Tag Archives: health

resetting expectations

Almost two weeks ago I wrote about how my motivation had slumped and how I was feeling lethargic and unwilling to get out and about. Having written that I had a bit of a lift. I think it was cathartic recognising and expressing how I was feeling. Later that week the weather also started to improve again getting warmer and a bit more settled. I decided to give the 30 Days of Biking Challenge a go as a way to change things up and maybe give me a cycling boost. I started well with 4 days done but then hit a mental wall again. This wasn’t helped by plummeting weather conditions and a return to very wintery weather. After a taste of Spring it feels like we’ve been catapulted back to the end of January!

On Easter Monday the forecast was for a wet and windy week with snow and hail showers also expected and I lost all interest in the 30 Days Challenge. In fact I pretty much lost interest in cycling for the whole week!

❄ 3″ of snow on my car tuesday morning! ❄

Since then I’ve spent some time taking stock. For the last two weeks I’d been getting progressively tired and fed up. I’d also started to develop pains in my knees and legs. Something was going wrong and needed to change. A number of the supportive comments on that last post mentioned Covid and/or overdoing it. Dpedece’s comment in particular stood out for me:

However, it seems to me that needing to take the lazy option means that something inside–mind? spirit?–needs healing. The lazy option allows the opportunity for that to heal.

I’ve been back at work now for 5 weeks and it’s been a big change. I’m in work from 9:30am to 6pm with a 45min lunch break. Apart from lunch I’m mostly stood in the one spot as, with lockdown, most sales and queries are coming via the phone. It’s pretty full on with the phone almost constantly ringing and possibly juggling 3/4 queries at once. It requires constant focus and concentration to ensure nothing gets missed or messed up while still maximising sales. That’s tiring both mentally and physically.

During my time off at the start of lockdown I steadily built up my activity and consequently my fitness. I was determined not to lose this by returning to work. I was also following Intermittent Fasting to try and get to my ideal weight. The table below shows my weekly activity plan going back to work.

Retrospectively now it’s a bit much and combined with work it was way too much! Additionally my sleeping pattern has been bad. To get an activity in before work I was getting up at 6:30am (away to work at 8:30am, home at 7pm) but most nights not settling down until at least 11:30pm or even midnight. No wonder I was feeling burnt out, I was and as dpedece said my spirit needed healing.

I’ve really dialled it back since Monday. The weather has stopped me cycling so I’ve just been walking and only once a day. Most days I’ve been able to have a lie in and I’ve been making a better effort to get to sleep by 11pm. I’ve completely given up on fasting by eating a small breakfast. At work I’m making an effort to reduce stress by not feeling that I have to answer every single call and dealing properly with queries before moving on to the next.

All of this has helped a lot. I’m feeling a good bit better and the pains are going from my legs. Mentally I feel a lot less wrung out and depending on the weather tomorrow I may even get out for a spin on the bike. Some of our restrictions are being eased and we are permitted to travel anywhere within our county boundary. It will be refreshing to be able to ride different routes and areas I haven’t ridden since October/November. Hopefully the customers I meet through work will also be in better form and more positive and thereby easier to deal with. There’s a rumour that winter may be retreating again later this week which will give everyone an extra boost 🤞

Header image by Castorly Stock from Pexels

testing, testing….

Over the last 6-8 months there has been a lot of criticism of how the government has been handling the Covid19 outbreak in Ireland and I have been critical myself of the lack of direction and apparent lack of a clear path. A lot of media criticism has been around the failure of the government to ramp up testing and contact tracing services as well as the ability of the health service to cope with a second and third wave. In the last couple of days I have nothing but praise for the service.

My initial contact was with my local GP service in Lifford. Our service are particularly good and I don’t know how much of my initial speed was their systems or the HSE systems as a whole.

I spoke to the health centre shortly after 9am and received a call back from a GP at 9:30am. She went through my symptoms, asked about the rest of the household and recommended we all get tested. She booked the tests electronically and the appointments came through as SMS within minutes for appointments at 11:30am.

