For a change, this isn’t about cruising🙂 This is about me wanting to reflect on my health and hopefully push me towards a better, healthier lifestyle.
Ever since I was a child I have suffered from Asthma and over the years I was unfortunate enough to suffer a number of extremely bad asthma attacks requiring hospitalisation. So, why, oh why did this twerp start smoking at the tender age of 14. Inevitably, more attacks ensued but many of these were quickly fixed by not smoking for a while but still I smoked. eventually however, towards the end of the last millennium I stopped.
How did I stop? I saw a news paper article about the Paris to Hayling Cycle Challenge (organised by the Association of Charitable Endeavours) along with a photo of two rather fetching young ladies. That clinched it for me. I’ll stop smoking, buy a bike and train for the challenge and cycle with those two young ladies. I signed up the very next day. Being back on a bike again gave me such freedom, which I find hard to describe. I do know however that whatever sort of day I’d had, I would go out on my bike, think through all the issues of the day, put things right in my mind while all the way setting small instant challenges such as sprint between two markers or climb a particular hill in the highest gear possible. I loved it. I loved my bike, I loved it so much I bought more: See here for the list of bikes I’ve had over the years. I never gain saw those two young ladies, boo.
Eventually, I became a committee member of the Association of Charitable Endeavours (ACE), then secretary and route planner as part of a splinter group (The Reccecrew) and would go out to plan training rides and seek alternate routes in France (see here for an idea of a recce in France). I had such great times. But then, one New Years Eve, I weakened and had a cigar. Then another and so I was back smoking again and did so for another three years and then gave up once more and returned to cycling.
I entered once again the Paris to Hayling Cycle Challenge but this time, I took a group of a dozen riders, we called ourselves Team-SIM and we sailed to Bilbao and cycled from there to Paris to meet up with the main ride. This was to be when everything changed for me.
On my first climb of the first day. my heart rate, according to my Garmin, hit 256. I had to stop. I rested for 10 minutes then started off again. This happened twice more before I gave in and finished that day in the support van. This happened two more time in France. I felt as though there was nothing in any of my joints. Clearly, something was wrong.
Returning home, I inevitably went to see the Doctor who obviously sent me to the Cardio department for a check out. The consultant after running a number of tests and getting me to wear heart monitor for a day told me he could find nothing wrong and that I should go home and ‘Die of Something Else’ (his words, not mine).
My next visit was to the Asthma Clinic for a periodic review (never had one of those before) and after various tests I was told that I had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Personally I prefer my own naming of Codgers Old Puffing Disease (COPD)🙂.This was not good news. It was irreversible and degenerative. It would over time get worse. The timescales would depend on my lifestyle. Cycling has to be my lifestyle.
At my last review with the COPD Nurse I was told that my obstructive lung effectiveness was sitting at just 47%. In my book, that less than one lungs worth of air for each breath. I’m sure the maths isn’t quite that simple: There is for instance the factor of restrictive breathing exacerbated by weight causing pressure on the diaphragm. But whatever, when breathing it feels like one lung so I’m sticking with that.
Now, one of the consequences of COPD is that the heart has to work so much harder to move what little oxygenated blood it can around the body. But because of the limited supply, the heart becomes in itself erratic and causing to to go into Arrhythmia which can and does feel extremely uncomfortable and makes exercise difficult. The consequence of this is that my cycling lifestyle became challenged which meant I put on weight which aggravated the restrictive breathing even more. I’m sure you get the picture.
So, my last review, 47% put me at stage 2 possibly moving to stage 3. My last proper review was three years ago. How do I feel today? I thought I felt bad, I felt as though I was entering, what I call, the valley of despair. But then I read about somebody with COPD completing the London Marathon.
I’ll tell more in my next COPD update.