Friday, December 21, 2012


Once again, here's my virtual Christmas card to all friends and visitors to the Asylum (it's copied from my actual card that I create every year in Microsoft Publisher...front, inside top, inside bottom, and backside).

Jeannie and Matt

 Sweet Pea, PG (just a week after her surgery) and Sydney

Another holiday season is drawing near,
And the world seems filled with Christmas cheer.
The year has gone by so very quick,
It’s once again time for us to greet St. Nick.
For many months this year I was out on the road,
Leaving Jeannie and the babies alone in our abode.
But we survived our rather lengthy time apart,
With a joyous reunion and a happy heart.
Some trials have been tossed into our lives of late,
We do our very best and leave the rest to fate.
It seems that our world is filled with strife,
But we’re thankful for the gift of life.
And so, our final words that we’d like you to hear,
We wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays from Jeannie, Matt and the fur-babies!


        PG after the surgery                                                               Sydney after her bath getting warm again

Sweet Pea relaxing on the couch                                       Our house all gussied up for Christmas

Well, that's it for another year.... can you believe it? Soon it will be 2013. It's been a wild ride thru 2012, and ending on an extremely sad note with the shootings over in Connecticut. I think I'll be glad to get this year in the history books. Here's hoping 2013 is better.

Jeannie and I are heading down to Arizona (Yuma) for Christmas, then coming back (Jeannie has to work) and I will head over to Nevada (Pahrump) for a few days returning on New Years Eve-eve. PG has an appt down in Ventura on New Years Eve day with her surgeon....we'll get the official report on her recovery (we're especially interested in how far down the nerve has regenerated in her leg). I will have little to no internet for the majority of the holiday period (I'm on vacation starting Monday, go back to work on Jan 2nd).


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Great Googly Moogly!

First things first: I must's been ONE MONTH to the day since my last post. THAT is unacceptable! I have a ton of excuses lined up...among them poor me, busy me, work this, blah blah blah...but quite honestly there's not even ONE good reason.

TEN DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS! Can you believe it? I'm floored by the thought. Astounded. Where oh where did the year go?

OK..enough of the small talk. PG is doing great. As good as we could have possibly hoped for. We have her out of the soft cast and she's wearing a plastic 'brace' that is made for just this sort of thing. It's Velcro-strapped to her leg, and I add 2 strips of the stretchy-clingy bandage wrap stuff to help hold it. The length is just right, but she has tiny thin bird-like legs and it's fallen off twice until I started adding additional wrapping inside and out.
 Here she is waiting for dinner. She puts weight on the foot whenever standing, 
but still holds it up to walk about.

She has a sore or two inside there and I hit them with Neosporin every morning when I put the brace on, and she licks it to death every evening at bed time when I take the brace off. Without the brace she continually puts the foot down toes-first and they bend under and she will stand on them...not sure how far down the feeling has come but it's not there yet. We have an appt w/ the surgeon on New Years Eve day, and I'll find out then and have a good idea how far it's moved in the last month, thus how many months to go roughly. In the meantime, she's loving life. She eats fresh chicken and veggies morning and night, and LOVES LOVES LOVES her new food. As long as the cancer remains in-check, she will be living the dream!

Being as it's been an entire MONTH (ie: since BEFORE Thanksgiving) that I last posted, I need to catch up. The farm. We had a great time at my bro-in-law's farm in Virginia over Thanksgiving as usual. The weather wasn't too bad either...a bit chilly the first day but probably in the 60's most of the days after that. Still quite chilly at night, but the good ol' cast-iron wood stove works it's magic, and he can pretty much heat the entire house with that alone. Here's some VA pics:

We flew into Richmond and drove over to Williamsburg that evening to our hotel. The next morning we met Jeannie's good friend Barbara, who drove over from Norfolk (they were college buddies). Barb so very thoughtfully brought ME a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts! MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

 Here's Barb and Jeannie

 This was our Thanksgiving turkey. I had to help John (my bro-in-law) "prepare" the we had to catch it, de-head and bleed it, pluck it, and finally John did the 'cleaning', until you see the big-ol' tom looking pretty much like a grocery store bird. I think it weighed out around 23lbs. (did you know the Tom turkeys have big spikes on their legs like roosters? I didn't! Thankfully John tackled the bird and I helped get him 'in the bag', and neither one of us got spurred).

 Here's me and my 'bro' John (he's wearing MY coat btw)
Here I am doing my best farmer imitation. I'm driving a hay-bail out to the cows (wearing the obligatory NRA hat). Most of the people out here are either hunters or Amish...certainly the area is a bastion for the right to own guns and would be pretty tough to disarm. I'd think an invading army would have a rather tough time taking the US...we have a LOT of hunters. I heard something about the hunters in the four states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and one other state in that area would constitute one of the largest 'armies' in the world. And that's just four states!

Here I'm taking care of the goats and dogs (the dogs are Great Pyrenees, 2 of them...NOTHING will mess with these goats I can tell you!) Goats are kind of like big dogs...they LOVE attention and are quite gentle and loving. That's Neo in the background (the dog)...he's a big chicken, but his sister Gabby in the front would lead the way if anything 'protection' wise needed to be done.

That about wraps up the farm was a nice stay and was over all too soon. We flew home on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, getting home around midnight. Then on Sunday around 11am I flew out (for work) to Colorado Springs. No rest for the weary I tell you! That trip was a success and over in a blink, flying home that Friday. Since then it seems there just hasn't been time for anything...somehow the days are zooming by and I feel like I'm running behind schedule constantly. I did FINALLY finish my 2012 Christmas cards and letter....the first few are in the mail, and my GOAL for this weekend among other things is to get them ALL in the mail by Monday. Oh, and I finally got the Christmas lights up last weekend also!

Here's the house...pretty much the same as last year except I've added the big 'tree' in the front yard. I designed it to go on the roof, but it's been raining a lot and our cement tile roof is like greased lightening unless it's TOTALLY dry....and Jeannie likes it in the yard, so that's ok by me. I have some changes in mind for next year, just need to get a few new light sets. This year the neighbors on both sides are lit up also...our three houses in a row look just grand! It would really be something if more neighbors would take the hint...our entire little street could be the one people drive to see (and space station astronauts take pictures of from orbit!)

Tonight (Saturday) we are heading to a Holiday party...hosted annually by one of Jeannie's co-workers. It's always a great time and this years theme is 'tropical'. Sadly, I couldn't find my box of 'jams' (Hawaiian shorts and stuff) from LONG ago in a prior lifetime...I'd have been a sight to cause sore-eyes for sure! Alas, I'll have to look respectable darn it. I know that box is up in the attic somewhere! 

Anyway, again I apologize for the lack of effort on my part here at the Asylum...hopefully things are going swimmingly for you out there in the real winter...and your Christmas shopping is all done and you are sitting by the fireplace sipping spiked egg-nog watching Christmas specials and listening to Christmas music. We have our holiday decorations up inside and out, and I'm really getting into the mood. Until the next time, stay warm and think good thoughts!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why we drive old cars

Well, things are actually going pretty well here. We hope it stays that way for a while. PG is home, she's got the stitches out, and she's pretty much back to her ol' biddy self. Jeannie took her down for her post-surgery appointment on Monday and had a pretty good report. The feeling in her leg is creeping's moved like a half-inch in the last 2 weeks or's now below the knee and on the move. THAT is a huge thing...of course, she will be wearing some kind of a wrap/brace until it eventually works it's way down to the tippy-toes (so that she doesn't hurt herself, such as breaking toes or something as they have no feeling and bending them backwards).

Here is the scar back AFTER she had licked out the first half (you can see the remaining half). It goes all the way from her knee almost to her tail. The black sharpie half-moon near the tail is the line of doom: it's the high-water line of where the giant blood-clot reached (that would have been contaminated with tumor cells, as all the leaking blood passed thru the tumor). The surgeon wants to keep this line available in case it suddenly becomes prudent to take the leg shows how high they have to go (it's clear up past her pelvis...they'd have to take some of that too). We don't intend to go this route unless there is NO other way.

Here you can see the entire 'splint' they have on the leg, protecting the area with no feeling. She can stand on this (in fact, we are under orders to get her to put weight on the leg multiple times a day to help strengthen the atrophied muscle, as she hasn't used this leg for over 3 weeks now). Of course, she doesn't really WANT to stand on this leg...we have to get her relaxed and standing (on 3 legs), put this foot to the ground, and gently raise the good leg. She fights this and you can tell that as we lift the good leg she is lifting herself even as the good leg is off the ground, putting almost no weight on the bad takes some work to get her to actually bear weight on it..and we do that a few times for 10-15 seconds at a time.

And here's our little angel (devil) snoozing. She jumps up/down of the couches with ease (even though she's not supposed to be doing that). We do our best to keep any moving around to a minimum. The Dr. is afraid too much movement could get the tumor bleeding again. That is indeed a scare, but at SOME point when she's healed, she will be running/jumping around per normal. I'm not sure we can live our (her) life in fear of that beginning again. You have to be able to LIVE. But for now as she heals we follow the directions as best we can.

