Friday, October 25, 2013

My Final Post

Farewell my devoted readers...all 3 of you...

I write this, my final catrike blog post, from my bed in the Hospice at Maycourt here in Ottawa. Sadly, or not, despite all the cancer treatments I received, my condition is terminal and I have anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months left to live.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer in 2012, something I had suspected I had since the previous November, I had a feeling it would kill me. Unfortunately, I was right and, as I had mentioned in an earlier post, I wrote very little in 2012 when I was first undergoing treatment.

As flattened as I was with the horrible side-effects of both low-dose chemo and radiation, external and internal (don't ask), I did manage to recover from the side effects and quickly enough, too!

At the beginning of 2012, I had set a Catriking goal to do 300 kilometres in one season. As soon as the bone numbing chill of winter softened into spring, I made it a point to head out as often as possible. I managed to rack up 168 kilometres just before the treatments started. So, I was able to meet my goal around Labour Day.

Subsequent, post treatment examinations seemed to show that I had successfully beaten the cancer but one exam in November 2012 resulted in me needing another biopsy.

Long story short, the cancer was still there and, this time, had spread so that it could be treated but not cured. I was dying and that was that.

More chemo, from the end of January to early June, more hospital stays, some even as long as 2 weeks in duration, more radiation, more side effects...bleah...

So, here I am, late October, 2013, in the hospice centre where I am being very very well taken care of by a team of nurses, PSWs and one of the nicest palliative care doctors this side of the solar system!

As for my beloved Catrike, I wanted to make sure it would go to a good place and be ridden by someone who would enjoy it at least as much as I always did. This is where my eldest son's girlfriend comes into the scene. She'd tried my Catrike before and really liked it so it made absolute sense to me if I gave it to her. Graciously and with a few tears in her eyes, she accepted my gift. I am totally sure she will enjoy the trike at least as much as I did. For that, I am grateful to her.

Cancer and the spectre of my approaching death has also given me a lot of time to practice my Buddhism.

Let's not get confused here. I am not happy that I'm dying at 49 years of age but I am at peace with that fact. In the meantime, may those who read this be well. Get out and keep triking. Get in good shape, cut down the amount of pollution this poor planet has had to endure, slow down the craziness of this "modern" life and just love each other.



Thursday, June 13, 2013

Six may not seem like much, buuuuuut....

It's been a long time since I posted anything here.

That's because I had to undergo more chemotherapy. For those of you who have experienced chemotherapy or who have seen a loved one go through it, chemo is a horrible dreadful experience. It often sucks the life out of you and that was my experience. I spent many MANY days just flaked out on the sofa or the bed having only enough energy to watch YouTube videos of George Carlin, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens or segments of Family Guy.

Otherwise, even the mere act of getting up to use the bathroom required enormous energy that I could barely spare.


However, on June 5th, I had my last chemo session (for this round, I'm probably going to be needing more later this year or early next year). I then experienced that psychological relief that could only inspire me to try and move more. It still takes a fair amount of effort on my part to do more than walk a couple of kilometres but at least I can do it and not feel as though I had to lie down for two or three hours to recover.

Today, June 13th, I was not only able to walk a couple of kilometres and not feel that exhausted burning knot in my whole body afterwards but I was able to get on my Catrike and cycle a whole 6 kilometres. Ordinarily, I'd be up to blasting off 20 or 30 kilometre trips but I'm still recovering from chemo and that, dear reader, will take more time.

Today, Adam and I ventured south along Bridlepath. We then eased onto Trapper's, onto Autumnwood via a shortcut and then turned onto Baden. Crossing Albion proved to be an easy venture for the both of us and, within a scant few minutes, we were following the oval pathway that circumvents Deer Park.

Though not as fast as I normally am, the pace I set was both invigorating and totally relaxing. I even saw a weird bird that looked to be red, white and orange (or maybe it was my glasses). Before I knew it, we had completed the oval path and had regained the street. It was a matter of a short jaunt back home. I checked my trip odometer and it said 6.782 kilometres. So, yes, 6 kilometres may not seem like much but it meant everything to me. I felt, and continue to feel, as though I were nearly a human being once again. I only have to see a bit more hair growth on my predominantly bald head for those feelings to strengthen but I'm sure it'll happen. Right now I look more like a cross between Charlie Brown and Uncle Fester.

