Lend Me Ten Pounds, and I’ll Buy You a Drink.

There is a gentleman I pass quite regularly on my cycle ride to the pool who appears to be picking herbs from the grass on the roadside. I’ve often wanted to stop and ask what he is collecting. I almost did so this morning, but it occurred to me he may be collecting cigarette butts discarded by people using the path. I am probably wrong. He is there so often, I doubt there would be that many butts for him to pick up by now. Nevertheless the thought was enough to deter me from stopping and asking. He might be embarrassed.

Whenever something like that happens I get the feeling I am losing an opportunity to hear an interesting story. Is he picking penny royal to make a decoction to induce abortion? is there some psychotropic weed growing here that no one other than he knows of? Is he a harmless nut herbalist, or a derelict with no money for fags? Is it any of my business?

Almost as if to answer the psychotropic theory, I next came upon a much younger man who appeared to have dropped a plastic carrier bag of possessions and was bending over to retrieve them. I was about to stop to help, until I heard what he was saying, or rather the language he was using, and his tone. It was a loud, angry, incoherent rant full of effing and blinding and the colourful C word. He seemed to be referring to one C in particular, up which he proposed to insert various objects. Whoever he was talking to was not visible to me.

Nor, it seems, was I visible to him. I pedalled by on my bike with its bright yellow trailer sporting a pirate flag on its mast. His rant at the invisible person beside him did not change at all as I rode through his line of gaze. I have seen those crazed, dilated-pupil red-rimmed stares before. Not weed. Ice. Move on. Quickly. Before those eyes focus.

The clear water of the pool was warm. It did not feel particularly refreshing. The only energy burnt there today would be in propulsion, not in maintaining body temperature. It was so warm I wondered if I was sweating as I swam. How can one tell?

The MP3 player gave me a particularly good choice of random music today. My 90 minutes of laps passed very quickly. A bit of Zydeco, Sinead O’Connor, Pink Floyd, and Afro-Celt Sound System. I managed to keep up a vigorous stroke rhythm most of the time except during the more languid sound of O’Connor’s Danny Boy. Not my favourite version, nor my favourite of her recordings.

An estimated 4,740 kJ burnt, I had a cold shower and shampoo. Then, after a quick visit to Aldi for salad vegetables, I headed home, pedalling into a freshening breeze from the NNE. Practicing my long neglected nautical assessment skills, I estimated the wind to be between 18 and twenty knots, and bringing rain.

I checked my apps when I got home. 20 knots, NNE. And the radar showed approaching storms. The rain and lightning began within half an hour. It hasn’t changed the heat or humidity.

It still hurts when I pedal. More when I walk. The exercise is not helping, and may even be making things worse. I can’t keep increasing my painkillers. I need a new strategy.

On a completely different note, Richard in Quebec may be interested to hear I have been told there has been a rare (for Bribie) sighting of a small flock of Oriental cuckoos down at Buckley’s Hole. If the weather and my legs permit, I may toddle off down there tomorrow to see what I can see.

Thank the Kraaken for Kodiene

Yesterday was overcast, and relatively cool until the storm broke later that night. I made significant progress on the list I compiled two days ago. I then went on the bike to deliver outsize trousers and shirts to the hospice op shop in Bongaree. After that I extended the ride, exploring further around the poncy canal-side suburbs until I noticed my battery was going flat. I had forgotten to charge it after my last ride. I hadn’t plugged it in after the ride because I thought it might rain, and even though it is undercover, water flows through my area. Evidently I didn’t plug it in at all, even after the rain didn’t eventuate.

Pedalling home became increasingly strenuous, made worse by a fresh on-shore headwind. At least I got some exercise, but this morning I awoke in severe pain. I could not ride. I took the cruiser to the ATM and coin dispenser for dollar coins for my next laundry loads. Then to Aldi for fresh vegetables. By the time I returned to the car I was in severe pain. It’s not my knees, but my thighs and calves so I know it is my spine that is the cause. Just climbing into the car brought tears to my eyes. I needed Codeine. I hoped I still had some in my medicine drawer.

