Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Appointment Viewing 

“You'll have to stay in the waiting area for fifteen minutes after the shot, to see if you have an allergic reaction. Do you have time for that?” I did and so the end of my first routine physical exam in over two years arrived with a jab and a bandage. I didn't realize tetanus shots were required every ten years. I'm guessing I dodged enough rusty nails over the last umpteenth years for it not to come up. I genuinely do not recall having one before. Apparently I had. It was in my file.

There I was, checking my watch and waiting as the nurses called out for the next patient, “Martha? Martha?”

Waiting for what? I had no idea what an allergic reaction to a tetanus shot would be. I felt anxious. Accelerated heart rate. Hot. Sweating. Slightly nauseated. But that could be called Monday morning. It was my first physical in a few years and it couldn’t have been more uneventful. Basically it was simply a review of my blood work I’d had done months before. A nurse took my blood pressure, heart rate, height and weight then, after reviewing my file with my GP, they gave me a tetanus shot.

There was one little thing. My cholesterol was up. Not “up” enough to need medication but not low enough to not have to tell me about it. This presents a couple of problems. The blood test that resulted in this scolding was done in December. I have no idea if now, months later it is lower, still high or worse, higher still. Then there is the fact I can’t really do anything with that information. By all other metrics I’m not over-weight, diabetic, have hypertension or anything else that could be easily monitored. There is no easy way to measure your cholesterol so how do you know? I don’t eat a ton of fatty, salty foods or sweets or whatever but maybe I could add more greens (kale?) but how would I know if cutting out mixed nuts and adding more mixed greens would do anything? I exercise regularly and doubt I could add much more. I’m sure I could but at the cost of being an even more unbearable jerk who tells you how much exercise they do. I guess modifying diet and exercise is doable but would it be significant enough to move the needle?

It’s only been a few weeks since I learned of this but I think the only way to know if I’ve made any changes is to go to private lab and get the test done on my own. Which I will do. As soon as I know where to find such a lab that I can only guess actually exists. I’m going to have to make an appointment to view the unseen, to learn the knowable and do the doable.

Apparently there is such a thing as a home cholesterol test kit but I've never seen them in a Toronto pharmacy.
Update number two: apparently you don't have to pay for private tests, just get 'em from your physician and the reason it's hard to find home cholesterol tests in Canada is they are known to be inaccurate and often don't provide separate HDL and LDL numbers so what's the point?


Friday, July 22, 2016

Hot Town 

Today it’s expected the mercury will hover around 35°C with the humidex values feeling more like between 40°C - 45°C which has triggered a heat alert. Basically, avoid being outside if you don’t have to be. This is of course almost impossible. I’m lucky enough to work in a modern air conditioned building near one of the world’s greatest natural air conditioners - Lake Ontario. Riding in this morning felt like a late afternoon heat. Maybe “end of days” heat might be more accurate. I’m already feeling every bit the asthmatic I am so I will avoid exercise (easy, I’ve been avoiding it for years), and unfortunately, due to a persistent sore throat I won’t really be able to go the pool either. The options may be running out but luckily there are at least three or four movies I plan to see this weekend and again, there is the Lake. Even with crazy high humidity, the air off the Lake is incredible and there are a few pleasant Lake-facing parks to hang out beneath the shade of a tree or two. Last week when the house was lingering in the mid-30’s I took my time going home and spent some time in a couple of Toronto’s newer waterfront parks. I expect I’ll be doing more of that this weekend. The odd thing about it being so hot is how much like a winter snowstorm it can be. You just can’t do the things you planned on because everything comes to a crawl. Did you plan on working in the garden? Don’t. Were you going to meet some friends at a funky new pizza place with a wood-fired oven? Don’t. Planning on a long run or bike ride. Do not do that. The symmetry from last winter is also eery. The Saturday in February when I was without power, the temperature was -40°C which is 80°C cooler than today. To paraphrase James Murphy, if you're worried about the weather, then you picked the wrong place to stay.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 21, 2016

What a Difference a Day Makes 

That time I had bleomycin injected in my neck…

A photo posted by Peter Rogers (@peterrogersesq) on

A few days ago I was feeling chipper. I had an actual bounce in my step. Things were looking rosy, looking up, only blue skies from now on. Why? A number of reasons. I had finally punched through a terrible month of work with days beginning too early and ending too late and I'd made it to the other side. No longer on the back foot, I was waiting for answers from others. I had shed an unexplained five pound weight gain (beer? Ice cream? General loafery?) by getting in a gym workout or two. I had a couple of great swims (one high atop an open air 50m pool). The weather in Toronto had broken from oppressive heat to a really nice summer heat tempered by lake breezes. Local berries were available at the market and I had finally found time for a long, leisurely ride to Rouge Park. I was feeling 10 years younger and despite a lot of things that should worry me (there are always bills and taxes etc), it hardly seemed to matter. This was summertime and the living was easy.