Adam was very accommodating to my limits, knowing that I am just barely out of chemo. He knows, as I certainly do, that recovery takes awhile but I am improving each and every day! Cancer is a nasty disease process second only to the powerful chemotherapy drugs they dripped into my veins every 3 weeks. It's a poison, under normal circumstances, but applied in cancer treatment it's the difference between getting sicker and not. In some cases, it's the difference between life and death, and I still have some life to live here - hopefully a lot on my Catrike. I think I'm getting back to living.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Just 'cause it's November...

...doesn't mean we can't get out triking.

In fact, that's just what we did on Monday, November 12th. Yes, it's Ottawa. Yes, it's November. Yes, it had been cold but just not yesterday. So, we decided to do a quick run through the local area. We had a cold front sliding our way but we knew the day's high of 20C (that's plus 20 Celsius) wouldn't last long.

At this time of year, such warmth can't last long.

In the accompanying photo, you can see what few autumn leaves are left on our neighbour's yard.

As this would very likely be our last day out for this season, we thought it best to go for a really good ride. So, we left our place and headed for the "Deer Run" subdivision a few kilometres away. Typical for many newer subdivisions, there is a small but very useful multipurpose recreational/cycling pathway that surrounds the houses. It's where people go to walk their dogs (ON leash please), take their babies out in the strollers and we take our trikes.

The pathway cuts through a fairly thick forested area, too, so that only adds to its charm. Except for very early spring where it would be a cold a sticky muck infused place, the "Deer Run" pathway is a pretty place to visit and we were there. Travelling around, the leaves there crunched under our tires and I saw a male cardinal zoom through the forest. At this time of year, you can't miss 'em in their hurts-the-eyes bright red plumage.

From there, and still feeling both energetic and ambitious, we decided to continue east towards yet another subdivision. So, we sailed along Queensdale and crossed Bank Street. It was still early afternoon so there wasn't much automobile traffic which made things easier, of course.

We swung onto 6th avenue, which is a small and very suburban street despite its more "downtown sounding name". Cycling past the elementary school nearby, we could see, and hear, that it was afternoon recess. Homeowners we passed were mostly outside washing their cars in this unusually warm afternoon, knowing that this would be the one and only day for the foreseeable future to do this.

Of course, we connected from that suburban neighbourhood to another one via a simple little pathway - a tiny little downhill venture - and found ourselves deposited onto Carriage Hill Place. A quick zoom down Carriage Hill, onto Sable Ridge and towards Hunt Club Road, we would cross onto Lorry Greenberg. The pathway network encapsulating the library would be our next area.

The pathway system around the library was an easy go for us and even the off-leash dogs there didn't bother us. Alas the pathway system ended for us on Cahill and it was a matter of a few more quick kilometres before we got home.

Our total distance for this, our likely last trip of the season before the snow flies, was 10.7 kilometres. Oh, I might head out a couple of more times this season but probably not. If I do head out, I will make another blog post here. If I don't, well, see you in '13!

Now, I'm thinking about cross-country skiing and hoping like mad we get a good season.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Topic of Cancer - shameless self promotion with apologies to Henry Miller

I wrote a book. Actually, it's my second book but I thought I'd mention it here anyway since it's triking season.

I spent a good chunk of this catriking season undergoing cancer treatment, which is why there weren't as many entries as there were nice days.

So, read it, okay? Thanks.

The Topic of Cancer

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fuelling the Engine...

Yes, I did 6.4 some odd kilometres yesterday and it was around the local neighbourhood. At this time of year in particular, the weather can pack it in and render any outdoor activity impossible. So, I went because it was nice, warm and not too windy.

That's not the subject of this blog posting. Instead, I'm going to touch on fuelling the engine which, in this case, means me, or whomever is riding any kind of trike or other human powered vehicle.

We've all heard the adage of eating a balanced diet. Who would argue against that? However, it isn't always so simple a matter of following a balanced diet. There are some times when riders have to focus on certain nutrients for high output activity.

As much as I enjoy a hot bowl of cream of brown rice cereal for breakfast, a good sized serving just doesn't have the necessary calories I need if I'm also about to churn out a good 45 kilometre trek. It also doesn't really have the good proteins I need to help build and strengthen muscle tissue. On those occasions, it's okay to have an omelette for breakfast...but do yourself a favour by adding some fresh vegetables, too, like some chopped green pepper (YUMMY!). I tend to eschew adding cheese as I find it makes the omelette too heavy for my tastes. But, that's just me.

I've taken to adding fresh fruit to my breakfast, rather than have it as a snack later in the day. At this time of year, apples are de riguere and, for me, the crispier the better. What I sometimes do is pack a couple of royal gala apples and munch on them during a water break along the way, too.

