Archive for Health

Today’s post, in which I win the genetic lottery, or why you haven’t seen me on my bike — or anywhere else — lately

These numbers now run my life, not the ones found on my bike computer.

Well that sucks.

I’ve ridden a bike for most of my adult life, in part, to avoid the heart disease that killed my father, and the diabetes my mother suffered from for over 40 years.

My heart is fine.

My mother developed Type 2 diabetes in her 40s, after struggling with her weight most of her adult life. And my grandmother on my dad’s side of the family suffered from Type 1 her entire life, even though she was so skinny she’d disappear if she turned sideways.

Despite that, I’d been assured by countless doctors over the years that my high fitness level, combined with a bout with hypoglycemia — basically, the opposite of diabetes — in my 20s meant I had little risk of developing the disease.

So much for that.

In retrospect, the first clue something was wrong came when my weight dropped from a muscular 185 to a still fit 160. Something I put off to the stress of dealing with the dramatic decline in income as my copywriting clients cut back on advertising, and the contacts I’ve built over my career were laid off or moved on to other jobs.

I also had trouble building and maintaining muscle, having to ride longer and harder just to stay at the same level, which I assumed was just part of getting older.

Then last summer, I started having difficulty sleeping at night and staying awake during the day, something I once again put off to stress.

I often found myself feeling too tired to ride, my mileage dropping from over a hundred miles a week to maybe 50 to 60 on a good month.

In fact, I was tired all the time. I would get up in the morning, walk the dog, then go back to sleep for another couple hours. And sometimes sleep again in the afternoon, and doze off with my computer on my lap while writing at night.

I sometimes found myself dressed and ready to ride, only to put my bike back up and go back for a nap. Even driving wasn’t an option, too tired to feel safe behind the wheel.

Note to motorists: If you’re not alert behind the wheel, you don’t belong there. Period.

Then after the past holiday season, things took a nose dive.

My weight dropped again, until I weighed just 150 pounds — something I hadn’t seen since I was a 5’2” defensive tackle in junior high school. And whatever muscle I had left melted away, taking my energy with it.

In other words, I lost my ass. Literally.

As well as every other muscle in my body, including those legs I’d proudly honed for over 30 years, until I looked more like my grandmother than I ever wanted.

I cancelled meetings, even ones I was supposed to lead. And stayed home planning to write or work on this site instead, only to accomplish little or nothing. After all, it’s hard to get any work done when you’re sleeping or too tired to think.

A trip to the doctor, followed by a blood test, only confirmed what, by then, I already knew.

I had inherited my mother’s illness, to go along with the devilish good looks and rapier wit I got from my dad.

I’m diabetic.

Type 2, to be exact. Although my doctor is reluctant to call it that because I’m so far out of the norm for that disease, dramatically underweight instead of over.

In the last 10 days, since I got the diagnosis, my life has changed dramatically.

I’ve gone from eating as much as I want because I knew I’d burn it off riding, to carefully structured meals with limited portions. From a diet rich in whole grains to one in which I have to count every carb.

I’ve gotten used to being hungry most of the time. As well as testing my blood multiple times a day to determine what effect what I last ate had on my blood sugar levels.

Meanwhile, I’d kill for a decent beer. Or a crappy one, for that matter.

And a cinnamon roll, please.

My already low energy levels have crashed; even walking the few blocks to the corner drugstore can be exhausting. Which means my bike sits in my office where it’s been since CicLAvia, waiting for the day I feel strong enough to get back on it.

And how I’m going to pay for it, I have no idea. Even with my wife’s insurance, I’ve added over $100 a month in prescription costs alone. Not to mention countless co-pays for all those doctor visits.

On the plus side, I’m not on insulin. Yet.

Between diet and medication, I’ve got my blood sugar down from a resting count north of 400 —over four times what it should be — to 250. Still dangerously high, but moving in the right direction. And I’ll be meeting with a dietician this week to try and work out a meal plan that will allow me to put weight back on and get back into shape without causing my levels to spike.

And maybe I won’t be so hungry all the time.

On the other hand, I’m feeling, if not good, at least better than I have in months, and back to doing most of my sleeping at night and in bed. And I’m hoping to be back on my bike in time for Bike Week next month.

