A Note About Susan from Fatty: Susan is showing — once again — how tenacious she can be. She’s begun drinking again — water, Gatorade, andGuarana Antarcticaare her favorites — and is talking more. The doctor has said he’s just amazed at how resilient and strong she is. And I am too.
I recently gave you a clue about the next big Fat Cyclist fundraiser for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. It was a very difficult clue: “the prize will rhyme with “Orbea Orca with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 build.”
Well, are you ready for your second clue? The prize will look very much like this (click the bike to see a larger version):
And you know what? The contest begins this Tuesday. So you might want to check in then for details.
Including the story of why and how I am giving away the most insanely delicious bike ever given away by anyone.
For years, I have talked about Tibble, describing it as the best trail in the world. And now, finally, I have video from earlier this week of a group of friends and me riding this trail. I just couldn’t compress that much wonderfulness into a one-song video, so I went with two songs. I hope you’ll understand.
I don’t know about you, but I could watch this video over and over.
In fact, I’m going to go watch it again right now.
Last night was tough. About 3:30am, Susan started complaining that her catheter wasn’t working right. This has happened before, so I called the hospice people, who walked me through the process of irrigating a catheter.
So. Now I know how to irrigate a catheter. Which I can add to my recently-acquired skills of:
Changing sheets while Susan’s still on the bed.
Knowing the exactly right angle to tilt a cup so that Susan gets a drink, without getting drenched
Being able to figure out what she wants or needs when she can’t find the right words
Knowing which meds to give her, and when
Administering those meds via syringe, quickly and without fuss
Brushing her teeth softly enough that it doesn’t jostle her head side to side, but vigorously enough that she feels like her teeth are clean
Waking quickly and being able to clear out mental cobwebs instantly
The thing I’m really proud of, though, is that Susan needs and calls for me several times per day. Not because she wants me to do anything for her, but just because she’s anxious or afraid or confused or lost, and she thinks I’ll be able to help. Really, when she’s like this it’s almost exactly like being trapped in a bad dream for her. Sometimes it’s a full-blown nightmare, and then I give her a shot of Valium.
Often, though, she’s just confused: “Where are we? Can we please go home?” And I’m able to tell her that we are home, and I’m with her and everything’s OK.
And when it works — she calms down and maybe even drifts off to sleep — it is wonderful. I’ve just done the best thing I could be doing right at that moment: I’ve saved my wife, at least for the moment.
I hate everything about cancer and what it’s doing to Susan, but: I am incredibly proud of the things I’ve learned so I can take care of her.
Speaking of Proud
I’m also incredibly proud of my two sons — ages 15 and 13. They come into Susan’s room several times per day and sit down with her, putting their hands on her arm and talking to her for a few minutes. When she tries to talk back, they do their best to understand. When they can’t make it out, they’ve learned to read her face and respond the best they can: “Don’t worry, everything’s taken care of,” or “That sounds good.”
And they tell her they love her every day.
Does that sound like teenage boys to you?
PS: I have received hundreds of comments and email messages, all of them incredibly kind and generous. Thank you.
PPS: A lot of you have also asked how you can help. Well, if you mean it, here’s how: Fight cancer. Those of you who who have been tracking this blog know that I am pretty intense in my support of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, because I know firsthand of the good they do and the calibre of people they are. So, if you want to help, join me. Donate here. You’ll be helping people who already have cancer, and you’ll be helping find ways to treat cancer. And that matters to me. Thanks.
Susan’s mom and sisters (and one of Susan’s sister’s daughters) arrived yesterday afternoon to see Susan. Which meant, suddenly, I had time for myself.
Which meant, of course, that I was going to get out on my bike for a while.
The thing is, the temperature was hovering right around a hundred degrees. And while I can — and have — and do — ride in that kind of heat, it’s not my favorite.
And that’s when I remembered: I live near the mountains. Which means I can always climb to where it’s cooler. Seriously, between the shade and the higher altitude, it’s fifteen degrees cooler.
Thinking back to how great riding Tibble Fork was a few days ago, I decided to ride it again. But this time with a geared bike. And a working helmetcam.
