Monday, March 30, 2020

Veteran: First Principles of Veteran Benefits

Veteran: First Principles of Veteran Benefits

Anytime an area of interest transforms into another area of interest, the process of transformation requires three steps. The first step is accepting the original area of interest, the last step is generating the intended area of interest. In between are the transformation rules. The rules act as a catalyst where the meaning of the original can become intended. The process of information transformation happens everywhere.

As you read these words, the eyes scan the symbols and transform the words into thought. In between are the multiple transforms where each transformation rules contribute to the eventual intended area of interest. In arithmetic, the predicates, add, subtract, equal are the rules for transforming numerical values. First-principles is another name for the intermediate rules. Each principle is a valid test for both the original and the intended area of interest.   

For veterans' benefits, the Law is the original area of interest with the statutes contained in US Code Title 38, Veterans' Benefits.  In most cases, the intended area of interest is the Title 38 Code of Federal Regulations Veterans' Benefit used to define the business practices of the  Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).  Title 38 also establishes the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) with statues from 38 U.S.C.  7251–7299. The Department of Veteran Affairs operates as an Executive Department of the United States President.  The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims operates as a Federal Court, not as part of the VA.

The CAVC origin is the Statues in Title 38. The Count has intermediate rules that are the principle to transform the Statues into the Count's judicial practicesThe VA creates the regulations without intermediate rules where the regulation is in the VA's business interest  Therefore, the regulation may not be in the veteran's interest.  

The First Principles (or Rules)

This is my proposed list of the missing first principles. The list begins with the missing definition for Title 38.  

  1. Title 38 USC Veterans' Benefits is Congress's lifetime wellness grant of benefits to each honorably discharged veteran for the veteran's national service with the Department of Defense. 
  2. Title 38 statutes define the grant's services.
  3. Congress allocates funds from the Federal Budget to pay the fees for the services.
  4. A veteran's benefit is the paid fee for a Title 38 service.
  5. By Law, the veteran owns all benefits.
  6. The DVA and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims are Title 38 services.
  7. Veteran disability compensation is a Title 38 service.
  8. The DVA is an agent of Congress to administer the Budget's allocation and to provide Title 38 services.
  9. Title 38 is a set of business rules for Title 38 payouts.
  10. Once a veteran always a veteran.
  11. To receive Title 38 services, the veteran must register as a client with DVA.
  12. The DVA is not a veteran, therefore the DVA cannot own benefits. 
  13. The DVA is an agency, not a club, veterans are clients, not members.
  14. In all agreements between the veteran and the DVA, the veteran is always the first party principal. 
  15. For veteran's medical treatments at a community provider, the DVA establishes an expressed agency with the provider thereby the medical expense is the same as if the treatment occurred at a DVA facility. 
  16. A medical expense is a fee for medical service.
  17. A treatment for an episode-of-care may include one or more medical expenses. Medical trauma may include one or more episodes-of-care. 
  18. The purpose of insurance is to reduce the insured liability. The payout from the insurer is the insured's property.
  19. An insurance company may act as the insured's agent to make claim payments. The payment is exactly the same as if the insured paid the claim.
  20. The Goodwill Grant is the veteran's volunteered permission given to the DVA to used the veteran's private insurance for cost recovery at a DVA faculty. The grant permits the DVA to be a principal to make cost recovery claims with the insurer. 
  21. The DVA has a fiduciary trust responsibility to use the Goodwill Grant's private information only within the DVA and not with any DVA's agents. 
  22. The DVA may assist Congress in determining a veteran's eligibility for a particular service, once eligible, the DVA cannot deny the service as a veteran's benefit.
  23. All veterans at the time of active duty discharge are eligible for Title 38 benefits and may register with the DVA for Title 38 services.
  24. The DVA cannot deny an honorably discharged as a client.
  25. The veteran has the responsibility to use Title 38 services for the veteran's wellness.      
The First Test of a Regulation

For a regulation to be valid, the regulation must pass the Title's wellness test (Rule 1).

Does the regulation provide for the wellness of the veteran?

If the regulation does not pass the test, the regulation fails the purpose of Title 38 and therefore the regulation does is not comply with the Law. While the DVA is a business operation, the DVA must conduct its operations as an agent of Congress. Rule 1 states the purpose of Title 38 is to provide services for veteran's wellness. Rule 1 applies to the DVA. 


Monday, March 16, 2020

About Me: My Multiple Sclerosis Story

About Me: My MS Story

My name is Joseph. In 1989, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since then, my MSer story has traveled many roads. Today, I will share the story of some of my adventures. I want to thank each of you for being here. Whenever we can come together to hear and discuss MS, I believe each of us receives energy to continue the adventure. 

Almost every story has a hero. My story has many. I was born in a small town in central Nebraska. We lived on the old family homestead farm without indoor plumbing or running water; three years later, when we moved to the big house, my mother told my dad she wanted an indoor toilet and water in the house. I can still see dad’s solution: a 50-gallon drum on the roof with a hose piping water from the well and electric cord attached to the stock tank heater keeping the drum’s water from freezing. By the time I was seven, I had three sisters and a brother, and we left the farm and moved to Denver. 

Life with MS is like farming; praying each year that the crops don’t fail, yet knowing it’s going to happen sooner or later.

