Lucky Number Seven

Today I had my seventh colonoscopy. I’m afraid to report that colonoscopies don’t get easier with age. My mother contracted colon cancer when she was around 70 years old.  She hated them. More specifically, she HATED drinking “the stuff”, the liquid you take to flush your digestive tract out. Back in those days (we’re talking about 1990 or so) you had to drink a gallon of rank tasting liquid. Then repeat the process 12 hours later. In between you shitted your brains out.

It’s much easier now. You only have to drink 48 ounces (you save 12 ounces! What a bargain) twelve hours apart. And the foul tasting stuff is only in the first 16 of the 48 ounces. A friend of mine told me about her colonoscopy prep. She took a pill. Even better she was awake for the procedure and watched it on TV.

When you get your colonoscopy, try to schedule it for early in the morning. The only slot my doctor had was 11:30 a.m. so I was pretty much up the Shits Creek without a paddle, so to speak.

For three days prior to the procedure you can’t eat anything that might get hung up in your inner tubes. Popcorn, peas, fruit with skin, nuts, etc. I had Indian food one night and Thanksgiving leftovers the another. The day before you can’t have any solid food, only clear liquids. I chowed down on tea, gatorade, and chicken broth. How do you handle a hungry maaaan?

At 4 p.m. I drank my first round of the stuff.  I fought off the urge to throw up. Then, after an hour, I heard the telltale gurgle in my gut and ran to the bathroom where I made like a Saturn 5 rocket engine for about an hour. It’s unbelievable how effective the stuff is. It must have Drano in it to work it’s way through your intestines so fast. The entire time the stuff was doing, well, its stuff, I was thinking of one scatological joke after another. I was just making the best of a totally helpless situation.

After an hour, the storm receded and was followed by occasional shit squalls until midnight. I fell asleep with my alarm set for 4 a.m. when round two would commence.

Let me tell you, as a breakfast drink, The Stuff is rather rude. I downed the brew and waited. Then the voiding process repeated. This time, thankfully, I had no more solids in me. (The doctor’s instructions say that if the prep doesn’t work, you’ll have to do it for two days. I’d rather die.) We renovated the bathroom next to the man cave this year and I am happy to report that the toilet and piping passed the ultimate test with flying colors. Mrs. Rootchopper had put a new bottle of Febreeze in the bathroom and it kept the paint from peeling off the walls.

By about 7:30 I was empty. I could tell just by looking in the mirror. My belly was flatter than it has been since riding 4,300 miles to Portland in 2018. Mrs. Rootchopper drove me to the hospital and, after a 20 minute uneventful check-in process, I was taken back to the pre-op area.

I weighed in at 203 with my clothes and shoes one. I was down about 8 pounds from my last weigh in a month ago. (Have I got a diet for you! Actually, don’t even go there. I tried a water diet my freshman year in college. It messed me up for three days. And could have killed me.)

I got in my gown and laid down on a comfy portable bed. A nurse took my vital signs. My blood pressure was normal. My pulse was 44. (“I ride a bicycle. A lot.”) The nurse covered me with a warm blanket. Having had only about 4 hours of continuous sleep, I was ready to take a snooze. And so I did. Zzzzz.

The doctor was backed up. Wait, let me rephrase that. He was behind schedule. So I got a nice hour or two nap in. Then I was wheeled to an operating room. There the anesthesia nurse gave me a stimulant to increase my heart rate.  A pulse of 44 leaves too little down side. Then she injected one of the tubes leading to my veins with an anesthetic and I woke up. In the recovery room.

I have no recollection of the procedure. For all I know they went out for lunch at Denny’s.

After a while my doctor came by with the preliminary results. (My brain: Please don’t be cancer. Please don’t be cancer.) He had pictures that look like a tunnel except for close ups of three polyps. One looked innocuous to him. The others looked worthy of a biopsy. Once that was done he removed them. Actually, he torched them. Seriously. Thankfully, the prep had eliminated the chance for a fatal blue dart.

