Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I was recently sent to the COPD Nurse for what should be an annual review. I duly arrived at the surgery with plenty of time to spare and sat myself in a comfy chair and amused myself, whiling away a few ‘downtime minutes’ playing Candy Crush (I know, I need to get a life). Eventually, my name was called and into [the room] I went.

“Kevin, are you sure you’re OK” asked the nurse, ‘You’re breathing seems bad and your eyes are all red & puffy”. Thinking to myself ‘it’s probably not worthing asking for a date then’ I explained that me breathing has been bad for the last five weeks and that I had been eating steroids and antibiotics over the same period; “Otherwise, I’m fine” I say.

The nurse, having satisfied herself that I was ok to continue, then explained that she wanted to be breath into a tube connected to a breathing rate analyser (I don’t know what its really called). It looks a bit like those devices the Police use when they think you’ve been drinking and driving – I stress that I have no personal experiences of such things. Before ‘the breath test’ the nurse asked about my medication etc, after which she asked “Have you got COPD?”. “Yes” I replied, “That’s why I’m here” I continued, now a little confused. “Oh” she says’ “I don’t know too much about that I’m afraid but we should still do the tests and hopefully the GP will know what the results mean.

So, I breath into it, 3 times long and slow and 3 time as hard as I can as long as I can. As always, black dots appear in my eyes, everything goes fuzzy and I come close to, but not actually passing out. The nurse congratulated me. Apparently I did a lot better than she had expected. She printed off the results for the doctor to look at. I asked how I was looking as at my last test I was told my ‘score’ was 47%. She said she wasn’t sure but thought it was actually 53%. This confused me as I understood that COPD never improved. Hopefully it does!

My next appointment was with my GP. He looked at the results and was also confused. Given that I had spent the last 5-weeks on antibiotics and steroid without any apparent affect he hadn’t expected such results. He checked my heart as this had been bouncing around between 105 and 127 just sitting there: this was clearly inefficient. This was probably what was making my breathing so short though he did stress (pre-empting my next question) that this didn’t mean my COPD had gone away.

As I write this, I’m sitting on a train on my daily journey into London. During this time, according to my shiny new apple watch, my pals has been bouncing up and down between 67 and 129 and it does actually feel that way too.

The decision was to double the strength of my ACE Inhibitor and have another review in three weeks.

So, I am in a state of confusion and even despair. Do I have COPD or do I not have COPD? I think I do. Is my heart like it is because of COPD or is a problem in its own right? I have no idea. Will I ever again see somebody who knows about COPD. Confidence is low on that one.

I do know however that I need to fight my way out of the current situation. One way or another, I’m going to get back out on my bike and even start running: Both very slowly. But at least that will help me lose weight which must surely help my heart.

We shall see.

COPD – Creator Of Podge’s Despair

Poor Podge


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.

Poor Podge

 

IMG_2800

Having conquered Pisa, using Livorno as base camp, the next target was Genoa. Genoa was to be the end of the current cruise and over 1000 fellow passengers would be disembarking for their flight home.Podge & Tubbs however was having none of it: They were staying on.

Having spoken with Tubbs’s youngest boy (Master Nicholas) who had been a ships photographer for a year including four months doing the Mediterranean cruises, Podge & Tubbs decided that as Genoa itself probably wasn’t going to be to their taste they decided to opt for an excursion called Castles & Wine (it was the wine that drew their attention).

Podge & Tubbs had no friends

Unfortunately, the day before their arrival they received a cancellation letter to the effect that the tour had been cancelled as they (Podge & Tubbs) were the only ones looking to go. It seemed that nobody wanted to play with them. They had no friends.

Poor Podge & Tubbs.

Being as they were, without friends, Podge & Tubbs decided that they would stay on board all day. This gave Podge the rest he so badly needed, particularly as the next day was to be an epic 8-hour excursion to Florence. This also gave them the chance to smugly watch all those passengers leaving the ship and enjoy the peace and tranquility before the new batch embarked.

Podge, got up early enough to watch the boat glide into port and park. He sat on the balcony for a couple hours watching dawn break and the town of Genoa slowly waking up. Before too long, the seemingly quiet roads became jam-packed with commuters making their way to work. Podge felt smug. All to soon however it was time to awaken The Duchess with her morning cup of Earl Grey. Podge was by now proficient at waking her slowly and gently so that she started the day in a good mood. This always meant that the day would be a good day.

Very soon after, Tubbs joined Podge on the balcony and they sat there drinking their brew’s while watching Genoa going about its daily business content in the knowledge that although this was the end of this cruise, it was also the start of their next cruise: They were doing two cruises, back to back.