My knowledge of the testing centre was quite limited. I’d seen photos of the original setup in O’Donnell GAA pitch in the local media. I’d also heard that it was moved to a new facility in the car park at the hospital but I’d no idea of the scale of this new centre. Below are photos of the original and upgraded facilities taken from Donegal Daily articles.

original facility
new facility

All our checking in and testing was done without us leaving the car. We were initially directed to a reception block where our appointments were confirmed and our details checked. We were given envelopes containing the testing kits, tissues, masks and information leaflets. Conor’s and Catriona’s required additional work so we were directed to a waiting area until they were ready. It was like a less enjoyable version of the McDonald’s Drive Thru!

After a few minutes we were called forward to one of the large drive in sheds where two staff, fully kitted in PPE explained the whole process and completed the tests. They were very friendly and professional and made the whole process a lot easier.

The test for kids is different to adults so Conor was done first with the swab up both nostrils for a short twist. For the rest of us it was a swab of the back of the throat and then the back of the nose via a nostril. The test itself is hateful and uncomfortable but not sore and definitely manageable, over quite quickly. I’d say the four of us were done in less than 10 minutes including explanations.

I’ve seen some criticism this year that the Irish Army hasn’t been used properly to support the fight against Covid19 so it was interesting to see two of the testers yesterday were wearing Army uniforms under their PPE. It seems they are being used but under the radar and that they will be utilised further as the vaccination program begins.

We were told that the results could take 24-48hrs but woke the next morning to SMS confirmations that we were all positive with guideline links on what to do next and what to expect. At 9:50am I received a call from the GP to confirm the result in case we hadn’t received the message and again explaining what to do (isolate for 10 days), what to expect, what to look out for and how to treat the symptoms. She also completed the electronic declarations for social welfare to cover both Catriona and myself while off work.

Later that morning we both completed the online social welfare application. Again a very streamlined process made simple and easy to complete.

That afternoon we also received a call from the contact tracing service. It was mainly Catriona they spoke to but took details for both of us and the boys. Catriona’s work has had a number of cases already so they’re hyper aware and we have really good systems in place at my work. The boys have been off school since before Xmas so it was a relief to have very few possible contacts. While they are no longer testing close contacts without symptoms it’s reassuring to see that they are still following through to ask them to isolate.

I really do hope that the HSE has learned from how they have managed and handled the Covid19 pandemic and that once it is over they can take these new experiences and learnings and use them to correct many of the failings of the current system. I would like to think we will see an end to the endless bureaucracy, waiting times and endless queues in congested clinics. They’ve shown this year that dramatic change is possible when the will is there.

confined to quarters

Catriona had a rotten cold all weekend and the boys picked it up at the end of the weekend. Not to be outdone I started getting a sore throat and the sniffles on Monday too. I was determined not to let this one beat me like the last one derailed my December streak plans. Monday afternoon I had a bit of a cough that became a bit more persistent as the day went on. Tuesday I still had the cough but felt OK so off to work as normal. As the day went on the cough got a bit worse and by evening I was also feeling a bit breathless. At this stage I was starting to get a bad feeling.

At bedtime and I was feeling an ache in my thighs that was very strange and worrying. At this point I’d already decided to call the doctor in the morning and arrange a Covid consultation. I woke at 130am with pains across my shoulders and in my lower back. These, as well as the ache in my legs came and went all night preventing any sleep, even a doze. By morning I was also slightly feverish but only a little with a temperature of 37.8°C and a dose of paracetamol and ibuprofen soon sorted all symptoms shortly after getting up.

A call to the doctor and all four of us were sent for Covid tests in Letterkenny for 1130am with results expected in 24-48hrs.

As the day went on I was feeling a bit better, the fever was gone and the cough easing. The pains were a lot less and although I was tired I put it down to the lack of sleep. All of us felt OK and we were starting to feel a bit foolish and even talking about the fact that we had wasted resources with the only result being a talking point experience of the test process. I was feeling especially foolish about causing worry at work having informed my boss of my symptoms and test that morning.

After a solid night of caught up sleep I woke to see this on my phone:

All four of us tested positive but thankfully all of us are still only experiencing mild symptoms. The boys are pretty much OK to the extent that Owen thought this morning that we were pranking him about the result! Catriona has a chesty cough and both of us are more fatigued than usual but that’s it so far.

The advice from the doctor is to treat the symptoms as a normal cold or flu but not to ignore any changes for the worse. I’ve been reading Dr Google and apparently symptoms can worsen after a mild start and can go from mild to severe quite quickly. Increased breathlessness is the key one to watch for.