She's eating good, and we don't have much left in the medication department (HOORAY!). We are off the 'get up in the middle of the night' routine for giving her meds..she now gets them morning and night, and I think we are down to two of six. She's eating good, and she should be happy about that part...she's getting chicken and broccoli (with cheese...we have to sprinkle cheese on top or she will turn her nose up at the broccoli). I'm hoping that someday she will eat the broccoli without the cheese sprinkled on top. But no matter...she's not getting any sugar foods (breads, etc)...just meat and veggies which is supposed to be good for fighting cancer/keeping her tumors in check.

And so...we are quite thankful that the recovery is going as well as it is. Her sisters treat her about the same as always (Sweet Pea will knock her down to get out the door first, or to the doggie food bowls first, or pretty much any other reason there is to knock PG around). So we are always on guard for this...sure don't want her to get hurt by her sisters, as they certainly don't understand the 'recovery' thing.

I will leave you with a post surgery picture of the entire pack. Jeannie has PG covered in a blanket as she has no hair on about a third of her body since they shaved her pretty well for the surgery. I had been sitting where the green pillow was, and amazingly they all stayed put when I got up. You can see PG is quite happy, as she's NOT wearing the cone of shame anymore, and she's getting LOTS of attention.

Jeannie and I fly to Virginia this Saturday, and will be spending the week at her brothers place (the farm). I'm hoping for a relaxing week for the both of us, and that we don't stress too bad about leaving the babies. We have two different doggie-sitters coming over to feed them while we are gone. I've also setup my 'doggie-cams' (webcams) in two main locations so we can peek in on them anytime to see what they are up to (lying around sleeping is pretty normal). They have doggie-doors so have total access to the fenced three sides of the house (so we never have to 'let them out to go'). Thanksgiving is right around the corner, can you BELIEVE IT? I am still in disbelief!

And with that, I wish you a nice weekend. I'll check back in and post something from Virginia most likely.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Happy Veterans Day!

Happy Veterans Day everybody! Time to reflect on the sacrifices that have been made throughout our country's history to get us this far.

If you came here expecting a big post about Veterans day, well, I'm afraid you've been gypped.

You see, for now I'm done on that topic (and no, I'm NOT going to rant on and on this year about how Jeannie gets to sleep in while I the VETERAN gets to get up and go to work like I usually do). You see, Jeannie WILL be getting up early herself this year. But for the details on that you need 'the rest of the story", and that involved PG (because EVERYTHING in our house right now involves PG).

THIS is the rest of the story. It's the 11-11-12 afternoon PG update.

All is well! (and right now that's as good as we can ask for!) She's still wearing "the cone of Shame" (and so am I for that matter). You see, last Thus night during my 2am medical wake-up, I had taken off the cone, dissolved the very last of the dreaded 'drink it' medications (med #4 in our list of 6) in the water, loaded the hypodermic and even managed to get most of it down her gullet. Then I thought I'd give her a break, figuring she will sleep the next 2 hours (I still had a 4am wake-up med to do).

SO..I left off the cone and went back to sleep. And you know the ol' saying: no good deed goes unpunished. I get up at 4am and lo and behold, she did not sleep. No, she started licking the sutures. And somehow, over half of them were now MIA. Just gone. The nice flat (perfect) suture line now was half-way inflamed, the cut skin edges looked like lasagne noodles (all wavy). I felt HORRIBLE! The surgeon is going to SKIN ME ALIVE! However, it's been going on 9 full days since her surgery, so the cut didn't open up. It just doesn't look so 'purty' now. Thankfully we didn't need to take her to the vet to be re-sewn.

So now I'm wearing a virtual cone of shame. Jeannie will take PG down to Ventura tomorrow for her post-surgical followup with the Surgeon. Why is Jeannie taking her instead of me you ask? IS Veterans Day as you know, and being as she has it off for no other reason than being a Govy worker (THUS ending her amazing string of SLEEPING IN on Veterans days), while I will be working. So the duty of being PG's limo falls to her this time around. And there is a bonus for me: at least I won't be there in person to get thrown under the bus about the missing stitches (as she most assuredly will fling the blame on me, and I don't blame her one bit cuz it was totally me). Also thankfully, in the last few days the ruffled edges have laid down pretty nice and it looks just like the rest, only with no stitches. I'm sure the remaining stitches will come out my verbal bashing won't be quite so bad I hope. I think her appt is at I'll see if I feel like my ears are burning around then.

Anyway, our little angel/devil is doing pretty good, though I have to say she is overall a lousy patient. We go thru a LOT to get her to take her 5 remaining usually starts out easy, and typically finishes hard (much like Ike and Tina Turner's version of Rolling on the River). If only she would just EAT the blasted fresh piece of chicken (with said pill tucked inside somewhere). But nooooo...she's gotta sniff it, and gently take it, then chew it a few times and BAM, the pill falls out and she finishes the chicken. She only gets one chance with me anymore...then I pick up the pill, PRY her jaws open, force the pill to the back of her throat while holding her head up high, then hold the jaws shut until she swallows it. We do this OVER and OVER and OVER. I'd have thought she'd figure it out and just EAT IT the first time. I think she's just REALLY stubborn.

But other than that it's all going well. We'll know more tomorrow after the followup with the surgeon. We also hope to have a sit-down with our local vet and develop the "plan" for what to do with the cancer. Jeannie's and my thoughts on that are that we will do our very best to treat it with diet...seeing if we can keep it at bay. The Surgeon even admitted it might have been in there for some time, and only due to the bleeding was it discovered. So if we cut out all the sugars (which we have) we will see how she does. We have no intention of putting her thru the radiation, nor letting them take the leg (unless that somehow becomes the prudent thing to do). She's 11 years old in just a few weeks, and we will go from here doing the very best we can. That is our basic plan. Subject to modification at any time of course.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Life in the ICU

We are now running a little private doggie-ICU in our house. Let me back up a bit and fill you in.

Our little furry-angel came home on Monday as planned. I was able to pick her up in Ventura after work and make the 100 mile trip north with no problems. I had her 'placed' in the front passenger seat on a nice pile of blanket, knowing she would be rather 'needy'. It was about 60 miles into the trip before I could take my hand off her for more than a moment without her trying to get up and crawl into my lap. I gather she was somewhat traumatized by the preceding week.

I had gone over the directions down in Ventura with the discharging Dr, but when I got home Jeannie and I both went thru everything. She is to be 'incarcerated' with the cone of shame at least until the drain comes out. The drain is a tiny tube coming out the end of the sutures near her tail. It has a sharp needle at the end and that goes into one of those small vacuum tubes they use to do blood samples in. I brought home about 200 of those (the drain is in for at least thru next Monday). That tube needs to be changed every 2 hours.

Here's our little darling in her 'daytime' sequestration zone. You can see how happy 
she is wearing the cone of shame.

She also has SIX medications to be taken at various times. So Jeannie made a list of all the meds and their frequency, then we made a chart of time starting at 6am, and every 2 hours it lists what meds are to be taken (the dosage I wrote on the pill-bottles with a sharpie so I can see it in the middle of the night). Also she is to eat small amounts several times a day, so we scheduled that in for every 6 hours. We stopped at Wallyworld and bought a battery-operated alarm clock (you know...the round kind that is SUPER easy to set? Those are getting harder to find).

So....Jeannie and I put our heads together and here is the daily schedule we came up with:

6am: replace drain tube, medication 2, 4 and 5
8am: drain tube, medication 3 (dissolve in water)
10am: drain tube, medication 6, small meal
noon: drain tube, no meds
2pm: drain tube, med 3
4pm: drain tube, med 4, small meal
6pm: drain tube, med 1,2,and 5
8pm: drain tube, med 3
10pm: drain tube, med 6, small meal
midnight: drain tube, med 4
2am: drain tube, med 3
4am: drain tube, no meds, small meal

I have been taking the 'night shift' wake-ups (Jeannie wouldn't do very well at this getting up and doing stuff, then going back to sleep). So I take it thru the night starting with 10pm, thru 4am, and Jeannie has been working at home so she takes over @ 6am (I leave for work around 5:15am) and I pick it back up (or we share) after I come home from work. Sure glad there are two of us...this would be BRUTAL if you were alone trying to manage this amount of care.

PG's in good spirits though, other than wearing the cone of shame I mean. I sneak it off during the night and at eating times, but any time I catch her licking the sutures or going ANYWHERE near the drain it's back to cone. And Jeannie wants me to have it on her when I leave because she's working and can't be watching her all the time.

At night I have her sequestered next to the bed....I used our awesome doggie-gate (variable length to fit in doorways, etc) and have the area on my side of the bed blocked in, and she has a nice bed in there. This way I can get up when the alarm goes off I can turn on the closet light which shines right where she is laying. I go get a new tube (I numbered a whole bunch 1 thru 50 I think, and on a piece of paper I went down the list writing the day/times in 2 hour intervals...thus later on I can see that tube # 15 was from which day and 2 hour time period...this might be important later). So I grab the next numbered tube and go swap it out with the current one. Then I look at our handy job chart and see what needs to be done...pills, meals. One of the pills needs to be dissolved in 10ml of water, then have 10 more ml added (this is the directions, I don't understand it either). Then I suck it into a turkey-baster hypodermic (without the needle, but I do have a piece of my aquarium airline tubing on the end). Then I have to get her to sit-up (hard to do in the middle of the night actually) and stick the tube inside her cheek (no way she will unclench and let me put it in her mouth). If I hold her nose up and gently squeeze, she will start swallowing the water/med. Though last night she sat there (at the 2am shift) NOT swallowing until it ran out her mouth...she had an evil look on her face saying "you can't make me drink this!". Jeannie heard me having troubles and came over and helped hold she eventually capitulated and drank the remaining fluid (what wasn't on me or the floor).