Although all most of my bikewear now falls off my overly skinny ass. So if any bike shops or manufacturers want to trade some smaller kits for an ad on here, let me know.

As for the long-term, my doctor says my chances of overcoming this are somewhere south of zero. Which means, at best, a lifetime of glucose monitoring and watching what I eat; at worst, the same insulin dependency my mother lived with until the day she died.

But it is a manageable condition. And something I can live it.

Which is good, since I may not have any choice.

One thing bicycling has taught me, though, is that I can do anything I set my mind to. Whether it’s getting up that hill or somehow pedaling back home when I’m too exhausted to turn the crank another time.

So I will be back on my bike. If not now, then soon. And riding at the same level I always have. If not better.

And if this can be beaten, I will.

If not, it sure as hell isn’t going to beat me.

 

Today’s post, in which I repeat myself and offer my heartfelt thanks

I don’t often repost something I’ve written before. 

In fact, I recall doing it just once before, when I repeated the Father’s Day post thanking the man who instilled my lifelong love of bike riding. 

But I’m going to make an exception today.

Because it was exactly one year ago that my wife nearly died from a heart attack that seemed to come out of the blue — although in retrospect, there were warning signs. As there usually are, if you know what to look for.

What you’ll see below is probably the most heartfelt piece I ever have ever written. Or ever will.

And the message is still worth considering.

Because you never know where life will take you.

Or your loved ones.

……..

Before you ride, before you work, before it’s too late

I almost lost my wife today.

Not the way I often do at the mall, where her petite five-foot frame too easily disappears behind department store racks.

And not the way I sometimes fear, when I foolishly question whether love is stronger than the anger that never fails to fade following a fight.

This time the heart I fell in love with gave out without a warning.

Or rather, without one we heeded.

Like the odd pain she complained about last night, that felt like someone punching her between the shoulder blades.

Or this morning, when she was too tired to help make the bed. Something we put off to a long standing iron deficiency still awaiting approval for another round of treatment.

But off to work she went, just like any other day.

Then a little after noon, she told her boss she wasn’t feeling well. Moments later, she was passed out at her desk.

Fortunately, the people she works with found her right away, and knew exactly what to do. And within minutes, paramedics from the Beverly Hills Fire Department had her on a gurney and on her way the ER, red lights and siren blaring.

She was already in surgery before I was halfway to the hospital.

That was followed by a tense couple hours in the waiting room, surrounded by strangers with worried faces just like mine, waiting for word on loved ones of their own.

A steady parade of physicians walked through the door, calling names that weren’t mine. And breaking news that brought smiles to faces that weren’t mine, either.

Finally I heard my name, and looked up as a doctor in surgical scrubs beckoned me down a hall leading to the cardiac ICU.

His words didn’t make me smile. That heart I loved was badly broken.

But unlike Humpty Dumpty, they were able to put it back together again. And the prognosis, thankfully, is good.

Only time will tell how much damage was done. If any.

Her life will be different. She’ll be on medication for the foreseeable future, and under the care of a cardiologist for life.

But at least she’ll have one. And I’ll still have her.

It could have been different.

If her coworkers had been at lunch. If the hospital had been farther away. If it had happened tonight, when I would have been away at a meeting, and she would have been home alone, with only the dog to call 911.

And the dog can’t reach the phone. Even if she did know how.

As cyclists, we accept a certain degree of risk. We understand that bad things can happen when we ride, but probably won’t.

And we get angry when it does, usually to someone else. Maybe because we’ve all had enough close calls to know it could be us, some other place, some other time.

People are fragile.

And bad things can happen to anyone. Anytime. Anywhere.

And sometimes, there’s no second chance to say the things you wish you’d said.

So say them. Please.

Now.

Take a moment to tell the people you love that you do. Before you ride. Before you go to work. Before it’s too late.

Because one day, hopefully not soon, it will be.

Tonight I’m going to sleep in an empty bed, with just the dog to keep me warm. And my heart will be miles away, badly broken. But getting better.

And thankfully, that bed won’t be empty long.

……..

A year later, the news is good.

Whatever damage there was to her heart has healed almost completely. And she is back to where she was before a blood clot nearly took her life. 