We now have to stay home until next week. I was the last to show symptoms but we’re all going to isolate from the same day (Monday) to be on the safe side. That means we’re at home and not allowed to leave the house until Thursday the 14th. Frustratingly that includes even going for a walk in case we meet someone. Assuming we don’t experience any escalation of symptoms that will be the biggest challenge!

the year ahead

I’m not really into retrospectives but Gerry from The Vicious Cycle posted a really good one earlier this week and I have been reading a few others too. I don’t usually find a lot of personal value in looking back. Facebook memories, Strava’s end of year review and Veloviewer’s infographic are as close as I normally get.

© strava
© veloviewer

I’m much more interested in setting goals for the future. Some of these are short term like the mini challenges I wrote about last time but at the start of a new year I also like to set longer term goals for the full year.

cycling goals

Unsurprisingly, most of my goals are cycling related.

annual goal: since I started using Strava in 2014 my biggest year was 2016 when I rode 8,046km. This past year was fairly average for me at 4,541km. I’d like to beat that in 2020 riding an average of 500km per month for a total goal of 6,000km. 8,000km would be a good stretch target as I’ve only hit it the once and it’s also the equivalent of 5,000miles.

© schreiberusa

streak goal: I should have my 12th metric century completed by the end of this week completing the set for the year. I’m planning the same challenge for next year but this time I’m going to do it within each calendar month and go for the full set of Strava Gran Fondo trophies for 2021. It doesn’t sit 100% right with me that I missed a month or two this year.

I also want to restart the Audax Ireland RRTY challenge this year. I plan to start it in May or June so that I can start and finish in Summer as well as having some momentum going into the tougher Winter months. I’m also hoping that lockdowns will be a thing of the past by then giving me a chance to take part in calendar events and introduce some variety.

distance goal: my biggest ride so far is 210km back in 2017. I’ve completed quite a few 200km Audax rides now and would like to complete one next level 300km ride this year.

running goals

For the first year I now consider myself a runner as well as a cyclist and I want to set goals to improve my running this year and make it a permanent part of my training.

streak goal: I’ve managed to get back to a level that I can run a 5K without stopping. This year I want to run a full 5K each month and like my cycling goal above complete each of the Strava monthly 5K challenges.

time goal: my fastest 5K time so far is 27:23. My goal this year is 25min.

other activity goals

365 challenge: inspired by ADudeABikes and following my November streak I’m setting a target of a minimum of one recorded activity per day walking, cycling or running.

bikepacking: I’ve been watching a lot of Bikepacking videos and read a lot of articles this year and want to complete one short trip and camp out for one night. I haven’t spent a night in a tent for about 10 years!

strength and conditioning: during lockdown I discovered Tom Merrick’s YouTube channel. He has a nice and simple 6 day follow along program for strength and flexibility. I’m not setting a specific goal but want to incorporate this into my regular activities this year. I have strong legs but my upper body strength and my general flexibility is poor and needs to improve before I end up with injuries.

weight loss: in the early part of 2020 I was at 88kg. During the latter stages of the first lockdown I managed to get that down to 80kg through 16:8 intermittent fasting and increased activity. I wasn’t able to sustain the fasting for long once I went back to work and bad habits gradually crept back in. I’ve been able to keep it between 81-82kg and during this year I’d like to get it down to 76kg and keep it there consistently.

There’s a lot in there and too many goals could mean that I’m setting myself up for failure. However, most of them are continuations of goals I’m already working on or are stretches that are definitely achievable. The key one is the 365 challenge. If I can get that rolling then most of the rest should fall into place.

Header image by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

today’s perfect moment

A regular blog read for me is Today’s Perfect Moment written by Anthony, a teacher of English as a Second Language based in Canada. It’s all about finding the positives in life and especially in the small things that happen every day.

His tagline is:

Using a little bit of perfection found by sifting through the day to brighten my mood and hopefully yours.

I had a perfect moment today and I figured World Mental Health Day was a great day to share it, inspired by reading Anthony’s post this evening.

