the tumors. Instead, it can hold them in check; it can stop them from growing more if it works successfully. Terry can take the new chemotherapeutic drug indefinitely which means for probably about a year before the tumors become resistant to it.

Terry has been taking this drug since August or September of 2013. So instead of dying during the Summer of 2014, he should get scan results showing that the tumors have begun growing again. The 2 sets of scans he’s had so far show the tumors to be quiescent, and perhaps even smaller. Soon, he should have another set of scans that, according to the law of averages, will show renewed growth of the tumors.

This time of cancer is very, very painful. It is sad and frustrating and… I am just getting away from the feeling that my life is on hold now. I have only recently returned to attending meetings of the LGBT organizations to which I belong. The meeting that I told you I was in on Wednesday was to look into the health care situation for us senior gay people. I have also returned to trying to find men to date again.

So that is the story of my life right up to the present.

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