I did. Four left of twenty prescribed by Mehdi on 14/12/2018. Almost exactly a year ago. Mental note to request more next visit.

Not much else is going to happen today. I hurt.

De Morte

Now that I’ve had a nap, and a glass of wine with my dinner, my reflections on today have given me some insights. It was indeed embarrassing; both for the GP with an unnecessarily concerned patient, and for the patient.

I too quickly leapt to a conclusion. When I received the previous call back, I made the appointment by phone, and asked for a hint of what the doctor wanted to discuss. Of course the receptionist was not falling for that one. This time, I didn’t ring, but just booked via the booking app. If I had rung, no doubt some confusion and distress might have been avoided. Or perhaps not.

No harm, no foul. A lesson learned.

My own (over)reaction ranged from considering the simple possibility that I was just going to lose a bit more of my arm, to the increasingly more sinister implications of chemo, radiation, drastic surgery and a short and painful prognosis. I missed the one I should have considered first; it’s probably nothing serious.

I also thought about where I was right now. From a medical standpoint, possibly the best possible place in the world. I have free medical treatment in a country well equipped and experienced with skin cancer.

I am between 2,500 and 3,600 km away from my closest friends and relatives in any direction. I’m paying the price of having been too far for too long from my immediate and extended family. I explored some time ago the possibility of returning to NZ. My visit only confirmed you can’t go back. Even returning would have to be a going forward. I couldn’t see the way.

My local support group consists of two very kind new acquaintances. I have one person with whom I have regular long distance telephone conversations, a friend who has experience with basal cell carcinoma. It used to be we only had dogs, emus and cooking as common interests. I’d have preferred to stick to that.

Today was, therefore, a reminder of what it is to be alone and ageing. As if I needed one.

In vino veritas

Melanoma Blues

A massive chunk excised from my left arm today. Eleven stitches to close the wound. My new personal best. Hopefully we got the whole thing. The bad news is there is another one to do tomorrow. Another positive biopsy result. The good doctor had to shuffle some appointments for me. I appreciate his sense of urgency.

I thought, having made it to 67, I was probably immune to cancer and it would be something else that took me out. Maybe it will be still, but the odds are changing. One thing I have already decided. After looking after my friend Jeff for his last couple of months, I determined then and there I would not be going quietly and meekly if it happened to me. The man suffered. I suffered with him. There shall have to be a plan B. B prepared.

I got the melanomas
Melanomas in my skin
I got melanomas, yeah
Melanomas in my skin
So I went to the doctor
He started slicing straight in.

Said we gotta cut them out man
Before they get too strong
Said we gotta cut ‘em, yeah,
Before they get too strong
‘Cos iffen we don’t cut ‘em
Man you ain’t got long.’ *

I got the melanoma blues,
From knocking around in Sunshine City
Where the ozone layer’s thinner
And the UV rays are stronger in the air
I had SPF to use – but I didn’t use it, that’s a pity
And those bloody melanomas
Are popping up everywhere.

* Poetic licence. He’s Persian, and does not talk like that.

If you actually listen to the Blues, you’ll know a lot of the songs are considerably worse than this one.

I hold my dent up to the light.

Noddy Has A Very Busy Day and Makes a Decision.

Senior moment today. Fully aware that I had an appointment with the GP in Woodford at 11:15 I hurried off for my morning swim at 07:30. I was in the water well before 8 and swimming to the accompaniment of Mozart, Beethoven, Dire Straits, Ultravox, Pink Floyd, Clannad, Steeleye Span et al.

Ninety minutes passed quickly and just as I planned, I emerged from the pool at 09:30 for a shower before driving the 50 minute commute to Woodford. I like to always allow a little extra time. It is a habit you learn in the outback, where a four hour drive can sometimes end up taking a couple of days.