But they never figured out why it happened, as she had none of the common factors that normally lead to clotting or cardiac arrest. Which means that it could happen again at any time, for whatever reason.

Or it could have been a one time thing that will never repeat.

I’m hoping for the latter.

But let it be a reminder to you, as it is to me, every day, that life is short. And the people in your life precious and irreplaceable.

And far more important than all the things and worries and events that too often distract us.

So take a moment to remember who you love, and why. Then let them know.

It may be the most important thing you do today.

And you may not get another chance.

……..

One more thought.

I love what I do. This blog is my passion, and one day soon, it will, hopefully, be my job.

Even when the writing is hard, and the subject painful, there is nothing I would rather do. But writing is meaningless without readers.

So whether this is your first time here, or you’ve been with me since the beginning, please accept my sincere thanks, from as deep within my soul as I’m capable of.

Because without you, nothing I do here matters at all.

Thank you.

Owner of PV Bicycle Center died while riding in Malibu Hills last weekend

Just getting word this morning that Steve Bowen, owner of the PV Bicycle Center, died of an apparent hear attack while riding above Malibu on Sunday.

Bowen was reportedly climbing up a hill with a friend when he collapsed, and a passing motorist flagged his companion down to tell her he’d fallen. A physician stopped and attempted to revive him, without success.

I won’t waste your time trying to tell you more about Bowen or what happened to him. To the best of my knowledge, I never had the privilege of meeting the man; Seth Davidson of Cycling in the South Bay did, and writes far more beautifully than I ever could about the loss of his friend.

Read it, and you’ll understand why I regret not knowing him. And why the local cycling community will be poorer for his loss.

Bowen was the 74th cyclist to die in Southern California this year, excluding gunshot victims, and the 24th in Los Angeles County, matching the total for last year as well as the average for the past six years. And he is at least the third rider to die of natural causes in SoCal this year; it’s likely that others have, as well, but have not been publicly reported.

I include deaths from natural causes in the fatality totals since in many, if not most, cases, it’s impossible to determine if riding or a fall from the bike contributed to the physical events leading up to the death, or if they were what cause could have triggered a heart attack or stroke; however, that does not appear to have happened in this case.

But to avoid splitting hairs to a near-infinite degree, I now include all deaths from any cause other than gunshots in these totals, which is why they are unlikely to match the figures from law enforcement or highway safety agencies.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Steve Bowen, and all his family and loved ones. Thanks to Jim Lyle for the heads-up.

The health benefits of biking, and a call to be careful riding today

I’m on the run today, so my apologies for not offering a full update this morning.

But I didn’t want to let the week pass without offering this thought about the health benefits of bicycling from Michael Eisenberg.

Glad to hear your wife is recovering. I had a heart incident a couple of years ago. Since then, I’ve taken up cycling, including commuting 30 miles round trip every day, and weekend rides like today’s 70 miler. I’ve lost 64 lbs, lowered my blood pressure to the point that I no longer take BP medications, lowered my blood sugar to normal numbers even after discontinuing diabetes medication, and improved my cholesterol numbers to well within normal too.  Keep preaching.

There are lots of reasons to ride.

But whether you’re riding for fun, exercise, transportation or any other reason, you’re saving your own life with every pedal stroke you take.

And that’s a good thing.

………

One other quick note.

Today is the last working day for a lot of people before Christmas. And that means a lot of office parties, and people getting off work early and starting their holiday celebrations on the way home.

So if you’re riding any time after noon today, ride defensively. And assume every driver you meet on the road has been drinking.

It’s time to give back to Shay Sanchez, who has given so much to L.A. cyclists

It’s been an open secret for some time that Shay Sanchez, founder of C.I.C.L.E. — and one of the original voices in Southern California’s recent burst of bicycle advocacy and activism — has suffered from a severe case of Lupus.

It’s something many of us have known, but didn’t talk about in order to respect her privacy as much as possible.

But now she needs our help, after giving so much of herself to the cycling community.

It’s time to give back.

I’ll let Dan Dabek, Executive director of C.I.C.L.E., take it from here.

