(written over the course of the past week) Some world traveler I am. For a guy who is telling the entire internet his intentions to flip his previous life upside down and head on an epic expedition I seem to be missing a few major steps. In fact, the only expeditions I’ve gone on in the past 6 weeks has been to the hospital multiple times, battling the snow that blows sideways, the harsh temperatures carried along by the heavy Atlantic winds and slippery streets. To add insult to injury, the hospital is only a 7 minute walk from where I am staying, and I haven’t been able to even think about riding the bicycle.
Honest – I’ve been trying to leave this place for a few weeks now, continuously blowing past my intended deadlines, and it seems I’m about to do it yet again, resetting the attempt and either lying to myself that I’m feeling prepared enough to move forward until the all so common 11th hour common sense cancellation, or the strong commentary coming from the ones who are physically surrounding me each day that I’m setting myself up for eventual disaster if I proceed.
I’m sick – unfortunately, and I can’t even tell you with what! The handful of doctors who I’ve met with all seem to be confusing each other with their own hypothesis sending me on wild goose chases to get poked, probed, prodded, stared at, sampled, analyzed, and ultimately forgotten, while skewing my body’s internal balance with the drug cocktail of the week that assures to solve whatever is going on once and for all, at the same time chewing away at my limited amount of savings prepared for this ‘round the world adventure. Shame on you pharmaceutical companies. Luckily, I’ve found one doctor who actually wants to help, not wanting to let things slide and actively researching the problem, unlike one Doctor who plain out told me there was nothing they could do for me, and to try my luck in another province – seriously?
So what’s going on? Start squirming men – because we’re gonna talk about those little dangly bits that seem to get in the way of everything – yup the testicles. In the midst of preparing for my island exodus I noticed an ache in my left “ball” blasting out Morse code style messages to my brain – Writing it off to a previous injury which involved a sore back and a pinched sciatica nerve I carried about doing my daily tasks, counting down the days to get behind the handlebars of my new bicycle, smelling the crisp air, and blaring the tunes out of my pedal powered speaker system. A few days went by, and the right “nut” joined in to add its own style of syncopated responses to what was once a monologue. Trying to defer from seeking help as long as possible and remember how long this had actually been going on for I started communicating with those around me, who explained for the past 2 weeks I had made passing comments of semi related seriousness (aches, pains, difficulties) before quickly moving onto more exciting conversations (where’s the beer at? pizza party!). I also hadn’t been passing liquids properly, my skin tone had changed, stomach not holding solids resulting in some potential pants filling moments at the least opportune time (is there ever?)
Of course, the mind is a very powerful beast, and those who know me well know that if something is wrong, I start to gain powerful talents, one involving the creation of new dance moves involving shuffling around, moving my arms erratically and “face palming” and rubbing my hair. It is too bad auditions for “So You Think you Can Dance” don’t occur in this easterly most province, as I’d certainly be a contender, the talk of the western world, spawning new crazes with youth. Everyone would even be walking around with 15 month old hiking boots covered in shoe-goo. Finally working up the nerve I went to the doctor, for tests, and one of the most demoralizing physical checkups to ever be experienced which continues to draw humor in those who I’ve shared the details of the story with. Here I am squirming, legs and arms all going their own separate directions on my back on a table, while the doctor is proceeding to kneed my “jewels” like some sort of sadistic pastry chef yelling at me to “Calm Down B’y!” (Please see what Candace Walsh has to say about this and other Newfoundland vocabulary oddities). Beaten down a few notches, I was sent on my merry way with a few prescriptions, a mis-diagnosis that I’d be good to go before the weeks end. It was 4 days later that I remember the thoughts of “OK, you’ve been sick enough, time to get better before you finish your drug cycle” pouring all of my energies into healthy living. I had a great next few days walking from one side of the city to the other, doing headstands on tables in provincial government buildings, and other shenanigans before coming to the realization that it wasn’t working. Obviously I was stalling, deferring the fact that I was actually worse than I was the week before, finally succumbing to the hoarse yells of my housemate to “get my ass to the hospital”. Which then began the cycle of waiting, people watching, competitive bouts of Jeopardy dispersed between the other 23.5 hours of bad TV.
The hospital staff has been much more gentle to my body parts compared to my first fabled visit – Doctors proclaiming “They’ll touch them like they touch their own”, and laughing when I respond humorously to the “Have they always been this big?” queries. It’s been a tossed salad of ‘Exploratory” procedures, Fluid tests, X-Rays, Ultrasounds, CT Scans body topped with a dressing of multi colored pharmaceutical drugs since then. I think we’ve knocked any sort of probiotic out of my body, neutralizing whatever infection was occurring starting to spread throughout my entire body – Every day I wonder, am I feeling better? Am I just lying to myself? Have I learned to accept the pain, is this what chronic pain is like? Doctors are starting to throw around various “-itis” terms that I dutifully research into the wee hours of the morning trying to understand if it is truly what I’ve got, of course with all symptoms pointing to yes, with an additional other 18,000 potential issues that can occur with the body with the wealth of misinformation on the internet, imagination running wild, and face twisting in shock and horror at other peoples sufferers, and the images of what could potentially happen to men should things go wrong. It’s now become an obsession to get better – My funny looking dance moves have subsided, and my mind no longer runs rampant with fear when they want to try something new on me.