Except without even thinking about it, I had ridden the bike to the pool. Now I had to ride back to base camp to get the cruiser.

Today I found out how the bike performs on full assist. Really well.

I arrived in Woodford, without breaking the law, in plenty of time for my appointment, which was all about the latest blood and pee test results which are encouraging. I took the opportunity to raise the subject of my knees, now that the weight was coming down. Mehdi prodded and pushed, and wrote a referral for x-rays.

Three weeks ago he had checked me all over for melanomas. All clear. Today as I was about to leave, he pounced on a new spot on my forearm and examined it with his super magnifier. Not good. Worried frown. He took a photo with an attachment on his iPhone and showed me what it was about the spot that concerned him. He told me to make an appointment ASAP to have it excised. I go back on Monday.

A couple of hours later I was being x-rayed by a cheerful and chatty young radiographer at Caboolture Hospital. After a few poses and buzzing sounds, she pronounced that the images had come out perfectly,

Then, looking at the images, she said sympathetically, “I bet they hurt”.

I told her they do. Then added “You know, I used to go out with a radiographer”.

“Did you really?” She said.

“Yes, but she saw right through me from the start”.

“How long have you been sitting on that one?” She said, laughing.

“I composed it just then, for you”.

Next stop the Department of Transport and Main Roads Customer Service Centre Caboolture. I’ve been here in Queensland over a year now, and several times at road checks when queried about my WA drivers licence and how long have I been in Queensland, I’ve told the police I am passing through, hanging around only for medical reasons. I have already stayed over the legal time for using an out of state licence. The time has come to acknowledge I am not up to the Grey Nomad life in my current state. I won’t be moving on soon. Maybe I shall in the future, but for now, I’m probably in the best place I can be. Where I am. A very Zen thought.

The nice lady at the Customer Service Centre gave me a form for my doctor to sign, and checked the forms of ID I carry. She pronounced them satisfactory. All can be sorted once I return with the signed form.

So out of practical necessity I’ve made a decision. I’m staying here. I shall join a bowls club or some such for a social life, cheap meals and meat pack raffles, and see about a dinghy to fish from.

Small Significant Steps

My weight has plateaued again. Despite daily exercise and (mostly) healthy meals. On the other hand I have lowered the saddle on the bicycle a few finger widths. Chubby finger widths.

This is particularly significant because apart from meaning I can put my feet down properly, increasing my safety when I am stopped at an intersection, it is a very encouraging indication that my knees are improving. Also that I’m lighter. My riding posture seems more comfortable too.

Best of all, I pedalled home this afternoon against a steady strong wind that proved I was contributing a significant effort to my progress. Enough to break out in a sweat despite the cool of the evening.

The pool is getting a lot of use these days. I am sharing a lane most of the time. Sometimes we triple up which involves some accommodations, since I am invariably the slowest swimmer. I am also the only one who does not stop unless I’m waiting my turn for half a lane. The others swim intermittently for a fixed number of lengths or a short time such as half an hour, then leave.

What I find particularly irksome is the couple of old codgers standing still at the shallow end of a lane talking for half an hour and not using the lane while others are triple sharing. If they just want to talk in a moist environment they should go sit in the paddling pool. I’m becoming a grumpy curmudgeon.

I don’t like to feel I’m hogging a lane so when there is a crowd like today I quit after only 90 minutes. That’s a good 4,000 kJ burned at least by my calculation. Another thousand minimum on the bike and a couple of hundred on my daily limp around the camp mean that I can be completely guilt-free however I choose to spend the six to seven thousand kilojoule daily food and beverage budget I allow myself.

Then the black dog reminds me that I’m doing all this just to be fit and well at the Apocalypse. And I pour a couple of gins and tonic. Bombay Sapphire was on special on Saturday.

I had started stocking up for Christmas, but what the hell. Christmas is when you feel.