I remember my grandfather, who was one of my first heroes, telling me, “Joseph, I had a great life. Farming is hard. We struggled through the Depression. We have a great family. I started with my dad’s horse to plow fields. We bought land, tractors, and cars. We replaced oil lamps with light bulbs. We went from listening to the radio to watching television. I got to see a man walk on the moon!” Just as he was a farmer, he planted that memory in me. Personally, when I am older and my daughter is grown, maybe I will have a grandchild who I can tell, “I had a great life. I received the cure for multiple sclerosis!” 

In 1968 at 18, I enlisted in the Marine Corps, which began my career working on computer-based Tactical Data Systems. I loved the technology, and I was never bored because there was always something to learn. In 45 years of working with computers, I experienced many changes first hand. The early computer programs were modified by re-wiring circuits, then machine-level switches, hole punch cards, monitors, mainframes, PC, PDA, cell, and so many other great inventions that changed our lives. MS cut that journey short.

Everyone with MS remembers their first relapse and the scared feelings after the diagnosis—“You have MS.” For me, those words came in 1989, while I was living in New York. When I was still single, after a long business trip to Japan, I was happy to be home, but also very tired. I was going down to the basement where I kept my office, and I slipped and rolled down the stairs. I lay there for 30 hours, thinking I’d broken my back, and then somehow found the strength to get up to drive myself to the emergency room. To this day, I have no idea why I didn’t call an ambulance. I’ve since learned that it’s okay to ask for help.

While I was in the hospital, the doctor told me X-rays showed a lesion on my spine at the back of my neck that looked like cancer. I was still in pain and the doctor’s words didn’t register. Meanwhile, my left hand was numb, and my arm was curled to my chest, frozen, unable to move. The doctors recommended surgery, saying the paralysis would kill me. Tests done the night before showed the lesion was shrinking and they decided not to operate. After days of testing and no clear diagnosis, incredibly, I was sent home under the care of my neurologist. 

Three months later, I was stumbling and dragging my left foot. An MRI showed new scarring in the brain and my neurologist confirmed the diagnosis — multiple sclerosis. When I was first diagnosed, some people would shun me, not come into my office, walk out of meetings, or not shake my hand. I remember well those first days of being shunned. I didn’t blame them. At the time, truthfully, I didn’t know any better myself. MS is something to fear, but it is also something to understand. 

Every MSer I have talked to has experienced some denial. My father showed me the courage and my mother cured my denial. One day while shopping for new shoes the numbness in my fingers made it difficult to tie the laces. Mom saw me struggling and noticed a clerk some feet away. In a clear, distinct voice said, “My son has MS, he needs help getting these shoes on.” Mom did not know it. But, my mother's love cured my denial with a few simple words. 

In 1993, I began taking a disease-modifying drug to help control my disease by reducing the frequency of relapses. But by 1994, I was no longer able to work. On December 8, 1994, the doctor told me I had no choice but to retire or be confined to a wheelchair. As I was walking out the door, I had to hold on to the wall to stop me from falling. I was in shock. I cursed, “Damn it MS! You stole my career. You stole my life.” The walk to my car took forever. January 1, 1995, was not a happy New Year.

The next month, I met Debra, the woman who would become my wife. She refused to give up on me, and two years later, we were married. From the moment we met, she became my hero. I also say, she became my “Happy Heart.” I went from age 46 to 16—I would leave love notes on her car and sign them with a heart that had a smiley face inside. One day, she asked me what that was and I said, “Well, that’s my happy heart.” 

My wife and I had been married for seven years, and my daughter was about five. At that time, I had numbness throughout my left side, and I used a cane in my right hand to help me walk. One day, my wife said, “Joseph, you don’t hold my hand anymore while we’re walking.” I started analyzing what she said, and I answered as an engineer, “Well, I don’t get any charge out of it.” She was hurt, and said, “I can’t believe you just said that to me.” I was surprised, too. Several months later we went to the Can-Do program at the Jimmie Heuga Center in Vail. We were listening to a lecture, not specifically on this topic, but we both had a revelation and realized a truth about MS numbness. One of the reasons for holding hands is that it feels good. Because my hand was numb, the emotional mental impulse to reach out and hold her hand got lost because of the MS. I realized it was numbness and had nothing to do with my love for my wife. We’ve worked around it…sometimes we’ll be walking and she’ll bump me and I know what that means. It elevates my awareness.

After 19 years of living with MS, my physical condition had become very stressful. I was putting on weight. Walking was fearful. After my first relapse, I walked almost everywhere with a cane. By 2008, at times, a second cane was close at hand. The situation was worsening. My excuse was MS. My daughter was getting older and my wife was taking on more responsibility. I started to change my thinking, creating a desire to overcome my lack of mobility. What followed were days, then months, and then years of personal training. I have biked five MS 150s, and two 400 mile multi-day treks, and broken both my arms. 

In 2013, I started to lose the feeling in my right foot, making it difficult to slip my feet into the bike pedals. My normal way of getting on the bicycle was to lay it down, stand on my “MS” leg, and swing my good leg over. And then stand the bike up. But this relapse made it impossible for me to do that, and that was my second worse day with MS. All that training, all that work, all those perfect miles: Gone.

After two weeks, with treatment, I noticed gradual improvement; however, the damage was done by that relapse still kept me from cycling. I still look at my bikes. I look out the picture window, look at the mountains, and watch great riding days pass, determined to someday ride again

Our journey with MS is mapped by relapses and remissions. With the modern treatments for relapses, the personal challenge is to stay in remission. Each day of remission is a chapter in a hero's journey. I’ve learned that one of the hardest things to overcome is myself; but I’ve also come to realize that I, too, am a hero on a journey. Every person with MS lives their own hero’s journey. The day you hear the words, “You have MS” the story began. Along the way, we meet mentors, support partners, treatments, remissions, and the disease. Because we adapt, the journey continues. MS is just an excuse for an adventure. 

