Another Day, Another Doctor

Is that a Tumor on Your Gland or Are You Just Happy to See me?

After a couple of long-ish days back to back, I decided to take it easy today. I was 18 miles into my ride when I stopped at the gym to re-acquaint myself with the weight room. I still hate it but it is a good thing to do to maintain bone density, especially when the only exercise you get is non-weight-bearing.

When I stopped, I checked my phone. My doctor had left me a voicemail about my CT Scan results. He referred me to an endocrinologist to have some tests done on my adrenal gland and its hitchhiker (an adenoma a little over 1 cm x 1 cm).

So I am up to three specialists so far. Four if you count the fact that my hematologist is also an oncologist.

None of this is bad news, by the way. I am grateful that I have a personal doctor who is thorough.

There is a tid bit of good news to report: I tried the spirometer today. I broke 3,250 ml. This is the target level for a healthy six-foot 62-year-old male. It’s a bit like ringing the bell at the circus. It’s pretty good news considering the fact that I am asthmatic.

The Cereal Quilter Quiz

I am not surprised that no one has guessed the answer to my quiz: Why would my quilter wife need me to eat more breakfast cereal?

A point of clarification: we are talking about ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, not oatmeal or cream of wheat.

I’ll give the answer in a couple of days.

 

 

Two Weeks. One Lung. One Expensive Cat.

Happy anniversary to my blood clots

Well, tonight is the two week anniversary of my pulmonary embolism(s). I think we should throw them a party then show them the door. They’ve stayed too long.

My energy levels continue to incrementally improve. I can actually feel the blockage in my right lung. Deep breaths are rewarded with a stabbing pain.

Today was a normal retiree day filled with car-based errands. I went to the drug store to drop off a prescription (for blood thinner). Then I went to a DMV to get a sticker for my son’s car. The DMV was closed yesterday so the wait was well over an hour. I bailed and went to my doctor’s office. The poor man! I hit him with so many questions. He answered them all with ease.

I am not in danger of throwing another blood clot as long as I am on my medication. If I hit my head, I am to stop taking my medication and go to the nearest ER for a CT scan of my brain. A head injury could turn into an epidural hematoma, runaway bleeding inside my skull. It is the injury that killed Natasha Richardson after she hit her head while skiing.

We’re having fun now!

Any other significant hits to my body below my head require a trip to the doctor just in case.

The doctor said that the team at the hospital speculated that my pulmonary embolism may have occurred on my bike trip. Now that I think about it, the only time I have had a significant fall was when I tumbled off the porch at a motel near the end of the ride. Did I whack my left calf during the fall? This would be good news because it would indicate that my embolism was a freak accident not something systematically wrong with my body.

At the doctor, a nurse took my pulse. It was 68. I told her it was very high and she said it’s perfectly normal. Normal for me is in the 40s. So just the act of walking from my car to the elevator and from the elevator to the doctor’s office caused my pulse to increase. This will give you some idea of how my body is coping. The doctor said it’s okay to exercise but that I should take it easy and listen to my body. At the moment my body is saying “watch a movie.”

Speaking of my body, I’ve gained 6 pounds in a month. Fritters and cookies and candies, oh my. Mario Mendoza phone home.

The spirometer and I are still not getting along. I am thinking about switching to a bong. (If only!)

My doctor had some samples of my blood thinning medication so I am good to go after losing a week’s supply somehow last week. They go great with corn flakes.

I am to follow up with a hematologist and a pulmonary specialist. No hurry though. This whole recover will take a few months.

I am scheduled for an ultrasound of my abdomen to check out the nodules on my kidney and adrenal gland that the CT scan discovered. On a scale of one to ten, my doctor’s concern level is barely a two.

After the doctor, I went back to the DMV without any luck. The wait was two hours! I gave up and drove home. After all this running around, I felt fine with no exhaustion like last week.

And now for something completely different

My favorite blogger these days is Blissful Britt. Britt hikes and travels and takes terrific photos and lip syncs (hilariously) on Instagram. While hiking in Arizona her cat fell ill. She okayed the cat’s medical care, because you wouldn’t want to come home to a dead cat now, would you?

