26 September 2011

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

Well, Round 1 of this little match between me and my #1 opponent of the year, Esophageal Cancer (EC) was a bit of a back and forth battle there for a while. I like to think of myself as a tough old buzzard, but there is just something about laying around for 5 days with constant infusion of cisplatin and 5FU that tends to take just a bit of an edge off a guy's game. OK, I'll admit that I may have over done it just a LITTLE bit going out 23-1/2 hours after leaving the hospital and doing a 65 mile ride with my pals, but thinking back, I wouldn't do it any other way. The weather was perfect, I felt really good and I took it pretty easy throughout the day.

What a difference a day or two made, though. On Monday, I rode about 25 miles and still felt pretty good,but by the next morning, it was all I could do to get off the sofa. The chemo had given me some pretty severe mouth sores which was making it difficult to eat. By cooking a big pot of oxtail soup, I was able to get something in me that was high calorie, high protein and actually was able to stimulate my appetite by cooking. Thursday morning, I took my bike out of the car in Renton, rode 3.5 miles to Starbucks and had to rest for a half hour before riding back to the car. I did take on one little challenging hill - a whole 70' "climb" to a water tower that left me feeling weak-kneed and out of breath. I went home exhausted and feeling very strange. I mean, REALLY!!! I'm a guy who has worked myself to the point where I can comfortably do a 200 mile ride and feel strong at the finish, enjoy a nice dinner and get up the next morning refreshed. Here I was barely able to get back to the car after 8 very flat miles. It was very confusing to my legs and brain.

The next week was somewhat better, as the sores went away and I could suddenly eat pretty much anything and everything I wanted. I managed to ride every day to my radiation appointments and I wasn't losing my hair or my weight. "Hell, there's nothing to this chemo/radiation stuff," I thought to myself. But I dreaded the next time I had to go through it, knowing I had 2 more weeks of daily radiation to go through, I'd been cautioned by the oncologists that this was going to produce the worst heartburn I'd ever experienced and I was going to be sunburned inside and out, in a lot of pain and that it was a cumulative effect. GREAT!!! Just what I always wanted to do.

DREAD. That was the big word. I had to overcome it. I've had some friends who have "bravely battled cancer", "lived with cancer" and all those other wonderful terms given to this shit disease that sneaks up on us from out of nowhere and takes over our entire lives....and I don't mean just the person that has the disease, I mean their entire families sometimes. I know I have to put on my "bravely living with cancer" game face. I know I have to remain positive and upbeat and have a good attitude because people with a good attitude survive better than those without. Well, I think this may be part true but is probably also part bullshit. Cancer is cancer and it kills its host. What a weird thing. An organism that can only survive by killing itself. My head spins some days with this garbage.

So Round Two was scheduled to commence on the morning of the 28th. It was now the 21st and I was at home DREADING having to go back into the hospital. I knew with certainty that I HAD TO change something and as I sat and pondered it I came up with an idea. If I could move from dread to acceptance and from acceptance to joyful anticipation, I could do this thing. No small task. How does one go about having joyful anticipation when they know they are going to voluntarily subject themself to injecting a series of poisons into their body that is going to, a) make them vomit their guts out, b) constipate them to the point they have to take all kinds of crap to make them crap that they never gave a crap about before and don't even want to think about much less ingest, d) leave them with mouth sores so bad they can't eat for days on end while people are yelling at them to get 3000 - 5000 calories every day, e) kill not only the bad boys in the body, but all those beautiful, strong, vibrant and hard earned muscles in the legs that have worked so well, f) turn the brain into cream of wheat, and g) leave the patient with the doubt that it is working at all. Dread was all that and much more. So I did some thinking about it all and came up with a couple of ideas. First up was how I was going to do this hospital visit.

I've been trying to make a charitable donation to them - a recumbent style stationary bicycle that would be able to be used by the patients. I'd talked to the nurses, who loved the idea. I'd talked to the Nurse Manager for the unit and found out I needed to work through "The Foundation", which made perfect sense. I gave her all my contact information, the make and model I thought might be appropriate (like I know anything about bikes, right?) and she was to have somebody from "The Foundation" get back to me. Have your people contact my people and we'll do lunch. That's about how it felt when I had not heard back from anybody in 2 weeks. Well, screw them, I thought. I'll just take my own bike in. This became my mission. I ran it up the flagpole with Josiah, who loved it. We plotted and planned. Weather has been pretty good. I'll hook my trailer up to the back of Katrina, put my suitcase with all my goodies in it aboard and load up my wind trainer. Now, I generally hate riding indoors, but thought under the circumstances, this would be better than not riding at all. So now I had at least one thing I could joyfully anticipate.

But that POISON!!! Those chemo drugs. There was that dread again.