Lucky Podge & Tubbs.

The time was by now, 10:30 and they both agreed that it was time to go for a quiet breakfast, especially quiet as most of the passengers would by now have disembarked.

Oh how wrong they were.

The system was different to all previous systems they had encountered. This time, the passengers disembarked over a period up to 16:30 and even worse, the new passengers were already embarking. There were glum looking passengers with their hand luggage, huddled around in groups in the restaurant, waiting to disembark: There were confused pale faced passengers with their hand luggage waiting for their cabins to be available, huddled in groups in the restaurant wondering what was where and where was what.

It was just too much to bear.

Podge and Tubbs turned into His Podgeness and The Duchess, found a free table, just, sat down and had brunch, and left as quickly as possible. They wanted peace and quiet not to sit around with glum faced, pale faced passengers (in need of some sunshine) scattered all over the place. Quickly they made their way to the nearest bar and sourced a handful of Bud’s, tonic for the Gin, wine (just in case they ran out of gin) and some elderflower drinks (whatever they are) and retired to their cabin and there they sat, like two sad recluses, on their balcony drinking G&T and soaking up the sun, until the sun moved away then, they went inside and watched Spectre. The timing was perfect. Come the end of the film, it was time for fivesies so off they went to the Champagne Bar for some light refreshment before their evening meal after which they returned to the Champagne Bar for a last couple of drinks before retiring to bed.

In a way, it all worked out rather well, as Podge got the rest he needed (he did have a bit of a headache as well) and shall be good for the next days epic adventure to Florence. We shall see how Podge is when they get to Florence.

Poor Podge.

 

 

Cannes, land of luvvies and beautiful people and, for today only, His Podgeness and The Duchess. Their presence however would not be until after they had breakfasted and planned both today and the next day. For Podge was still struggling and the planned 10-hour trip around Florence & Pisa the next day was going to be too much. They had to re-plan their strategy. Fortunately however, Podge does dabble a little in the dark scary world of Contingency Planning and room for re-scoping had been built into their whole cruising schedule. Podge is wise & clever. Podge still can’t breath though. Poor Podge.

Visits to Florence and Pisa are from the boat park in Livorno (It’s about as near as the Oceana could get). Podge had spotted that as they were doing two back-to-back cruises, they would visit Livorno, sail on to Genoa for cruise end, start new cruise, sail back to Livorno. ‘Bingo” remarked Podge, “We could do the Easy Pisa Tour tomorrow and Easy Florence on the next visit”. Podge really is so, very clever and having exerted all his thinking energy both Podge and Tubbs went for a rest then Breakfast to plan the day’s adventure in Cannes.

Getting to Cannes was going to be different from any of the previous towns. It wasn’t possible to walk into town, nor was is possible to get the bus. The Oceana was way to big to park alongside anything in Cannes so had to anchor offshore (that’s a nautical term not money laundering, I mean management) and as such it would be necessary to take a trip in one of the ships tenders (these are the lifeboats or survival craft) of about 15-minutes right into Cannes herself.

Podge hates tenders

Back in 2004, Boxing Day to be precise, Podge & Tubbs were basking on the shore of a little Caribbean Island called Mayreau having taken the tenor across from the Aurora anchored some 20-minutes away. They noticed that the waters were somewhat more boisterous than usual, so boisterous in fact that one lady was dragged down under the waves and was being dragged out to see before a number of people raced into drag her, literally, back ashore. “I’ve never seen the Caribbean like this before” said Podge. ‘Most unusual’ he thought. As the waters continued with their bad behaviour, Podge & Tubbs decided to get the tender back to the boat. What followed was 30-minutes of extreme discomfort and yes, even fear. The bouncing about on the waves is fine, tenders are designed to do this: it was when the tender tried to tie up next to the Aurora to let every body off and back onto the ship. The tender was going up then down, rolling left then right, and banging against the ship with such force that on one occasion, there was a loud thwack after which there was a definite crack on the upper wall of the tender, not dangerous but most disconcerting. Eventually, we pulled away from the ship and bobbed about for what seemed an eternity while the captain turned the ship to shelter us so that we could all board the Aurora and the safety of the cabin then the bar. Ever since then, Podge has hated tenders. 

The next day, on board the Aurora, the Captain broadcast the news of the Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami that had happened on Boxing day.  

Today’s tender trip was a good trip

Podge needn’t have worried about the crossing. Climbing aboard the tender was a breeze, the crossing was millpond like and getting off the other side even easier. Podge is such a Wimp. ‘Just man-up’ thinks Tubbs. She doesn’t actually say it but Podge is sure that what she’s thinking.

