On Friday afternoon I attended my bi-annual renal outpatients’ clinic at Ninewells hospital in Dundee. My appointments usually follow the same script.
Doctor: Hello, come in, sit down… how are you?
Me: Fine, thanks.
Doctor: Good. How have your kidneys been over the last six months? Any problems?
Me: Fine, no problems.
Doctor: Your blood pressure is a bit high, but you’ve probably been rushing to get here. Let’s take it again… Hmm… still a bit high. You’ve put on more weight, I see. You really need to lose weight. That will help with your blood pressure.
And off I’m sent with a slap on the wrist, a ticket to get my bloods taken, and an appointment for six months’ time.
Change of script
Well, dear reader, not this time. This time we had a change of script. I was in and out in about five minutes. No reprimand, my blood pressure was looking good, just a a request for bloods and to return in not six but nine months’ time (always a good sign when they don’t want to see you quite as soon).
The reason: over the last five months I have been exercising. A lot. And yesterday afternoon I discovered just now much weight I’ve lost: 6 kilogrammes (13.2 lbs).
I knew it must have been quite a bit: I am now back into my XXL t-shirts, and my 38″ jeans.
The last seven years have been in many ways the most brutal, the more difficult that I’ve ever experienced:
sleep deprivation (twins and then singleton) for about four or five years
two back injuries
two neck injuries
Whenever I did exercise (walking, cycling or light dumbbell weights) invariably I’d get ill pretty quickly, within a few days I’d come down with someone, or I’d overdo it and pick up an injury.
And with a regular pattern like that comes fear. And so I ended up avoiding exercise because I didn’t want to get ill.
In June of this year I knew that something had to change. I was experiencing major headaches again, comparable with the ones I had experienced during last year’s meningitis. I knew that I’d put on more weight, I was already in XXXL t-shirts and these were beginning to feel a little tight. I was feeling so unfit and so ashamed of my size that I knew that I had to do something about it. It actually got so bad that I felt I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror.
I knew that I could do it, I’d done it before, after I’d moved from Edinburgh to Fife. I just wished that I had written down what I’d done so that I could do it again.
So I committed to the following:
Eat less (especially, cut out unnecessary sugars and sweets).
Lift weights more.
With the exercise I committed myself to a little, often. And with that I got on my bike and tackled a familiar circuit that I used to do: home to Kilrenny, up the farm track to the main road, then back home. I knew that it would take me about 13 minutes to reach the top of the farm track, up a gently hill, and about 26 minutes to complete the loop and get back home.
A few weeks in, I started lifting weights again. A little and often. Squats, preacher curls, bench presses. I hit major muscle groups. I followed a couple of Men’s Health dumbbell guides that I’d collected over the years.
Then I went back out on my bike, and was amazed that I could go significantly faster. The weight lifting had given my legs strength. Who knew?!
The clocks changed and I continued to go out in the dark. I have fabulously powerful LED bike lights that illuminate the road ahead. And that’s when I realised that one of my biggest enemies, one of the things that had been holding me back, was myself.
When I cycle during the day and hit the bottom of a climb there is a small, nagging voice in the back of my mind that says, “You’ll never make that climb!” And coupled with the fear of getting ill, or pulling an injury, my brain gives in and replies, “Yeah… you’re probably right”, and I slow down and don’t push myself quite as much.
But at night… at night I can’t see the top of the hill. And so I don’t hear the nagging voices. I’m in the moment, and I just keep going, until I find the top of the hill.
So, I set myself a goal: get from my house to the top of the hill in under 10 minutes. A week in to my challenge I got it down to 10′ 52″.
I then realised that I was taking it too easy getting from my home to the bottom of the hill, so a couple of weeks ago I set out with the attitude of going for broke.
I pushed myself harder than I had in a long time, through the pain, up the hill, pulling on my pedals when pushing hurt too much, pushing when that started to ache.
