Category Archives: Personal stuff

How long will it last? Maybe not much longer.

26 blood studies from 5/5/2017 to last week. That’s probably 20 more than I had my entire life up to that point! And it’s in these tests that I search for answers, not just for my health but my performance on a bike as well.

Pretty crazy how these last few months have seen ever-improving climbing speeds on my bike. You would have thought that the time off when I broke my pelvis (Feb-March-early April) would have held me back, but instead I am now within 5% of the power I was pushing over 3 years ago. That’s a pretty big deal for me, as turning 60 saw things really take a nosedive on the hills. And at 60, you’re really not thinking you’ve got better days ahead! More likely you’re going to be writing about a (hopefully) gradual decline, with it being increasingly obvious just how much your best days are behind you.

Of course, it was shortly after turning 61 that I was diagnosed with Essential Thrombocythemia, a mild bone marrow cancer that certainly wasn’t going to help me on a bike. In fact, the med that I take for it, Hydroxyurea, is the opposite of Lance Armstrong’s EPO. Curiously, a good share of my decline happened during the time between turning 60 and beginning Hydroxyurea. Even though there is no evidence that excessive platelets and an enlarged spleen hamper athletic performance, the 2016-2017 period was not kind to me. 2018 saw no change in cycling performance, even as my Hydroxyurea dosage was kicked up to better-control my platelets, resulting in a decreasing Hematocrit level. Hematocrit, for those unfamiliar with the world of doping cyclists, is basically your blood’s ability to carry oxygen throughout the body. There’s no evidence my hematocrit was ever very high (how would I know, since I had such a fear of having needles stuck in my arm since I was a kid?), but what little data I have suggests it was around 44. Pretty average.

Hydroxyurea brought that down below 40 a few times, most recently in February, about the time of my black-ice crash. Curiously, my Hematocrit has bottomed out in each of the past two winters. But it’s been climbing again, and my last test, last week, it hit 45. Likely no coincidence at all that the higher hematocrit readings have corresponded to my best climbing times in three years. But… this too, shall likely pass. Why? Because the dose of Hydroxyurea I’ve been on is beginning to lose effectiveness at controlling my platelets, and with the disease I’ve got, platelet control is the name of the game. Too many platelets and I’m at risk of stroke or heart attack. I’m fortunate to have a genetic mutation that generally has the lowest risk of such things, but still, a good idea to keep my platelet count below 700, and this last test it went to 799. Which means more Hydroxyurea and likely lower hematocrit.

I spoke with my doctor the day after my tests came back, and suggested a specific increase in dosage, with a re-test in 30 days. I wasn’t surprised that he was on exactly the same page. It will be interesting to see how my riding goes between now and then, and track my hematocrit against it. It’s strange, given my fear of needles, that I find myself wishing I had more-frequent blood tests.

Catch-up time again! And West Old LaHonda update

That’s one big drill bit in the center of the road!
Thursday. Yes, haven’t written up Thursday’s ride yet! Just Kevin & Steve with me Thursday, riding up through the park. A definite high-gravity day for me; one of my few really bad days recently. As usual, I felt much better once up on top. Since West Old LaHonda is still off the menu, we dropped down Tunitas to Star Hill, rode back up to Skyline and down 84. Nice ride in the end; moderate temps (mid-60s), dry roads. What’s not to like?

Today. Sunday. The day we usually ride to Pescadero and return via Tunitas. Kevin went FLYING up Old LaHonda. I didn’t even try to keep up, even though I was moving pretty well myself. Lost sight of him pretty quickly. Was hoping he might get a new record! I continued to do really well all the way to the half-way point, hitting 1100 VAM for that segment for the first time in ages. Slowed down a bit after that, then went up around the last really steep part (aside from the finale) and there’s Kevin, just now climbing back onto his bike after a pretty good seizure. So much for his great time, and so much for mine too, as I paused a bit to find out what had gone on, “wasting” valuable seconds. I thought, no biggie at the time, then later discover my time was 22:16, just one second off my time a couple weeks ago. Had I gone TWO seconds faster…

OK, clearly, I have not been spending as much time on the almost-daily-diary entries as I used to. It’s not just that things have been crazy busy at the shop and I’ve got less time, but also a change in priorities at home. My wife and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary last weekend, definitely something of a milestone! But we’d hit a bit of a rough patch when I cracked my pelvis back in February, with some interesting conversations and revelations about what the first 30 years were like and some evidence of both of us being a bit tone-deaf towards the needs of the other. Well, not “some” evidence, but quite a bit. Something that’s come from that has been a pretty significant change in evening routine. No more of my wife retiring to the bedroom, watching TV, while I stay up late working on websites and shop stuff and updating the almost-daily diary. We’re spending at least 45 minutes each evening re-connecting at the end of the day. Tossing aside things that became comfortable routine for years, decades even, and recognizing that things can be better than they’ve been. She let loose with some things that kind of rocked me to the core (few have suggested “subtlety” and “nuanced” are characteristics of my wife!), and it’s a really good thing she did.

The end result is that much of our relationship is better today than it’s ever been, and we feel like we have even better days ahead of us. But it does cut down on the “free” time I used to spend nightly on the computer. Bedtime is no longer 10pm for her and midnight for me. We’re getting “in sync” as it were. There’s time for me to address the aches and pains that three bouts of breast cancer have created for her. I make the bed every single day, no matter what. I bring home flowers, wild or from the store, as a regular thing. None of that happened until recently. We’re both still works in progress though. That’s not a bad thing. –Mike–