I got the whole thing — all two hours of the ride — on video, but rather than put together a Cliff’s Notes version of the whole ride the way I usually do, I want to show you one particular section, in its entirety. That section of trail is officially named “South Fork Deer Creek.”
But we — the people I ride with — call it Joy.
We call it that, because that’s the feeling it brings. (And also because we like to give trails people names.)
After a difficult climb — three remarkably brutal uphill miles — there’s nothing quite like six perfect minutes of fast, swooping downhill. Trail that is so good that it fills your brain completely. There is no room for anything but pure joy.
Except for maybe it’s a good idea to reserve just a little bit of extra room in your brain for thinking about how it’s a good idea to juke left right now or you will hit that tree.
Tomorrow morning, a group of us will ride Tibble again. I’ll video it again, and I’ll show off some snippets of the rest of this unbelievably good trail.
But Joy deserves to be experienced in its entirety.
PS: Mud Springs — the second iconic descent in the Big Tibble loop — is the polar opposite of Joy and is just as good. It deserves — and will get — the full video treatment as well. Soon.
PPS: Thanks to the hundreds of people who commented yesterday. I really appreciate your encouragement and your support.
PPPS: I don’t want to give too much away, but very soon I will be doing my next big LiveStrong Challenge contest, and the prize will rhyme with “Orbea Orca with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 build.” I wonder if that’s too obvious of a clue.
Susan’s health is heading downhill pretty quickly now. She sleeps about 22 hours a day, waking mostly to ask for a little water to wet her mouth. The things she says sometimes make sense, but often they don’t. And a lot of the time, even when her eyes are open, she doesn’t respond to or look at me when I talk.
I know she doesn’t have long. I’ve known and expected this for years. But now that we’re getting close, I am afraid and overwhelmed and unprepared. Even for short-term things, there is so much I don’t know how to do.
School starts soon; the timing couldn’t be more awful. How do I make this easier for the kids? I haven’t chosen a mortuary or cemetery; I don’t know how and I don’t want to know how. I’m terrified of making calls and can’t stand the thought of comparison shopping. I hate being taken advantage of, but the thought of trying to be a savvy consumer right now makes me ill.
And my self-control is tenuous. Yesterday I tore into my 13-year-old about how since the cat is theoretically his, how come I — the one person in the family who vocally said he did not want a cat — am having to feed and clean up after the stupid thing? This conversation isn’t new, but I brought some fresh energy into it, and I did it unprovoked — totally blindsided the kid.
And there’s more, which I just spent about 45 minutes writing and then deleted, because I read it and found myself not liking the guy who wrote it.
So here’s the short version.
I am a mess, I am angry, and I am lonely. And I am ashamed that I am, right now, worrying about myself instead of the people who need me.
Basically, right now I’m exactly the kind of person I try to avoid.
A Note from Fatty: Susan continues to have some lucid periods, followed by some very scary and difficult times. We’ve adjusted her meds, however, so that things are generally better: when she’s lucid we can enjoy it, and when she’s not I have tools at my disposal to help her be calm, or if necessary, to sleep. Her circumstances haven’t really changed, but we’re adapting and making them as easy as possible for her and the kids.
I’ve talked about Tibble Fork before. It’s my favorite trail in the world. Lots of good memories associated with it, and it’s where I first learned to hate — then eventually love — climbing.
But I didn’t have video of it.
So, knowing a small group of us were going to ride it this morning, yesterday afternoon I put fresh batteries in the helmetcam and tested them to make sure they worked. They did.
Then, this morning, I made sure I took the lens cap off. Because, you see, I am becoming very smart about using my helmetcam.
I put the helmet on, then turned the helmetcam on.
Or, more precisely, I pressed the “On” switch for the helmetcam, after which nothing happened.
No, that’s not precise enough. Something did happen. Immediately upon pressing the “On” switch, I realized that after turning on the helmetcam yesterday to make sure the new batteries were good, I…left it on.
Which means that I still do not have any video of my favorite trail in the world. Which is too bad, because it was a really great ride. Great trail, beautiful views, terrific friends. It — I know I have said this an embarrassing number of times now — would have made a very good video.