Protein, as I said, is an important macronutrient. As about 2/3 of my diet is plant based, the protein I consume is small and not always meat in nature. No, I am not a vegetarian...anymore...but I do make it a point to eat a small amount of meat about once or twice a week.

I have a chicken vegetable soup that I just made earlier today and it turned out wonderfully. It's so easy to make, too, and like almost all soups, stores well in the fridge.

To make chicken vegetable soup, I took two stalks of celery, scrubbed of any dirt there (there's always some dirt), and one medium sized carrot (peeled of course). I chopped them up finely and added about 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion (any kind will do). I then added this collection of vegetables, known as mirepoix, to my large stockpot and put in some vegetable oil and a bit of margarine. On low-medium heat, I "sweated" and softened the mirepoix which took about 4 minutes. Then, I added a little under 2 cups (400g) of frozen corn niblets, 1/2 tsp thyme powder and stirred that around until it was all well incorporated.

After that, I added about 1 litre (about 4 cups) of hot water into which a few teaspoons of powdered vegetable stock had been added. I stirred that in, turned the heat up a bit and then added two tins of "chunks of chicken", juice and all. It was only a matter of simmering the soup for about another 5-10 minutes.

I had originally intended on making a chicken corn chowder but, after tasting the soup to ensure it was properly seasoned, decided it was good as it was.

In fact, it was really good as it was.

So, I now have some really great chicken vegetable soup that is rich in nutrients, like beta carotene, some fibre from the corn and celery, some salt from the stock powder and some protein from the chicken.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Picnic time notes and a little more!

I have nothing against geese. As summer trickles towards an end, I have seen small flocks of them flying and honking and otherwise gearing up for their annual migration south. What I do object to, however, is how colossally stupid and inconsiderate they are when it comes to approaching cycles...including mine.

Here we were, on a beautiful but breezy and quite chilly morning, heading up to the ByTown museum and Rideau Canal locks for a planned picnic. We had taken our usual route to the Hog's Back area via Mooney's Bay and saw about two dozen geese ambling about on the ground. They didn't seem to notice that there were a few other cyclists on the pathway including ours. They certainly didn't seem to care one way or the other even as I tried to hasten their forward movement by repeatedly ringing my little bell. Adam, who was behind me, joined in the chorus of bell ringing but it was to no avail. In the end, I took advantage of both the cut grass at the side of the pathway and my relatively high ground clearance to just divert around the oblivious birds.

Cheez, I hope they aren't as unaware of things when they fly!

Past these geese, we continued along the pathway. We rounded the corner, followed the trail down, around and under the little bridge on Hog's Back road and found ourselves riding comfortably along the bike path paralleling Colonel By road. With it not being Sunday and that the Sunday bike program is done for the year, we were relegated to the bike path only. No matter, the day was warming up nicely and the path wasn't too crowded.

In short order we found ourselves at the Corkstown Pedestrian Bridge right across from the University of Ottawa Campus transit station. I saw quite a number of tourists there. Well, at least I thought they were tourists judging by the number of suitcases I saw and the frenetic picture taking that was happening as well. A lot of people travel to Ottawa after the Labour Day long weekend to take advantage of the lower number of other tourists. We would see more of these people in short order.

We got to the end of the Rideau Canal locks right at the Bytown Museum by about 11:30am. The grass was still quite wet from both the chilled previous night and the recent rainshowers we had had so it would be the bench for us to enjoy our lunch.

One of the many things Adam and I enjoy doing when we go on these kinds of outdoor urban adventures is people watching. There we saw all manner of people cycling, walking, ambling about etc. We even saw a young teenage couple (shouldn't they have been in school?) dragging themselves up the slope of the canal itself. We saw other tourists, armed with cameras and conversing with each other in accented English about what a beautifully charming place Ottawa is.

So, we sat there next to our Catrikes and ate our lunches and otherwise just took in the scenery.

The trip back to Hog's Back was fairly uneventful though the day was warming up considerably and enough that we decided to stop at the one and, it seemed, only concession stand that was still open to the public. I bought an ice cream drumstick for us both and we managed to gnaw at it. The freezer that these ice cream treats were in was set too low, we both thought, as in liquid nitrogen low. We were afraid to drop the chilled treat lest it shatter like the proverbial rose from a grade 10 science class (anyone else remember those?). It was also at that time when we both realized that the day was still young enough to venture somewhere else. So, we altered our plans and decided that, rather than go straight home, that we would take another trip.

