Posts Tagged ‘cancer’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  The only clue there was anything different on Christmas Eve than any other day was that this was a Friday and it was being treated as a weekend day, which meant there was no ERP program activities and the lights stayed off until 11 am.  Everyone is okay with that but in the back of my mind I’m thinking about the fact we won’t see mail until Tuesday.  I very much look forward to hearing from the blog sponsors with messages from them that include your emails and comments you post along with their well wishes and information on my personal affairs.  As I’ve said, I’m very grateful for you and them, and I hope you find what we do here helpful.  If so, please let others know about this blog.  Anyway, this is my 2nd and hopefully last Christmas incarcerated.  Last year at this time, I was in Waukesha County Jail (WCJ), having completed my second chemotherapy session and in a cell by myself that I could never leave without a mask due to my low white count.  Two weeks later you all joined me on this journey through the WPS, and my divorce was finalized on the same day.  To borrow the cliché, what a long, strange trip it has been!  A lot was uncertain about the future then, just like now, except last year was about the transition to prison life and this year will hopefully be about the transition back to the community.  But we’ve got a long road to go until then.  There was little talk of Christmas around this unit except on the telephones which seemed like they were always occupied.  My cellie, Malik Pearl and I both opened the cookies we got the week before and shared them with the other cellies, Brian Whalen and Andre Charles.  I learned something new about all my cellies.  The reason Andre is always trying to scam Whalen is he has nobody out there to send him money.  MSDF is different.  If you had nothing in other prisons I’ve seen, it was just too bad.  People would eat in front of you and not care.  If you had nothing, which happened to me several times, no resentments were held.  Here people get mad about that.  Whalen had 3 visits, one being his son and another being the therapist who sent him the letter.  But he doesn’t want to be pressured and he feels she’s pushing him.  He asked me if I want to be a roommate once I get out since I have nowhere to go at this point.  Of course, no way do I want to do that, but I can’t afford to eliminate any options.  But Malik, he made a call to family and found out the mother of his child had somehow lost all his possessions but the assumption was her family members had paned them for drugs.  If seems Malik has a tendency to use violence to keep “his women” in line and though he is a laid back person, he would not hesitate to hurt, even kill, those who cross him.  The only thing saving her now is that she is the mother of his child, and it was good he was not on the street now, or so he claims.  This girl “put him in prison once” and he won’t let it happen again.  I just can’t believe I so misjudged him.  He’s just as dangerous as Andre, but in a different way.  But everyone in this cell is getting along real well.  If this had been a year ago, I would have handled it differently.  But it’s Christmas and I’m one day closer to never seeing this place ever again.  And that’s a great Christmas present!