My doctor, who has been doing colonoscopies on me for 24 years, thinks that the lab results will show that the polyps he biopsied are benign. He gave me the good news that if they are benign, I don’t need another colonoscopy for three years. (Most people who are free of polyps or tumors and have no family history are put on a five or ten year cycle. Thanks, Mom.)

I do hope that the prep is made easier by then. This was the hardest prep I’ve ever done. I attribute the difficulty to age. No wonder my mother hated it so. I can’t imagine being 70 years old and weighing all of 105 pounds and going through this over and over and over again. She was one tough customer. She also survived her colon cancer and lived another 20 years.

So there you have the whole story.

Many thanks to Mrs. Rootchopper for getting me to and from the hospital and waiting several hours longer than we had planned. And thanks to my doctor and the staff and nurses at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital for being so professional and good humored.

Nearly three years in a row

Two years ago I was stopped less than 90 miles shy of 10,000 bicycling miles for the year. Having to quit with a week to go because of a life threatening illness really sucked. Of course, living is worth 88 miles.

Last year, I blew the doors off with over 11,000 miles in the saddle. Revenge was sweet. I crossed the 10,000 mark around Thanksgiving. I rode in eight new states (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon). And I crossed the continental divide for the first time.

Today, I crossed the 10,000 mile threshold again. Along the way, I picked off five new states (Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada). I rode over Monarch Pass, above 11,000 feet.

From Colorado to California, I climbed well over 150,000 feet. Somebody stop me before I do such a foolish thing ever again.

Now it’s time to get well and have some fun. Colonoscopies are fun, aren’t they?

PSA – Get your ass to a doctor

If you’ve been meaning to do one of those cleansings of your inner organs, do I have a treat for you.

This week I will be having my seventh colonoscopy. PARTAY! Colon cancer doesn’t much care if you think a colonoscopy is gross. To be honest, the cleansing routine the day before is not much fun, although, unlike a decade ago, you no longer have to drink two gallons of foul tasting fluid to get the job done. Fair warning: do this at home. (Don’t ask.)

My mother survived it. My friend Bob is undergoing chemo for it. My grad school roommate Chet died of it a year ago. Like you, they were/are all very nice people. Colon cancer didn’t much care.

So if you are 50 or older, or if you have a family history of colon cancer, get your ass to a doctor and get a colonoscopy. It’s not nearly as gross as having eye surgery while conscious. (Been there. Done that. I have stories.)

November – Ups and Downs

I managed to do about 27 days of physical therapy this month. About ten days ago it seemed to be working great. I did three rides back to back to back without pain. About a week ago I did a three mile walk near home. I wore beat up old running shoes and didn’t use trekking poles. I was surprised at how well my leg did. Yesterday I joined some friends on a six mile walk on the C&O Canal towpath. I wore new, low cut hiking shoes and used trekking poles. After about five miles my left hip was holding a silent, but quite painful protest. My PT and I will have a talk on Monday.

It’s the end of another month and, despite the ups and downs of my left leg drama, I managed to put in some decent miles. I totaled 758 miles, about 25 miles per day. My longest ride was 55 1/2 miles at the Cider Ride with my friend Emilia.

I failed at Coffeeneuring for the third year in a row. I think we need to start a napeneuring event. I way better at naps than I am at coffee drinking.

For the year, I’ve ridden 9,944 1/2 miles. I should bag 10,000 miles next week. Lord willin’ and the blood clots don’t rise.

 

 

What a difference a week makes

About this time last week I was ready to throw in the towel on physical therapy. My knee and hip were regressing and I was getting frustrated.

Then I raise my saddle a couple of millimeters on Little Nellie. It seemed to help. Surprisingly the new position didn’t bother my back either.

When Little Nellie’s front shifting went to hell, I switched to the Cross Check. Again, I raised my saddle a couple of millimeters. The first ride didn’t cause me pain but I felt like I was getting no power transfer to the pedals. My physical therapist suggested I leave the seat up and see if my body adapts to it.