At the top of the hill I slumped over the handlebars, out of breath, my heartbeat in my ears, sweat turning to steam in the cool night air.
I unclipped my bike computer and held it in front of my front light. Five minutes fifty-six seconds. What?! 5′ 56″.
Well… that’s under 10 minutes.
The next year or two are going to contain a lot of changes, big and small. Some I will have little control over, others I will grasp with two hands. This is one of them. I’m getting back on track (metaphorically and literally), getting fit and regaining my confidence.
Yesterday’s renal appointment was a significant milestone. Let’s see just how much fitter I can be in nine months’ time when I present myself to the clinic once again.
I’ve had this rather amazing song going around my head today.
I heard the voice of redemption
For me there is no exemption
I started praying
I heard the voice of satisfaction
Needing me for benefaction
I started pleading
I heard the bells begin to chime
Warning me, oh Lord!
Don’t let this be my time
Don’t let this be my time
I’ll be there for you, when you walk through the fire I’ll be there for you, when the flames get higher When nothing fits and nothing seems right Till the very last breath of my life, I’ll be there for you
You saw me slide, you saw me fall
We kept our pride through it all
We started screaming
When skies are dark, no sun shines through
I know I see the light in you
We stopped dreaming and started believing
I’ll be there for you, when you walk through the fire I’ll be there for you, when the flames get higher When nothing fits and nothing seems right Till the very last breath of my life, I’ll be there for you I’ll be there
In my hour of need
You were there always
Now it’s time for me to be there for you too
One of the delights of this past weekend — apart from almost seeing the blood moon eclipse last night (there was too much cloud cover at 03:47 when I peered out of my south-westwards facing study window) — was getting the back garden tidied up.
Of course, the front garden still looks like a jungle. (Sorry neighbours!) But the back garden looks splendid and neat. The secret to tidy-looking gardens, I believe, is simply in defining straight lines and borders. It’s a bit like web design. But without the benefits of flexbox.
It’s been over a year now since I was in hospital. When I got out my GP said that I shouldn’t expect to begin to get my energy back until January or February; it was more like April when I began to feel that I was making some improvement.
But then in July the headaches began again. I know I was pushing myself too hard: cycling every couple of days, staying up too late, and I need to get my eyes tested again (appointment booked for Monday).
Time to reel myself in a bit and be a bit more sensible and disciplined.
Still, in the meantime at least the shed is tidy. And who doesn’t love a tidy potting shed?
And I think I may have discovered that Joshua is the secret identity of Banksie.
Seemingly to the right of the cheerful man is his thought bubble. I need to ask Joshua again what he’s thinking. Because I seem to recall that it was something random. Like a pie.
A couple of weeks ago I was setting up a new laptop and kept putting off installing Sublime Text (my code editor of choice) because I knew that it would also involve about fifteen minutes patiently working through my curated list of packages (add-ons / plugins), installing each one by one.
There’s got to be a simpler way, I suddenly thought. Sublime Text saves me so much time doing other stuff automatically, surely they’ve thought about this too.
In the end it was deceptively simple. I’d set the priority values for the add_action($hook, $function_to_add, $priority) and remove_action($hook, $function_to_add, $priority) functions too low.
WordPress uses the priority value to determine in which order particular actions are run. The default value is 10. The higher the value, the later it will be executed.
Yesterday morning we drove to Kelso, in the Scottish Borders, for my first cousin Robin’s wedding.
They were married in Kelso registry office — my first ever attendance at a registry wedding — and then held their reception in the village hall in nearby Smailholm.
The highlight of the day, as far as the boys were concerned, was the bouncy castle in the hall grounds.
I spent most of the afternoon supervising our three. Isaac, especially, was really tired so every half hour or so he and I trotted across the grass to our car parked opposite the bouncy castle so that he could have a lie down in the temporary bed that I’d created for him in the boot of our Citroën Grand C4 Picasso.
It was a day of love and family and laughter… and a lot of bouncing.