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Last night was Monday and it happened to be laundry night but it also was Bible study night sponsored by the unknown group that gave us the gifts Saturday.  But I wanted to go learn more.  It seems quite a few had the same idea as they had to move it out of the smaller room it’s normally held in.  There were 2 leaders who I found out later is called “The Church (In Wisconsin)” of West Allis, WI.  But I get the sense they didn’t want to tell us.  The Bible Study itself was more of a sermon than a study, based on Psalm 118 and Acts 3.  My favorite versus were Psalm 118:17-18 “I will not die but live and will proclaim what the Lord has done.  The Lord has chastened me severely but he has not given me over to death”. While I was in the study, Tom Dietz volunteered to watch my laundry.  I knew I liked that guy!  Unfortunately the beach ball that is my cellie, Andre Charles, bounced the other way.  For whatever reason he has tamed again.  He was upset with me for reasons unknown saying we don’t joke around, we have to be serious.  The next morning at count he said there was a “fagg—– who keeps look at him when he sleeps”.  I didn’t have a clue what he was referring to of course, but the more immediate problem was the name he called me in front of everyone.  Another challenge, this one in public.  But I didn’t do anything.  A guard’s watching and the wrong word ends my time in ERP.  But before we’d go back into the cell, a guard walked up to me and said I was going to the hospital and to get ready to go.  I’m sure I was going to get the cancer test results from the PET scan last week.  But before I left, another cellie Malik Pearl, warned me I was about to find out what Andre is going to do and I better get out of this cell.  I hate to say it cause I’m a little..okay a lot on the stubborn side but I may end up getting out of this cell.  Of course, it was time to go, and of course like always on my road trips, the weather was crappy.  I got to the University Hospital and got to the inmate waiting room fully anticipating a good report from the doctor.  The room was a buzz with the rumors of what Gov. elect Scott Walker was going to do to the prisons and DOC staff.  Let’s put it this way, he seems to be following the playbook he followed in Milwaukee County.  If so, state employees are going to be hurting.  But after the blood work, I saw my oncologist, Dr. Rachel Cook.  The good news is my counts are normal.  The bad news is there area  couple of lymph nodes that are enlarged.  Nothing will be done except to schedule more scans to see if they continue to grow.  I ate my bag lunch in the waiting room while the guards ate their lunches.  After I got back, I sat 3 hours in an empty waiting room, even eating supper there.  Finally I got back to my unit where no one in my cell spoke to me.  But I’m ok with that.  I’ve got bigger fish to fry and I’ve got to deal with my own issues that are much larger in scope than what Andre Charles influences people to do.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Today was real slow as most of us have finished our homework assignmentsAugie Prescott and Scott Bunker, in my group and sitting at my table and are cellmates with John Lloyd.  They are unhappy with all the fidgeting and noise he makes.  Lloyd is on his second room so perhaps there is more to that than I thought.  But the big news I have is Waukesha County has more medical bills they are now charging me for from my stay in their county jail, even though the only reason I let them get me treated for my cancer was I’d been told I wouldn’t be charged. It’s up to over $7,000 now, but guessing we’ll be just under $12,000 when its all said and done.  I am considering suing them as for 6 months they misdiagnosed my cancer as an infection which allowed it to progress to stage 3 causing me needless “pain and suffering”.  I wouldn’t consider it otherwise as I’m not the type to complain or sue people but I don’t know what else to do.  I’m going to have $18,000 in debts with this and over $15,000 in child support (the court refused to reduce it after I was incarcerated) obligations.  The last thing I need is another bill.  But here’s the thing.  If I don’t let them me to the hospital I may not be writing this blog entry today.  But if any of you can assist or know someone who can with this legal action or just want to email feel free.  Emails go to the sponsors of this blog and I or the sponsors always respond.  Another housekeeping matter, you may notice more characters being introduced.  This is because I’m involved in the ERP group now and have 3 cellmates.  Just a reminder, all characters except my oncologist and those not named in the media have been given aliases.  Also these entries are not real time but are delayed sometimes up to a month or so.  One new thing being done is instead of giving one link for each character whose name comes up, now the link goes back to the last time they were mentioned.  That way someone who lands in the middle of the blog can quickly get up to speed and the people involved.  Plus I have a great deal of difficulty remembering who or what is in each entry now.  I don’t maintain any kind of hard copy of the entries you see after they are mailed out for my own security and this helps not to have to rack my brain remembering what is where.  To be honest after I’m released I can’t wait to actually see the blog and all the work the sponsors did and be able to communicate with many of you in close to real time. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). I got called out to the guard station right after the first count, and right before breakfast.  The guard told me to hurry up and eat because they were coming to take me for some reason.  I suspected I was having another PET scan to verify my cancer remains in remission. I asked the guard if he was sure he wanted me to eat as I knew they needed my stomach empty.  He said he didn’t know and put it up for me.  They came and got me and again asked me if I’d eaten.  Again I told them I shouldn’t.  They were suppose to tell me the previous evening but fortunately I hadn’t ate a thing after 8 pm.  The short black guard who strip searched me in a cage verified I should not eat was friendly enough.  Unlike last time, I had to wear the chains and bracelets which nicely accessorized my banana yellow uniform.  And of course, we seem to always pick the best weather days for my trips.  Today was the coldest of the winter so far.  It was 0 degrees and 14 below wind-chill.  It was good to see the outside world even if it had frozen.  We took Highway 16W and stopped at the PDQ gas station in Hartland, WI – less than a mile from my former home, family still lives and where I used to stop for gas and cigarettes on or on my way back to or from work.  It felt like a moment from the Twilight Zone TV show.  There was enough frost on the windows to obscure their view in the van which I was grateful for.  The ride there was cold, as the guards kept turning the heat down but it was my fault for not speaking up.  I have a habit of doing that. They took all sorts of side roads doing what many guards do – milking the clock.  When we got there I got to go to the prison at UW Madison.  No minimum lockup this time.  It was ok though as I saw guys I knew from Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI), where I was March through August of this year.  Things are the same there except for the large amounts of snow fallen on the LaCrosse area.  There are many horror stories from the medical cases of how they are being handled I was told about but I’m not going to repeat what I don’t have any way of documenting.  I am sorry to those looking for it, if that disappoints you.  But you know you’ve been around awhile when hospital staff greet you by name.  It was uneventful from there.  But the bag lunch I used to despise was better and more filling than the food at MSDF.  When I got back I got strip searched again and returned to my unit.  They actually saved my breakfast tray so I ate my cocoa roos (like cocoa puffs), and joined my group working on yesterday’s assignments.  But it occurred to me I need to stop thinking of this area as home to successfully move on.  But just where will home be?