For me, the word “hero” stands for “Helping Everyone Respect Others.”  Remembering how I was once shunned, I educate others that MS may be something to be afraid of—but it’s also something to understand. You can be your own hero by being proactive, discover, learn and know all your options for your MSer life. I’m grateful to my wife and my daughter, and to all the heroes I’ve met along the way. And, each of you—you are all my hero, too. 

Friday, February 21, 2020

Multiple Sclerosis: MS fatigue is an MSer's best friend

MS fatigue is an MSer's best friend.

Connecting to fatigue is one of the hardest MSer challenges. Often without warning, MS fatigue invades activities. Even with life skill management and avoidance techniques, the fatigue monster can find a way to hack into any activity.  This interloper action provides many reasons to consider the fatigue invader an enemy. In systems design, anything that causes a breach in system security is an interloper. As good as any system can possibly be, an interloper demonstrates an opportunity for improving security. An interloper that penetrates enough to cause damage means recovery actions.  While the interloper attack is cursed, the attack triggers opportunities to make a better system by improving security and recovery plans.

MS fatigue is an interloper attack on our body’s systems. We curse its existence as an enemy to our health. But if we step back and look a the attack as defining a breached area in the bran due to the MS lesions. The fatigue points to a place where adaptive techniques can aid damage recovery. As an MSer we can acknowledge MS fatigue as a foe, but also, we accept fatigue as a friend because it is showing us where we can adapt.

MS fatigue is an MSer's best friend.

MS-induced fatigue is the only true impact maker for lesions.  MRI shows where a lesion occurred. Neurologist tests are clinical fatigue tests. 
MS lesions result in 3 types of axon damage, nerve fiber fatigue, axon loss and ephaptic conduction* or simply high impedance opens and shorts.  Each of these exhibit as MS fatigue. *ephaptic conduction, as in cable theory,  means crosstalk due to loss of myelin via electrical fields.

The single measurement instrument of MS fatigue is the MSer themselves.   The body's built-in instrumentation is the main reason MS fatigue is the MSer's friend.  The life skill is to recognize friends and foe. I know first hand how easy it is to make MS fatigue the foe. Whereas in reality, your friend is telling you where the danger exists. 

The "walk out the door" example uses perceived exertion as the instrument to find the lesion trauma area. 

Imagine yourself sitting in a chair, looking at the morning sky out the door.  You decide to go outside to experience the day. To walk out the door 3 conditions must exist. First, you must have the physical prowess to stand up, next you need the neurological coordination to walk, and third, you must have the cognitive resources to plan the walk. ( Some people may lack the mobility to actually get up and walk, but still, imagine you can.) The example is a way the identity the source of fatigue. 

Physical prowess examples are body system works for strength, flexibility, and endurance. Physical fatigue exhibits as things like sweating, thirst, breathing, stiffness, strain, relaxing, nourishment, and sleep.

Neurological coordination is messaging  between the CNS and the PNS  nervous system

Cognition is the analytical mind that plans and executes activity. 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Bicycle: Propel Adaptive Cycling Pedal

Propel Adaptive Cycling Pedal

I have multiple sclerosis. The disease causes neurological fatigue. When cycling, the MS affected nerves can slow muscle engagement. A light bulb dimmer switch describes the neurological effect. When turned off, the switch allows the bulb to be bright. As the switch turns on, the bulb becomes dimmer.  In MS, the effects of exercise can cause the nerve's conduction to become dimmer. The diming condition appears as fatigue. 

In the test rides for acquiring a recumbent trike, I tried many different pedal styles. All failed designs for valid reasons. Safety was the most common. As a result of the tests, a new pedal design emerged. With the help of many people, the ideas became the Propel Adaptive Deck Pedal.

While the initial concept came from my desire to ride the trike, during my 31 years with MS, many mobility machines, exercise devices, and therapy equipment use cage-like variations of footrests. The cage can be a safety hazard. Propel's user safety model has three dimensions, mount, travel, and dismount. Within each dimension are multiple design extents. And each extent addresses one or more problems.

The drawing shows the Propel's general design concepts. When traveling, the locomotion power transfer to the trike is by the foot pushing the pedal's axle. During the pedal stroke cycle, several factors affect the efficiency of power transfer. Throughout the pedal stroke cycle, the fulcrum for the body's power transfer is the axle. As the stroke rotates, the foot's position over the axle changes leverage, therefore the leverage change affects power transfer. The two main factors affecting leverage is the position of the foot over the axle and the foot's movement on the axle. 