Another little bike ride, some more exporation of the inner sanctums of the brain wherein all three remaining cells argue about which one is going to drive the bus today and came up with a new term, MAGIC ELIXER. I tried it on for size. It didn't fit at first, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. OK, so these are poisons, right? Their very intent is to make the cancer cells sicker than they make me. So if I could view this not as a poison, but a magic elixer that is going to save my life, I could do this thing. Acceptance of the drugs is really not a problem. Hell's Bells! I'll accept anything right about now that will rip this thing out of my body including reading "Personal Surgery For Dummies" cover to cover and scheming on how to get the right mix of general anesthesia to knock me out for the operation while allowing me to walk in my sleep well enough to conduct surgery. I came up with a couple of sleeping pill combinations I thought might work.

After three days, I had successfully begun to joyfully anticipate my return to the hospital and started to talk to my friends and family about this. At first, most of them looked at me sorta weird and all "well, we'll see" while nodding and giving me their encouragement. I honestly can't say what was going through their minds, but when I talked about it in my cancer support group on Thursday, I was met with a nice mixture of skepticism, doubt and encouragement from my fellow "survivors".

A quick aside. My job includes use of a very antiquated data management system called WINS. I have to change my password every 20 days or so. The password has to be unique, consist of both numbers and letters and can have no character in the same position as the last password. Quite challenging some times. Right after I got my diagnosis, I had to change my password. CANCERSUX2. As I was going out on disability, my supervisor wanted my passwords so they could get some of my work done. I read it off to him. I don't think he was nearly as amused as was I.

The weekend came around. Mimi and I had a very pleasant day together, rode to my home group, Sunday Starters, and afterwards rode home along the trail, through the back of the Arboretum, along the lake and up the hill to home. It was a very warm day and I picked the shadiest route I know so Mimi wouldn't get too overly warm. It was one of the longest bike rides I had done since my big 100k the day after leaving the hospital. I was riding along a ways in front of her up the hill by Frink Park and started to get a little pissed off. I'd been averaging nearly 1,200 miles per month through July, but had cut back to about 750 miles in August and now was down to not even breaking 500 miles for the month. The more I thought about it the more pissed I got. But then I got to thinking to myself that I had spent the first 2 days of the month in the hospital, had ridden every single day except one since then, had ridden to 10 of my radiation appointments and put in OVER FOUR HUNDRED MILES for a month that included two 5-day hospital stays. Attitude adjustments are really necessary. It isn't the facts, it is how I view those facts that is critical to my wellbeing.

Sunday evening the weather changed. Josiah was here for the night. We'd get up, have a nice breakfast of eggs and hashbrowns, ride up to the hospital and while I was getting tucked in, he'd go back to the gargage and bring up my trainer, then go get the bike and set it up. If anybody said anything, he was to say, "Hey! His doctor approved of it." Not exactly a lie, since Kapsule told me he wanted me on my bike as much as I could be. He was no more or less specific and left it up to me to interpret his meaning. Poor guy. I could just wait to get THAT call! "You told them WHAT???" Sorry, doc. Won't happen til the next time. You know it is much easier to seek forgiveness than permission, right? I live by that credo.

Now when I say the weather changed, I mean the rain hit and with a vengeance. Monday morning dawned with a full on downpour with winds out of the southwest. Normally, this is just another day on the bike for me. Right now, though, I'm not really too excited about going out in a downpour and putting myself at risk of catching cold or worse. We called Mimi. She came home and we loaded everything into the truck and she drove us to the hospital. I took Cayuse instead of Katrina and locked it in the garage. Josiah and I walked my suitcase and trainer up to 12 East and deposited them in the visitor's lounge and went off to Kapsule's office for the pre-admit bloodwork and meeting with the doc. After getting the labs done, the nurse came out and told me to just head back and get tucked into bed. All my labs looked pretty good.

So now it was off to get some secret magic elixer. I got into my jammies and gown, unpacked my suitcase, set up my cy-fi bluetooth speaker and got myself some tunes going. I was setting myself up in my little "apartment", choosing to view it not so much a hospital room, but a personal suite. Josiah went and got the bike. NO PROBLEM. Nobody questioned him. By the time the nurses came in, I was unpacked, had some nice classical music going and was feeling about as comfortable as a guy could be. I was happy to be here! It worked. When the nurse came in with that bag of cisplatin, I welcomed it into the room. Once she was done and out of the room and Josiah had departed, I lay there and felt this elixer coursing through my system, seeking out the dna it was supposed to work on and knew that everything was going to be just fine.

Round Two was underway and Boothby was in the center of the ring and ready to rumble.

12 September 2011

Herding Cats On Pacific Rose

When life gets interesting, it pays to get interested in living it. September 3 was that kind of a day. It really wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be something really simple; something easy something uncomplicated. Boothby always has a plan. Not always a good one, but a plan, nonetheless. And the plan today was to make sure that he could get a couple other folks out for an easy 100k so that he could be certain that the lovely and talented Mimi could be sure of getting her “P-9” ride in.

