3k

Light up, light up, as if you have a choice
Run – Snow Patrol

Sum, ergo curro (my contribution to updating Descartes)

To celebrate my continued good health, I ran 3k at 7am this morning. It felt good. Ben and Gyles came with me, and I’m pleased that my aching bones are still more than a match for the under 10s. My advantage will be short-lived, so I better take advantage of it while I can.

Teefor

There’s a world within me that I cannot explain. Many rooms to explore, but the doors look the same. I am lost. I can’t even remember my name
Within – Daft Punk

T is for tree, of course

I went to Bedgebury Pinetum on Saturday, with friends. While the children foraged for stick-men, my mind kept drawing me backwards.

I’ve been there just once before, 74 weeks previously, on 19th August 2012. The previous occasion was at the end of my first week of chemo, and at the height of the symptoms of my myeloma. It was probably the lowest moment of my life.

We had gone for a weekend away taking our bicycles with us. But I was in no fit state to hold a bike, let alone ride one. I could barely walk. Marisa, reading this, will feel bad that we went away that weekend at all. You shouldn’t, honey. The intention was right. The children enjoyed it. I’m glad we went. I was destined to feel dreadful, wherever I was.

What surprised me last weekend – apart from an unwelcome sense of “nostalgia” (if it can be called that), was quite how vague my memories of the place were. It was only when I saw it again that I had any real recollections at all. In some respects the summer and autumn of 2012 is still very vivid for me. But in other ways, fortunately, it is remarkably hazy.

Kicking kyphosis

Whatever, whenever, however you like, ‘cos this is good this is cool this is nice and tight. I mean, I like it when the vibes make my stress flow free, and keep me calm and in my centre, like a sanctuary
Whatever, Whenever – Groove Armada

11 months of severe back pain left me with substantial deformation of my spine. Locked muscles meant I couldn’t straighten my lower-mid back (couldn’t lean flat against a wall, for example). And my shoulders were pushed forward, restricting the movement of my neck. As someone who has a very low personal tolerance of physical imperfections (as a teenager I once cut some warts of my elbow with a pair of scissors), I’m greatly troubled by this. I’ve built up quite a routine of back straightening and loosening exercises (having consulted no less than 5 physiotherapists). I thought I’d post up what I’ve learnt, since I know posture is a not uncommon problem with myeloma. I do a combination of these, each day.

Each of these exercises should be repeated 10 times. Do them in a sequence that suits you. And do the ones you think help your posture most – I don’t do all of them all the time. If you can’t do them all at first, start with the ones you can do. If you can’t do them fully, or can’t do them 10 times, do what you can. Over time you’ll be able to do more. Exercise to the point of stretch – which will make your muscles ache a bit – but not to the point of pain. I’m a work in progress myself: I’m better at some of these than others.

Ex1: Arm stretch
Helps open up the chest muscles
Either: standing, raise the arms forward in a circle until they are (if possible) above the head. Hold and release.
Or: lying on your back, raise the arms in a circle until they are behind you – if possible flat behind you. Hold and release. If you can’t reach the whole way, simply reach as far as you can.

Ex2: Windmill
My latest permutation of Ex1 – a more pronounced stretch
Lying on your back, rotate both arms out to the sides like a windmill, until they meet behind your head, keeping your hands on the floor as far as possible, and then as near to it as you can, with elbows straight, until they meet. Then bring the arms up in the air and over until they are by your sides again.

Ex 3: Chest extension
Helps open up the chest muscles
Standing, hold both arms straight out in front of you, palms up. Bend each elbow 90 degrees so from shoulder to elbow stays horizontal but from elbow to hand is pointing upwards. Move the elbows apart, as far as you can so that each arm is moving round to the side of the body. If possible, move your arms so that your elbows are level with or behind your shoulders. If you can’t go that far, go as far as you can. Hold it there for a few seconds and release.

Ex 4: Chicken head
Helps loosen the upper spine
Standing with your shoulders and arms completely relaxed by your sides, move your head forward, keeping your chin level, so that only your neck is moving. Then move your head back, again keeping your chin level and shoulders relaxed. Then release.

Ex 5: Resistance band
Strengthens the muscles between the shoulder blades
To do this, you need a resistance band – like a big rubber band – attached to something strong (such as round a door handle), so that you can pull on the other end.