Traditional bicycle pedals place the forefoot (the ball) over the axle. Propel riders use centric foot placement where the foots' arch is centered over the axle. The foot's movement on the axle is similar to an airplane's pitch, yaw, and role. Airplane power is either acceleration or drift. The five factors, pitch, yaw, roll, acceleration, and drift combine as trim to indicate the efficient use of power. Propel's design assists the rider with keeping the foot and pedal in trim for the entire pedal cycle. Forefoot pedaling is like an airplane's center of gravity being in the cockpit with the pilot, whereas centric pedaling is like the plane's center of gravity near the wings. Propels centric pedaling allows the stroke trim to occur as if the axle's position is similar to an airplane's rotation around its wings.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Bicycle: Denver Post Newspaper Boy

Denver Post Newspaper Boy

Joseph Flanigan, Loveland, Colorado. September 2016

Sometimes when I am cycling, I think about 1961, I was 11 years old, and the two years I delivered The Denver Post newspaper near our home in Aurora, Colorado. I remember Mr. Colten, the Denver Post paperboy manager, and my job of delivering the Denver Post every day. Every afternoon and Sunday morning to pick up the papers, for my route,  I would ride my bike about a mile and a half to a converted garage called the newspaper shack. Inside, attached to the walls, were folding benches. The Denver Post truck would drop bundles of papers off at the newspaper shack where the boys would unbundle and count out the number of papers for their routes. Carrying the stack, they would go to their assigned folding bench, fold, rubber band and load the papers into the bike bags. Often there was a race to see who was fastest. Once loaded, each boy road to their route. A good route was 50 papers. Canvas bags wrapped around the extra-wide handlebars. The bags were the same as the over the head shoulder bags the walking paperboy's bags where one bag hung in the front and one bag hung in the back. When Mr. Colten gave a new boy his bags, the other boys helped to cut one shoulder strap in half. The bags draped over the handlebars, one bag hung on each side of the front wheel.  Ends of the cut strap attached to the handlebar end with a hose clamp to keep the canvas tight to the bar.  The last step was to wrap bags around the handlebar ready to be unwrapped and filled with the day's newspaper.

Delivering papers was just part of the job. We would solicit subscriptions from people moving into our routes, watch for people moving out and do monthly door to door collections -hoping for a small tip. That was tough work but it did not seem so hard at the time. If the weather was rain, snow, hot or clear, every day the paper had to be delivered. There were no days off. When our family went on vacation, I would have to trade days with another boy in exchange for doing each other's routes  On those days, to do both routes, it meant two loads and two trips to the newspaper shack. Helping each other out by riding a double route was just part of being a newspaper boy.

The bikes were heavy, and the bags hang off the handlebars full of newspapers made the bikes heavier and unstable. The bikes always needed some repair, flat tires, new tires, bent wheels. We had to learn to be our own bike mechanic. Of course, any repair cost came out of our part of the collections. In the winter, hats, gloves, coats and boots had to be in good repair. The first year I rode was on a  bike Dad got from another news paperboy. The bike was well used, but I delivered papers with it for a year and saved my money to buy a new Schwinn.

Sometimes on Sunday morning, if it was snowing, Dad would take the 55 Chevy station wagon and drive me to the newspaper shack. I would fold and rubber band each paper and load the papers in the back of the wagon. After arriving at the route and dropping the tailgate, sometimes sitting, I could throw the paper and hit the porch.  But, because of the snow, I would grab an armful of papers and run zigzag down the street, making sure the papers would be dry. Sometimes the paper would have to be put behind the screen door. Dad was pretty good about helping me, but I can still hear Mom saying, "Harry, you have to help Joseph with the papers this morning or we will be late for mass."

When I mentioned being a newspaper boy did not seem like hard work, most likely that notion came from being on a farm until I was 7, before we moved to Denver. We still had family on farms, and visits always included chores. I remember my father and my uncle milking cows. My grandfather out in the field plowing or mowing. Grandma took care of the house, cooked and raised chickens. Everybody make sure the animals had care, water, and feed. Twice a day, every day the cows had to be brought in from the pasture, feed and milked. Riding a bicycle was fun. However, doing the paperboy work was riding just part of the chores. Our family was poor, but we knew how to work. Mom took care of us five kids. Often Dad had two jobs, sometimes 3. He was good at painting houses. During the day, Dad worked as a janitor, and at night he painted houses for realtors. Many nights after paper delivery, Dad would say “Grab some supper, I need help painting.” Of course, I knew what he meant. While dad painted, I did the sweeping, hauling trash, scrubbing, pulling tarps, moving ladders, cleaning brushes. That is just the way it was, complaints were meaningless and got in the way of getting the job done.

Labor Day, Monday, September 2, 1963 was my last paperboy ride. The following Tuesday, my brother Pat became a news paperboy.

When I talk to pro bicycle racers, I can look them straight in the face and claim I was a pro cyclist at 11. Every day, in all kinds of weather, we road for money, delivering papers in a timed race.

In 1954 we still lived on our farm in Nebraska. The house sat about a quarter-mile off the gravel country road. The driveway to the house was a dirt road. May 12th was my 5th birthday. I never expected much for presents. About mid-morning Mom and Dad walked me out the front door. Sitting in the driveway was the most beautiful site – a red bicycle with white training wheels.  Before long, I could ride that bike all over the farm. But, never ever on the county road. In 1956, we moved to Denver. The red bicycle sold at the farm auction.

After my newspaper boy days, I went on to motorcycles and cars. Forty-six years later and 19 years of living with MS once again, bicycles came into my life. The first ride was 10 feet before falling. Getting back up, then it was 30 feet. And again, a little more each time. My memory recalled that red bicycle and all those newspaper boy days. Eventually, confidence recalled the riding skill that was never lost.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Damn It: Shingles, Postherpetic Neuralgia, Apathy and Grit

Shingles Then Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN) Then Apathy Then Grit

Shingles and Postherpetic Neuralgia

Selfie Picture
On April 7, 2017,  shingles broke out on the upper left side of my face. In about 2 weeks, the shingles pox left, but I spent the next 6 months in bed from postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) pain on the V1 of the trigeminal nerve on the upper left side of my face. The pain from itching was so bad I could not walk.  After more than two years, and the itching persists, but it is not as debilitating. The first PHN drug treatment was gabapentin. It did not work. Ice packs helped. I am glad I am a veteran, and my VA neurologist is a serious doctor.  He switched gabapentin to the drug to Lyrica, and that provided more relief, at least I stopped screaming.