Now, this all goes back to sometime in December. Boothby was sitting around the house one rainy afternoon pining away the day and feeling sorry for himself because it was raining hard, had been raining hard for some time and he’d only been able to get a 35 mile ride in. Poor baby! Well, here he was wandering aimlessly about the house when out of the blue, Mimi says to him, “You know, this new RUSA thing comes at a really interesting time. I was thinking of doing more 100k rides next year.” Well, let me tell you, the first thing ol’ Boothby thought was that this stranger who looked like his wife was either a stunt double hired by his pals or she was some evil long-lost twin who had killed the real Mimi and hidden the body. This was just NOT what he would expect to hear. Of course, after a couple of very carefully placed questions, he found out she was really interested in getting a P-12, completing a ride of somewhere between 100 and 199 kilometers every month for 12 consecutive months. No easy feat, that.

So, in early January we started out. We amassed a gang of 8 or 9 riders to go out and brave the ice and sub-freezing temperatures and did this flat route that I’d helped to design for Seattle Randonneurs called Pacific Rose. A very simple, pretty straightforward course that is almost half ridden on bike trails, with a majority of the rest being on fairly low traffic streets and much of them with bike lanes or sharrows. The only climbing is about 500’ or so during the last 5 miles. After a little more than 6 hours, there we were with our first month out of the way, and we’ve continued along ever since, finding some other really nice rides including one of Susan France’s permanents called the “Snoozeville Populair.” Of course, I couldn’t be satisfied with that. I had to also do a 300 kilometer or more ride every month for the whole year.

Everything was going swimmingly until the last month when life suddenly became very interesting and challenging for us. First I had to abandon my quest for that 300k every month, then I needed to abandon my quest for 100 consecutive months of at least 200 kilometers or better at least once a month. But, when Mimi told me that this goal for the P-12 just wasn’t the most important thing for her right now, it shook me up a little. I discovered that, for some unexplainable reason, it was even more important for me. Suddenly, it became a sort of must do goal, and I really wanted to see her complete this for herself. After all, this is the woman I love more than life itself, the single most important person to ever influence my walk through every hardship of life and it was important to me, even if she was willing to let go. So I organized a ride. Same course, different day.

Then people started to respond. I started to count heads of those who said they might like to come out and play and before I was done, I was printing up almost 20 control cards. Of course, I knew Dr. Codfish was coming up from Olympia because we’d ridden together a few weeks ago and he said he might just want to do this. And I knew Amy was coming, though we ended up changing from Saturday to Sunday and I feared she might have other commitments. Then Lyn told me she was coming. And the emails just kept coming in. I was thrilled when I got an email from Pam saying that she and Will would join in on their tandem. Thrilled because he’d just come back from Paris-Brest-Paris and I wanted to hear about his 1200 kilometer adventure. After I got that email, I sent a note to Chris Heg asking him if he was back, hoping he might be able to join me, too. “Nope. Still in Norway.” Darn! I was surprised to see him at the start. He didn’t exactly lie to me, just told me a very, very simple truth, planning the whole time to be on that ride. He arrived back home sometime around bedtime the night before and was here for a 100k today. These randonneurs are very interesting folks, indeed.

One guy showed up who had never ridden a rando event before, and another guy showed up who had done a couple of permanents, but always by himself. Both got to meet a bunch of the finest folks in the area and ride the day with them. Peg and Kris came up from Olympia. And then, just before we were about to leave, Robin showed up. When he rolled up, he said, “Hey, Boothby. I’ve got something for you.” He reached down and started fiddling around with his shoe. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing. Digging for some toejam? Hiding donuts in his socks? WHAT??? Nope. He took off a little white and red disk and handed it to me. “That’s your timing chip for PBP. You’re going to need it in 4 years.” I just about lost it.

Ralph and Carol also showed up on their tandem, leading us off right at 9:00 for a rocket ship descent down Holgate with Will and Pam right on their heels on their tandem. I easily hit 42 mph going down this hill and the tandems were leaving me far behind.

We were all hanging out together in the mid-morning sun with everything going just fine until we got to Harbor Island where the salmon enter the Duwamish River from Elliott Bay and the fisherfolks were lined up elbow to elbow reeling them in as fast as they possibly could. We were joking about why we quit fishing and all was right with the world until all of a sudden, my pedals would not turn around. I looked down. I couldn’t see anything. I back pedaled and the chain came off. NOW WHAT? I pulled off and discovered I had sucked up a spool of jumbled up fishing line discarded by one of the fisherpeople.