At work today I had a customer I know from before I worked in retail. She arranged the mortgage for our current house approximately 16 years ago. I’ve met her a couple of times over the years but today was the first time I’ve spent a while talking to her and definitely the first time selling her something. We talked quite a bit about her house, her job and of course her sofa and dining chairs. She asked me about work and working in my current job. I told her I really enjoy it and she very nicely told me that it suits me and that I’m very good at it. I’m still learning to be able to accept compliments but it was really nice as I could tell she meant it. I thanked her of course and I hope she understood how good it made me feel, definitely a perfect moment and especially nice as I’m now off on leave for 4 days!

st patrick’s day 2020

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made a rare speech to the nation this evening and as he saidit’s been a St Patrick’s Day like no other

Since I’ve come home from Switzerland I’ve been self-isolating as much as possible. I’m not due back to work until Thursday but they have asked me to stay off longer. No timeline given and no determination on pay but I’m expecting a minimum of 14 days and social welfare emergency payment only which will be a significant reduction in pay.

When I first received the message I was still in Switzerland and despite the growing crisis I still felt annoyed and that it was an over reaction. Switzerland was green status and despite large numbers of positive cases there were very few in our region and probably less chance of contracting the virus than at home. Since returning home that has changed to amber status yesterday, the government have recommended 14 day restricted movement for all travellers returning to Ireland since yesterday and Switzerland have closed their borders and gone into partial lockdown today. With that, the mood in the country and the increasingly difficult news in the media I’m no longer annoyed!

I did go out at one stage today. We needed a few items from the shop so I went to the local Mace. The mood was as weird as it gets. Everyone eyeballing everyone else, making sure they knew where everyone was and mentally willing each other to stay back. The checkout had the crisp baskets pulled out to enforce a 2m distance between the staff and customer with the girl stepping well back and wearing protective gloves. Payment was made via card and tapped to reduce contact further. It was a horribly sad atmosphere.

the one that #stayedaway saved the rest

We’re a country renowned for our friendliness and today is our national holiday. Instead of celebrating and enjoying ourselves we’re hunkered down in our homes, expecting the worst and hoping others stay away. Self-isolation is a key strategy to controlling the spread of the virus but it’s damaging to the fabric of society.

One minister stated yesterday that “the normal we had a few weeks ago won’t be the normal we have again“. I hope our new normal is still a good one and that we come out the other side as good people in a good society once again.

lunchtime constitutional

Since my surgery the week before last I had become very sedentary. Most of the fitness I’d managed to gain during January was steadily fading away, I was sleeping badly and generally feeling crap. My mood was definitely not good and I probably wasn’t great company.

I figured part of the problem was that I wasn’t getting outside enough and using the excuse of the surgery to justify my laziness. I also figured that fresh air (lack of) was both the cause and the cure. The only time I was spending outside was the trip from the house to the car, the car into work and the reverse in the evening.

The easiest and most effective solution was a lunchtime walk. Buncrana is a seaside town and I’m just a 5min walk from the shore front so with sandwiches and a bottle of water in my pocket I hit the paths on Thursday lunchtime.

It was tremendously windy with a storm coming in but it was bright and sunny and definitely blew away the cobwebs. I headed along the shore front path skirting the edge of the park before retracing my steps and heading across to the Heritage Trail start and then back to work. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I slept soundly that night.

Friday I decided to explore the Heritage Trail more and this took me along the opposite direction skirting a small beach and out to the Life Boat station at Ned’s Point. I wandered a little here before turning back which left me very tight for time getting back to work.

Saturday morning was wet and windy but I was delighted to see it clear up by lunch and the sun come out in full force. The Ned’s Point walk was the perfect blend of distance and enjoyment so I repeated Friday’s walk. At times it was quite warm when sheltered from the wind. On my way back I met a very friendly guy from Tipperary who had relocated to Raphoe and was meeting a friend in Buncrana. We walked back to the Main Street together swapping stories and having a great old yarn.

One of the guys at work thinks I’m bonkers. He doesn’t seem to be able to understand the attraction or how I’m able to walk and eat at the same time.

3 days last week and I hope to repeat that this week. Let’s just hope that the rain stays away as it’s not feasible to spend the afternoon drying off and squelching around the shop!

under the knife

For quite a number of years now I’ve had a lot of little lumps called lipomas in various parts of my body. Some of them are larger than others and they grow very slowly over time. About 9 years ago I had two removed, one from each arm, as they were getting quite big and I really didn’t like them as they were very noticeable. Recently I’ve had a number of them develop along the edge of my ribs and one in particular was quite big. As a group they could become quite uncomfortable at times and I asked the doctor last year about having them removed.