Dear C.I.C.L.E.ists and Bike Community Friends,

I am writing to ask for support for Shay Shanchez, the founder of C.I.C.L.E.  Those of us who knew Shay during her tenure, remember her for the love and compassion she effortlessly shared.  For those who do not know Shay, she selflessly worked to improve the community and touched people’s lives by setting them free with human-powered mobility.  Shay built C.I.C.L.E. into a thriving organization with passionate dedication, often putting in much of her personal time and resources.  Due to Shay’s long-term struggle with Lupus, she designed an innovative approach to bicycle transportation that made biking accessible for people of all ability levels – a legacy that C.I.C.L.E. continues today.

Shay has been suffering quietly for the past three years.  She has had several brushes with death and has permanently lost her mobility due to Lupus Vasculitis.  If Shay has personally, or through her organization, touched your life, I ask you to consider making a contribution to her personal Kick Butt and Get Better Fund.  Shay and her partner have incurred and are facing heavy costs to improve her quality of life. C.I.C.L.E. is also planning a community bicycle event for Shay in October.  More details will be included in the e-newsletter.  Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and donation consideration.

Sincerely,
Dan Dabek
Executive Director, C.I.C.L.E.

More About Shay

Shay Wiessler Sanchez was a vibrant and spunky 39 year old, who founded and was at the helm of her own growing and influential nonprofit organization.  But in 2009, her life took a horrible, and life-threatening, turn for the worse. Her decade-long struggle with Lupus manifested into an aggressive form of vasculitis. Her immune system suddenly decided to attack her own arteries and blood vessels.

In order to heal, Shay was forced to quit her position at her nonprofit, C.I.C.L.E., and immediately embark upon an aggressive treatment program. Working with renowned UCLA Rheumatologist Dr. Bevra Hahn, Shay commenced a daily regimen of immunosuppressant agents, including chemotherapy, in order to put a halt to the rapidly progressing disease and maintain a fighting chance.

For the past two years, she has struggled to gain control over this potentially deadly disease. With a careful and strategic medical strategy, her team of doctors have managed to bring Shay into a relatively stable condition. But the aggressive pharmaceutical protocol took an unfortunate toll on her body. The treatments, in conjunction with the disease, have left her wheelchair bound, in pain and unable to independently care for herself.  Recently, Shay has partially lost her ability to swallow and breath on her own while sleeping. Doctors believe that the cause is Myasthenia Gravis (MG), which is linked the the autoimmune diseases like Lupus.  Unfortunately, her situation continues to ebb and flow and the threat of relapse constantly looms — lupus vasculitis is a remitting and relapsing disease with no cure.

This continued and prolonged fight for Shay’s health has delivered a significant financial blow to Shay and her partner. Shay currently requires new rounds of medical treatment and a continued high level of medical care. Additional financial support from the community is readily needed to improve her drastically reduced quality of life and provide healthcare equipment and services not provide by insurance.

The Shay’s Kick Butt and Get Better Fund was launched to provide assistance with this fight — so that Shay can finally kick this beast in the belly, and get the support that she needs in order to gain a second chance with a relatively good quality of life.

OC mountain biker dies from heart attack after fall and air rescue

More bad news from Orange County.

This morning I received word that a cyclist died last week while mountain biking on an Orange County trail.

According to the Orange County Register, 52-year old Santa Fe Springs resident Reynaldo Canlas suffered a heart attack either before or after falling while riding in Peters Canyon Park on Monday, January 30th. Despite CPR attempts performed by bystanders, followed by an air rescue by county firefighters, Canlas was declared dead at 2:3o pm a local hospital.

It’s unknown if the fall caused his heart to stop, or if he fell because of the heart attack.

As the woman who forwarded the story to me said, the people who performed CPR may think they failed to save him, but they may have provided precious minutes that gave him a chance, however slight.

And learning how to perform CPR could be the greatest gift you can give your loved ones.

This is the second cycling fatality in Orange County this year, and the sixth in Southern California.

Thanks to Ann for the heads-up.

Four years ago today, a swarm of bees tried to kill me

I’ve told the story before, so I won’t waste your time getting into it again.

But it was four years ago today that I left for an easy ride along the beach on a beautiful late summer day, and woke up to a lifeguard placing an oxygen mask over my face.

And just my luck, after a lifetime of Baywatch fantasies, I got a David Hassalhoff-equivalent instead of a Pamela Anderson.