With arms so that elbows are by your side and hands out in front of you, hold the free end of the resistance band in both hands, with the band taught. Pull your elbows back, so that you are stretching the band. Hold and release. The trick is to keep your shoulders loose and down, so that the pulling is happening from the muscles across the middle of your back between the shoulder blades (you can feel it when it’s right)

Ex 6: Lumber roll
Helps loosen the lower spine – one of my physios said we should all be doing these
Lie on your back. Raise your knees up so that they are directly above your pelvis. Your feet should be off the floor but pointing downwards. Keeping your pelvis reasonably flat, rock your knees to one side as far as is comfortable. Hold for a few seconds, then rock your knees to the other side as is comfortable. Hold for a few seconds, and release.

Ex 7: Restricted rotation
Helps open up the chest and loosen the mid spine
Stand in a door way, facing into the room, with one arm out to the side, raised and bent so that elbow is level with shoulder and the hand is pointing upward, with arm from palm to elbow resting against the outside of the door frame. Rotate your upper body away from the arm that is against the frame, keeping your pelvis stationary. Your arm will therefore be unable to move because it is restricted by the door frame, and so pull the shoulder back and open the chest, as you rotate. Hold and release. Repeat for other arm.

Ex 8: Arching the back
Helps regain lost lordosis (curve of back)
Lie on your back with your knees raised but feet still on the ground. First gently raise your bum off the ground – this rotates your pelvis forward. Hold and release. Then lower your bum and gently rotate your pelvis backward so that you arch your back – lifting the small of your back off the ground. Hold and release.

Ex 9: Pelvic rotation
Helps loosen the pelvis – similar movement to Ex 8, but potentially easier to achieve
To do this, you need an inflatable exercise ball that you can sit on.

Sitting on the ball with both feet flat on the ground, rotate the pelvis forward gently so your bum moves forward on the ball – but keeping your back stationary. Then rotate the pelvis backward, so your bum moves backward, but still keeping your back stationary.

Ex 10: Doggy style
Another way to practice rotating the pelvis
On hands and knees, alternately rotate the pelvis forward, raising the middle back upwards, and then rotate the pelvis backwards, lowering the middle back downwards. The trick is to try to isolate the movement so that only the pelvis and spine are moving (you are not trying to do press ups). A physio friend long ago told me you know (as a man) when you are doing it right because the motion is similar to sex!

And… relax!

Exercise Update – Dave

“I have to exercise in the morning before my brain figures out what I’m doing.”  – Marsha Doble I thought you might like an update on Dave’s progress. As the week wore on heading to his first day, his confidence began to wane. My little humorous quips were met with distress and annoyance. I toned […]

Muscle Tone

“You should try some isometrics.” said my doctor. I was sitting on an examination table with my legs dangling over the edge where he’d had me sit so he could test my reflexes. “You know, Chuck Norris does isometrics and look at him.”

“Chuck is 72 and doesn’t look intimidating at all.” I said. “You might as well have suggested Ed McMahon.”

“Hrmf. Okay, maybe I should have said Jackie Chan.”

I looked at him sideways. “How come your examples are really old people?”

“I was trying to pick someone you could relate to. Someone of your, uh, stature.” said the doc.

“You’re saying I’m old. That’s it, isn’t it? You’re saying that I’m old and need exercise and should imitate foot in the grave celebrities. Jeez, I’m not that old.”

“You’re sixty four, Bob. And you have a cancer that has taken a tremendous toll on you besides.”

“Yeah, well sixty is the new 30. I mean, Chuck Norris is doing Blizzard Games commercials that make him out to be a badass, which is really kind of sad, actually. But still, what was old is now young.” I harrumphed.

“I don’t think Chuck Norris is as physically hampered as you are.”

“Then why use him as an example?”

“I think we’re straying afield of the point here.” said my doctor. “I’d like you to try to get more exercise, but I also don’t want to encourage you to do anything that will further jeopardize your position. Are you still swimming?”

“Yeah. Well, no. I don’t like the way that some of the guys in the dressing room and showers look at me like I’m lunch or something.” I said. My doctor rolled his eyes.

“I tried that electro-stimulation stuff. It’s not like I’m not trying.” I was a bit petulant.

“Yes, and you ended up in ER with burns on your thighs. If you recall, I didn’t suggest that and told you I don’t really support the method except in extreme cases.”

“I didn’t realize it was dialed all the way up when I turned it on.” I shrugged.

“Uh huh, I think we’ve covered this well enough and I should get on to other patients. Do you have any questions before I go?”

I thought about it for a minute. “No, I guess not. ”

“Okay then. Well, happy holidays.” he said.

“Merry Christmas, doctor.”