Giving her pills has been relatively easy...we just wrap it in a piece or 2 of chicken, squish it together like a little chicken patty and she has been pretty good at NOT playing the "I can smell the pill and get it out of there yet eat the chicken" game she usually plays. Not sure how long this stroke of luck will hold, but we are enjoying it while it lasts (she's not a very good patient).

And here you see some of the damage. You can see the suture lines running across (up?) the thigh. You can also see the vacuum tube holster (in the white gauze) up above the hip. The gauze wraps up over the tube after you stick it with the needle and then put it back into the holster...that keeps it from falling out when she is lying down or moving around. You can also see just how happy the poor baby is wearing the cone of shame (not to mention having her leg cut wide open).

Then she needs to go outside every now and then for business...she hops around quite well, even with the hurt leg all bandaged up (they wrapped up from just above the knee to just the tip of the paw...this is because she has no feeling down there and will hurt the foot, so the wrapping holds it in a 'standing' position so she can put it down and us it. Above the knee has feeling.....we are waiting to see if the feeling comes back...the surgeon said if it doesn't they will likely want to take the leg. So we are praying on that first.

THEN there is the matter of the malignant cancer inside her thigh. The surgeon said it's a low-grade tumor, but right now it's still releasing fluid (part of the stuff that gets sucked out of the drain). The rest of the fluid is from the leg healing after the damage done by being so pressurized for 7 or 8 days from the bleeding tumor. It has been slowing down in quantity...last week at the surgical center they were changing the tube every hour. Sooner or later we will have to address the cancer...for now we have changed her diet to NO sugars of any kind (all the online info says that's what tumors feed on, so you can starve them). She's getting chicken right now, and I hope to add in broccoli, cauliflower, and maybe some other veggies..maybe some sweet-potatoes. The problem is she's a finicky eater. VERY finicky. I tried to get her to eat some strawberry pieces last night, no luck. However the other two (Sweet Pea and Sydney) will eat them! The surgeon did say the tumors might have been there some time (they are not very big) and only the bleeding got them discovered. But she did talk of radiation down the road (IF she gets feeling in the foot back).

And so we take it day by day. Today Jeannie got her into our local vet as the last few night-shift tubes didn't get any appreciable they could be clogged. It's now the end of the day and she's still there...and there is some misunderstanding over the 'clogged tubing' directions the vet has from the surgical center...they are working on that right now. This is not good, and I might be taking her back down to Venture tonight if this isn't resolved quite soon (as the vet closes in less than an hour). Scary stuff...stay tuned.


Sheesh...I hadn't even gotten this published yet when the phone was Jeannie at the vet...problems. She wanted me to zoom down there...turns out the vet hadn't done anything all day on PG...Jeannie had called the surgeon down in Ventura to ask what was going on as the Vet said they were waiting for some info from Ventura...our surgeon was LIVID and called the vet asking what was going on, and WHY hadn't anybody called her? The drain hadn't been working since around midnight, Jeannie got her in as soon as they opened, and now at 5pm they are looking into it...then the Vet (not actually OUR vet..she had the day off and couldn't be reached, so this was the 'other' vet in the office) got onto Jeannie's case about what to do if the drain is clogged...for her to come back and show the tech's what to do (like WE know??). So it was a huge blowup scene, and Jeannie is WAY TICKED at the vet, swearing never to return.

So...the end result: I zoomed down there, picked PG up and brought her home. Then we called the surgical center for info, and it turns out they were expecting PG down there TONIGHT (the vet forgot to tell me that part, she said they'd want to see her TOMORROW). So...I loaded up the car and moved to Beverly...Hills that gold, movie stars...(sorry, Beverly Hillbillies flashback...always loved to watch Jethro eat an entire box of Corn Flakes in that GIGANTIC bowl). OK, it was just me and PG on a SPEED run down to Ventura...again. Got her down there around 8:30 and they were expecting her...checked her back in (don't think they gave her room away's only been 2 days)....they will verify the drain is working, and if it IS clogged will have to get a new one in there (hope that doesn't mean surgery again) they'll be keeping her at least overnight...poor thing...we had just gotten her home!

All I know is that I'm beat...but at least I don't need to get up every 2 hours there is that. But I'd take it to have her home where she belongs.

And that's the story THUS far. Stay tuned...there's lots more to come I'm sure! I"m beat...time for bed. I might just get up at midnight, 2am and 4am just for kicks....NOT!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The woods are deep and dark

Not really sure where to start today...things seem to be happening fast and it's hard to keep up.

Let's recap...We took PG to the surgical center last Monday evening, on Tuesday they did a CT scan among other things, and determined she had a huge mass in her thigh. I came home from work that evening and found one of our two large goldfish (Thelma) dead on the bottom of the acquarium. Not much later we get the call from the surgeon giving us a complete doom and gloom prognosis for PG's surgery on Wednesday, we were scared to death.

We both took Wednesday off and drove down to Ventura to see her before she went under the knife (in case it was the last time we see her). Her surgery isn't scheduled until sometime after noon, so we drive back home and wait. About 3:30pm we get the call....she came thru surgery fine, and they sucked out almost half a liter of blood clot from a bleeding tumor, (which had now stopped bleeding thankfully). So they stitched her back together after taking a few biopsies of the tumor (and some other items of interest). We are relieved beyond words, the surgeon thought the tumor might have been a 'fatty' tumor (PG had a large fatty blob tumor removed about a year ago..benign).

Thursday comes and goes, she is recovering fine, no news is good news.

Friday I come home from work and Louise (the other large goldfish) is also now dead on the bottom of the aquarium. VERY strange. Not much later we get another call from the surgeon, TOTAL doom and gloom. The biopsies are back, all a malignant something sarcoma, no sense taking the leg at this point as the blood clot was all the way up into the pelvis (and all the blood that leaked out the tumor could very likely have tumor cells in it, thus spreading it wherever it went). She talked about us seeing the oncologist on Monday, discussed 2 possible radiation treatment plans (both expensive and both almost impossible for us to do, being as we live 100 miles away from the oncologist, and we both have jobs). We are seemed like she had no chance...

Saturday morning I go for a bike ride to clear my brain...the surgeon calls back and talks to Jeannie...wanted to make sure we understood some points: there is no sense doing anything (radiation or otherwise) until after we see if she gets the use of her leg/foot back (she has lost feeling due to the pressure on the nerve from the huge blood-clot). If the feeling doesn't come back then taking the leg is still a possibility. Also she discussed that the tumors are "low grade"...and most likely had been there for some time (they were small) and we would have never known about them except one started bleeding. So the best course of action is to bring her home and let her recover, and see where things go. I come home from my ride, having been working out how to possibly do the radiation treatments, as we have to give her a chance. Jeannie gives me this news...and wow! Talk about a totally different phone call than the one the night before! I was stunned!

So....hopefully I will be able to bring her home tomorrow (Monday) afternoon...and we will just take it from there. We will be looking into changing her diet...I know there are lots of homeopathic treatments and such for cancers, depending on the type. Overall I recall reading that most tumors live on the if you cut those out you can help starve carbs....thankfully PG won't have any problem with that diet...we start giving her chicken and turkey and she will be in HEAVEN!

What a roller-coaster ride this has been. I can only imagine how bad this would feel if it were one of US with this's bad enough that it's one of our fur-babies let me tell you. And yet people all over the world get this kind of news every single day. It would be crushing, can't imagine how you wake up and move forward.

And so...if things continue with her recovery I will bring her home tomorrow...we drove down yesterday afternoon and visited...she is doing well, and made a HUGE fuss that we were there (she is in a very large 'room', and both Jeannie and I were able to crawl in there with her and just sit and touch her...she really loved that, always has. We stayed with her for a while and then had to leave, she was very sad (as were we, you know it's heartbreaking to leave when they don't understand). It will be great to pick her up though...she will be SO happy! To get our little family all back together again. And we will just keep putting one foot in front of the other and take it from there, doing what we can when we can. I guess that's all anybody can do.

As the old saying goes, it can always be worse.

One thing that has been bothering me...why did my 2 fish suddenly die, each on a night we get a terrible phone call? Those fish were the survivors of the 'turtles' (remember those from a year ago?)....these fish survived a ton of stuff..and were quite large...I'm guessing about a half pound or more each. Their water was immaculate (I have the Binford 350 super duper external 350gallon per hour filter that I had for the turtles....the water is PRISTINE I can tell you!)...can't for the life of me figure out why they suddenly died 2 days apart. There's no ammonia, nor anything else that I've tested for in the water...(and they are goldfish for crying out loud...cold water fish who can live in a stupid fish-bowl with no bubbling air, water filtration, etc for a long time). I just think it's very odd....and now it's so quiet in my office without the bubbles running....(I only ran the super filter at night for about 2's only a 20 gal tank...@ 350gph,  run it for an hour and the water has been cycled MANY times thru a HUGE heap of carbon).

And so...the dreaded time change has happened once again. Winter is officially here in my book. My riding time has taken a huge hit in the last 3 weeks or always does in the fall/winter...right now I've just lost interest I'm afraid. Hopefully things will look up when PG is back home. I sure hope so...the other 2 are getting lazy without the Alpha telling them what to do, and lording everything over them.