The bill came to $5,000! Alas, Brittany doesn’t have that kind of, forgive the expression, scratch. So she launched a gofundme page. If you are in a giving mood or like cats or like crazy bloggers with cats, she could use a little help.

 

 

A Sort of Boring Day

Enough with this sitting at home nonsense. Today, I had Mrs. Rootchopper’s car towed to a mechanic to have its electrical system fixed. I followed in my son’s car.

After that I went to the drug store for a couple of prescriptions. I lost 1/2 of my blood thinning pills somehow. I think they probably got swept up in post-Christmas kitchen table cleaning and are now somewhere in the landfill in Lorton. It’s kind of important that I get some more. The pharmacy has called and faxed the prescribing doctor to no avail. The doctor specifically warned me not to miss a dose and said I should let him know if I misplace any of the pills. I have three left, enough to get through Thursday morning.

Tomorrow I get three bites at this apple. I will call the prescribing doctor myself and explain the situation. Later in the morning, I am going to see my personal doctor. Maybe he can fix this. My final option is to simply fill the follow-up prescription, which is a different dosage. I think I can tweak the timing so I get through the next week without a calamity. Good thing it’s only a life threatening situation. American medicine really is effed up.

After the pharmacy, I refueled my car. What the heck? Oh yeah. I don’t do this very often. I didn’t even remember which side of the car the gas tank was on.

Next up was the hospital. As I was being discharged, a doctor told me I’d need an MRI and that this would be arranged for me. That was 10 days ago. I haven’t heard from the MRI facility. I have no idea which doctor is submitting the order. In fact, the hospital didn’t give me a list of which doctors saw me. After walking all over the damned place huffing and puffing all the while, I found medical records. They gave me a list of specialists. I am sure the list in incomplete but it’s a start.

After all this was over, I put the expiration sticker on my son’s car license plate. Only one stuck. So tomorrow I get to go to the DMV to get a replacement. We’re having fun now.

Back inside the house I started to read my book (Beartown by Fredrik Backman)  Mrs. Rootchopper came home and fell asleep in a comfy chair. Now I know I am getting better. Despite the fact that I had a pretty normal day of running around from one place to the next, I managed not to need a nap.

I am also pretty consistently hitting above 2,000 ml on the spirometer.

I think this is a pretty boring blog post. After all the drama, boring is good.

 

 

 

 

Old Man Drunk on Apple Fritters

Rachel and Katie – Part Deux

As it turns out Katie and Rachel are the Lennon and McCartney of get-well gifters. It was Katie’s idea to get me the t-shirt that gave me a dose of chronological reality with a side of laughter. Rachel’s part of the gift came in the mail today.

A couple of years ago Rachel did an internship at the Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska. Food in Haines is expensive unless you want to eat salmon three times a day. In sympathy and in recognition of our mutual love for really unhealthy junk pastry, I mailed her a couple of apple fritters by surprise. She returned fire with a handmade postcard that really knocked me out (despite my rather grumpy appearance in the photos in the link).

I opened the box and pulled out a bag of a half dozen apple fritters. I can assure you that I am allowed to eat these because my blood thinner has virtually no dietary restrictions. It will take some time (mostly to avoid massive weight gain and pancreatic malfunction), but I will set my Old Man determination to the task.

IMG_0767
Six Fritters – Each One the Size of a Saucer

Rachel and Katie kind of gave away the surprise by telling me to look out for a second package. I was half expecting salmon, to be honest. I am pretty sure my letter carrier was happy it wasn’t. (As am I.)

Thanks again you two.

But That’s Not All

When I went to pick up the fritter parcel at our front door, I found, not one, but two boxes. The second package was a complete surprise. It came from my sister-in-law Leah. My in-laws hail from southern West Virginia. I have heard so much oral history in the last three decades from them but it has lacked historical context. Leah’s gift fills the void; it is a book on Appalachian history called Ramp Hollow. (If you are from West Virginia, you know that the title is pretty much perfect.)

