Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Back in the Saddle


When you're riding a bike using no hands, missing a finger doesn't matter.
The newest conquest in the world of amputation recovery is actually riding a mountain bike on an actual mountain bike trail! Sure I'd jumped on a bike or two within the past couple months but it was only for little test rides and only on pavement. This of course excludes the incident that occurred after I'd changed the inner tubes on Brea's bike, forgot to re-engage the brakes, took it for a quick sprint down my street, realized I couldn't brake, and then wove back and forth up hill and on some grass to slow down and stop. We're excluding that. No, this time my neighbor, friend, and biking enthusiast Joe let me join him and some other friends at a trail I'd never been to before. After realizing after the fact that my tires needed inflation and my chain desperately needed some lube and stretching, the bike was set, but was I?

Heading out on the trail one sensation struck me as odd. While navigating down a rocky portion on a slight curve, the bike was needing to be controlled pretty heavily to stay on course. As my grip tightened, one of the rubber nubs dug into the bundle of nerve terminations where my finger used to be, causing a rush of feeling that conjured the muscle memory of my finger for few moments. It just felt like the finger was there and tingling in a strong, but not painful way. That may have also primed me for another realization. Apparently I used to use the middle finger to rest on the brake lever in terrain like that so that I'd be able to maintain maximum grip on the handlebars while still having a method to ease on the brake as needed. In order to achieve that now, I'm relying more on just my little and ring finger with the pointer reaching for the stopping device. When your bike is wanting to jerk around, grabbing the brakes accidentally (and full force) has a high likelihood of flipping you over the handlebars, and you are relying on some digits not used to the responsibility, it can make a fellow nervous. Thankfully, no actual disaster occurred and those obstacles were navigated without incident.

It was about a 5 mile course and that was about all my legs could handle at the pace I was attempting. Even though I'd been able to swim a bit, my cardio wasn't quite there and probably more importantly, my legs had been on vacation from that sort of activity for too long. That said, it was a great start!

That ride led to discussion of other opportunities and Joe mentioned a place just north of our neighborhood that we could actually just ride to. I checked it out and headed out there Monday and was very pleasantly surprised. It wasn't anywhere near as technical as trails we have been used to but it is a good place to just ride and it's close which is a huge plus. Since it was a scouting ride, I had my camera and took a few pictures along the way. I think I found a few places that will be great for portraits when the opportunity presents itself.

So I am back in the saddle, however unfit, and ready to ride! It had been too long...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cancer free for another 3 months!

Hey all! So far it seems like the treatment of removing the finger entirely did the trick! The most recent battery of tests came back clear so needless to say, that's good news! My problem of saying things that should go without saying, however, continues. I suppose you can't win 'em all.

Anyhow, things are going well with the recuperation. Strength is still returning to the hand and it's not quite as much a struggle to hold things like drum sticks tightly and securely. I have, in returning to and diving more deeply into normal activities, had a bevy of new phantom sensations that make life interesting from time to time. The odd sensation of heat, itching, and sometimes some minor pain have made debuts to a lukewarm reception, much like 65% of movie releases these days. My personal favorite was the burning sensation that came up while holding a hot plate with a potholder. My hand was totally protected but somehow the phantom finger got the idea it may have been burned while gripping the plate. Go figure. I always did have a pretty good imagination though.

I got to speak to a guy who'd had his lower arm amputated after a car accident and he mentioned the phantom sensations don't really go away in his experience of 10-15 years. It's funny the new connections you can make just by missing a visible body part. In any case, it was good to talk to someone who was also pressing on despite that nasty little setback.

This blog was started to help chronicle my experience with having cancer but the cancer seems to be gone and I'm quite grateful for that. Now I'm finding myself on the sidelines as friends like my neighbor Roger battle it. He recently had his recurrent brain tumor removed and is doing remarkably well, now just trying to re-train his brain to get his foot moving again. We got to go to a Round Rock Express baseball game just a couple weeks after his surgery which was great fun if not slightly dangerous as we were sitting in foul ball range. No need to knock that noggin' any more.

One other thing that happened recently (that is cancer related) is that I got to photograph an event for a young girl who's battling an aggressive brain cancer. I was invited by a friend who is with Young Professionals for the Cure who organized the whole thing. What was the event? A food fight. Yep, a food fight, and it was rockin'! You can check out her story and more at her website at

My coverage of the event can be found here.

So yeah, good times in the midst of some crazy stuff! It's great that people are fighting, supporting, and having fun in the midst of the trial that is cancer. I will say that in these listed experiences the positive has come out of groups & individuals that are focused on things beyond this life. Hope is something that you can't buy and thankfully it's been generously gifted to a lot of us.