Four years later, I still have a few lingering health and fitness problems stemming from that solo collision that started with a massive swarm of bees and ended with a trip through the ER and ICU. Although anytime I make a mistake, I’ve got a built-in excuse thanks to the moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI) I received that day.

And no, I didn’t get stung. And no, I still don’t remember what happened in between.

But it wasn’t the concussion that threatened my life. It was the internal bleeding from a massive hematoma that nearly sent me into shock three times, and could have bled out or lead to a heart attack if I’d followed my instincts and tried to ride home.

But I’m here, I’m alive and I’m healthy. And on days like this, I’m reminded just how lucky I am.

And after all these years, my wife is finally starting to find the humor in the phone call she made to my cell phone that afternoon. The one that was answered by a paramedic saying “Now don’t worry, your husband is going to be fine, but right now he’s in an ambulance on the way to the emergency room…”

So let me take a moment to thank the L.A. County Lifeguards, the fire fighters and paramedics of LAFD Station 69, and the ER and ICU staff at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. The care I got from each and all of them was truly exemplary, and kept a handful of moderate injuries from becoming something more.

And thanks to Trek for making — and replacing — the helmet that limited my head injury to a moderate concussion; it’s exactly this kind of relatively slow speed impacts that helmets are designed to protect against.

You can read about the Infamous Beachfront Bee Encounter here. And if you haven’t already, you can still catch up on last weekend’s long list of links and upcoming events.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s a beautiful day, and I have to ride.

And hopefully, I won’t run into any bees along the way.

Yesterday, I offered my heart to a stranger

Please don’t bury me in that cold cold ground; I’d rather have them cut me up and pass me all around. — John Prine, Please Don’t Bury Me

The other day I found myself at my bank, transferring a couple of accounts I never bothered to move from my old bank in San Diego, despite over 20 years of living in L.A.

Much to my surprise, when I handed them my drivers license to prove I really am who I say I am — yeah, like a lot of people want to pass themselves off as moderately broke, semi-self-unemployed bike writers these days — they handed it back.

“Do you have a valid ID instead?” the banker asked. And sure enough, when I looked at my license, it had expired.

Five months ago.

For some reason, I never received the automatic renewal form a clean driving record should have merited. And since I’m long past the age when bartenders ask for ID, and I seldom write checks, I’d never noticed the deadline had passed.

So yesterday I took the bus down to the DMV, and after a $31 check and a two-hour wait, I had my new temporary license in hand.

And I was, for the first time, a registered organ donor.

I don’t know why I never did it before. Partly squeamishness, partly a desire to meet my maker in as close to original condition as possible, I suppose.

But I’d been thinking about it ever since GT pointed me to the story of a local cyclist killed without warning in a freak accident.

Jeff Bayly’s death was such a heart-rending tragedy that it reminded me that anything can happen, anytime. And if it should ever happen to me, I want some good to come out of it.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that cycling is inherently dangerous. I probably face more risk slipping in the shower than I do even on the worst streets of L.A. And I’d certainly face a far greater health risk if I spent my time on the couch instead of in the saddle.

But things happen.

So while I plan to live a good, long life and annoy my loving wife for as long as possible, I want to make sure someone, somewhere, benefits in case I don’t.

Because even at the advanced age of 53, I still have a few good parts left.

………

Notice for anyone planning to attend today’s TranspoComm meeting with special guest star LAPD Chief Beck — the session has been moved from its usual site in Room 1010 to the City Council Chambers on the third floor.

………

Arnold joins the husband of the current Secretary of State for a Health, Nutrition and Obesity summit right here in Los Angeles; I wonder how many local cycling groups/advocates were invited to participate?