IMG_0768

Many thanks Leah. It sits on top of the formidable Rootchopper Tower of PE Recovery Reading on my nightstand. I can’t wait to read it.

A Note on My Health

It had snowed in the night. The light coating made for a pretty early morning. I am grateful that we didn’t get a significant accumulation.

IMG_0765
My Front Yard Early This Morning

I am in no condition to shovel or wovel, even. Mrs. Rootchopper reminded me that the doctors said no bicycling for three weeks. It is unclear whether that applies to geriatric basement riding on Big Nellie. So I will be a good boy and talk it over with my doctor next week. There is also the issue of doing exercises for my back. Most of these are yoga asanas. I seriously do not want to shuffle off this mortal coil while doing a shoulder stand. (I’d give money to see the face of a yoga-mad friend when she heard that I died of acute salamba sarvangasana.)

I have strength but no stamina. Each morning I get up feeling better than the day before but even minor exertion causes huffing and puffing.

I keep hitting the spirometer to increase my lung capacity. You suck on the tube and the blue thingie goes up the metered column. They should put a bell at the top. Not that I have gotten anywhere near the top, much less my supposed goal of 3,250 milliliters of air. Still, it probably warms the heat of many to say that I suck a little bit more every day. (Maybe I could write a book called Ten Percent Suckier.)

IMG_0771

My mental state remains upbeat, although as I get incrementally stronger I can sense some restlessness creeping in. It is already sufficiently annoying that Mrs. Rootchopper has asked me to back off on the caffeine.

I’d rather die.

Just kidding.

 

Pass the Cookies and Beer

  • I was being a good boy. Except for one holiday party, I had greatly curtailed my alcohol consumption since my bike tour. And I’ve stayed out of the junk food cabinet for two months. So I did the math: much less alcohol + no junk food + daily riding = pulmonary embolism.
  • Sooo, let’s reconsider. My recovery plan: more alcohol + junk food out the wazoo + daily sloth = bicycling fitness monster. What could go wrong?
  • In the hospital, my thinking was all about denial. I am going to get better in record time. No problem. My body, apparently, has other ideas. This is going to take a while. My body gets a little tiny bit stronger by the day. I am, however, a long, long way from being back to anything approaching normal.
  • Ever since the event rides I did in August and early September, I’ve been wondering if something was wrong with me. I went from a bad climber to a horrible climber this year. My 50 States team had to wait for me at the top of every hill. It was embarrassing. Whenever I started climbing, my speed dropped like a stone and I had no ability to get it back. Was I throwing clots into my lungs this summer? Was my strong heart kicking out unnoticed clots for weeks? Whatever the answer, I am betting that I have much more cardiopulmonary fitness than the average PE patient. My doctors were pretty funny remarking on it too. I look like the average man on the street until you measure my vital signs and take an EKG. (Better knock some wood, right?)
  • I’ve been reading, watching movies, watching sports, and hanging with my family. This has really lifted my spirits. If I stop and think about things, my brain goes into weepy mode. Thankfully, it’s nothing like true depression. A tear here and there actually kind of helps. Even having not meditated in several days, I am confident that I have the mental part of this sussed.  I need to be vigilant. Hearing words of support from friends and family and readers helps a ton. I am truly grateful.
  • Spiro, the spirometer, is not my friend. Spiro, you are dead meat. I am coming after you. I may be a wimp now but just you wait. I am going to kick your ass.
  • Since most of the clots and the pleural infarction are on my right side, I can sleep comfortably on my left side, which is how I prefer to sleep. If I turn over onto my left side, my breathing becomes shallow and labored.
  • My family gave me four books for Christmas. And cold weather cycling gear. I won’t make much use of the latter in the days ahead, but the books will come in handy. Once I get some strength back, I’ll be reading with Big Nellie.

    Big Nellie in the Basement
    Big Nellie, Locked and Loaded
  • Tomorrow we go for diner breakfast and the new Star Wars movie. Then I write some thank you cards. And we’ll see about some very light exercise too.