Sunday, June 3, 2012

It's the Way I Roll


Finally! We both feel like we're making some progress once again in the studio. It's been a while since we've felt that way. I only scored one successful piece this past Thursday But I was still happy. I had one rather large vase that was just a few processes from being completed but I made a rookie mistake and bumped the end of my punty rod against the bench rail on my way to the furnace and it was enough to cause the piece to fly off the punty and end up on the floor. It was a nice piece and I'd have loved to have finished it but I took away some lessons from the effort so I'm fine with that.

Rachel came with us, killing time as she relaxes around home for a week before going back and beginning work as a camp counselor (sports enrichment) at the YMCA in Rochester for the summer.

The vase in the photo to the left is the one I was referring to last week in my blog.

My doctor says I can come off Coumadin (blood thinner) in February; one year from my bilateral pulmonary embolism. I couldn't have been more relieved when he told me that because it will allow me to resume the part of my life I've put on hold the past 4 months; namely riding. But there's a more cautious side of me that questions whether it's a good idea to ever come off it. I recently had a nurse tell me that I'd be foolish to ever consider stopping the medication considering my Factor V Leiden diagnosis.

I met with a hematologist on Friday to try and sort through my concerns. Right away she put me at ease and told me we were going to discuss many things and we'd take our time in the process. I liked that.

She began by asking me to tell her about the time leading up to my PE and anything I could think of that may have been a contributing factor. I mentioned the spills I'd taken on my fat-tire mountain bike just prior to my hospitalization but that I couldn't be sure if they were to blame. I detailed the amount of time I spend riding and working out in general. She asked whether or not I'd experienced any lapses in my training where my performance was markedly off. Aside from a bad day here or there due to fatigue I couldn't think of any but instead what I did describe for her was a steady decline in my strength on the bike over the last few years, so much so that it's caused me to wonder so many times if there wasn't something wrong within me that isn't obvious. I told her that I understood I can't expect to ride as hard as I did the previous year but what I'm experiencing is a decline that seems too steep for the normal aging process. I keep records of each ride I do so there's no mistaking my performance declines when one year's totals are contrasted against another. It's impossible not to notice.

She then told me an interesting case about a man who was very active and fit but was experiencing a noticeable decline in his stamina for no apparent reason. It turns out that he was actually experiencing many small PEs that were dotting his lungs with clots and affecting his lung function and strength. Could this be what's been happening to me I wondered. She went on to say that the clot in my left lung was very massive. I'm told that a lot it seems. There's one large clot and several smaller ones in my right lung. I have to wonder if the massive clot in my left lung is obscuring smaller clots that had been there prior to its development; clots that may have been robbing me of my lung function and strength?

We talked about coming off coumadin after one year. She said she wasn't comfortable giving me the green light just yet and that she wanted to do more CT scans first. She said studies show that patients who remain on blood thinner therapy have a 10.5% chance for a recurring PE while those who come off the drugs experience a 17% chance for another episode. She mentioned that there's also a bleeding risk with being on blood thinners and that must also factored into the equation.

I asked her about taking aspirin daily to help keep my blood from clotting but she said that's a remedy people use when trying to prevent clots in their arteries. Aspirin works to keep blood platelets from sticking together, helping to reduce blocked arteries and subsequent heart attacks. The clots I'm experiencing develop in the veins in my legs and apparently are of a different variety. I suggested a reduced dose of coumadin, one that will provide some anticoagulant benefit but still allow me to ride. She said that's been tried but she didn't expand on the idea.

But then she mentioned something that gave me considerable pause. She talked about a spot on my liver that showed up in the CT scan they did of my lungs back in January. She said she'd like to pursue it to make sure it's not something more serious than a cyst because sometimes unexplained blood clots can be an early indication of cancerous activity. All I could wonder was why my regular doctor didn't think this was important enough to pursue. I suppose that's why I made an appointment to see a specialist. Not only is she a hematologist, she's also an oncologist.

She's scheduled me for a chest CT and pelvic CT toward the end of July, six months from my first CT scans. The chest CT to see how my lungs appear now and the pelvic CT to further explore the spot on my liver. This will apparently be a more in-depth view than the recent scans they performed because they gave me a barium solution to take with me and drink prior to my arrival which will help with the imaging.

I don't want to become too alarmed by the news I received but the ride home was a quiet one where I left the radio off and just thought to myself. So many thoughts. One minute I'm thankful for the PE I experienced that caused me to have to have a CT scan in the first place. The next minute I'm finding it difficult to feel very good about any of this.

For the past month or more I've been thinking a lot about riding again this coming winter and I can't wait. I can totally lose myself in a daydream that takes me back to the Minnesota River bottoms or the gravel roads out west of home. They're bittersweet dreams though because I don't know that I'll ever realize them.

I also dream of making more videos such as this and the thrill I feel out there. It's the way I roll.

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