So, we left Hog's Back and headed down to Vincent Massey Park, along the pathway that travels along the Rideau, past Carleton University, under the O-Train bridge and eventually comes up along Riverside. The pathway is one of those winding, hilly prospects that's a favourite for picnickers, dog walkers and joggers alike and we did pass a few of those. Eventually, though, we found ourselves on the bike path right at the corner of Riverside and Bank Street. With the green light we pressed on and headed towards Hurdman.

The bike paths in that area are numerous and lined with thick clumps of butter daisies, violet coloured mini asters and, yesterday, changing leaf coloured trees. The number of other cyclists, joggers and pedestrians was steady though not too many in number.

Unlike many of the streets here in Ottawa, the network of bike paths is very well signposted and it was a simple matter of following the signs to Hurdman to prevent anyone getting lost. We continued even past Hurdman before I felt that it was time we should head back.

One of the more critical issues with people who have MS is energy management. This means, for me at least, that I really need to listen for signs from my body that I'm getting tired and that I need to think about getting some rest. When I'm out and about that also means knowing when it's time to head back home.

We reversed our track and began the journey home. The winds, now from the southwest, had picked up somewhat so it was a bit of a headwind we were beating into. However, the catrike is such a fun and low-drag vehicle to ride that I'm sure the headwinds didn't cause nearly as much of a hassle as it did for people on upright bicycles.

In short order, we found ourselves back at Vincent Massey park, then the climb uphill on a switchback portion of the bike path to Hog's Back and then into Mooney's Bay where the geese weren't.

The afternoon was wearing on by the time we were out of the bike path network and onto suburban streets. We saw a few schoolbuses driving around the streets. We wound our way along well travelled roads, successfully negotiated the traffic on Hunt Club Road (it really isn't that difficult) and rounded our way back home.

Since I met my goal of cycling no fewer than 300 kilometres this season, I'm no longer keeping track of my progress but I am happy to note that I did 45 kilometres yesterday. At this time of year, you take advantage of the good weather since autumn can be a cold, rainy and windy time.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

It's all gravy...

I can tell it's the Labour Day long weekend here in Ottawa because today is the last of the Sunday Bike Days. I had done two trips since my last entry but those were pretty much the same trips I had written about previously so I didn't see much point in writing more of the same.

I might as well have written "ibid".

What I decided to do instead was collect my trips into one blog posting that would feature me achieving my goal for the year - to trike no fewer than 300 kilometres in a triking season.

The triking season here is quite long, often well into October, so the fact that I met and actually exceeded my goal by the end of the Sunday Bike Day season is just an interesting coincidence. I will still be triking next week and, indeed, for as long as the good weather holds out.

Our original plan was to simply do the regular route up to where Hog's Back meets Colonel By, zoom the 15 kilometres to the end of the route, turn around and then head back. I actually only needed to do precisely 30.0 kilometres today in order to meet my goal. However, when we got to the far end of the route, a quick check on my trip odometer showed only 14.6 kilometres. The last thing I wanted for me today was to pull back into our driveway only to be 800 metres short of my goal. That would have annoyed me to no end. So, we decided to "purchase a little insurance" by adding a side junket along the Laurier Avenue dedicated bike lane. It would prove to be a very good idea.

It's not difficult to connect to the Laurier Avenue bike lane - at least, not from Colonel By. It was a simple matter of starting our trek back from where the original route ends and then hopping onto the Corkstown bike/pedestrian bridge. Crossing the Rideau River, we found ourselves deposited onto the west side of the bike path that runs along the side of the river itself. A few hundred metres later and a quick left put us right onto Laurier Avenue and the dedicated bike lane.

We sailed along the bike lane getting all the green lights for the first half of our "side junket". Once at the end and just shy of where Laurier Avenue meets Bronson Avenue, we quickly turned around and headed back to re-intercept the west side of the bike-path-along-the-Rideau. Another quick left put us back onto the Corkstown bike/pedestrian bridge and then a smooth slide back onto Colonel By.

By this time, the road was noticeably busier, but then, it was later in the morning so I expected to see more cyclists, roller bladers, strollers, joggers and dog walkers. The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful...until...

I needed for my trip odometer to get to precisely 30.0 and I reached that point on the corner of Southmore and Rankin, well past Mooney's Bay.

The picture with this blog was taken where Colonel By meets the Convention Centre (what Adam calls the dead mackerel and what Rachael calls the pineapple grenade). Yet, I made that very same gesture when I met my goal.

Tally for all three days was 59.7 kilometres done.That's 3.4 kilometres of gravy.