“Merry Christmas. Check with the nurse on your way out and she’ll arrange your next appointment. I’m thinking what, about six months?”

“That’s reassuring.” I smiled.

“Reassuring?”

“Yeah, it tells me you figure I’ll still be here in six months. That’s reassuring.”

“Oh. Well, don’t prove me wrong. Get some more exercise.”

I rolled my way out of the medical center and found my wife waiting in the car. She was reading a book and listening to a song by Boston on the radio when I tapped the window. She got out and I maneuvered myself into the passenger seat while she folded up my wheelchair and stuffed it in the trunk. She got back in.

“So, how did it go?” she asked.

“My doctor thinks I’m old.”

She looked at me with her eyes hooded. “You are.”

“I’m not as old as Chuck Norris.” I said.

“I thought he died.” she replied.

“I love you.” I said.

Walking back to healthiness – Part II

Last Monday I woke up and felt well, grumpy, unable to speak and barely able to see so basically how I typically feel when I first wake up particularly if anyone (Bernard) is expecting me to do anything (like make breakfast). However once I’d come to I didn’t feel good, I didn’t even feel okay – I felt fantastic – really fantastic .  I’d had this ‘conversation’ with a friend about how, despite having to work round the bone stuff limiting my daily activities by a vast extent compared to, as B says ‘the old Paula’, I probably still thought deep down one day I’d wake up and feel like I could conquer the world again.  And last Monday was as close as its got after myeloma put a spanner in the works.

We hadn’t all walked together for over a week and since B had put his alarm on for a really early wake up call, 13:30, to do a paint a couple of fence panels I felt able to do these myself in order that we could get to walk together, ‘cos I kinda like doing that. So Bud got two walks that day.  However for the rest of the week I was at times somewhat lacklustre – well in my opinion anyway.  Despite the several disgruntled notifications from B regarding the fence panels, especially since he’d expressly forbidden me to do them, I however put the lack of lustre down to the two walks because I must have walked milessssss and miles and miles.  B himself proforred a suggested four miles per walk – so eight miles in one day – WOW.  Well WOW for now, I once did 10 just in a morning on the treadmill to ward off the excesses of Christmas.  Heck, I’d do five after getting home from work and before hitting the weights and getting tea to get rid of a cream cake but for now –  WOW.

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So Saturday I measured it on the street atlas, I measured it several times in fact, with several different kinds of measuring stuff – because wool can stretch but my dinky little tape measure wasn’t as flexible round corners.  I myself had started to think that it wasn’t as far as B thought because I have short legs, well in fact the whole of me is quite short – and indeed is about one and a half inches shorter than ‘the old Paula’.  So although I walked quite fast before anything above 3.3 miles an hour resulted in the odd skipped step/start of a jog.  Now with this in mind and the fact that I walk a lot slower than I did it dawned on me that to get this walk done in the hour and a half it usually takes would be nigh on impossible if it was anywhere near four miles.

So as the saying goes ‘what can’t speak can’t lie’ and the tape/wool/ruler says 2.5 miles and 2.75 absolute maximum even with a bit of creative cornering.  So much for thinking that I take not so much my life in my hands but my femur lesion in my stride on every walk due to the speed I go.   I guess it’s back to my extreme sport being using Signature Needle Arts Stiletto Point knitting needles!

Walking back to healthiness

After sharing written details of our current doggy walk I though I’d take some pics.  Some turned out to be more than the 70, so I narrowed it down to 50ish and even got B to give them the once over to see if they gave a good impression of our daily outing.  I thought I’d take a pic every time we turned a corner or the view changed – turns out there’s a lot of corners!

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Part way down there’s pics of a blue bridge railing.  Someone must have pasted arty pics (like really arty – not ‘arty’ as a euphemism for rude) to the main uprights and someone else must have taken exception and spray painted over the images in black.  There’s just one that they missed.  This happened once before about four years ago when I used to cycle home this way and pics appeared on the opposite side of the posts and these too were defaced.

I would like to point out before anyone alerts the authorities that the last pic is for artistic purposes only and Bud doesn’t usually get to drink like this – he doesn’t get to drink at all!  Just kidding we have a portable bowl – my hands.

Doesn’t it look a long way – doesn’t it? It does though doesn’t it?  And that’s just half of it – I mean on holiday we walked five kilometers and it has to be further than that, right?  Following a discussion on Friday I measured it on the map – I was so disappointed.  I’ll share the grand total tomorrow along with THAT headstone.