Today was the day. I had hoped to have them all removed but the surgeon only wanted to remove the large one that was causing the most discomfort to minimise the size of the wound and avoid complications as they are essentially harmless. He explained that the distribution pattern reflected the track of a nerve which they have formed along and the large one pressing on the nerve was the source of the discomfort.

Surgery itself was pretty quick taking just under 30mins but the 3hr delay due to the late arrival of the surgeon was a real pain in the arse especially as I only had a light breakfast and didn’t sleep great last night due to nervousness about the procedure leaving me quite stressed, hungry and with a thumping headache.

The whole surgical procedure was quite a weird experience. The main pain was the anaesthetic needle, similar to the dentist, but very quick acting as there was barely any break between the needle and the cutting which made me very nervous. There was lots of pressure from the prodding and squeezing as well as the stitching of the wound but there was a sharp burst of pain in the middle, like an intense burning sensation, that was due to pressure on the nerve which was very unsettling.

I was able to see the procedure due to reflection in the overhead lamps but I couldn’t watch it – I don’t even like to watch blood being taken in the doctor’s! I did sneak a peak when they were cleaning up and it’s a deep enough and wide enough wound. 4 stitches later and a dressing and it looks very insignificant!

The surgeon appeared quite stern but I was pleased when he introduced himself, shook my hand and explained what was going to happen. I think he fancied himself as a comedian too. The procedure involves squeezing the lipoma out from below the skin to allow removal and I heard him say “here comes the baby, head first, now the legs and pop!” I might have appreciated it better if it wasn’t my ribs he was pressing down on!

Home straight away afterwards with a stop for lunch. Aftercare is simple enough – paracetamol and ibuprofen plus no lifting or strenuous exercise for a while. Stitches out in 10 days and hopefully an all clear report in approximately 2 weeks on the biopsy of the removed tissue which is done as standard on all lesion removals.

heart scan

Pretty wiped out this evening having spent the day travelling up and down to the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin for a CT angiogram following my appointment with the cardiac consultant in July.

The appointment was for 11am so up shortly after 6.30am and away at 7.30am. Catriona had to come with me as I wasn’t allowed to drive home.

After only a short wait I was taken for the first examination to determine heart rate and given a beta blocker to reduce heart rate to the 50bpm area. Then sent back to the waiting room for 1hr to allow the meds to take effect before having the actual scan. It was two parts with the second involving the injection of a dye into the blood system. This gives a weird sensation as it goes in, a very weird taste at the back of the throat and a warming sensation that feels like you’re peeing yourself! Importantly it also allows a map of the arterial system highlighting any possible blockages. The scan lasted about 20min and we were finished by 12:30.

The worst part of the day (apart from the long journey) was no caffeine since last night and fasting from 7am so our first stop was Applegreen for food and tea and then home for about 4.30pm.

Had thought about a short spin this evening but I’m very sleepy now. Possibly an effect of the dye but most likely an after effect of the beta blocker and the long journey.

The results go back to the consultant in about a week and then I get called for a follow up appointment to discuss. Hopefully all unnecessary as I’m expecting but still slightly apprehensive about it all.

have a heart ♥

Had an Out Patients appointment today. Over the last year I’ve been diagnosed (sounds very dramatic!) with high cholesterol and put on statins. As a precaution the doctor also referred me for a stress test appointment with the hospital in Letterkenny. After waiting 1hr and 5min* to be seen for a 5min consultation I’ve been told they’re sending me to the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin for an arterial CT. It sounds like a big step, very quickly and a bit frightening to be honest but I got the impression it’s very much standard procedure. Should get an appointment in about a month or so.

It did give me a giggle to see this evening that Google had the following banner:

It’s to honour heart surgeon René Favaloro the heart bypass pioneer. Hopefully that’s as far as the coincidences go!

*I was dismayed at 10:50 (my appointment was 10am) to hear the old lady sitting in front of me tell someone her appointment was for 09:15. She was still sitting there when I left so I’m glad my file wasn’t in the same pile as hers