Archive for May, 2012

dirty black irish

A couple of weeks ago I went down to the shop and found that the floor was covered with water.  It was pouring down rain outside, so it wasn’t such a surprise.  But as I looked around to see which of the various leaks was the culprit, it became pretty clear that the water was coming from inside somewhere.   One of the building’s two hot water heaters had sprung a leak.  luckily, the two heaters were plumbed in series, so isolating the broken one and draining it to stop the leak wasn’t going to leave the house without hot water.  Just a little less of it.  The heater that had popped was the smaller and clearly the newer of the two.  The bigger one looked to be in much worse shape, but seemed to be mostly holding itself together.

It was a friday afternoon when I managed to get some plumbers to come by and give me their opinion.

“Yup.  Dead.  And that other one is about to go.”

“Oh excellent..  Let’s replace them both with single monster..  Make me up an estimate.”

On Saturday morning I decided that I’d start doing a little lead work.  After moving big machines around so that I could get to the bloody thing, I disconnected it and began to pull it out.  As I did so, the other sprung a leak.

“Oh.”

Without giving all the details, I’ll just say that this somehow precipitated several weeks of distractions and changes, including but not limited to:  pulling the two broken hot water heaters out of the basement, and bringing in a new 400 lb, 100 gallon beast, re-arranging the shop around the new found floor space, building a heavy steel lathe table, going out to Long Island to hang out and learn a little about lathes with my friend Jamie Swan, welding a motorcycle exhaust (?), resurrecting the xtracycle to make a trip to the bx to refill a few argon tanks (friday afternoon before the holiday weekend: when you always run out of gas), and finally on saturday spending 4 or 5 hours on a roof in the sun and 80% humidity with a welding helmet on building a 15 foot steel trellis so that my mom can espalier some pear trees (after which, I took the picture above).

Today I’ll go down to the shop, clean it up, and try to remember what it was that I was working on two weeks ago when I discovered the leak.

OH.  And there was a doctor’s appointment in there somewhere.

“How are you feeling?”

“Fine”

“Great!  So I’ll see you in three months.”

“Hey doc..  Not to ask questions that you can’t answer, but..  what do you think?  What are my chances of recurring?”

“Well, you haven’t had any chemo in what? a year?..  85% of colon cancer recurrences happen in the first 2 years..  Probably about 50% in the first year.  So your odds are improving.”

I’ll be having my first colonoscopy through the stoma on friday.

I’ll have another PETCT towards the end of June.

I’ll keep you posted.

So.

Here it is.

For better or worse.

I decided after some deliberation that the assless should transmogrify into something.. well.. with an ass.  During its construction we’ve had a handful of names for it.  The Ass bike, the R.I.P. Assless, the SS.ass bike.  I think what I’ve landed on, though, is Hardass.

Most of the parts for the assless were donated by the folks who made them.  It was a very generous gesture at a time when I really needed the moral support.  These parts, though, were made to last a lifetime, and it felt a little precious just to put them up on the wall hanging from a strange frame that no longer has a use! Use it up!  Wear it out!

This bike is the result.  I switched the handlebars, and added (naturally) a seat post and a seat, but the rest is unchanged.

If I’d had the sense back when I built the assless, to put TWO brakes on the thing, I’d have a really nice single speed mountain bike.  But I built the assless under a certain amount of duress.  I had only been building bikes for about 9 months at the time, and had just found out I had cancer and couldn’t ride them anymore!  I wasn’t thinking straight.  I was used to riding brakeless fixed gear bikes, and honestly I was worried about cancer killing me, not inadequate braking!  (so add a brake, Caldwell.  Easier said than done.  The rear hub has no provisions for a disk, and the rear rim is a disk rim to match the front..  so I can’t use rim brakes.. Like I said, I wasn’t thinking ahead.)

There’s also a bit of a gear ratio issue.  What feels comfortable to stand and pedal is pretty different than what works for sitting.  That’s easily changed, however.

The bike is TONS of fun.  An urban baller.  A light front end that pops up onto curbs easily (I’m gonna get tickets on this bike. I can feel it).  A super comfy riding position for old dudes with sciatic pain.  And if I ever put together the paper for a new rear wheel, I can braze on a disk tab and take it into the woods!

One year.

I guess I’m not really sure how you’re supposed to count this stuff, or what it means anyway, but my last dose of chemo was one year ago today.

Yesterday, a year ago, I looked like this.

Ain’t life funny?

For those keeping score:

  • Since finishing treatment I have had a petscan every three months.  Those have shown a trend towards resolution of a questionable area of uptake in the region of my whatsis..  That is, an active mass of tissue that isn’t behaving like cancer.  (In the most recent of those petscans, a small mass has appeared on my lung that shows no hyper-metabolic activity, but is too small to anyway.  We are keeping an eye on it).
  • Last summer, for a brief period, my CEA levels spiked.  They had never been up before, not even when I had an active tumor.  These levels went back down on their own, and have been down since.
  • There are have been no other indications that anything is wrong with me.

Collateral damage:

  • I have been notably depressed, but the clouds seem to be parting (I’m feeling very grateful for this early spring).
  • I have persistent radiculopathy of the sciatic nerve on the left side.  A recent MRI shows two clearly herniated disks, one impinging on the nerve root that corresponds directly to my symptoms.  In the fall I did a few sessions with a PT who concluded that I might have an incompetent annular wall, and that I might have to stick to baseline motions..   I am considering voodoo..
  • Fatigue.  Etc.
  • Mostly impotent.  (or perhaps, unpredictably potent?)
  • General fear of recurrence.

Practicalities:

  • I have parted ways with my doctor and looked elsewhere for care.  The new team feels that the ban on bicycle riding was largely superstitious and that I should knock myself out.  This has helped clear up my existential crisis around being a bike builder who doesn’t ride bikes.  It has not made bikes any more comfortable, however.  There is quite a lot of scar tissue down there that needs to learn to be more flexible..  I feel fairly confident that it will.
  • I have started to irrigate, and this has allowed me to regain continence!  Two days at a time.  I don’t poop like other people, but I also don’t poop in a bag.

To sum up, this thing has left me a little bruised and battered, feeling old!  But here I am a year later.  My cancer is currently stable.  I am starting to feel pretty excited again about the bikes I’m building.  My wife is doing incredibly interesting work in her program and I couldn’t be more proud.  And at least twice a day, I forget that I might very well get sick again.