Have a great week, and I hope we shall do the same. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012



That is the headline today here at our household.

And there is much rejoicing!

Let me back-fill the story over the last few days. They had been running tests down at VMSG since we took her down Monday evening, the most important was the CT scan. This morning was the first time we saw the results, as we both took the day off work and drove down to be with her prior to her scheduled surgery this afternoon. The surgeon showed us the hulk-leg in 3d from any angle....(modern medical technology is just amazing!). They still weren't sure exactly WHAT the mass was, but it was plain that there was a HUGE mass of something inside the thigh muscles, which were acting like a balloon containing said mass. The speculation was that it was a tumor of some sort (of unknown size and type, it could have literally been the size of a pencil eraser according to the surgeon) that had started bleeding, and the leg muscles contained it and the leg just ballooned out until the pressure was enough to stop the bleeding. The big surgical danger was when they opened it up to see just what was in there, the moment they relieved the pressure in that balloon it could start bleeding profusely, and she could bleed-out before they had a chance to find the source. Also of great scary possibility was that the tumor-type was a blood-vessel cancer (can't even say the name of that one, but suffice to say it sounds very scary!). If that was the case (and they wouldn't know until days after the surgery) then the final outcome would be very bad, as it is microscopic and already in the blood and spread throughout the body, and no matter what they did today it would come back somewhere else.

Here is what the leg looked like as of Monday afternoon (it has now been like this for going on 7 days). This picture doesn't do it justice as to the 'hulkiness' of the leg (to touch it is's HARD).

So the plan going into surgery was to open it up and see what was in there, and IF there was a way to remove the mass they would, however if at any time it started to bleed-out they would tourniquet the leg and amputate it, if that was even possible. Because that all depended on where the bleeding was from and if they could slow it enough (while adding massive amounts of blood to keep her alive). It was a very scary prognosis....but we both were visualizing her coming out of this and back home. I was very afraid that there was no way to save the leg (she hasn't had feeling in the foot for days now...the massive 'hulk-leg' syndrome has now been that way for 10 days). I was totally prepared for them to take the leg to save her life...she is such a fiesty little girl that she would have been a 3-legged terror, and I would have been thankful. Jeannie held out hope that they could save the leg and her life...and out-visualized me (THANK YOU JEANNIE!!).

We got the call from the surgeon about 3:30 this afternoon that she was out of surgery. They saw the mass appeared to be a HUGE clotted area of blood, and very carefully started sucking it out, looking for the source. They removed over 400ml of blood/clot, and found what she thought was a "Fatty tumor", along with one or 2 other possible tumor-things. They took biopsies of all and those will be back in a few days...if they are all benign (SP?) then we are living on cloud-9. But for now our little baby is out of surgery, and she has a drainage tube in her leg so they can monitor in case anything starts bleeding again. I know both Jeannie and were SO very happy to have this news...our little baby girl is going to come home in a few more days (they will keep her probably at least 3 or 4 more in the ICU).

HAPPY HALLOWEEN by the way! I know it's been on our WAY low on our priority list...we had pumpkins sitting outside, but if we had bad news then we were going to pull them inside and turn out the lights and hermit-up....knowing we would not be very good Halloween hosts for the kiddies. But after receiving our joyous news I quickly mowed the lawn (it had been neglected for 2 weeks now), scooped out the pumpkin guts, and we both carved them up. I thought it as funny that we both had the exact same motif this year: HAPPY PUMPKINS!

We truly will have a wonderful Halloween here!

And one final shot of our little PG taken a week ago Saturday (later in the day is when she started limping and the current dilemma began). Here she is 'helping' me as I am working in our back-yard/jungle. She loves it up there, and we are so happy that she will have more chances to play in the dirt!

And so....we wish you a happy Halloween, we WISH you a Happy Halloween, we WISH YOU a happy Halloween, and a HAPPY HALLOWEEEEENNNNN!

And we can breath again. It's been a very trying last 2 weeks or so.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Fast lane

Have you ever noticed that you can be cruising along in the middle-lane of life, minding your own business, enjoying things, and suddenly it's as if you are thrust into the fast-lane? That's what it feels like for us just now. It all started a week-ago today, though we didn't' know it at the time.

I was working in our back-yard...which has been a multi-month project of mine. You see, our back yard had been taken over by nature. It's a multi-level affair, and I've had the upper-reaches boarded off to the dogs for a few years now. I've also had the sprinklers turned off, hoping against hope that would do the trick and kill the evil invader (here-after known as the dreaded Morning Glory Vine from HELL). This vine was apparently planted on PURPOSE by the previous owners, and I've been fighting it on and off ever since we moved here in 2002. You see, this vine grows up, over, around and inside everything in it's path. It will smother any other type of tree or bush, wrapping it's way up branches in a candy-cane spiral until it's at the tippy-top, then it will spread out blanketing the poor under-growth so it doesn't get any sun. IF you pull on this vine, it simply breaks off at the ground. However, as it grows it continually dips back into the ground, forming ever more root-balls of death. You can rip, pull and shred until there is not a sprig left in sight, and 3 months later it has returned full force from the hidden root-balls.

Anyway, I digress, as the evil VINE FROM HELL isn't the topic of today's post, but it does have a minor part. As I mentioned earlier, I was working the yard last Saturday, and had taken down the doggie-barricade on the steps. PG (the Alpha of our 3 four-legged babies) goes up the steps and spends the day up there with me, reveling that she is trodding about in the forbidden zone. This has been our ritual for about 3 months now, as I have been spending one day each weekend trying to turn the jungle into a dirt-hill. (when I say it was a jungle, you have no idea how jungly a yard can get....but I'll tell you, I had to have seven endangered bengal tigers relocated as I razed the yard inch by inch).

And yet I digress again. SO. Last Saturday...working in the now nearly entirely dirt yard, finishing up the last octagant (if quadrant is one section of 4, then I think octagant should be one section of 8, even if it's not a real word). PG was enjoying herself, lying in the dirt watching me work as usual (her big contribution has been to drop a poo somewhere in the as-yet untouched areas so that I get that lovely surprise when I start clearing that area's always such a joy to get fresh squishy dog poo on you!) ANWYAY, later in the day I had noticed that she wasn't up there with me...she does get bored watching me work all day and will wander off to find a sunbeam to lie in...the life of a dog in our house is one to be coveted for sure. When I did see her later she was limping.

She was getting around on 3 legs all the rest of the afternoon/evening...but we had no idea what happened...but with 3 aging dogs (all three are approx 12 years old now), it seems somebody is always limping around here and there. This was her left rear leg, and other than the fact that she wasn't using it, there didn't appear to be any earth-shattering pain or anything associated with it. It's like she hardly noticed it, and it was life as dinner time when you make even the slightest clink of the bowls she hobbled right quick to the kitchen.

By Monday morning PG was still limping around. I was getting ready for work at O-dark-thirty as usual, and I had just gotten Jeannie up by coaxing her out of bed with a super-tanker of coffee...and as I was saying my good-byes to the babies I noticed her leg was swollen. And by swollen, I mean like incredible-hulk type swollen. It was HUGE! And I'm not kidding when I say it was twice the size of the other rear leg! I told Jeannie, and she promptly got her to our local vet as soon as they opened and dropped her off for the day as we both must work. During the day they did X rays, blood-work, poked and prodded, and whatever else they do. Nothing. No real clue as to what was the problem, other than her leg was HUGE, and hard...not quite ceramic hard, but FAR firmer than her other leg..and it was quite warm to the touch. And still she wasn't wimpering or bemoaning her fate, other than she was panting a lot.

I picked her up on my way home from work, and had a nice chat with the vet. There were several theories on the table, none more probable than any other at this point. We brought her back on Tuesday and again they did whatever they could, but the results were the same. So we brought her home with a few new prescriptions and directions to put a heating pad or hot towel on it for a few minutes every now and then. Well, by the time Friday rolled around her huge leg was HUGER! WAY HUGER! So Jeannie got her back in for the day again, and this time they had contacted a specialist who lives up north and he drove down and checked out our little baby. He also had no real idea, the ultrasounds showed some pockets of fluid, but overall there was nothing they could find as the matter, and none of them had ever seen anything like this.

So far we're in for $1150 and their best guess is that she was bitten by a Brown Recluse spider. They had shaved her leg on Friday, and it's bruising pretty good now in the swollen areas. There isn't any smoking gun as to an area that was the site of the bite (if there was a bite, they still say it could be a blood-clot or a tumor, however neither of those scenarios really hold water with the symptoms she is showing).

And as to how I feel like I'm in the fast lane, along with all our running-around for PG, on Friday I went in for a lovely 4 hour appointment with a periodontist. This is the guy who uses things like scalpels and such. I've been fighting some pockets in my gums for years now, and it was time to get it fixed. I was somewhat apprehensive after my pre-op appt, as one of the 2 prescriptions he gave me (for my recovery) was Tylenol 3. I'm no rocket-scientist here in the drug-prescription arena, but I know you don't get codeine for just anything. And THEN, in case that wasn't enough on my plate, on Saturday (this morning to be exact) I had an appt with a dermatologist. A few weeks ago I had FINALLY went in at Jeannie's urging to have some blotches looked at. He had taken 4 biopsies, and they were 4 for 4: basal cell cancer (NOT the scary kind).

