Sunday, June 17, 2012

Wedding Crashers and Slow Motion Me

Tammy asked me recently what I'd like for Father's Day. Without hesitation, my thoughts turned to things glassblowing related. I mentioned that we could use some more frit (small bits of glass color). She countered with a suggestion for glassblowing tools instead. Even better! We've been using the shop's tools and while they're okay with where we're at in our skills, it's not a bad idea to begin assembling our own toolkit. She did some research and came up with some ridiculously expensive but beautiful Carlo Dona shears for cutting through hot glass. I think I'll be content for the foreseeable future with glassblowing tools for any gifts she may want to shower me with and I'm thinking that she won't mind if I return the favor.

I did buy myself one gift for Father's Day. I ordered a model kit of the class of ship I served on during my time in the Navy in the mid to late '70s. This is something I've been wanting to do for some time. It may be a while before I get around to building it but I'll at least have it ready to go.

I made it out to the Nature Valley Grand Prix bike race in Uptown Minneapolis Friday night. Very cool! It was a little bittersweet for me seeing not only the racers and their bikes but all of the other people who pedaled to get there as well. I wanted to be among their numbers.

It's a stage race spread out over 5 days finishing in Stillwater this afternoon. I gave serious consideration to taking a pass on work today and going out there to watch them but I didn't.

Here's a collection of photos from Friday night.

Rachel finished her first week of nearly full-time work as a camp counselor for the YMCA working with kids from K through 6th grade. I'm not sure she was expecting to be so exhausted at the end of each day but she had fun. She learned that the best way to halt the tears of a crying little one is a trip to the water fountain. Walk them over to it and let them drink. By the time they're through the tears are no more.

She called last night to say that she and Maddy were going out to find a wedding to crash. I had to laugh as she's told me before that they do this for fun. They scope out the hotels in town and look for marquees advertising a reception. They dress nicely and wait until the reception is in full swing when most folks have had their share of booze then they go in and hit the dance floor. She said it's a blast! I can imagine the bride and groom wondering who those girls on the dance floor are but not caring because I'm sure they add a lot of life to the party.

I went to bed so exhausted last night but intent on going for a long walk this morning. And I did. I stepped out into a beautifully warm, sunshine-filled day. As I looked west from the intersection of County Rd 42 and Highway 5 (a couple of hours into my walk), I could see a line of weather moving my way. I opened the WeatherBug app on my Droid to have a better look. Sure enough, I was going to get wet but I really didn't mind. I was enjoying the walk too much to care—just as long as it wasn't going to be the gully-washer variety we've seen so much of lately. It wasn't. I finished my 13-mile walk in a steady rain, content with my few hours out on the road in slow motion.

But I'm really longing for speed.

Video from Friday's race...

Monday, June 11, 2012

So I Ponder

I don't make the rounds of Facebook as much as I used to. I grew weary of a few people among my friends who use the site to rail on and on about the Obama administration and its failings with their associated links to Fox News and other similar sites bent on seeding the land with their propaganda. They offer no solutions, only criticism and the base of ignorance they display (at least to me) is nothing short of frustrating. As we move closer to the fall elections, it's only going to become uglier. I went through my friends list a few nights ago and hid the most blatant offenders from my feed so I no longer have to read their rantings. It was freeing.

That's not to say that I've hidden all those I disagree with; only the ones who are out to obnoxiously provoke others with no intention of opening their own ears and eyes with a desire to hear what the other side is saying.

I continue to get the majority of my exercise through my walks. I find it so enjoyable out there listening to my music and letting my mind wander. I was out the door by 7:00 Saturday morning in the lightest shorts and shirt I could find. The temperature was already in the low 70s, forecast to reach near 90F by afternoon. A half-hour into my walk I stood on the corner of Highway 50 and 175th street waiting for the light to change when a cyclist pulled alongside me. I recognized him from the few times our paths had previously crossed. A twinge of envy quickly settled in. I was enjoying my walk but I really longed for my bike and the higher heart-rate it requires and if I pushed it hard enough, the burn in my quads.

I saw several other cyclists along the way and wondered each time, had I been them, where I might have been headed given the winds and the time of day? Those thoughts were nice distractions as I clipped along at a pace of 4 mph.

I noticed something dangling from a tree along Ipava a few miles from home. The Emerald Ash Borer is descending on the city and there's a good chance that nearly all of the ash trees will succumb to it. Sad because they make up a large percentage of our trees. We've got three ash trees in our yard and I don't want to lose them but if they do go, I'm prepared to replace them with something of the evergreen variety; something that requires much less cleanup in the fall.

I did my south loop to McDonald's and back (without stopping there); exactly 9 miles. It was such a nice beginning to my day.

Since the meeting with my hematologist last week, I find that I'm doing a noticeable amount of sighing. I'm trying not to dwell on how that meeting went but I often find myself working through what-if scenarios and playing them out. What if I'd been having mini pulmonary embolisms for months or years prior to being hospitalized? What if that requires me to remain on coumadin for life? What if the spot on my liver is cancerous? How far along is it? There's a lot of importance for me in the answers to those few questions and there's a certain amount of associated stress. It's comparable to the feeling I had when I was going through my divorce from Noy in 1997 where I didn't really have a sense of control over my life. There was a lot of waiting which left me plenty of time to ponder outcomes.

So I ponder and I sigh but then I count my blessings and tell myself, chin's a beautiful day for a walk out there!

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 our home for a week before going back and beginning work as a camp (sports enrichment) counselor 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 life I've put on hold the past 4 months: 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 condition.

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 with 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 that 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 be 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 benefits 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 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.