I started wearing Lidocaine patches on my forehead.  I made my own concoction of Lidocaine, CBD and THC lotions to replace the patches. I read about some experiments using Botox injections for the PHN treatment. I have Medicare and my IBM retiree insurance, and the VA Cheyenne is over an hour away, so I try to use community providers.  My community neurologist, Dr. Tamara Miller runs the Multiple Sclerosis Center of the Rockies.  She used to give me Botox for a perpetual MS spasm in my left calf. The FDA approves Botox for migraines but not for PHN.  My VA neurologist, Dr. Kanter found a way to make an exception. Every 90 days, the VA ophthalmologist trained in Botox injection can give me about 13 Botox injections on the trigeminal nerve. 

In the days before the Botox treatment, I laid in bed, hour after hour, day after day, month after month. For the first time in 68 years, I became apathetic. And my mood kept getting worse. The bad news was during those days, I did not know I was apathetic. All I could think about was the constant itching pain. One day, I got sick of being sick.  Treatments sparked me just enough that I knew my attitude and mood did not belong to me.  Eventually, I did diagnose myself as apathetic. Before I did, I remember looking in a mirror at my shabby self and telling myself, “You are pathetic. You look like you do not give a shit,” I suppose telling yourself bad news about yourself can be the first step to change.

It is now November 2019, the itch is always there, like a bunch of small mosquito bites that have just about lost the itch. There are flare-ups, and the treatment is back to ice packs, patches, and lotions, The flare-ups begin about two weeks before the next Botox injection. After the Botox shots, it takes about a week before the Botox is effective. Even with the Botox, stress and weather can provoke itching again.

 I do not know if the PHN will ever go away, but life with MS and knowing MS is a lifelong medical condition did prepare me for the PHN. The pain-treatment pattern is the same. Itching is like an MS relapse alerting me to the fact that something is wrong. Steroid treatments help to put MS into remission. Likewise, icepacks and patches help to put the PHN itch into remission. With MS we take disease-modifying treatments to help reduce relapses. And with PHN, the Botox treatment helps to reduce the itching pain. 

Both MS and PHN cause fatigue. Both drain vitality and can damage the will to thrive.

Apathy and Grit

I am not exactly sure how I diagnosed myself to have clinical apathy. Ordinary, everyday apathetic feelings are normal. We have an internal judgment referee that enables us to show or feel no interest, enthusiasm, or concern for something. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Veteran: Veterans Day Speech at Loveland High

Veterans Day Speech at Loveland High

Corporal Joseph Flanigan
Marine Corps
January 1968-January 1971
San Diego, California

Veteran’s Day Speech, November 11, 2014.

In 1967, when I graduated high school, I wanted to be a nuclear physicist. I just thought it would be amazing to study the insides of atoms. Well, it was Vietnam time, and the draft enlisted youth to the military as soldiers. In college, I soon realized I needed more money for tuition, and I volunteered for the draft to get 3 years of college for 2 years of service using veteran’s benefits. While in boot camp, I learned the first of many Marine ideals, like, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

On November 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution staring the Marine Corps. From that date, every Marine is trained in combat to defend our United States. As I was to learn, for every Marine on the front line, there are many jobs Marines do to support missions. 
Yesterday was our 239th birthday. 

While in boot camp, you hear the drill instructors shouting. “In my Marine Corps, we do 100 push-ups before chow!” “In my Marine Corps, we don’t walk, we run!” “In my Marine Corps, we crawl on our belly to rest!” And you think to yourself, this guy is insane, always saying “In my Marine Corps” before every challenge and command.

While in bootcamp, you take lots of tests that will determine your job in the service. My results came. “Private Flanigan, you have been selected for a new job. Something called computers. I didn’t know anything about it. You don’t have to take the job. If you don’t, you will be shipping out for Vietnam.” At 18, I just made of the smartest life decisions, “Sir, I accept.” That decision began my 45-year career in computer science.

Boot camp graduation, the drill instructor hand you the Maine Corps Eagle, Anchor, Globe emblem, shakes your hand and says “Welcome to my Marine Corps” And then you understand.

For the next year, I went to a special Marine Corps school, completing 4 years of college courses in 48 weeks. I still remember the first day of class, and the first words of the instructor, “How high can you count on your fingers?” By then, I already knew in the Marine Corps, the easy answer was always wrong. After instructed listened a few wrong answers, he announced: “In this class, you will learn to count.” I learned to count, many did not.

We were to training on Tactical Data Systems. This was the first generation of computer-assisted flight and ground weapons. From the ground system, officer flight controllers commanded combat missions on military targets using data from radar, missiles, aircraft, and other armaments. Even though I was trained at the highest level, I was a Marine and could be transferred with the systems into combat. The Marine Corps changed my dream of looking into the physics of atoms to using atoms of electricity.

My duty was in Garden Grove, California,  testing and preparing new systems for deployment. We worked long hours in 6 foot cubes chasing computer circuits. To change a programs in second generation computers, technicians rewired circuits. 