It was in my pedals. It was in my chain. It was in the cassette. It was in the rear derailleur. It was a fine mess. As cyclist passed me one by one, each with their own smart alecky comments about my nice bird’s nest, Mimi, Geoff and I tried to extract it. Lyn took pictures. After 15 minutes, we had it cleared enough to ride on. I reflected that it took just about as long as to clean out a fishing reel when I had a “real” birds nest years ago out fishing for trout in the streams of Western Washington, thinking to myself it is not a darned wonder I quit fishing. Sheesh!

I would like to report that after that it was a very uneventful ride.

It wasn’t.

With two construction detours and several people not knowing the area well, we had folks heading every which way. Mimi, Robin, Amy and I were riding along together south of the Post Office facility in Tukwila. Robin asked me if I liked funny stories. Well, of course I do. He started to tell me of his PBP adventures.

All of a sudden, there was no Mimi and no Amy.

We waited for them, then we all took off together. Suddenly, there was no Amy.

We waited. I told Mimi to go on ahead and try to catch up to the gang, making sure to turn off the trail at 196th. She did very well and even called me from 212th to tell me she had missed the turn. . But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Robin and I rode back to find Amy. When we didn’t find her, I called about a half hour later. “I’m lost,” she said

“Well, where are you?”

“I’m near the Tukwila Park and Ride.” Great. That’s just back a ways. We rode there and waited. I called her in my little voice. I even whistled. No Amy. Finally, I see her riding toward us. From the wrong direction. She’d turned back north.

So I ask Robin if he can “jet ahead” and try to reel Mimi in and I’ll ride along with Amy.

“Hey, I’m done jetting,” he said. That was when I found out he’d only been off the airplane since 5 pm yesterday. He did take off a little bit faster though.

Amy and I rode on. Just about the time we were approaching 196th, Mimi called. To avoid undue delays we rode down to 212th to pick her up so the three of us could at least ride together. Once we got back on course everything went off without a hitch. Well, almost.

We knew we were well off the pace and when we hit the second detour, I just took us over to the Interurban Trail, figuring we might see some of the earlier riders as they’d be making their way north by now. We had to go almost 5 miles south yet. I found it a bit odd that we never saw one of them. Then as we rolled into the control a Giu’s Market, there were the tandems and a couple other singles. I figured we could ride out with them and went to get an ice cream. Mimi came out of the store and looked like she was a race horse headed for the barn as she said, “You don’t mind if I ride out with Sue, do you?” I knew she really wanted to finish and do it with time to spare. “Naw, go on.”

So I thought I’d ride out with Dr. Codfish and Amy and we would be able to ramble our way back. Just as they, Kris, Peg and I were rolling out, my phone rang. It was Chris. They were at a different place and wanted to know what to do. Now this posed an interesting dilemma. Lucky for us all, the Permanents Coordinator was with that gang (who had been the lead pack earlier – still don’t know what happened there) and he was able to make the executive decision to use that as an alternate control since the mileage of the detours had made up the distance. I rode over to meet up with them, since Dr. Codfish, Amy, Peg and Kris were well ahead of me now. FINE! Be that way.

I found Geoff who told me Robin had gone off in search of me. Now I was really confused, so I rode back to the store, but never found him. On the way back, I did find Chris and eventually we had a gang of about 6 or so headed north together. Lord, almighty! I can’t think of a day or a ride when I’ve seen so much cat herding. We eventually caught up with Amy. Seems Dr. Codfish had dropped her like a hot potato somewhere. So I let the rest of the gang go and rode with her, then Chris dropped back and we chatted a while. I was really glad to have the slower pace, since I’d been working pretty hard to keep up with Geoff’s gang at 18 mph. 12-13 felt a lot better to me, especially as it was warming up pretty good.

Chris took off after a while and Amy and I chatted our way along until we arrive in Tukwila and stopped for a few minutes to let Peg and Kris show up so we would be able to ride the stretch through Renton together and not have anybody getting lost. I really enjoyed this part of the ride, ambling our way through Renton, onto the Cedar River Trail and chatting pretty much constantly. I think that was what I needed more than anything, just a nice easy day with lots of conversation.

Somehow, we managed to catch up to a lot of other folks and we ended up with 7 or 8 of us heading out together from the last info control, with Geoff, Amy, Kris, Peg and me finishing the last several miles together until we got to the one big climb of the day, at which point everybody just sorta rode off into the distance as Amy and I continued to work our way to the finish line.

Arriving at The Station, we found that most of the riders had either come and gone or were still hanging about, feasting on tamales and beer....

...or sipping lemonade or iced coffee. For almost an hour, we hung out in the shade enjoying the company of the day, listening to a couple of Robin’s adventures from PBP and savoring the late summer warmth of a beautiful Seattle afternoon. Finally, it was time to head for home.

Life just doesn’t get much better than this.