………

Hey, HuffPo backs CicLAvia, just like me (more on that next week). Does a split between founding members threaten the new South Bay Bicycle Coalition? Cyclists confront bike-unfriendly Beverly Hills, and see a possible shift in attitude. Long Beach’s cycling expats explore Marfa, Texas. Cycling lawyer Bob Mionske cuts through the posturing to put Portland’s new 2030 in context — including Long Beach and yes, Los Angeles. Alta Design’s attempt to build a more bike-friendly Southern California spreads to San Diego. A San Diego area bike path poses a hazard to cyclists; so what else is new? Beautiful views of the Chicago skyline captured in the puddles left by melting snow. DC area governments respond to budget cuts by slashing bike plan funding. Despite numerous calls to ban them, one city explicitly allows fixed-gear bikes. Not surprisingly, NYC’s new law mandating bike access results in high bike parking charges. A cycling J.R.R. Tolkien of Lord of the Rings fame compared auto infrastructure in Oxford to the destructions of Saruman and the Dark Lord. The BBC offers a biased bashing of Brit cyclists. Two-time Formula 1 champ Fernando Alonzo considers forming a cycling team with buddy and two-time Tour de France champ Alberto Contador. Twenty-one months in jail for the driver who killed an army major taking part in a Cambridgeshire time trial last year. UK Grocery giant Tesco offers bike skills classes and considers adding bike departments to its stores — think bikes next to buns at your local Vons.

Finally, you don’t have to speak Hungarian to understand this great bike-to-work ad campaign. And if the last one doesn’t make you want to hop on a bike — if not your significant other — nothing will.

After 30 years of bicycling, I now have skin cancer

I always wear a helmet when I ride. I wear polycarbonate sunglasses to protect my eyes. And padded bike gloves to cushion my hands and prevent road rash if I should fall.

I ride defensively, keeping a close look out for dangerous, careless and otherwise inattentive drivers. As well as dogs, pedestrians, tourists and other cyclists. And bees, of course.

But none of that prevented the sun from shining down on my unprotected face, causing a single, minute cell to mutate. And eventually, develop into a tumor hiding in plain site on the side of my nose.

It could have happened when I lived in Colorado, riding 50 miles a day, seven days a week, in the rarified high-altitude air that lets more of the sun’s damaging rays penetrate. Or maybe it began in San Diego, where the near-perfect weather invited leisurely, day-long rides around the bay or up the coast.

It might even go all the back to my childhood, when family doctors still said the sun was good for you, and suntan lotions magnified, rather than blocked, the sun’s damaging rays.

It doesn’t really matter. It’s done, and I have it.

See the skin cancer in this photo? Neither did the first three doctors I showed it to.

I have skin cancer.

For the first 10 or 15 years of my riding career, it would never have occurred to me to put sunscreen on my face. In those days, it was used to prevent sunburn, not skin cancer. And as a year round cyclist, I had a dark enough tan that sunburn wasn’t an issue.

Eventually, the various warnings about skin cancer got through my thick skull, and I started wearing an SPF 8, then a 25.

Now I wear an SPF 50 on every exposed surface, every time I ride.

Funny thing is, I noticed a hard little spot about the size of a pinhead on my nose three or four years ago; three different doctors dismissed it as harmless.

It was the fourth, a dermatologist, who didn’t.

My doctor had referred me to have something else checked out; she quickly determined that was harmless. But as long as I was there, I pointed out that other spot once again.

As first she agreed with the other doctors, since it lacked the irregular shape and discoloration typical of skin cancers. Then she looked at it again, this time under magnification, and spotted a raised outer ridge and central depression typical of basal cell cancer.

Still, she was reasonably certain it wasn’t cancer. But decided to do a biopsy just to be sure.

Then about a month ago, I was on my bike when my cell phone rang. The doctor said the biopsy had confirmed a basal cell carcinoma. As she put it, “There’s no such thing as a good cancer. But if you’re going to have cancer, this is the one you want.”

The good thing about it, she explained, was that, unlike a squamous cell carcinoma or the more serious melanoma, this type of cancer grows slowly and doesn’t spread. It can be removed surgically, with no further treatment required.

No radiation, no chemo.

But now that I’ve had the first one, I’ll be at greater risk of a recurrence, for the rest of my life.

Unfortunately, its location in the middle of my face meant that she couldn’t do the surgery. It requires a specialist capable of getting all the cancer while minimizing the scarring. She got me a referral, and I made the appointment.

For tomorrow.

As I understand the procedure, they’re going to remove all the cancer they can see, then biopsy it on the spot. If it shows they got it all, they’ll patch me up and send me home; if not, they’ll repeat the procedure until the biopsy comes back clean.