That night, Monday of this week, I went to a concert in DC. I stood on concrete for over four hours. If you have a messed up leg and a back back, standing on concrete for hours is not a great idea. My legs were incredibly tight for the last hour of the concert. And my lower back was aching.

It took about an hour to get home by car. When I got out of the car my left hip and knee were screaming at me. They felt like they did before the cortisone shot and the PT. I thought I had screwed the pooch.

I took two ibuprofen PMs (with a sedative) and went to sleep. About six hours later I woke up with my left knee screaming at me. In a few minutes the sedative put me back to sleep.

I slept until 9:30. It’s the latest I’ve slept in months. I woke up groggy only to learn that I had overslept my 7:30 doctor appointment. I’ve never missed a doctor appointment. (He fit me in anyway.)

Then I went for a bike ride on the Cross Check.

I was expecting to feel like a cripple. Instead, I rode like I had a tailwind. Other than some brief soreness on the outside of my left hip, my legs felt great. My back did too. I rode 32 miles and could have gone on for another 10 without any difficulty.

Today, I rode the Cross Check again. That little bit of soreness outside my left hip came and went within 10 minutes. I rode hard into a headwind without discomfort. My route took me from the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River up the Custis Trail, a roller coaster of short, sometimes steep hills. No problem. I didn’t notice any discomfort beneath my left knee cap or near my left hip.

The ride home was a blast because I had a tailwind and it was gently downhill back to the river. I flew in a big gear. 35 1/2 miles with plenty of pop left in my legs.

I haven’t felt this strong on a bike since last year when I came home from riding to Portland.

So much for throwing in the towel.

Trade-offs

As any economist knows, life is all about assessing trade offs. If I do this, what do I give up. I spent my entire career doing this sort of basic calculus.

For the last several days I’ve been dealing with a rather eclectic set of trade-offs. As a federal retiree, I’m trying to comprehend the inane world of 401Ks and Medicare. Congress meant well when they created these things but lordy do they get complicated. I’ve been doing math in my head and on spreadsheets now for a couple of weeks and I’ve come to the conclusion that the best retirement choice is a good red wine.

The other day I went to my pulmonologist. She gave me a prescription for an antibiotic and battery of over-the-counter medications to combat a cold that I’ve had for over three weeks. My head and chest feel better, but my gut microbiome is all kinds of messed up from the antibiotic. On the bright side, I am having a colonoscopy in a few weeks so my innards are all warmed up for the purge.

Yesterday morning I was determined to go to Friday Coffee Club. As a retiree, I can sleep in any time I want. At 6 a.m., the temperature was 29 degrees F, way below normal for this time of year. Friday Coffee Club is one of my few social activities each week so the trade-off was freeze and hang with my peeps or curl up in a ball in a warm bed and snooze. The coffee and peeps ruled the day but I froze my nunus off in the process. Friday Coffee Club is always interesting. This week a CNN reporter walked right past our group. I was the only one who noticed. The rest of the group was transfixed by Ricky’s discussion of exciting recent administrative law cases.

In a way, I got to sleep in after all.

 

 

 

 

Little Nellie goes bung

After a day of rest, I sprung back into action, filled with pills and nasal sprays. While I was resting, temperatures in these parts dropped about 25 degrees. Curse you, weather gods.

Today’s ride allowed me to test the warming properties of the Showers Pass shoe covers I bought a few months ago. I rode 30 miles and I managed to keep my feet warm for 25 or so. Temperatures were just above freezing so I think I can say that the shoe covers passed the test.

Little Nellie not so much.

My plan was to ride Little Nellie until I hit its next 1,000 mile threshold (which would be 23,000). With fewer than 90 miles to go, the front shifter has apparently died. Or the front shifter cable housing has accumulated too much gunk to allow the cable to move properly. This happens because of all the bends in the cable routing, required to allow the bike to fold, trap small bits of debris.

I rode the last four miles in my granny gear spinning like a maniac bear at the circus. If only I had a ball to balance on my nose.

Probably too cold for that, though.