Occasionally we would be assigned special duty. Marines who died in Vietnam would return to the states at the El Toro Marine Airbase. Today, I can still see the coffins being unloaded from giant cargo planes. Standing in company formation, stone silent, we watched, and said silent prayers.

When a Marine leaves active duty, we honor each other, no longer officers or private, just Marine. In greeting other Marines, we say, our motto, “Semper Fi”, forever faithful.

Contonix: Fitness Model Primary Elements

Fitness Model Primary Elements

The Fitness Model shows the body's connection relationship of physical, neurological and cognitive. If are sitting in a chair and you want to walk out the door across the room, three activities must happen.
  •    Must have the physical prowess to move.
  •    Must have neurological coordination of movements
  •    Must have cognitive plans to direct movement.
Movement activity requires millions of body system's connections. Movement performance requires different systems to work in harmony with each other. Tone exists wherever the connections among the different movement elements perform in harmony. 

When connection tone 
  • does not exist - a new skill
  • or are weak - not used 
  • or broken - due to trauma like an accident, illness or diseases like multiple sclerosis
then connection toning (contonix) training uses the connection relationship to remodel the connections. Mind-It is the training technique means to remodel. The Mind-It goal is to create or restore vigor.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Multiple Sclerosis: The Hero In Us

The Hero In Us and The Hero In Me

From August 2014

The Hero In Us

by Joseph Flanigan
Loveland, Colorado

As an Ambassador of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, I have given many talks about MS to groups, organizations, and individuals.   My speech script is about the disease, its diagnoses, its symptoms, and the Society. During the talk, I will weave in personal anecdotes and experiences.  These off-script anecdotes seem to make the most connection to the audience.  I enjoy telling the stories because they reveal some of the real-life challenges and consequences of living with MS.

Living with MS is not a script nor is it a story.  In looking for a way to tell about living with multiple sclerosis, I discovered another way to explain the disease and uncovered new insight about how to live with MS.

A friend, Brandon Harrington, told me about the 10-step model of a hero's journey often found in the literature. The steps derive from Joseph Campbell's "The Hero with A Thousand Faces" which outlines the story pattern for a mythological hero.

Seeking the New-Normal

As soon as I read the 10 steps, it reminded me of everyone living with MS and the struggle we have overcoming its effects. Because MS attacks the central nervous system, it can disable normal cognitive and body actions. I think of living with MS as having two masters. When MS is the master, it is changing our biological self. When the MSer is the master, MSer fights the battles to defeat the MS master and reinforce the d├ętente meanwhile building a new-normal self, provoked by the MS master’s trauma. The MS hero journey is about overcoming the MS master’s adversities and returning with a new-normal life.

The physiological trauma of MS is often modeled as a grief experience: shock, anger, acceptance, and coping.  For MSers, the grief experience phase is called denial. Moving past denial means living with MS effects. The hero model is a template of strategies for returning to a new-normal life imposed by MS. Harrington, Campbell, and others caution that every hero’s journey may not have every step, nor the will steps be in exact order. It’s a model; not necessarily the full story, but it is a way to cast an adventure. Living with multiple sclerosis is a constant adventure.  The MS journey changes often because the disease constantly changes.  Every change is a new journey.

When I first wrote this, the title was the “The Heroes In Us”, however, the concept of a hero is about the individual.  The term “heroes in us” seems more like a collective experience rather than a person’s achievement. By renaming the title to “The Hero In Me”, it directs the hero concept withing t with each of us. Our fundamental human instinct for survival provides nature’s energy to propel us on the hero journey.  As individuals, we can choose to draw on that energy to construct the will for resolving the journey. 

The heroin me is a journey to thrive.

The Diagnoses

When someone is diagnosed with MS, it’s a black hole of fear, confusion, disbelief, grief, and loss. For those who can accept living with MS as their new-life, we begin a journey – the hero’s journey. For me, thinking about living with MS as being a hero’s journey is not about being a hero, it’s just living with MS. Being so, in the hero’s steps, I mentally replaced the word hero with MSer.

The literary model of a hero begins with the hero being lost, confused, lacking purpose. That situation changes, perhaps acting on a dream, reaction to an event, compelling forces or something else that triggers the hero into action. For MSers, the reality of an MS diagnosis drops us into a grief well. I remember those days so well. In a way, I fear those times more than living with MS. I was scared, worried, disbelieving, fearful of death, my career crashing and so many other emotions of denial that it affected just being able to cope with normal life challenges. For perhaps 3 years after my diagnosis, I was still living with denial. Then the hero adventure trigger came.

In 1992, while on a business trip, I stopped in Denver to visit my parents. Needing a new pair of shoes, my mother went to the store with me. While trying on the new shoes, the numbness in my left leg and the floppy drop foot stopped me from putting the stiff shoes on. My mother, in front of a store of customers, walked over to the clerks and announced for all to hear “My son has MS, he needs help trying on shoes. Please help him.” I was 44. At that very moment, I became a child again, embarrassed beyond belief – I thought to myself  “How could she tell everyone I had MS?” She was proud to help me buy those shoes. Not saying a word about the encounter, we drove home. But something changed. After four years, the MS was no longer in denial and I became a man again.

 The Journey

In the mythological hero journey, the hero leaves on the journey and returns in triumph, Because MS challenges cause diverse adversity, it is constantly changing our normal life. These changes mean we lost something in normal life and the MSer journey seeks to find a new-normal. Simply, the MSer journey begins when a disruption occurs to life-normal and returns with new-normal. As we adjust to everyday living, the new-normal becomes life-normal.