And so, yesterday (Friday) while PG is at the vet waiting for the specialist, Jeannie drives me up to San Luis Obisbo for my oral surgery. He gave me some kind of sedative (via IV) just prior to the start...and then for the next FOUR HOURS I was in that chair, listening to the radio, trying not to freak out as I received shot after shot after shot (he did one quadrant at a time, so I'd get all the shots for that entire quadrant at one time).  I have not yet googled this surgery, mostly because I don't really want to know too much detail for a while yet. But the gist is he lowered my gum lines to a manageable level for my home care (brushing/flossing). I had gone to him in time that there is no risk of losing teeth at this bone-loss is just beginning and hopefully this will nip that in the bud. But I will tell you that even with a sedative it was one HELL of a long procedure...I could hear him cutting away the gums even though I couldn't feel them...and it was only the sedative that kept my mind from totally freaking out. And even as I lay there I kept thinking about my poor little PG, who quite honestly might be in danger of losing her leg, or her life.

Jeannie picked me up after the surgery, and I was pretty woozy and not at all pleased as the Novocain for the earlier quadrants had worn off and my entire mouth hurt. We stopped and picked up PG on the way home, and she was just as chipper as could be, despite the fact that her leg looked like a holiday ham, and was so swollen that she can't even hold it up any more...her foot is sticking almost straight down and hits the ground with every hobble-hop she makes. And not a peep out of her. I am SUCH a wuss!!

And then to make my life a trifecta of joy, this morning I got up and went for my skin cancer appt. He was very good, and gave me shots of pain killers in each spot (there were 5, and I hate to tell you, those shots HURT! Of the 5 cancers he was removing, only 2 are in an area that gets sun (on my arm). The rest are all in pasty white skin that hardly ever see's the light of day. My back, abdomen and chest to be exact. Once the injections were done he began, and from then on it was a piece of cake as compared to having your gums cut up and re-arranged (or whatever). The only disconcerting part was that after all the scraping and such, he uses an electrical device and cauterizes them so they not only stop bleeding, but kills off any remaining traces of the basal cell bad-guys that might have been missed. That is an odor you won't forget too soon I can tell you.

And so...I came home from that, and all day Jeannie and I have been doing our very best to help PG...we have ice-packs and wet towels frozen in the freezer, and every hour or so I take them and wrap up her hulk-leg in them as best I can, and I lie with her on the floor (or she will jump up and run)...we do this for 15 minutes at a time (I have a timer set). We're praying we can get the swelling down some, the vet says she has little to no feeling in the fat foot at the end of that holiday ham for a leg right touches down on the ground as she's hopping around, and it's toes-first... and then bends un-naturally backwards...much like Sydney was doing 2 years ago when she was paralyzed and learning to use her legs again.

And so this is our life at this very moment...I'm on a bunch of pills for now, PG is on a bunch of pills for now, the other 2 babies are on pills...and we have no idea how this will turn out for PG...though we are sure hopeful the swelling will just suddenly go down and everything will be ok. But for now it's all quite worrisome....being a parent is hard!

Right now it feels like I'm doing 55mph in a 70 zone...everything is a blur as life whips on by me, and I'm trying not to crash into anything or cause a crash. I hate this feeling...and on top of that, I haven't heard anything about the Antarctica project....and I don't know what that means. OH, and the furnace crapped out the other day, so we had the furnace guy out on Friday morning (in case there wasn't enough going on)...Jeannie got PG to the vet early and got home just in time for his arrival, and then I came home at 10:30 for my trip up north for surgery....she was a real trooper on Friday, that's for sure! The furnace guy said the main circuit board gave it up and has it on order...we have no idea how much THIS will cost, but it doesn't matter...we kind of need the furnace. And yes...we need more bills. But Jeannie has really been something thru all this...(she only partially bit my head off once last week) but I know it's killing her...she is a money-worrier (goes with the territory I guess...she's an accountant).

But you know what? It can ALWAYS be worse. And so, we are trudging along doing our best. Holding our little family together, watching money pour out of our checkbooks like water....but knowing that all in all we are still quite blessed. And that's the part I try to focus on. Right this very moment my mouth feels like Aerosmith had a party in it and tore it to ribbons...couches thrown out the windows, lamps shattered against the walls, carpet torn up, stuff like that....or maybe like a small bomb went off in there, and it hurts pretty much everywhere. For breakfast this morning I had the joy of cold coffee and a cold bowl of gruel (oatmeal)...I'm not allowed any hot food for 24 hours after the surgery. And as that wasn't quite enough I now have 5 burned-blobs on my body that also are crying for attention.

And yet I'm thankful...because it could be OH so much worse. But I will tell you this: getting older is a bitch! Don't do it I say! Nancy Reagan had it right..."just say NO!" I must not have been paying attention before...but I am now. NO MORE! I"m not getting ANY OLDER from here on out! And neither is Jeannie or the babies!

There...everything is better now (well, except for poor PG...that fight is still ongoing). You just have to know when to put your foot down I guess.

As for me, it's time for a beer. And maybe a bike ride tomorrow. For now I need to go ice down PG's big leg again for a while. She is so amazing, she awes me. We will pull ourselves out of our funk, of that I'm pretty confident.

So I say go do something fun! Life can turn on you in an instant! Enjoy every moment!


Saturday, October 20, 2012

From A to Z

 About  a year ago I was reading one of my companies newsletters (I work for Lockheed Martin), and one of my sister-divisions had won a big contract. A HUGE contract. It's to provide support for the Antarctic Project (Operation Deep Freeze). I recall after reading that bit that I emailed my manger and told him if they ever ask for help, I'm IN! careful what you wish for...last Wednesday I found out they are indeed asking for help, and on Thursday we had a meeting where we found out the details for all who were interested, and on Friday I submitted my resume to my department head (who then submitted it to their Program Manager for review). IF they have any jobs that call for my skills (electronics), I would expect they will be contacting me pronto. At that time they will discuss what the job is and the terms. If I accept then they will quickly arrange for a full physical and dental screening. This is to weed out any people who might have issues and need to return to the states for care...they try to avoid that as it's pretty expensive to evac people from the "Ice".

IF I am selected, it would be roughly a 4 month tour...mid-Nov thru Mid/late Feb, which coincides with the Antarctic summer. It's then that the population swells with researchers all trying to squeeze in their studies in the short summer, and my company needs to fill lots of positions to keep the place alive and running during the summer heydays.

LONG ago when I was a young Navy lad I tried and tried to get to McMurdo Station for a 1 year tour of duty. But it seems government is government no matter how stupid it seems. You see, every job in the Navy has a numeric code assigned to it. I was in a VERY small rating (job category), and even though I did the SAME EXACT job as 2 other Navy ratings, their codes were on the list for Antarctic duty, and mine was not. Try as I might, I could never get an exemption. And quite honestly, I NEVER thought the chance to go Antarctica would come up again.

Of course, IF it comes to pass that I get to go, it will be all thru the holidays... and we had plans. But I look at this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Jeannie doesn't quite see it that way...though she certainly understands that we think totally different on many things. She would rather (and I quote) "jump off Diamond Head crater" (in Hawaii) than go to Antarctica...(because at least it would be WARM in Hawaii). I have no idea why I think it would be SO TOTALLY AWESOME to go down there (not sure about the FOUR month part...I'd think a few weeks would be ok too)...but it is what it is. I've met a few people who did tours there when I was in the Navy, which is most likely what sparked my interest I assume.

There are 3 stations that we support down there: McMurdo Station, Amandson-Scott South Pole Station (at the ACTUAL South Pole!!!!) and Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. To get to Palmer Station you fly thru the southern tip of Chili, and if you are going to either McMurdo or South Pole stations you go thru Christchurch New Zealand. I've always wanted to see New Zealand this is an opportunity to kill 2 birds with one stone. And hey...they would be PAYING me to go! Oh, I almost forgot...there are also 2 research ships down there that we also I could also be assigned to one of those...which would most likely be pretty cool too (REALLY cool....the summer temps average between 0 and 10F...though it has gotten up into the 40's before). And obviously, the South Pole Station is always colder than the other 2, being as it's literally sitting on top of almost 2 miles of ice at an altitude of just under 9000', where-as McMurdo and Palmer stations are roughly at sea level.

Of course, there isn't a heck of a lot to do down there I gather (I've been told there are a few bikes though!)...but I've done 7 years on tiny ships after I got out of the Navy (they were USNS Surveillance ships, staffed by civilians)....including a few missions out of Tromso Norway which is way above the Arctic Circle, (where it's dark 23.5 hours a day in the winter) spend nearly the entire 3-month mission inside the ship. Of course, Jeannie and I weren't married at that time....and leaving her and the babies for 4 months is my primary reason NOT to go. But she is supporting me in this (partly because I will be making some extra money, and partly because while I'm making that extra money I won't be SPENDING any of it, thus effectively making even MORE extra money)...and partly because she knows how excited I am about this opportunity. It's certainly bucket-list material!

