Suddenly the mornings are getting dark. And colder.
As I commute to work, I’m now setting off in moonlight rather than daylight.
This is not my favourite month.
It is also the time of year known to Bristol’s cyclists as “Hill Climbing Season”. There are a series of annual hill races, short sharp sprints against the clock to round off the cycling year. They’re easy events to enter: they’re run “time trial” style, one rider at a time (so you never get left behind); and no one really notices what times you post (so there’s not usually any embarrassment necessary – although my times do their best!) I’ve tried to enter 3 or 4 of them every year – (to participate rather than to compete) – but note that I had to be careful with my wording: I say “tried to enter” because October is also my own personal “Ill Season”.
Before I had my MS diagnosis I’d had 4-5 years of intermittent bad health. I became so frustrated I had started to keep an “illness diary” in an attempt to try and find rhyme or reason behind these apparently unconnected bouts of malaise. These diaries now form damning evidence for the crap-ness of October. I took to highlighting periods of time when I was either off work; or unable to cycle. I can now see that in every single October for 4 years I missed at least 5 days of work through illness (“bed bound”). Over the same time period, I had highlighted an additional 16 days when I was too ill to get on my bike (“chair bound”). So, historically, in October I’ve been spending 1 day in every 2 either bed bound or house bound.
The fact that I log all my bike rides on the website “Strava” just adds to this compelling evidence because I’m in the habit of adding “ride titles” which keep a record of what I was doing, with whom and where (I’ll pause for a moment for you to digest this geekiness…) With hindsight these past October Titles now seem to read like great big flashing MS warning lights: “Felt strangely lethargic on the bike today”; “Couldn’t get much power today, legs felt numb”; “Felt tired on the bike despite 12 hours sleep”; “Felt awful today, went straight home to bed”; and, what now seems like an MS classic, “Not sure what was going on today, felt as though I was losing feeling in my legs”.
Now I know that I have MS I’ve tried to work out why Octobers have been so bad. February/March are exactly the same. The pattern then seems to be that I am in relatively good health through the summer. I think I need a team of experts to look at this and unravel the clues – there seems as if there could be all sorts of reasons: from pure coincidence or psychosomatic winter-based depression; to vitamin d levels (which come from sunlight); or the simple prevalence of a new season’s minor bugs and colds which seem to hit me with such exaggeration.
With disappointing predictability, this last week saw my eldest son ill in bed with a fever and a heavy cold. My youngest was up all last night with his own terrible cough. And this weekend was the “West DC Hill Climb Weekend”: four hill climb races over the 2 days. I entered them all weeks ago. Predictably I woke up myself on Saturday morning feeling crap. I’d had what can only be described as remarkable “night sweats”, and felt dizzy with the sniffles and itches of an impending bug. Just as night follows day, I then registered 2 pretty slow times one after the other. Slower than my already modest times of last year.
Then on Sunday morning I woke up feeling great. I felt like an embarrassed hypochondriac after my concerns of the previous day, but then registered another 2 slow times for the day’s events…. <remember not to let MS become an excuse.>
Yep… welcome to October.
My chemotherapy treatment is due to start in 3 weeks. I need to remember that, some days, I should be happy to be at the start-line, still smiling, still riding. Who cares how fast you go.