 

A Fistful of Pharma

About three weeks ago my son came home from Thailand for a week. The last time he came I ended up in the hospital with life-threatening, utterly improbable pulmonary embolisms. This time I woke up with a massively sore throat.

Being a sports fan, when not visiting his friends, my son wanted to do little more than hang out and watch sports on TV. Conveniently the Nationals were on their march to a World Series title. My son is the master of timing.

The sore throat went away in a day but the accompanying cold lingered for over a week. I felt pretty good until two nights ago when the sore throat returned. Last night it woke me at 2 a.m. It was accompanied by a cough that brought up strange and nasty things from my lungs. I was up most of the night gargling and coughing and blowing my nose.

I suppose my son got his timing thing from me. Today I had a check up with my pulmonologist. I’ve been seeing her since she crashed my PE party at the emergency room.

The primary purpose of the visit was to see how much blow power my asthmatic lungs have. The test involved blowing into a tube that records how much air you can expel until your lungs are completely empty. The test is repeated three times.

I hadn’t been tested in over a year and, despite my cold, I easily bested my last test. Each effort made my head spin. I groggily moved to an examination room when my pulmonologist entered. She put on a mask. She was sick too!

Same thing. She checked my breathing and asked about my use of a rescue inhaler over the last three months. My breathing, despite my cold, was free of the raspy crackle that asthmatics have. I hadn’t used my rescue inhaler once.

Then she asked me about my cold. She examined my nose and throat and gave me a four-step program for survival. One of my tonsils had white spots on it.

  • Take Afrin to dilate my sinuses.
  • Add Sudafed, those little red decongestants, during the day to dry up my sinuses.
  • Toss in some Mucinex, an expectorant, to break up the junk in my lungs. (Don’t buy the kind with a cough suppressant.)
  • Finally, at my option, take an antibiotic.

She actually advised me to wait a day or two on the antibiotic to see if the first three medicines work. It could be that the source of my misery is a virus making the antibiotic unnecessary.

Well, why wait? I’ve been sick for two weeks. I haven’t had an antibiotic for 2 1/2 years. So I decided not to wait.

Within an hour I was feeling much better. By coincidence, I had decided to take today off the bike anyway. I canceled a visit to the gym in favor of a nap. The Sudafed as most athletes and college students know is a stimulant. My nap was less than successful but lying on the coach for a couple of hours with open airways was a treat anyway.

In a minute I’ll start doing my PT exercises. I went to the therapist yesterday thinking I had made great progress. She tested my muscle strength in my hips and butt. Long story short I still have work to do.

Hopefully I’ll be able to breath while doing it.

Better or worse

My father was an ophthalmologist. When working up a prescription for glasses, he’s swap out lenses and ask “Better or worse?” That’s what I’m wondering about my knee and hip.

I’ve been doing physical therapy for over five weeks. A few days ago I asked on Twitter how much more of this I should do because I seemed to be getting no benefit out of it.

Each week I go to see the therapist. Each week she adds another exercise. Last week she added a step over exercise. Suspend a pole or rod between two lawn chairs. Stand with your hip next to the pole. Step over the pole with your inner leg, then with your outer leg. Then do the reverse. I do 25 reps of this.

I’ll be damned if this hasn’t actually helped. Progress at last.

A couple of days ago I switched from Big Nellie, my recumbent bike, to Little Nellie, my Bike Friday travel bike. I was getting discomfort in my hip and under my knee cap. After ten miles I dismounted and raised the saddle about two millimeters.

This significantly reduced the irritation under my knee cap and allowed my hips to open up a bit. Much smoother. And I seem to be getting some power out of my left leg. Dang.

I’ll keep riding Little Nellie for a couple of hundred more miles. Then I’ll reach a thousand mile threshold and switch to another bike, either my Cross Check or The Mule. I’ll make sure the saddle position is similar to Little Nellie.

I’ve already noticed that going up and down stairs is getting less uncomfortable. The real test will be how my knee and hip handle a hike up the Blue Ridge. That will happen in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile I’ll continue to slog away at my PT and yoga routine. An hour everyday. Sooo boring.