I'd expect to be hearing from them SOON if there's a matching there is much to do between now and flying. For those who pass the physicals and are accepted, they arrange airline tickets to either New Zealand or Chili depending on where you are working at. From there you are kitted up with your Extreme Cold Weather Survival gear (arctic-parka, bunny-boots, long underwear, super gloves, etc etc). That is all on loan need to give it back when you leave. And there are a TON of restrictions and rules...I've been browsing thru them and I'm slightly overwhelmed. But it will all be worth it if I get to go.


Oh my gosh....I get all tingly just thinking about it!

I've never crossed the equator before....and this would be going WAY past the very bottom of the planet! And I'd actually get to see penguins NOT in a zoo just wandering around! And Orca's maybe. I'm betting after a 4 month trip I'd have MANY HUNDREDS of penguin pictures. Oh look's a Penguin. And here....another penguin. And over here, guessed it....more penguins. And yes, even MORE penguins. I wonder if anybody ever gets tired of watching penguins? I'd think it would be like watching Bald Eagles...I spent 2 years on the island of Adak Alaska LONG ago where there are bazillions of Bald Eagles...and I NEVER got tired of watching them.

And so....guess what else is going on? I'm TOTALLY not giving a rats butt about the cycling thing right now! Not even a LITTLE bit! Does that make me a bad person?

Well...there's not much else to say at this point...wish me LUCK! Life is an adventure...go for it, and live DANGEROUS...that's what I say!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The next generation that the devil has been exorcised from the peleton, it's time for the next generation to do their thing. But my thoughts on it are this: not much has really changed. For one, there's still enormous amounts of money and fame for winners. Nothing has changed on that front. So, how about the PED's? The biggest problem I see is that they WORK. Like it or not, agree with it or not, they simply WORK. That much has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. And with that knowledge in hand, the young athlete (in any endurance sport) will have a choice to make. To cheat or not to cheat. Sure, that's an easy distinction for us spectators. But maybe not so much for the athlete doing the work...who maybe sees a very small difference from all the other things they are currently doing that ARE legal (supplements, altitude tents, etc).

I can't say how hard that decision was/is, because I'm not in their shoes. But just looking at the evidence thus-far provided, and the nearly total peleton participation in years past, it would seem making that decision hasn't been all that hard. And sure they're all extremely sorry AFTER being caught. It's easy to say 'everybody else was doing it and I had to if I wanted to be competitive'...and then to beg forgiveness and say you are so sorry, blah blah blah. But not necessarily so sorry before that...not sorry enough not to do it in the first place.

Maybe to dope or not to dope is an easy choice for those who are naturally at the very tip-top of the game, whether genetically or through enormous amounts of hard work and discipline. But how about those who are destined to be the also-rans? Doing what they love, yet with a strong desire to win....but not quite able to notch that big one that makes a career or gets you noticed by the pro teams. Nothing has really changed on the blood doping's out there, it's available, and it works. Yes, it's detectable by testing, but yes, it's also OBVIOUSLY hard to detect if used (and I use this term very loosely here) 'properly'. It would seem a given fact that nearly the entire peleton has been doing just that for at least 15 years now, and possibly still. How would we know? It's not like the testing program has been much of a deterrent thus far.

And so we have the NEW peleton. PED free. Or not. Just the name alone is quite the lure to someone....performance enhancing. THAT is a powerful name when you are talking about world-class athletes, always looking to be just a tiny bit better than their competition. And let's face it...most of these athletes are just kids. Certainly at the beginnings of a pro career most are barely of legal age to drink here in the US (if that). Sure it's easy to play the morality/ethics card and say that it's black and white...doped or clean. But if that comes down to win or lose, therein comes the gray area and the decision is much harder.

I'm afraid for the next generation of pro cyclists...because they are all just human beings. Mostly kids who have one way or another arrived at the European peleton ready to do battle. There is no such thing as a level playing field...and I'm not talking doping here either. In any timeframe of any sport there are those who are better than everybody else. And if there is a way for the underdogs to slightly level the playing field in their favor, they will be sorely tempted. I think that's just basic human nature. If somehow we could magically be absolutely SURE the entire peleton was PED free right this very moment, well... that would be awesome. But how long would that last? Due to the nature of people, and the basic fact that the PED's do exactly what they promise, it's only a matter of time before they creep their way back into the fold. And once one person starts using, I believe it would cascade from there until most everybody has the choice to keep-up or go home. And we'll be right back where we were (are?).

I certainly don't know how to stop it. All the testing seems to be a good idea. But it simply hasn't been working very well, and the athletes are light years ahead of enforcement, as has been proven. Lifetime bans for a first offense sound like a great idea...but ONLY if you can promise that there will be ZERO false positives....which I don't believe is possible.

So...where are we now? Is there currently the same pressure to dope in the peleton that there was 15 years ago? Maybe...maybe not. I'd like to think not, but we have no real way of knowing. And even if there is less pressure, I just don't think it will last very long. The PED's currently available are just too good. They TRULY offer better performance. It takes mental giants to say no and continue to say no under these conditions. But sadly, the athletes are just people from all walks of life. Look around....people make mistakes all the time. That's what makes us human...we're fallible. I think very few can resist the temptation in the long run to roll the dice for a chance at money, power and fame. I wish this 'new' generation of cyclists lots of luck, because I think they're going to need it. 

And my final question is this: how do we know the winner is clean?

Sunday, September 30, 2012


The general intent of this post is to discuss the rules we live (and play) by....who makes them, are they fair and just, etc etc. I ponder long and hard about this very topic on my long solo rides (which is when I do most of my 'deep' thinking). Of course the underlying factor for my thoughts is the ongoing Lance Armstrong Affair, and in general the doping in sports dilemma.

Doping in sports is seen as "cheating".. But my question is WHY is it considered cheating? The easy answer is because it's against the rules. You break the rules, you are a cheater. And cheaters should be caught and punished, of course.

Here is where it quickly gets into the gray area. Anybody our there NEVER speed in their car? (and I do mean NEVER). Never gone above the STUPID 55mph speed limit? (the one that is STILL with us in SO many places...sheesh, once something becomes a law it's VERY HARD to get rid of!) Never gone 37 in a 35 zone? 18 in a 15mph school zone? 70 or more in a 65 zone? If you HAVE, then you should be punished. A guy I once worked with claimed he always stayed at or under the speed limit. AND, (now THIS is scary), he TRULY believed that anybody who passed him or came up fast behind him about to pass was trying to kill him, and HE should be allowed to shoot and kill THEM. Rather extreme, yes. But he has a point. Those people ARE breaking the law. He just thinks that HE should be allowed to be the judge/jury AND executioner. Thankfully that will never be the case (I hope and pray anyway).

But consider that under the current 'system' (that we are seeing in cycling first and foremost), that might include one day using some amazing new technology that allows the enforcement side to go back in time and see if you EVER broke the law (rules), and then punish you for ALL those offenses. You see, if you've been speeding for a while, (possibly all your life), then it's now a conspiracy, which is WAY more punishable than a single offense. You have a habit of speeding you see, and as such should have your privileges of driving a car taken away for you for the rest of your life. You are a very bad person. The devil. Your speeding isn't fair to those who don't.

But isn't speeding in some instances warranted? WHY is the rule there in the first place? Well, I'd assume (you know what that means) to protect the public. Someone going too fast in traffic could be a danger to other drivers. But what if there are no other drivers? What if it's just you and the open road? Isn't then the speed limit somewhat intrusive? We are blessed with human will, a thinking reasoning brain (AND opposable thumbs), and we can make decisions for ourselves (some better than others). Sometimes we can see that a rule is good, and sometimes not. It's a judgement call. We can decide if it's important enough to obey, in the circumstances that are upon us at that moment. If it's just me and the open road, then doing 70+mph in a 65 zone is not dangerous at all, and I have decided that I can disregard that stupid law. Should I still be caught and punished for that infraction at some later date, even though I wasn't caught when I was doing it?

And besides, WHO makes all these rules? Typically in society, it's just a few people, sometimes one. Well, who died and made THEM king? Sometimes WE did (elected officials), sometimes they are appointed, sometimes they could literally be BORN into that position (think royalty), and sometimes they just somehow end up with the POWER to make rules. But just what is a rule? In a nutshell, it's someone using THEIR morals, values and OPINION as to what is right and wrong, and imposing that upon others without their consent, theoretically for their own good. Is this always the case? I'd say not. But THAT is just my opinion, which is EXACTLY what a rule is in the end...someone's opinion on how things should be.

I've noticed that in most cases, the people who MAKE the rules typically aren't bound by them (not to get political, but take our US Congress for instance). That is one strange conflict of interest. Making rules for EVERYBODY ELSE that doesn't apply to you. And as to rules in sports, they are typically NOT written by the participants themselves. Which I always find interesting....someone who DOESN'T do the activity under scrutiny is making the rules for that activity. How on earth do THEY know what's best? My job is in electronics. I hold various certifications that are required for me to do my job. I have a NASA cert in soldering and fiber optics, and Lockheed-Martin aerospace certs in crimps, wire wrap, wire-harness assy, connector mate-demate, and many more. If I do say so myself, I'm pretty darn good at my job. In some areas I'm quite exceptional. For someone to come along and make a rule pertaining to my job that DOESN'T do my job, well...that would be ridiculous. HOW on earth would that person know what's required? They DON'T. That's the simple answer. Which is quite maddening, because in our society we have people making rules that have no real idea what they are talking about. They are imposing their values, morals, judgements and opinions onto a topic in which they are not experts.