I’ve been throwing around my own hypothesis over the past few weeks, some far out in left field (it must be the acidity of the discount coffee I purchased!) to much more realistic (Duh, I just cycled 17,000+ kilometres on a piece of cow hide) concepts. Each time I travel down the road of investigating my new idea, I hit a point where research gets cloudy and I feel like I start to make things up, psychosomatically creating a series of realities that deep down I know that don’t exist just to set my mind at ease with the understanding of knowing what has caused this. Via process of elimination I’m coming up with my own “Scientifical Wild Ass Guesses” (SWAG) quickly to have the well thought out ideas proved wrong after various “field tests”. I think the only thing I have to show throughout this is a new understanding on how to care for a Broooks Saddle, which molds itself based on your body’s sit bones to provide an unbelievably comfortable riding experience –= that is once you make it past the torturous break in phase.
The ‘Surly Long Haul Trucker’(LHT) bicycle that I rode down to Mexico and across Canada with had ‘drop’ handlebars, resulting in a more leaned forward style of riding back bent forward more than my existing ‘Thorn Nomad MK2’ bicycle which I decided to use a slightly curved bar resulting in a much more upright riding style. The saddle on the LHT was mounted with quite an angle, sometimes gaining comments from other cyclists as to why it was aimed up so high – My response is that it was comfortable, and it was, causing no numbness to the “bits” and able to support me for epic distances day after day. The saddle had sagged on the right hand side, almost to the point of caving in – meanwhile my left testicle was the one that started hurting! After some thorough investigation of how to the right height of a saddle, how it should be placed on the bicycle, and making it past all the warnings by everyone NOT to tension the Brooks Saddle, I decided to go ahead and start lacing up the bottom holes in an attempt to create some of its lost rigidity, and commenced turning the tensioning nut in hopes that things would even itself out.
Sheldon Brown says:
Most leather saddles have a tension-adjusting nut located under the nose of the saddle. Fortunately, this nut usually requires a special wrench, so most people leave it alone. In almost every case that I know of where someone has tried to adjust the tension with this nut, the saddle has been ruined. My advice is to leave it alone.
5 full turns later, this thing was finally tight, and all that was left for me was to wait and hope that my initial pain subsided so I could take things out for a test ride Doctors explaining to me that if it is related to one of the “itis’s” that it could take up to 6 weeks to repair things – meanwhile here I am thinking if I caused soft tissue damage to my “junk” I best let things heal. I waited near a week before setting out on my bicycle, riding 15km up and down the hills of St. John’s. It didn’t hurt any worse than it did, which was a positive sign, so I attempted a shorter ride the next day, not even 5km again with positive results and no pain. Finally! Progress! Plans were starting to be put in place to commence cycling on April 7th – seeing as it would be a 1yr anniversary from when I left my home in British Columbia were soon dashed by an alarming series of pain, numbness and stinging similar to when this all started to come to light in mid February – What the hell!
Off I went to the hospital, admission free, thanks to our healthcare system, another wristband, more needles, another visit with the helpful doctor, and a date with the CT Scanning machine, which felt like I was about to pass through into another dimension when it fired up, doctors checking for kidney stones, and swollen glands. Hopes running high that we were to solve this once and for all, I soon went through a familiar scene, given results by other doctors claiming there is nothing to be found, everything looks in order and I am 100% healthy.
I beg to differ, yet they all look at me with this strange gaze, I’m sure they must wonder if I am a drug seeker, using strange stories to continue receiving prescriptions for exotic anti-biotics, and I’m actually starting to think this as well! The latest word is that “it’s all in my head’” – which sounds like Doctor speak for “We don’t know what the hell to do next, so lets just blame it on you!’”.
I’ve hit my wall with tolerance of this place, the treatment that I have been receiving, and nag of wanting to get back on the road, so I will take that doctors advice, and go to another province! I may be setting myself up for disaster with not knowing what is exactly happening, but I’m at the stage where I am refusing to take any more of the pharmaceuticals, and start to become in balance with my body and mind on my own. I should know within a few days of riding if I’m going to be able to continue this trip around the world, or put it on hold and try alternative methods of reparation, whatever they may be – at the very least I’ll be in a different province, aware of every treatment doctors have attempted thus far, and into new exciting territory again. I like this place, but after 5 months, it grows long in the tooth as I originally intended on staying for about half of that period. Please, send your good thoughts and warm wishes to me so that I may continue forward on this journey, and shake out whatever is going on in my system. I’m set to leave Monday April 11th, 2011 and planning on hitchhiking the 905km off of this island, as it is too dangerous and barren to start out from in this state. If all goes well, I’ll be in Nova Scotia by Tuesday morning, and make my way over to Halifax, with intent of being in Edmundston, New Brunswick a week by the Easter weekend. Onwards!