Going through the steps, the MS journey continues. MS continues to change us; each change is an opportunity to embark on the new hero’s quest. When MS has mastery, the steps for transformation and  the return cycle repeaover and over, challenging the MSer to continue seeking control. This happens in situations like fatigue and exacerbations. Slowly, the can-do character emerges again, stopping the cycle. In bad times, we may have to start the quest over, totally building a new can-do character.

10 Steps of the MS Hero

1. Call step is where the MSer is summoned to action and agrees to go on their quest.
n  Denial is over, truthful living with MS begins. We step forward with a vague vision of health as our quest.
2. Allies step is the part of the MSer’s  journey where meeting others assist them on their quest.
n  Support groups, health care, friends, and co-workers. Letting others in who know about MS challenges.
3. Crossing the Threshold step is where the MSer decides to make the step into the underworld, darkness, unknown.
n  MS trauma is a dark adventure. Moving out of this step is called acceptance. It is accepting the mystery of MS and the mastery it places on our life. The darkness becomes what it is - darkness. Our natural instinct for survival pushes us beyond the threshold becoming the guiding beacon.
4. Preparation step is where the MSer sharpens their tools mentally and physically, readying oneself for what faces them.
n  We get better mentally and physically. We adapt. Gain strength from self-discipline
and restraint, take the meds, follow fitness recommendations and stop harming our
immune system.
5. Road of Trials step is where the MSer experiences many obstacles and challenges along the journey.
n  Fatigue, exacerbations, cognitive challenges, relationship failures and many more.
6. Guardians of the Threshold step is where the MSer encounters others who stand in the way of what goals need to be accomplished.
n  There is no cure for MS, which is an obstacle. Drinking and smoking addictions compromise health habits. This is where the battles are fought. The sword of self-discipline and the shield of interlopers is the armor used to break through the threshold. From these struggles, a new can-do character emerges.
7. Saving Experience step is when the MSer is at their lowest point and a person or situation gives them the clarity and strength to surmount the odds.
n  This step repeats over and over. It comes in many flavors. One of my mentors said, “We will begin there.” And it does not have to be a low point; in fact, often it is not. Courage pushes come from all over and can be any time, any place. In meetings, in personal encounters, in gatherings, in quiet times. Letters like this.
8. Transformation step is where the MSer gains a new understanding and becomes changed for the better.
n  This step can be a mystery. Like MS everyone will have a personal transformation. It does not have to be grand. It is very personal. Every MS attack demands transformations.
9. Return step is where the MSers comes to his home and completes the journey cycle.
n  In an adventure story, the hero returns to home with banners and cheering. For a MSer, coming home means returning to oneself as a person. It also means being able to say to anyone, “I have MS.”
10. Sharing the Gift step is where the MSer is able to pass on their knowledge from their tough experiences.
n  Help others with MS. Explain to others the nature of MS. Be an ambassador of knowledge to help others accept MS. Become a support partner.

The Everyday Journey

The everyday version of the hero’s journey is a “big picture” view of the 10-step journey. This version highlights some insights about why the journey is necessary.

Everyday living creates a personal physical and emotional habitat in which we exist as our normal life’s environment. Our habitat is the sum of all the forces that shape our lives. These forces mold us by conditions that constrain both our physical self and our surroundings. Our journey of change begins with a disruption in the safe self then continues on a quest to find a new-normal for reintegration into our safe self.

Life with MS is both about dealing with the adversity of trauma and the quality-of-life improvement challenges. Economists use the terms needs and wants to explain motivation in social behavior. Likewise, we can use the same terms to identify the purpose of the journey. Adversity is a needs-modification journey. It means MS has broken the normal life habitat balance and something needs to be repaired and resolved correcting the trauma to the new-normal. Quality-of-life is a wants modification journey. At some point, a desire emerges prompting a challenge leading to a new-normal that creates benefits for transfer into normal living. Perhaps a challenge is to improve mobility by losing weight and improve cardio to manage fatigue by embarking in a personal training program.  Interestingly both journeys have opportunity to refine and adjust goals during the quest cycle.

The Quest Cycle

The quest cycle is the heart of the journey. This is a process where we discover the true depth of change and find the resolve to climb out of the deep and build the new-normal. As a process, successful change occurs incrementally. During a needs journey the increments can be well defined like living through another MRI or even a doctor’s office visit. Medication management is a common needs journey. The journey out of an exacerbation can have many quest cycles. Every MSer experiences different trauma. Like in the 10-step model, our guides become instrumental, understand the trauma and assist with building the new-normal.

The Everyday Journey 

      Challenge:  a demand triggers a change, something needs repair or reform.
      Quest: the discovery journey to meet the change,  define goals   Remodel:  the test time for the change, refining the change 
     Home:  the challenge is normal life   

A wants journey fuel comes from the personal desire to set a challenge and find the passion to change. Fitness is a very difficult wants journey because it involves both common fitness challenges and trauma deficient challenges. Here the sword of self-discipline and the shield of interlopers are defenses to be built and defined. MS fatigue is one of the physical obstacles these weapons help us combat. After years of work, I became a cyclist. My shield of interlopers are limitation awareness and tools to help protect myself from heat and cold to block external causes of fatigue. My sword of self-discipline for fatigue is a little motto, “If the muscle weakens with burn, ride on and be happy because I am getting stronger. If the muscle weakens with no burn, stop before falling off. Rest, then ride on.” 
Because the wants journey is personal, seeking guides like personal trainers can make the journey easier and more successful by drawing on their professional expertise. For me, the trauma from MS exacerbations left my left side muscle weak, areas of numbness and a drop foot gait. Because of the MS, my left side suffers from proprioception sense failure exhibited by not recognizing the correct movement. While physical therapy can identify the failure, my experience taught me that personal trainers are good guides to see the correction and suggest training techniques to correct proprioception failures. During my MS history, I learned the value of both professions. The physical therapist helped me understand the challenge of walking and it was the personal trainer who helped me during the long struggles in the quest to walk. Learning to walk without a cane required many-many quest cycles. The new-normal became walking slower, observant ground scanning and exercises strengthening leg muscle control. In time, these skills integrate and transform into being a normal way of walking.

