Thursday, June 30, 2011

June 20, 2011: There's Really a Problem

I couldn't do it anymore.

I grabbed the rails, lifted my feet off the treadmill and set them down on its sides. I turned the treadmill off, stepped down, and immediately took my pulse.

120 beats per minute.

That's not high. I wasn't sure why I couldn't keep going. I'd run less than half a mile. Five minutes with the treadmill set at 4.3 MPH, barely above walking speed, and one minute at 4.8 MPH.

I was breathing somewhat hard, but not hard enough to account for the burning in my lungs, the tingling in my forearms and hands, and the aching in my lower legs.

I had an appointment with the doctor the following day. My wife had been begging me to get the two purple bumps on my back checked out, and I'd been writing them off as a self-diagnosed lichen planus, an auto-immune problem that usually clears itself up in a year.

For a month or more, however, I'd been wondering if there was a problem. I love to exercise, and I was trying to get back into decent jogging shape. I'd even made a commitment to run a 10K (6.2 miles) by July with my secretary. But not only was I progressing; I was slowing down in both speed and endurance.

In 2006 I'd gotten in good enough shape to run a 24:45 5K (just under 8 minutes per mile for 3 miles), and I'd run and walked a 50K (31 miles) in 7 1/2 hours with a couple younger friends (who were so healthy and strong that they didn't train for the race). But then I'd let myself go, and it was getting to where a 9-minute mile, just one, was an all out race.

In 2010 I began repairing the problem. I lost ten pounds, and I began running again. We made a trip to California, and while I was there I ran a mile and a half uphill, some of it steeply uphill, with my small laptop backpack on my shoulders. It made my thighs burn at the end, but it was fun.

Early this year sometime, I'd gone on a 2-mile run with my secretary, which wasn't too difficult, but progress seemed slow. I ran almost 2 1/2 miles a month or so later, but it was a feat I couldn't repeat afterwards.

The problem didn't get real bad until this month. On June 11, I attended a Christian writers meeting, and afterwards I walked three miles to meet my wife at a Starbucks. I had my laptop backpack, with several books in it, and it was 90 degrees outside.

The walk was no problem, but I couldn't jog more than a hundred yards, and even then it was very slow.

That day, I became convinced something was wrong.

The following week, when a friend saw the bumps on my back, one of them now an inch and a half long and an inch wide, he ordered me to see a doctor. Worried now that I had something more than a couple ugly bumps on my skin, I made an appointment with my family doctor for Tuesday, June 22.

On June 21, I decided to verify there was really a problem and see how far I could run on the treadmill. As noted above, I didn't quite make it a half mile. Something was definitely wrong.

My wife and I took turns guessing, and we even looked up "purple bumps on the skin" on the internet, but nothing looked like what I had except a case of an Indian man who had "cutaneous b-cell lymphoma." Doctors cured his bumps with radiation, but he died suddenly in his sleep three weeks later. No explanation was given on the web page.

We quit researching, and we decided to wait and see what the doctor said.

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