Once ashore, it was like entering a different world. There was, what Podge thought, some sort of premier film event event as there were security guards and limos all over the place and red carpet outside the theatre entrances. Given the total absence of paparazzi however they both concluded that it must be some of film expo / conference. There was certainly no shortage of luvvies however and there were plenty of nice young, and some not so young, ladies each wearing the equivalent, cost wise, to an average 3-bed semi in the UK. Podge and Tubbs just sat on a wall by the sea watching them all meander backwards and forwards remarking to each other how stylish they al looked. “just look at that Italian man on the bicycle” said Tubbs, ‘He looks so stylish even with his cloths on” continued Tubbs. ‘Cripes’ thought Podge, ‘What on earth is going through her head when she’s looking at all these men” he mused. Podge decided he didn’t want to know but couldn’t help asking what she meant. She said that she actually meant compared to being in Lycra. Podge dropped the thoughts.

Having spent more then enough time people watching, Podge & Tubbs, ok, let’s be honest, Tubbs decided that they should cross over the main street and view the shops. This is where The Duchess comes into her own and His Podgeness feels his heart start to race and bounce even more than it was already. The shops in Cannes aren’t the average Ted Baker, DryStuff, Clarks, etc. Oh noooo, these were Prada, Gucci, Rolex, And other names so unique to Italy that His Podgeness just knew that they couldn’t even afford to even look in the windows let along go in, although going in isn’t that easy: you have be spotted, approved and buzzed in through the locked security doors. Then she spotted diamonds. “Oooooh look” she says, ’sparkly things, these are nice’. “If you loved me” she said looking at His Podgeness who has by now gone quite blue, through a sudden reduction in oxygen and coming out in a cold sweat. Podge does love Tubbs: His Podgeness does love The Duchess but when he took a look at the earrings being pointed out, ‘F*%k Me” exclaimed Podge, ‘They cost more than a World Cruise”. This was a good ploy, Podge had played a blinder. All jewellery now equated to another cruise and cruises won every time, presumably because Tubbs reckons on getting more sparkly thinks on future cruises anyway. Eventually, she tired and hunger set in. So they started to look around for somewhere to eat, preferably somewhere close to a tourist shop so that they could get the obligatory fridge magnet.

Throughout the whole cruise, Podge had been craving an omelette and when he saw one rather swanky but not too swanky eatery full of luvvies but still with a couple of tables spare, he was in there. No questions, no debate, no why’s or wherefore’s. Podge was in. Tubbs followed, scanning the horizon for fridge magnet shops and maybe another restaurant. Her first quest was fruitful. A suitable shop straight opposite. Her second quest was pointless. Podge wasn’t moving. “There might be somewhere nicer down there” she said, pointing randomly. “There might be” said Podge, ‘There might not be” continued Podge. “But this is nice and I’m staying here. Tubbs knew when to stop and sat down and perused the menu. Guess what, she had omelette and chips as well. They also had a large carafe of Pinot for good measure and they sat, relaxed, ate, relaxed, drank, relaxed, drank, relaxed and then they drunk some more.

The Tender back to the ship

All too soon, it was time to return to the ship and so they made their way back to the tender point for the journey back. Unfortunately, just about every passenger on the ship seemed to have the same thoughts and the number of tenders seemed to have reduced though why was never identified. Each tender can take about 100 people. Podge reckoned they were in a queue of 800+. To load and unload a tender plus the journey time there and back was well over 30 minutes. With two tenders, this was going to take a long, long time. But the clever captan was also good at contingency planning and acted in the same way that Podge had already decided he should. The Captain organised one of the local large capacity sight seeing boats to collect as many of us as possible and bring them over to the ship. ‘Wow’ thought Podge. “We’ve been upgraded, we’re going in a big boat” said Podge to Tubbs. This pleased Podge as they were much nicer than a tender.

Once back on board, Podge and Tubbs deposited their purchases and made their way to the bar for well earned fivesies and for Podge to rest his weary limbs and lungs.

Poor Podge.

The next day Podge was so very, very poorly. His breathing was really, really difficult: Podge’s cold had been upgraded to man flu and this combined with COPD (upgraded from Asthma) did not make for a good mix: No part of Podge’s body had any energy, his lungs even less.

Podge felt sorry for himself.

At around 06:00 Podge dragged himself from his bed desperate not to disturb The Duchess from her slumber (disturbing her slumber was a bad thing) and made himself a coffee and went out onto the balcony to watch the ship arrive into Marseilles. Podge sat for an hour watching the world go by, watched the ship park, watched the men tie up the strings and set the gangplank, or should that be gangway, to allow the eager passengers to escape ashore or join their excursions.