But Matt, where are you going with all this? Well, I'll tell you. Over at Rants a commenter there recently made the comment that long ago in the TDF it was considered cheating to use more than 2 bottles of water in a stage. I had never heard of this before, but it probably makes sense way back in the day. I very much doubt that this rule was written by a racer. I can vaguely understand the desired effect of this rule: making a level playing field. Each racer gets two and ONLY two bottles of water to complete a stage. There....all's fair now, right? But wait. Every single person on the planet has slightly different physiology. One guy sweats more than another. Each guy has different weights, builds, etc. I'd say this rule was dumb (but that's just MY opinion). So... what if you "CHEATED" and had more than 2 bottles of water? Is this rule a good one? Back at the time it was probably considered so by some...but as the world turns and time goes on, the rules change and evolve as we progress. Eventually that rule was changed or done away with as it wasn't practical or feasible for the sport.

There was also a rule way-back-when that each TDF bike-racer be TOTALLY self sufficient. Carrying all their own equipment (spare tires, tubes, etc). They would stop and buy food and drink along the way (they would typically eat cheese and wine, and drink olive oil for the high calories it contains). ANY outside assistance with bike repairs would disqualify you. One guy was leading the TDF and his ancient steel fork broke. He carried his bike to a blacksmith shop, and welded the fork back together himself (welding in that time wasn't with a torch or was with fire and a hammer and an making horseshoes and swords and such). He went on and won that race, only he was later disqualified because the blacksmith operated the bellows so the rider could effect the actual repair. He had help, thus he violated the rule, and paid the price for it. SHOULD he have been disqualified? Well..he did break THE RULE. But was it a good rule? Maybe at the time it seemed prudent...but can you imagine today if that rule were still in existence? would put pro cycling back into the stone ages. No tire or bike swaps, no food on the road. The level of racing would go WAY down. Thankfully we've adapted and now the racers go faster than ever before, and we have cameras everywhere filming the action...and it's all very exciting which is good for the sponsors and teams and racers.

So as technology moves us forward, the rules slowly adapt to the new world order. WAY back when I was a sophomore in high school, calculators were pretty new to the world. I recall my dad bringing home the first one I had ever seen...he was a salesman at the time, and it was a quite pricy yet exciting new tool! It was pretty small, fit in the palm of his hand, and did addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. OMG WHAT A MARVEL! Well, just a few years later they were becoming fairly common, yet I had to use a slide-rule in my electronics class for the entire first semester. Calculators to do your math (even though you had to KNOW the formulas) was considered cheating and not allowed. Of course that rule has changed. Can you imagine going thru college today without a calculator? Or a computer? Or a super-high-falluting-whammy-jammy i-phone 27? on earth would you ever possibly make it? And the heck with college...try GRADE school! Boy, the times they have a-changed!

The point IS that rules (hopefully) adapt to the ever-changing world we live in...albeit always behind the curve to some extent. In sports the rules are there to presumably present fair play, the ever dreamed about (but probably never achieved) level playing field. And so...back to the moment. SHOULD PED's (as we know of them at this very moment in time) be considered cheating? Well...back in the day taking on extra water was cheating. The human body is mostly composed of water. You have all the water you need right in your body at any given moment. So now you are taking in EXTERNAL WATER? Wait just a cotton picking minute...that's CHEATING! MORE water than you body already has in it? NO FAIR! CHEATER! CHEATER! Disqualify! Throw the bum out of the sport!

But WAIT! The human body also has  naturally occurring EPO in it....we have just learned to re-create it via the wonders of technology. Sure, it was CREATED to help anemic patients with a low red blood cell count (that's me, or very close....but I just can't seem to convince any Dr. to prescribe it, darn it!) Cancer patients who have had their bone marrow destroyed by chemo or radiation treatments. Oh...well there you have it. EPO was created for that purpose, so it can't possibly be used for ANY other purpose. BUT WAIT AGAIN! It would seem that MOST things we create have found alternate uses, sometimes BETTER than the original intent! Why...I personally can't FATHOM a world without yellow stickies...I'm surrounded by them at nearly all times! But the sticky-stuff wasn't created for that purpose...but some smart man at 3M thought it up after accidentally creating the re-usable sticky goo. Hmmm...taking something and using it for something else that it's good for. WOW! What a CRAZY CONCEPT!

So....back to EPO. And HGH (Human Growth Hormone). And steroids (testosterone is the one typically in the sporting news just now). What do they do? a nutshell, they ALLOW for the possibility for an athlete to become better. I say ALLOW, because he/she can inject/ingest all they can of these items....but it won't help them one iota. You see, they STILL have to go out and TRAIN. What these PED's really do is allow the athlete to become BETTER by doing even MORE had work than if he didn't have them. Muscle mass isn't built by lying on the couch drinking beer and eating pizza over the winter (just ask Jan Ulrich)'s developed by WORK. LOTS of work. EPO gives the athlete more red blood cells, so his heart can deliver MORE oxygen to the muscles with less beats. So he can do more work with a lower heart rate. It also allows for faster recovery after hard workouts. HGH allows for faster recovery, as the body heals its-self better and faster, like when you were younger. Testosterone allows for more muscle development (of course, all this is a SUPER-nutshell of the benefits of these PED's taken from my understanding).

Wow..that is all very interesting. So Matt...what it seems you are saying is that it appears that the very same PED's that are currently against the rules allow the athletes to become BETTER at what they are paid to do?

Yes... It would appear to be so.

So WHY is it against the rules? Because a few people have decided so, that's why. Quite honestly, I'd think pretty much anything that allows a PROFESSIONAL athlete to be BETTER at his job would be a good thing. But's against the rules. Cheating. But do the athletes themselves see it as cheating? By the very nature of the current dilemma we find ourselves in, I'd have to say the answer to that question is in general NO. THEY are the ones doing the training and work to become better. The PED's just allow them to do that. No amount of PED's on the planet will make me into a star cyclist, or swimmer, or backpacker, or whatever else there is to be a star at that I have any interest in at all. I don't have the drive and determination to do the work necessary.
Somehow we've developed this stigma that is associated to the word 'drugs', maybe due to the "druggies" of the 60s? I don't know, but you hear the word DRUGS and you think BAD. However we take aspirin (actual aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, or any of a dozen other medications) to FEEL better from simple aches and pains. But take a drug to help you PERFORM better, and WHOA now...NOT ok? That seems silly. There is no magic beanstalk don't PERFORM better just by taking the stuff, you still need to DO the work. In fact, MORE work. THAT's how you actually perform did MORE work. So your performing better is a reward for that work, and the assist your body got was from using current technology (just like getting rid of a headache), as it allowed you to make your body TRULY perform right at the peak of what is possible. As we move forward what we know will only increase, and there will be newer and better ways to help the body do what it does even better. Will this be a bad thing? Helping the human body be BETTER? Oh...yes, back to the DRUG thing...evil...doping. So yes it MUST be bad.

 I've seen the arguments that they are dangerous. Well, let's discuss that.

They certainly have that potential. All drugs have that potential. But not just drugs/medications... LOTS of things are dangerous. Driving to work in your CAR is dangerous. But we accept that risk. Yet people die every day in their cars, and that's ok. Part of life. So, back to the PED's. Yes, cyclist's have DIED from EPO use in the past. However, that was actually from EPO over-use. They got their hematacrit SO very high that their super-fit young hearts couldn't pump the sludge during their sleep due to their insanely low resting heart-rate, and they died from heart attacks. How on earth could this happen? Mostly I'll speculate because it was all done under the cloak of secrecy. NOT out in the open, monitored by qualified medical personnel (who are very interested in the health of their athletes, as are the teams and sponsors, as each athlete is worth MONEY). So the very rules making this stuff illegal (which the cyclists themselves ALL know to be of GREAT benefit to doing their jobs better) is what makes them the MOST dangerous. Buying them from unknown sources, obviously illegal. Transporting them, concealing their use, disposing of the 'evidence'.

Though there is this tidbit to consider: being my own devils advocate and all, what are the FUTURE ramifications of using these PED's? We don't really know. Because it's not the future yet. We will in a few years...and maybe all the rules banning the stuff WILL end up having been better for the athletes safety. But we don't know that. No matter WHAT drug (medication) you take, you won't know until it's too late that it ended up being dangerous.

I fondly recall back in the day, my beloved Oakland Raider football team of the 70's. John Matusak, Lyle Alzado, and many others from that era. Ahhh....they were my heroes. However, they used steroids to bulk up, get bigger and stronger, and be better at their jobs. They were big and strong and fast. And living the good life as sports superstars. And it eventually killed them. Decades taken off their lives due to the use of these drugs. But, it allowed them to be come the BEST at what they did. They were PRO football players. They won the lottery and played in the NFL. Did they know it would take years off their lives? Maybe, maybe not...I can't answer that. Maybe they didn't care...young people are like that...the years in the far off future are something they might be willing to trade. Sadly, most drugs haven't been around long enough to tell what the future holds for their users. But that applies to most ANY product manufactured...drugs, cars, hot coffee, desiccant bags..... you name it, someone has done something stupid with it, and sometimes even with PROPER use still suffered for it. Just watch your TV for a bit, and some commercial will come on advertising some law firm with a class action lawsuit over some product that was used in the past and has now been found to be dangerous. Well folks, let me tell you: LIFE is dangerous. It will kill you...I GUARANTEE that you won't get out alive. I say enjoy it while you can. OK...back to the discussion in progress.

