Category Archives: Personal stuff

Broken toe on Saturday, no ride Sunday, Tuesday morning back on bike!

Beautiful view as the fog begins to burn off
A bit of catching up to do. On Saturday, test-riding a bike for a chain-skipping problem, I was successful. I got the chain to skip. Of course, I had to apply a huge amount of power to get it to do so, and when it did, it sent me literally over the handlebars, doing a mid-air flip and landing on my back. I lay there for a minute, doing an inventory, checking to make sure all my parts were intact and movable, before getting up. Left hand and left foot were not happy. Hand not quite so bad, but the foot, the big toe, just didn’t quite feel right. Becky and Kevin talked me into heading to Kaiser ER, which, of course, I rode a bike to. Hey, injured, doesn’t everybody ride a bike to the ER?

Very gross photo of a very gross foot which you might not want to enlarge by clicking on it!
I told the admitting person I thought I had either a sprained or broken toe. She asked what my pain level was, 1 to 10 scale. I said truthfully, 2. She said no way was it broken if pain was only a 2. Tried to explain to her that I don’t typically feel pain from broken bones, but why bother, people don’t get that. Should have told her something like a 7 pain level and probably would have been seen sooner!

They take x-rays; hand is ok, big toe on left foot, what a surprise, it’s broken. And it’s swelling. Fun. Doc tells me to “buddy tape” it, gives me a funny sort of shoe to try to keep the toe from taking much pressure, and tells me someone from podiatry will give me a call in a few days. Unfortunately, as expected, I wasn’t able to ride Sunday because I really couldn’t get a shoe on that foot. I did try. I did fail. It wasn’t just pain; it just wouldn’t fit. Foot looked like a puffer fish. Pretty depressing, not being able to ride on a Sunday, and concerned about how much longer I might be out of commission. Visions of casts for 3 or 4 weeks, that sort of thing.

This morning I took some pre-emptive action against that possibility, by proving I was nuts enough to ride anyway. I used an older shoe of Kevin’s, from back in the day when he fit a much larger size, and rode with that on my left foot, regular shoe on my right foot. Felt a bit weird, sure, but I was able to ride, and that’s the important thing. Especially since I wanted some leverage with any doc that might be telling me I couldn’t.

The doc actually called while I was on the ride; I got back to him later and the news was basically about as good as it could be. First good news- there’s nothing they can do for a toe broken where mine was. No casting. Second good new- I really couldn’t do anything to it that would make it worse or take longer to recover! Riding was fine, especially since cycling shoes have stiff soles, distributing the pressure.

So, things are not so bad. Dodged a close one!

Update on my journey with Essential Thrombocythemia

Oncology/Infusion Clinic at Kaiser Redwood City. The “EXIT” sign at the end of the hall seems symbolic yet wasn’t noticed when I took the photo this morning.

Why. Not that there’s an alternative, but that first time I met with my Oncologist/Hematologist, and you’re in a part of the facility you’d never been before, or maybe you walked past and saw gaunt, pale people, generally a lot older than yourself, usually with someone else who’d driven them. You had maybe lost a family member who’d been taken care of in this part of the hospital. And now, without warning, you are there. Why.

On my first visit, I didn’t pick up on much, because I was so, well, scared. Yeah, I know, guys aren’t supposed to be scared. But I was. In a period less than 24 hours I’d gone from having a blood test to confirm an anomaly to emailing my GP about the results to having an appointment with an Oncologist the next morning. No time to intellectualize anything or pay attention to my surroundings. I was in a place I was scared to death of being.

That was just over 6 months ago. Since then I’ve gotten past my severe, primal-fear sort of thing over having blood drawn. A weekly blood test didn’t give me much choice.

Now, on my third visit with my Oncologist, I begin to notice things. The Oncology/Infusion clinic is the last department in the wing. Only an exit door beyond. I didn’t attach any symbolic meaning to the exit sign when I took the picture, but now…

Ironically, it seems to have taken a chronic illness to cure me of my white-coat blood-pressure-spiking syndrome!

The nurse that took my weight, blood pressure and history. Whatever I said, she looked for a way to be nice and reassuring. I didn’t need a lot of empathy today; it seemed almost out of place, wasted on someone not that bad off. Where was she on my first visit, when I was terrified? Maybe she was there, and I was beyond reach.

Looking back upon my admittedly-brief journey so far with my mild chronic form of bone marrow cancer, it’s that first 10 days post-diagnosis that stand out, that will always stand out as a soul-searching, potentially life-changing and exceptionally frightening experience. The only remotely-similar time in my life was when my son had his first major seizure and I’m at the hospital watching the doctors spend two hours trying to stop his convulsing, and in two hours an awful lot of possibilities go through your mind.

Today, exactly 7 months after the first test showing something screwy, I’m in a very different place. I find myself in a sort of competition to get my “numbers” (blood values) to a better place. I’ve come to understand the contradiction of a disease that’s incurable but can be managed. I have moved from my disease defining me to me defining the disease. I have even made progress on my “white coat syndrome” where I would spike my blood pressure on a visit to the doctor.

There remains one major, future-defining test, coming up sometime in February. That’s when I undergo a bone marrow biopsy, the only way to find out if my bone marrow issue shows elements of morphing into something that can progress beyond chronic, making mortality issues as real as they are feared. If you feel fine (which I do), do you really want to know? But in the worst-case scenario there are choices to be made, and risky treatment options (stem-cell transplants) that could make sense but would be crazy to consider now.

I am, all things considered, in a pretty good place. In a bizarre way I can say that I have my health, given that there are few limits on what I can do, and I likely remain in better shape that most people a bit younger. I have a great family, I have found support and solace in two groups for people with Essential Thrombocythemia on Facebook (“Essential Thrombocythemia” and “Essential Thrombocythemia Support Group”), I have “remembered” my faith in God I have greater appreciation for the trials faced by others.

My daughter Becky, reading this, thought it was a bit morbid and depressing, especially considering that I’m responding wonderfully to my medication and it would really be tough to have better results than my tests this past Friday showed. My doctor’s appointment went very well too, as she noted there is no longer any enlargement of my spleen. I am virtually symptom-free; I could not ask for a better place to be than where I am right now. But that doesn’t re-write the story; this is about how I got to where I am, and where I am heading.

The plan (remember, there’s always a plan) is to live long enough to definitively prove that you can literally bore people to death by repeated ramblings like this one. That will be tough to prove without being around for a very, very long time. That’s the plan. 🙂  –Mike–