Podge and Tubbs had no plans for the day.

As there was nothing planned, it was ‘planned’ they they would have a late breakfast / brunch then maybe they’ll take the shuttle bus into the town of Marseilles, it was after all a place they hadn’t yet visited. They had plenty of time as the boat wasn’t leaving until late anyway as it was to be just a short overnight hop to the next port of call, Cannes. This now leisurely morning ,including an extended ‘rest’ before breakfast pleased Podge greatly but even so, Podge never neglected his duties and so, at the allotted time of 09:00, he presented Tubbs with her Earl Grey Tea, awakening her slowly so as not to start her into one of her ‘moods’ – the sort of irrational, comes out of nowhere for no reason type mood that only women can have🙂. Luckily as she slowly awakened, a pleasing smile grew from her sleepy face and Podge knew that he had one a good job and succeeded, and so this day would be a good day. With that, Podge returned to the Balcony to enjoy his peace and solitude.

Eventually, The Duchess arose from her [beauty] sleep and joined His Podgeness on the Balcony (it does sound grand doesn’t it). It was all Podge could do to look up and say good morning such was his physical struggle this day. She gazed upon him and inwardly doubted that she was going to see Marseilles today; there was no way Podge could make the journey. For Podge’s part however, he knew that his Tubbs really wanted to go ashore, if only to get the obligatory fridge magnet and of course, Podge wanted to see if he could buy some more inhalers. And so, although the body was weak, the spirit was strong and he declared ‘ok, let have some breakfast, then make our way, slowly into town’. This pleased Tubbs for not only was she going into town after all, but she was absolutely starving and breakfast, by now it was actually an 11:00 brunch, was just what she needed.

The shuttle bus into town took 30 minutes as the bus took its eager passengers into the centre of town, everybody just looked out through the glass like goldfish in a bowl wondering, wondering when the town would be become a nice town for so far, a nice town it really didn’t look. It’s very difficult to work out how to describe Marseilles, no doubt on sunnier days it may look a lot different, and it being a Sunday may not have helped but the town came across as unkempt, rubbish was everywhere, maybe even unloved but that’s only the perception of an outsider, but the one thing that was for sure, Podge & Tubbs did not want to spend any longer in town than they could help. On arriving and disembarking the bus, they looked around, almost in trepidation. Everything seemed so dishevelled, walking had to be with care for fear of stepping on the wrong stuff, most places were shut and everybody seemed to be just standing around bemused. Is this really the drop off point? everybody wondered. Apparently, it was. Looking around once more Podge & Tubbs espied a department store which was very nice, just as many department stores are in the UK are but once outside again it was back in a cityscape of seemingly neglect and lacking in care. They did wonder down to the Old Port but nothing endeared them there, so they found a pharmacy, bought two more inhalers, €10 this time which is probably £4 each so they seemed to be getting dearer and then they went in search of fridge magnets.

Podge was struggling.

Although all they’d done was sit on a bus for half an hour and wondered around for another half an hour, it was enough to tire poor Podge. Poor Podge was struggling by now. He just wanted to get back on the bus and go back to the ship. But he knew this wouldn’t be possible, nor advisable until the fridge magnet had been sourced. As luck would have it however, the journey back the bus involved travelling through a small market (why do markets alway chirp up women, especially Tubbs?) selling exactly the same sort of stuff that every other market sells although obviously, some of the images differ, such as those on fridge magnets.

Before long both Podge and Tubbs were back on board the bus, Podge clutching his two more inhalers but struggling to draw breath, Tubbs clutching her new fridge magnet and both Podge & Tubbs eager to get out of town and back onto the ship.

Back on board

Once back to the safety and comfort of the Oceana, Podge & Tubbs dropped off their vast array of purchases, Podge took some [legal] drugs, for his breathing, then went along to Magnums for what is now known as fivesies or 5 o’clock drinks. The bar steward greeted them with his normal cheery self and announced that he had heard from a previous bar steward who they had met on their last cruise that Mr Podge liked Laphroaig Whiskey and so they had got some in especially for him. This cheered Podge greatly, he even started to feel a little better but nevertheless, with his body still weak and even though his spirit was now stronger, he still couldn’t run a marathon nor half a marathon, he couldn’t run for a bus, in fact he couldn’t run but at all, he was definitely better than the morning – must be the news about the Laphroaig.

At the end of the day, Podge mused and thought to himself, ‘what a weird day, thank god she didn’t wakeup in one of her moods’.

Poor Podge.