Just look at Asbestos. WOW, if there was ever a product that caused harm in the future, it was that. But the manufacturers (supposedly) didn't know it at the time, and it was used pretty much EVERYWHERE. Sometimes it comes down to simple awareness and proper use of things that are still dangerous, and then they aren't so dangerous. We STILL have asbestos's all around us in floor tiles, pipe insulation, and many other places. But there are things you don't do with it, or it will be dangerous. Desiccant bags used properly do just what they are intended to do..keep stuff fresh, remove water and moisture. But you're NOT supposed to EAT them. Somebody must have done that and won a lawsuit, as EVERY desiccant bag I've ever seen has the warning "DO NOT EAT" written on it.

My guess is that these PEDS have a pretty safe track record if used moderately and under a Dr's supervision. Anybody ever hear of any deaths related from a Dr. helping an anemic patient with EPO when used as prescribed? I'm not saying they don't have dangers...but EVERYTHING has dangers. At some point there has to be some responsibility taken by people who use things. It would appear the athletes have already taken that responsibility, as they are using PED's even though they are (currently) against the rules.

But as I said, IF it makes them BETTER athletes, WHY is it still against the rules? This is not grade-school or high-school sports, or even college. This is open-class...the pro's...ADULTS. People who are of consenting age and have made the decision that THIS is what they want to do with their lives. NOBODY is putting a gun to their heads making them take these things. They decide to do that all on their own. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. Why? Why would they decide to break the rules? Well, obviously, they have used their own thought process and decided (much like we decide that the 55mph speed limit is stupid and can be ignored) that a particular rule isn't a good one, and they know that like the 2 bottle water limit rule of old, they can do better with more. Isn't a professional athlete's ultimate goal to be the VERY BEST he/she can be at their chosen sport? Isn't that what the paying public wants to see? Isn't that what the paying sponsors want to see?

But we (they) have injected the morale's, decisions and opinions of a VERY few people into the mix, an ADMINISTRATION...desk-jockeys. And THEY get to decide what's right and wrong. Their OPINION. There are well over a BILLION people on the planet. Each and every single one with their own opinion. And of that billion +, it's just a micro-fraction of those opinions that truly count. THEY decide what is right and wrong, allowed and disallowed. However THEY are not the ones doing the sport. Or PAYING for the sport (sponsors). Or PAYING to WATCH the sport (where the REAL money is...the SPECTATORS, which is ultimately what pays for the sport in the first place).  THEY in this case are just a VERY few people who somehow are the saviors and all-knowing gods of that particular sport, or in some cases MANY sports. Only THEY know what's best. And anybody who thinks otherwise is just WRONG.

Which brings us to the current cycling dilemma. The Lance Armstrong Affair. The righting of a HUGE wrong according so some, a witch-hunt to others, and to many it's just not worth a moment of thought, as it has no bearing on their daily lives. But it's taking tax dollars. OUR tax dollars. Mine, yours (well, HOPEFULLY yours...we seem to have a LOT of freeloaders in this country right now...but THAT is another topic entirely!)

What is the good of it? Is it going to "Clean up" cycling? Is it going to make it better? Is there less PED use among the peleton (and using the trickle-down theory, in other sports)? And just WHO is the winner of those 7 TDF's? I beg you, someone please tell me! It's a slap in the face to ALL the racers to just say there WAS no winner for those years. That would be stupid. There was a race, I saw it. If you are saying the guy who won no longer is the winner, then who IS? And the very thought of cleaning up cycling, or sports in general. Is it possible? There has been "cheating"  in the form of ignoring/breaking/bending of the rules ever since the inception of sport. And there always will be. And they (the "cheaters") will always be a step or 2 ahead of the enforcers. It's not just that way in sports's pretty much the way of the world. It always has been, and always will be. So is it worth all the money spent to TRY to stop it?

Let's take a look at Prohibition in the US. You'd think we would have learned something there. A very few decided that alcohol was bad, and made it illegal. LOTS of time and money was spent to combat it. LIVES were LOST! And what was the outcome? Well, it pretty much created the US Mafia. AND, it's now legal, as it turns out you just can't stop people from doing what they want in the end. And we are still doing it. Look at NYC...they JUST passed a ban on soft drinks over 16 oz in fast food restaurants to combat obesity. OH YEAH BABY!! That will certainly do the trick! The cattle will be unable to get their super-sized mega-sodas and will just magically become fit and slim due to this new rule. Never mind that while IN the FF joint they can just get 17 refills, to go with their 2 double-cheeseburgers and mega-size frys. But yep...SODA has been identified as the problem. And this new initiative will fix it. HALLELUIAH! Good gravy (mmm...gravy!)...will we NEVER learn?

So, where do things go from here? I have no idea. I personally believe the peleton isn't any cleaner now than it was before or after the Festina affair. But all the new rules and testing and such was brought on line to do just that. And the biggest problem with all this? The false positive. It's just a law of averages that in ANY system there is a mathematical number that will fall within certain ranges, and then there will be those that fall above and below that. In the terms of drug testing, that equates to false negatives and false positives. However, here you are taking about an athletes life. Even ONE false positive is too many. But somebody set the standard, realizing (even though it's not talked about) that there MUST be some false positives. It's inevitable. I guarantee it's already happened. And the system is rigged, so the athlete has pretty much no choice but to acquiesce and take the ban AND public humiliation that comes along with him forever being known as a CHEATER. THAT would be a very hard thing to do when you are truly innocent.Though I do give the anti-doping system one thing: it would appear that the numbers have been skewed so-as to allow for as few false positives as possible. I can say this as it would appear that it has been skewed SO very far that they almost never catch the true cheaters. And this being the case, is it worth it in the first place? I ,mean Lance and his boys ran rampant over the entire sport for his ENTIRE CAREER and didn't get caught, even though he was "the most heavily tested athlete on the planet" for those 7 years. Yep, I'd say that anti-doping system was working pretty flawlessly. NOT!

Sooner or later all this PED use will be a thing of the past as the next new thing will have come along making this all irrelevant. Genetic engineering. We are very close. They (whoever THEY know...the scientists, guys in labs taking prehistoric mosquito's trapped in amber and creating dinosaurs, etc) have been doing genetic manipulation of crops and such for quite some time. Making certain crops 'better' in some regards...making them more resistant to pests and insects, reducing the need for insecticide. This seems like a good idea, however we can't truly grasp what the LONG TERM effects will be. There are many opinions on the expected. Some for it, some against it. How are we to know? But I do believe that the use of artificial means to enhance the human body's capabilities will be allowed in various means sooner or later.
Right or wrong, that's debatable.

In the end I think it will come down to the mighty dollar, or Euro, or Kronur, Lira, Yen, Ruble, whatever. Until all currency has been replaced with something else and EVERYBODY has equal opportunities and there IS no money, it will rule our lives. And the money made in and from the sporting industry is just too mighty to go away quietly. People's will ALWAYS need something to take their minds off the daily drudgery of life. Going to that dead-end job, day after day. Sports is the way for the common man to escape, to root for something bigger than he is, to see PEOPLE doing super-human feats that they can only dream about. The athletes are modern day heroes to the common man. I don't see that changing anytime soon. And the allure to MAKE IT to that top echelon of any sport will be as as large as ever. There will always be those who will do ANYTHING for that chance, rules be damned. And the public loves them for it, right up until they are caught. It's quite the complex situation for the budding teenage athlete with dreams of grandeur. Is it the drugs that are ruining them, or is it just human nature? Always wanting to do better than the next guy...whether that's a test in school or out on the football field.

Certainly it's a dilemma for the current (and future) generations. If I had a kid and he was deciding what sport to get into, I'd be of mixed opinion. Would you rather he become a cyclist (knowing that it will probably require the use of PEDS at some point if he becomes really good), or maybe into one of the new EXTREME sports?  You flinging thru the air while the rider does stuff, sometimes not even holding on as it flies hundreds of feet thru the air...ever see the medical records of those 'kids'? What it TAKES to make it to the "Extreme games" level...(or whatever they are called)? Learning to do double flips on a dirt bike, into a foam pit if you can find one or afford it, or just learning QUICK (or not) if you can't. Talk about mortgaging their future...most of these young kids will be totally crippled by the time they are 40. Kind of makes PED use in cycling seem like pretty small potatoes.

We'll see, but mark my words, I believe that these advancements in medical technology will eventually be allowed into sport. It just makes sense. That's the heart of sports, and professional sports especially: to be THE BEST. Sooner or later the rules will change and we will stop hindering that process one tiny step at a time. Of course the athletes might (will?) die young (look at Sumo wrestling in Japan, or Pro-wrestling here in the US...they are killing themselves for the opportunity). But DURING their tenure in the spotlight, they are stars. Burning their wicks at both ends of the candle so to speak, but that has always been the case and most likely always will be.

As always, this is just my 2 cents worth. I"m SURE there will be many who disagree, and that's FINE and PROPER! As I said, we ALL have our opinions. For good or bad, mine doesn't really count for much in the big scheme of things. Oh well...such is the life of one of the LITTLE people.

I do believe that it's time for a beer! Thank goodness the Prohibition rule was changed!