Every MSer has their journey story. I believe the journey to find their MS normal life with MS is important to overcome the mystery and doubt of MS exacerbations. Knowing our MS normal helps the MSer find the time to raise the warning flag and seek medical help. When not reacting to needs demands, our survival drive, uses this time in the life-normal state to foster challenges by wanting better survival conditions.  

The Bell Tolls for the Hero

Why are we concerned with the hero’s journey? Why is it important to learn steps for following the journey? What is normal? The answer is found in the ringing of a bell. The normal state for a bell is silence. When struck with a hammer, the energy from the hammer causes metal trauma that sends out waves of sound as notification of the trauma. As the metal absorbs the hammer’s energy, the strength of the sound wave lessens and eventually the bell becomes silent – its normal state. This silence science calls quiescence. In disease, quiescent means not getting any worse. In engineering, quiescent means a steady-state, like the light emitted from a light bulb. In physics, it means inactive often referred to as a body at rest thens to stay at rest. In all cases, there are active forces maintaining the quiescent state from forces seeking to disturbed its state. Quiescence is a very powerful force of nature.  In essence, it means all the force conditions are balanced and action is controlled. A burning light bulb emits controlled energy. A beating heart pumping is the heart's natural normal the quiescent state.   

In humans, relating normal life as a quiescent state defines both qualitative and quantitative conditions of the current normality. When something disturbers these conditions, like MS, the hero’s journey is a road map to help restore those conditions becoming life normal.  Our body is designed for action, to burn brightly. That is our normal quiescent state. Like the ringing bell, the forces are shocked out of balance and other forces immediately go into action to silence the bell. When our body is shocked out of balance, we need tools to restore balance. The hero’s journey is way to gather those tools and put them to work becoming the can-do person.

Everyday Heroes

Some people have called me a hero. For me, my heroes are the people who help me. Those that contribute to finding a cure for MS, my support partners who live with MS too, my friends, my family, my sponsors, my mentors and other MSers, these are my heroes.

When I give talks about MS, part of the story is my own hero talk. H.E.R.O means Help Everyone Respect Others. People demonstrate respect by giving time, talent, treasure and tenacity. Of these, never giving up, tenacity is the most important. Heroes don’t quit. Sometimes we do get lost or miss an opportunity. 

 A hero’s journey does not have to be a long grand event. Deciding to write a check for a donation and sending it in is a hero’s journey.  When I see someone hold a door for someone in wheelchair, I see some of their hero poking through.  And for the person in the chair, not to feel insulted but rather responding with a gracious thank you shows another face of being a hero.

Living with MS is both personal and public. When an observer looks at a person with MS, most likely they will not see anything that would identify the person as having MS.  Even people with MS cannot identify other MSers. For a person with MS, associating with people without MS often is like standing on the edge of a deep invisible social chasm. The symptoms from MS trauma, like drop foot and memory gaps, created the chasm. Because MS often has invisible symptoms, The MSer can see the chasm, but others cannot. Humans have a wonderful gift of being able to adapt to physical challenges and to respond to obstacles.  When the MS hero returns to their life-normal, they will adapt their MS to bridge the chasm.

The difference between dreaming and imagination is that a dream is as transparent as a wish whereas imagination is plan for a call to action.  Every day I dream of a life free of MS. A thousand times a day, I imagine overcoming the next obstacle and when that is done overcoming the next and the next and then the next. Soon I dream again and then my imagination fuels the day.

Looking for Heroes

Reflecting on being a hero prompted me to frame an invitation. Say to someone, “I invite you to be a hero.”


What is the source of the 10 steps? Read: The Writers Heroes Journey by Christopher Vogler derived from Joseph Campbell’s work.

What is a common example of adapting?  Numbness in the feet causes balance and stride deficits. Using a simple expression like climbing stairs with a cane, “to heaven with the good, to hell with the bad” can be a the cognitive challenge to remember and coordinate, and a source of pride when successful.

What are the sword of self-discipline and the shield of interlopers? The sword of self-discipline refers to the new personal characteristics used to remove the internal resistance blocking the forward journey. The shield of interlopers refers to any outside influences that seek to breach the security of our journey.  Like knights of old, the sword and shield provide armor for MS combat.

What are the principle personal characteristics of the sword and the shield?  Self-honesty’s introspective nature is the sword that cuts to the truth in making choices. Self-awareness’s judgments shield outside influences by admitting or rejecting acceptable behavior changes.

MS is not mythological, why relate MS to fiction?  While the literary model for a hero’s journey is about characters found in stories and history, I found it is a great model for overcoming any adversity. MS presents so many challenges; just working through them can be confusing, compounding the adversity imposed by the challenge. The steps are just waypoints leading to a new normal.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

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