One barometer of my MS that I’m currently reflecting on, is the scope of my “future gaze”: whether I have the capacity to look at future months & years, or am just focussing on the next day. Everyone will empathise with how your world view and forethoughts shrink during periods of stress or illness (I’d have thought that everyone with children will empathise with that sensation of just trying to get through each day, juggling water and herding cats).
To some extent, I have been living in week-long blocks for the last couple of years. I’ve been making plans for each weekend, but being a bit tentative on a grander scale. My confidence had been a bit dented when I had to drop out of a long planned Alpine Cycling trip – letting a friend down at the very last minute as I tried to work out what was going on with some grumbling MS symptoms – and I was finding that pre-planned weekend plans were proving to be the source of anxiety, rather than excitement….. But this year, I do think that things are definitely evolving (for the better). I’ve been booking summer holidays, both en famille and solo – and have (somewhat cagily) been letting my optimism grow. Over the next fortnight I’ll be dipping my toe back into the water of a night out in London, and a weekend playing golf with some old friends; although I approach these “MS-tests” with trepidation, there is also the definite emergence of a new confidence.
Reading between the lines above, you’ll see that I’m currently feeling pretty good regards the various challenges of my MS – a “block” of time that I’ve been awaiting for quite some time….
So – to use what I believe is the technical term – I cycled the hell out of April.
I raced up a hill or two with my friends at “lunch club”; made new friends climbing up to the ridge and viewpoints of the White Horse above Avebury; did a 200 mile ride up to the “Heart of England” (and beyond); and enjoyed a weekend away in the stunning hills of Southern France. These latter 2 days certainly hit the “cycling sweet-spot”: a friend and I toured the “gorge du verdon” upon roads that clung to precipitous cliffs and hair-pinned through tunnels and caves; up to ski-resorts and mountain-top expresso-stops; and down to cobbled French villages, where we filled our water bottles in age-old fountains. We even fitted in a “gastronomic” 7-course dinner in our remote overnight stop-over – our ravenous 200km-cycled appetites were given a lesson in patience as ‘amuse-bouches’ followed one bite-size course after another. “Encore du pain, s’il vous plait?!!”. But ageing, arthritic and MS, I can’t just click my fingers and do weekends like that – 400km and almost 30,000 feet of climbing required some serious base miles under my belt: these were the archetypal “summer smiles” earned by “winter miles” – and a labour has been necessary to bear these fruits:
April started with my slightly murky, MS-related left foot ataxia. I’m pretty used to the symptom now, and wouldn’t even say that it was hindering. But as I started peddling some greater miles, I started getting muscle strains dotted around my left calf as I increasingly favoured a ‘pull’ of that pedal, rather than a push. A tendonitis in my left achilles started to niggle more and more. I started to consciously favour my right foot and the hints of cramp, then strain, transferred over to my that calf. A week later, as I was finishing off my ‘200’, my right foot started to ache more and more as my pedal strokes started to rely almost entirely on a ‘right foot push’. The next day, on my commute to work, the pain in my right foot started getting sharper, a couple of slipped gears (when the pedal suddenly slips/drops dramatically) hurt. Another trip to Southmeads hospital and it seems that I’ve got a stress fracture in my right metatarsal. Talk is of 4-6 weeks rest. I contemplated this as I cycled home. [I recited that song, my experience confirming the lyrics, “hip bone connected to the thigh bone… etc etc”. One body, one holistic system only as strong as it’s weakest link]
So, another little hurdle. But – let me check – my “future gaze” barometer still reads well. My thoughts and ambitions are still looking at the summer and beyond – so all is well. Roll on.