A little discomfort, a few weeks to heal and — hopefully — a small, barely noticeable scar.

I’ll be fine. Really.

But if you want to help, there is something you can do. Put on some sunscreen before your next daylight ride, and every one after that. And if you notice any unusual spots or bumps on your skin, or any moles that change shape or color, show it to your doctor; if it doesn’t go away, don’t take “it’s nothing” for an answer.

Because clearly, drivers aren’t the only danger we face out there. And nothing would make me happier than to know that my cancer helped prevent yours.

If you feel compelled to do something more, consider a donation to the American Cancer Society, so maybe they can find a cure before you or someone you love needs it.

I have skin cancer.

With a little luck, a few hours from now, I won’t.

Rider on the swarm

 

I’ve mentioned a few times on here that I’m focused on getting back into shape after a bad riding accident last year. So maybe it’s time I told you what happened.

It was one of those perfect L.A. days. The kind people back east think we have everyday, and we hardly ever get in real life. I was just relaxing with an easy spin along the coast, when something zipped past my face. Then another…and another.

And I realized it was the leading edge of the biggest swarm of bees I’d ever seen — at least 30 feet wide, with thousands, or even tens of thousands, of bees buzzing around in every possible direction. And I was already inside it.

I had no way of knowing if they were angry or docile, and to be honest, I have no idea if I’m allergic to bees or not. But I figured this wasn’t the time to find out. So I just put my head down and pedaled as if my life depended on it. Because for all I knew, it did.

Then just as fast, I came out on the other side, thinking that I’d made out okay, when I looked down and saw that I was literally crawling with bees everywhere I could see. And I could only imagine what there was where I couldn’t see.

And then, nothing.

The next thing I knew, a lifeguard was placing an oxygen mask over my face and asking if I knew where I was.

Fortunately, I’d picked a good place to land, just a few feet from the new county lifeguard headquarters next to Will Rogers State Beach, right where they used to film Baywatch. They’d found me unconscious, off my bike and laying flat on my face, and said I’d been out at least a couple minutes.

Of course, all I wanted to do was thank them for their time, get back on my bike and finish my ride. But by then, the paramedics were there, and I was on my way to the ER at St. Johns.

I still thought I was fine. The docs in the ER thought otherwise, though. That led to a couple nights in intensive care, as a result of A) a moderate concussion, B) a bulging disc in my neck, C) a massive hematoma on my right hip, literally the size of a football, and D) major blood loss due to the hematoma. In fact, my blood pressure crashed three times that first night, dropping as low as 56 over 38 before stabilizing at around 90 over 60 — still too low, but just enough to avoid a transfusion.

So if I had gotten back on my bike to ride home, chances are, I might not have survived the night. Even if, by some miracle, I actually managed to get there. And if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, I wouldn’t be writing this now.

They sent me home with firm instructions not to leave the house for next two weeks, and no exercise — at all — for the remainder of the year.

I remember reading in Bicycling that it takes about two weeks of rehab for every week you’re off the bike due to an injury. By that standard, I should be back where I was by the end of this month. And yes, I’m close, but I’m not there yet. I still find myself struggling at times — though I often look down and see that at least I’m struggling in a higher gear now.

And I still have no idea what really happened, though. My injuries suggest that I must have fallen hard to one side, flipped or rolled over to hit the other side, and somehow ended up doing a face plant on the asphalt. But hey, your guess is as good as mine.

For all I know, Godzilla could have risen up out of the blue Pacific and slammed me down, before slinking off to ravage Tokyo once again. Though you’d think something like that would have made the local news, at least.

I keep trying to figure it out whenever I ride past that spot, but they tell me those memories are probably gone for good. Which, all things considered, could be a good thing.

Oh, and the bees? Not one sting.

Go figure, huh?

A big thank you to the L.A. County Lifeguards, the EMTs from L.A.F.D. Station 69 in Pacific Palisades, and the ER staff at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica — you guys are the best. Streetsblog reviews Dodger Stadium’s new combination bike rack and smoking lounge. The Times’ Joel Stein misses the good old days of bikers on dope. And finally, Councilmember Tom LaBonge is big on bikes, as long as their riders aren’t into holiday lights.

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