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Fridays are a short day in the ERP program here.  They have something called “Community” at 10 am and then they’re done for the day.  Everyone was already seated when someone came and got me to join which surprised me since I don’t start ERP until December 13th.  They went through an airing of unit grievances (there were none) and housekeeping issues (there were some).  It was at this point that I was called to the guard desk and told to get ready to go to Heath Services Unit (HSU).  They have something where an inmate picks a quote and they explain why they picked it.  The quote was “Bad things happen in life so that someday something good can come.”  It was put on a big poster and hung from the top tier.  Then the inmate coming up with the quote talked of why he picked that quote.  The group was then to provide comments on what the quote meant to them.  The social worker running the group reminded them that if we didn’t participate enough she would hand out paper and make us all write something down.  Personally, I would have preferred that but that’s just me.  Then the inmate assigned the word of the day or week, I’m not sure which.  The word was “oppressed” with the quote “difficult to bear substance abuse made my life aggressive”, which was placed on a white poster on the upper tier next to the other one.  Then my cellmate, Brian Whalen, had been assigned to read a current events article and discuss it with comments following.  He did well I thought.  Overall, the comments being made felt forced to me but I could be wrong.  At that point a female guard showed up to escort me and another inmate to HSU.  We got on an elevator (another difference of any prison I’ve seen – there were no elevators) and we had to face the wall away from the guard sharing space with carts of food trays being delivered for lunch.  I go to our next stop where we were directed to stand with our backs to the wall while another inmate joined us and we continued on.  We got to HSU which has a hall for a waiting room with the wall lined by chairs then inside a desk manned by a guard.  He called out names to go in.  I was seated next to a man of 65 with a long white beard who couldn’t stop jabbering.  He was on paper for his 5th DUI and was here for rule violations (using pot) and his parole officer (PO) was trying to revoke him.  A lot of the other inmates were discussing Act 28 and the mistaken idea that once they got to Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI) the time they thought they’d be saving under Act 28 would be taken right off the top of their sentence. It reminded me much of my time in Waukesha County Jail (WCJ) where inmates would cling to such fairy tales out of sense of desperation and looking for a reason to hope.  I tried to interject and correct the information but one inmate in particular would have none of it, insisting I was wrong.  I let it go.  I understand the need to hold onto hope.  I think false hope actually helped me at times.  Weird, isn’t it?  Mercifully, I got called to see the doctor.  He was of Indian descent and spoke good English.  I waited 10 minutes before a word was said while he reviewed my file.  He then let me know another PET scan would be scheduled soon to make sure the cancer had not returned and made sure I was still on my antiviral.  I returned to my seat in the hall to await transport back to my unit.  The man I was next to had grown impatient and started repeatedly asking when he’d be seen because he didn’t want to miss lunch.  The guard who brought me to HSU returned to take me back but the guard at the desk lost patience and told her to take him back too without being seen.  He knew what that meant.  He was getting a major conduct report for being disruptive.  The entire way back he argued with this guard almost assuming an intimidating stance towards her.  She argued back which was pointless with this guy.  Finally, I got back to my unit having a cold pizza burger for lunch and very glad I’m not that loud inmate and looking forward to getting this ERP program going week after next. 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  I’ll be on my way to Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) on Monday to begin my ERP program. Some of you have emailed questions to be answered.  Most are confidential and specific to your situation but some might interest others and are more general so I’ll answer them here.

Question:  What will happen to the blog when you are released?

Answer:    The blog will continue.  The focus will change to what life is like on parole as some of the biggest battles and such deal with staying out of prison.  My sponsors and I occasionally talk about whether or not what we’re doing here should have exposure elsewhere and how to accomplish that but none of us really know as this concept and how we do it isn’t all that common.  Those of you who’ve made suggestions and helped promote the blog, please know I’m very grateful and the sponsors work on your suggestions as time permits.  So please keep them coming!    