Then I got injected with bleomycin for another treatment of my VVM. I awoke from the treatment with a shredded throat that was as raw as sushi and sore as a hot blister. The injection sites themselves were swollen and tender, which is actually a good sign that should mean a healthy outcome but at the moment make me feel like I lost a bar fight. The hangover of the anesthetic has lingered like bad jet lag and the other side effects of the bleomycin were in full bloom. Vertigo, constipation, and difficult breathing all erased that youthful glow from a few days earlier. Now I was an old man struggling up stairs. My wheezy breathing irritating my throat and making my legs cramp after only a few steps.
Read more »


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Seen in June 

Bikes vs Cars, image via the Globe and Mail

Bikes vs Cars
This documentary focuses on the work of cycling advocates in particularly traffic congested cities like Sao Paulo and Los Angeles. The film also finds time to drop in on Toronto when Rob Ford was tearing out the Jarvis Street bike lane. What is clear is the persistence in the face of frustration of these cyclists working against a systemic imbalance of the importance of car based transportation. Cities like London, New York or Paris which have great public transportation seem to be more open to ideas that restrict car access because individuals in cars are essentially slowing everyone else down. Sao Paulo and LA do not have great public transportation so for many the car is their only way to commute or shop or whatever. What drivers and pro-auto politicians don’t understand is that a more bike-friendly city isn’t about making a cycling utopia but it’s about making a more humane city. A city with great bike infrastructure tends to have better pedestrian access and public transportation links. You can’t really have great transit system without protecting pedestrians. These systems are interconnected. One thing I didn’t care for was a little bit of the cliché of cyclists as eco-warrior hippies. It wasn't blatant or anything but the film showed cyclists as free-wheeling, free spirits who waxed poetic about their bikes. Sure that exists but most people just need to get somewhere quickly, easily and affordably and that would be by bike. One really interesting thing the film does is interview a taxi driver in one of the world’s great biking cities, Copenhagen. The cabbie's frustration with cyclists is obvious but oddly resigned to accept the situation simply because so many people bike in the city – everyone you know bikes somewhere at some point so to complain against it would be a losing proposition. We can only dream of such a scenario in Toronto.

X-Men: Apocalypse
I love the Marvel Universe of characters and their interconnected movie plots but just how much worldwide mass destruction am I supposed to put up with? An ancient powerful “mutant” is roused from his slumber with plans to take over the earth by ridding it of the weak and yadda yadda yadda. Muscular men popped their biceps, sexy ladies wore latex, things went boom etc and so on and it got pretty tiresome. I think I’m just going to avoid films with “:” in the title. The one bright spot was Quicksilver whose talent (he's super-fast and his scenes are shot in beautiful slow-motion) and humour made everything else bearable.
Read more »

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 08, 2016

I’m a Runner, Not a Fighter 

Still frame capture from Flickr user TiaMichele

To make conversation at a get together where I knew only one other person, I said I had tweaked my knee running. The other person, listening politely, inquired, “Oh, you’re a runner?” I took a moment to take in both their surprise and question. I mean, I’m surprised I run. Look at me. I’ve almost run 1000 km* in the past twelve months and yet I don’t look like a guy who ran thousands of steps burning thousands of calories. My answer then was, “Well, I have two legs and I regularly lift them up and down in a running motion… but I wouldn’t say I was a ‘runner’ per se.”
Read more »

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Parliament Piñata 

Labels: ,

Monday, July 04, 2016

Adventure Ottawa 

Canada Day 2016

For the last decade or so Toronto has gotten on my nerves, especially in the summer when it seems to get hotter, louder, brighter and more annoying every year. Lately, I’ve been working from first to last light and the upcoming Canada Day holiday took me by surprise. Did I want to spend another weekend doing my best by pretending to be an extrovert and “getting out there” going to a concert (alone) or a movie (alone) or to an art show (alone) or some free-for-all multi-cultural self-congratulatory-hug-fest (alone) or did I want to do something I knew would be fun.
Read more »

Labels: ,