Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Well, now. It's been a long time since June 7, hasn't it?
In some ways it's been a very tough summer. My Dad has been very ill and it's been surprisingly hard to deal with on a number of levels.
He's has managed to develop non-alcoholic steatohepatosis and cirrhosis of the liver. The prognosis is grim; it's going to be ultimately fatal but not before some time passes and a lot of suffering is endured. How much time? There's no way to know, really. How much suffering? Again, there's no way to know for sure, but a lot.
One effect of the disease is that the liver weeps ascites fluid into the abdomen, and that fluid has to be removed weekly in a process called paracentesis. Basically, you jam a big catheter into the abdomen and suck out the fluid. The weekly quantity ranges from 5-10 liters, or about 1 to 2.5 gallons. Not a lot of fun, but it's perhaps the easiest part of the treatment regimen.
The bad part, the suffering part, is that the liver is damaged beyond the body's ability to repair it. This causes all manner of unpleasant symptoms. Nausea and vomiting, itching, feeling terrible all the time, weakness, confusion, difficulty breathing, etc. The process is also causing a slow but steady and irreversible wasting away of muscle tissue. The once strong fellow is now navigating slowly with a walker, and while he can still get out and about in a very limited fashion, he's getting weaker all the time.
So watching the progression of this disease has been quite difficult. I'm in the position of being the only person in the family with a medical background, so in addition to managing much of the day-to-day care I'm also the chief explainer for everyone else. "This is why that, and that is why this, and here's the plan, etc."
So there's that.
The day-to-day ranch management continues also, of course, but it's really not all that taxing. Between good rain and good cattle and getting a lot of fiddly bits sorted over the last several years and enough experience to be efficient we've been able to get by in remarkably good shape.
And speaking of good shape...
I'm more physically fit now than I've been in years. I've been alternating roadwork and weight room since April and I'm just astonished at how good I feel and how much I'm able to do. Some time ago -- more than a decade ago -- when I had my first Achilles surgery, I resigned myself to never being able to run again. But something funny happened following the last surgery. Between a really good repair and a smart/patient approach to improving my fitness, I accidentally found out that I can run again.
The running is a work in progress. Running on flat ground still causes a lot of soreness and stiffness in the ankle, but surprisingly, it's actually getting better over time. As long as I don't go wild and overdo it, I think I'll eventually be able to clock multiple miles.
The trick, which I stumbled on accidentally, was running steps. We have a railroad viaduct in town which is equipped with several flights of stairs, and for some reason I decided to see if I could run those to build up endurance and improve cardio. (Looking back I just realized that I wrote about the steps in May.) It was a bit of a struggle at first, but I found that running uphill is a lot easier on the ankle than running on flat ground. I think it's down to joint geometry and lever physics. Rather than bashing straight down on the heel on flat ground, running uphill seems to spread the impact over the whole foot and leg -- and probably just as importantly -- over a longer interval.
Anyway, the viaduct steps are 21-step flights, each with an 8-inch rise, for a total of 14 feet (if my math is right). When I started I was doing 15 flights, now I do 60 flights, and I do them a lot faster. It's an excellent workout.
Several months back I think I wrote about hiking and how super-duper I was because I could hike up smoke bong hill a half-dozen times. On Sunday I ran up smoke bong a dozen times, and ran up eight other hills along the course of my eight mile hike. From "never again" to "shit, I can do this" in less than half a year. Puts a big grin on my face.
Be interesting to see if anyone still stops by this ghost town. I may be able to start posting on a more regular basis but only time will tell.