 

Question:  Do you think going to prison was a good thing for you?  Has it helped with the issues that got you there?

Answer:    I think something had to happen, something had to stop the insanity that was going on.  I deserved to go to prison.  As far as helping with my issues, that work was done by me as you’ve watched over the last 19 months.  Up till now, as I’ve said before, it’s up to me to get better, not the institutions or guards. 

 

Question:  What would have been the length of time needed for you to “get it”?

Answer:    Do you feel I’ve “gotten it”?  I feel I “get it” more and more everyday.  Do I feel ready now to go out there?  Yes!  But God will open that door when its time in spite of any whining I might or you might hear me do.

 

Question:  Did prison save your life?

Answer:    No.  I was suicidal when arrested and it wasn’t well into January of this past year (2010) my resolve and faith was renewed and I made a commitment to stay alive.  Dang it, with my background, cancer, teenage life, battle with mental illness, going to prison and such I feel like there’s a plan out there for me to do something.  If not, I should’ve been dead long ago.

 

Question:  What are you in prison for and what were the circumstances surrounding your crime?

Answer:    I am in prison for my fifth and sixth drunk driving offenses.  In 1995 I had 3 arrests in one year as all I did was party.  As the years went by, the problems described here got worse and worse.  But even as I continued to drink more and more, I kept on improving professionally. There were long periods of sobriety but as things at home and work escalated, I would go “off the deep end”.  I would come out of it, vow to do better, and then would be ok for awhile.  My fifth offense came when I tried to track my step-daughter down who had gone missing and I tried to calm down by drinking.  While out on bail for that, my sixth offense was my suicide attempt where i combined alcohol and seroquel and was determined to drive into a semi on the highway so it would appear as an accident and my family would get my life insurance.  I passed out before I got to the highway.  Obviously, I’ve summarized a great deal here and haven’t gone into great detail on the mental health issues.  But know this:  It was wrong and I deserve to be here because I didn’t seek help when I knew I had to and couldn’t do it on my own.  My pride prevented me from doing so and as a result I lost everything.  That, in a very brief nutshell, is the answer to your question.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  Happy Thanksgiving to all of you reading this!  It’s November 25, 2010 as I write this.  I realize by the time you read this it will be probably closer to Christmas than Thanksgiving.  Such is the nature of this blog – the delay is intentional.  But I want to take this opportunity to thank those of you who have read this blog, many of you who have shared and/or expressed support via comment or email and to those of you who have someone inside whom you love and care about and possibly this blog has somehow helped you.  I thank you for not abandoning them, even though this separation is the toughest battle your relationship has endured.  Nobody but you knows how much you silently suffer.  Special thanks goes to Rebecca, Steve and Jill who have followed me almost since my first day, giving encouragement to me and giving a voice to those who aren’t able to be heard.  You all have put into practice the words of the Sermon on the Mount.  Another special thank you to Dr. Rachel Cook, my oncologist at University Hospital who was an awesome advocate for me, very patient, and expertly defeated my cancer. I also thank the few of my friends I had prior to prison who have not forgotten me.  I will always remember you and all I’ve thanked the rest of my life.  This blog and all of you have far helped me more than I have gotten from you, trust me on this. My biggest thank you goes to the sponsors of this blog who have tirelessly typed up the chicken scratch of my handwriting, managed this blog with expertise and dedication, in a pinch have helped me, and even provided a newspaper subscription. Quite frankly, none of this is possible without you and words aren’t adequate to express the amount of gratitude owed to you. Many of you that got involved hadn’t even known or worked with me previously.  That’s simply just awesome!  So thank you!  Finally, I thank God!  It was one year ago this week that my cancer was diagnosed.  It was the culmination of the absolute worst year of my adult life.  Where the loss of my wife, family, career, friends, music and finally my health were realized and just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse, the isolation and despair of those days at Dodge Correctional Institution of early 2010 occurred.  It seemed you (God) had completely deserted me.  But it became clear that I had deserted him (God), refusing because of my silly pride and being concerned with material things and people I couldn’t control, had refused to seek help to stop the bleeding of my heart, mind and soul.  But you (God) were always there waiting for me to learn that simple yet difficult lesson.  The lesson is I don’t have the answers and I must surrender on a daily basis as I move forward.  This is 1 lesson I’ll continue to learn for the rest of my life.