I'm going to tell you more heart stories in this one. I just have to because that's what's on my mind.
After I'd been for a "cardiac viability" MRI a while back, I started scanning nervously for white letters as soon as I got in from work. I thought it would be fine but you never know, and waiting for results is kind of intrinsically anxiety producing.
I had a few false alarms. I came in and there were white envelopes sitting there for me, but they were Virgin trying to sell us their broadband and telly again, or letters from the bank. Nothing from the NHS.
But the other day I was just getting ready to head out for work and the phone rang and Peter answered it. I never answer the phone (it's always someone wanting something) and I sighed when I realised it was for me. I got ready to be rude if necessary; if it was someone trying to sell me something, but instead it was Dr Stirrat, the consultant cardiologist I'd seen a couple of months back who had ordered the MRI.
I knew there was something up. He kept explaining who he was well past the point when I'd said "yes I know who you are, I remember". I thought "this poor man has got something unpleasant to tell me" and so he did.
So what he had to say was that I have a biff heart. Well, he didn't exactly put it like that. He said I had a yadda, yadda, yadda thick heart wall, that I was 1:500, that it was genetic, and that I should avoid strenuous exercise because of the risk of sudden death. He put it all much better than that, I'm just giving the highlights really. The trouble with having a biff heart is you can have sudden and fatal arrythmias. It's the story behind the "but they were so fit" handful of people that drop at the big marathons every year. It's probably the story behind Micah True, the man responsible for making people run around in string sandals. They're not sure, but when they did the autopsy, his heart seemed a bit thick.
We got in an argument about what constitutes strenuous. I was telling him I've not been able to do anything strenuous recently anyway, because I'm injured, in fact I really haven't done anything strenuous for years because I gave up hard training at club and pretty much all racing after getting Atrial Fibrillation in 2012. I told him I'd been just doing a bit of cycling and swimming recently.
Then, from a distance, I heard the man say that I shouldn't really be cycling and swimming either. Just a spot of walking.
I told him I was willing to take the risk, I could think of worse ways to die and he said I was still young, as if that made any difference at all. And then I think we both realised that we weren't going to get anywhere like that. I like him. He's a nice man. As far as I was concerned he just wasn't getting it. I think that was probably his view about me too.
The hardest thing about it was I had to go out and work right away and I didn't have any time to do any processing. I got back at 8 at night and I had a 6am start the next day so I purposely stayed away from the internet and the whole topic. I'd give it some time when I had time.
On Saturday we went to Gullane for the usual 6 mile run and maybe a swim. In all the excitement I'd forgotten that I'm injured. I had to stop every mile or so to stretch out my biff leg. I've got a sore shoulder - probably from too much typing. The sea was pretty much perfect for swimming - it was so warm it was easy to walk into. I didn't bother swimming though because of my shoulder - I couldn't really swim. I had a paddle and then a stand on the shore while Peter swum and I thought about that as a way of life. The dull and listless life of someone who watches other people doing things.
Naked man was more evident than usual. He usually hides in the dunes.
When I got home I got an hour or so of looking at articles on the internet and got more information. Well it might be information. It's opinions. The formal title of my biffness is apical hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. From what I can gather it doesn't happen over time particularly, but there's a mistake in the genetic coding and round about puberty a part of the heart wall grows too thickly. I think the problem with having thick heart walls is they're not responsive enough and that's why there's the danger of getting in a bad rhythm and it not stopping. A normal heart would simmer down more quickly. I might have that wrong. Another problem is it's just harder to pump so it can put a strain on the valves and what-not. That's the best I can do. So what they're saying is I've always had this - before I was a runner, before I was a swimmer, before I cycled, before I climbed, I had this.
"Apical" means it's at the bottom and the risk level is a bit better.
So that was a lot to take in.
I've never been able to sort things out in my head without getting out and about and moving, so today while Peter was off to do the new Dalkeith Bluebell 10K, I went out on my mountain bike, out towards the bridges. I didn't want any complicated routes I didn't know because I wanted to think.
It was great to get out; a bit cloudy at first, but pretty soon the sun came out.
I went through the Dalmeny estate on the roads rather than the path at the shore, which I've never done before, so it was all a bit different.
There wasn't much wind so there were big black flies just hanging in the air and I was getting covered in greenfly. I'm still finding them now, several hours later.
The big skies were the most impressive thing.
Coming out the far side of South Queensferry, just coming up onto the bridge, I noticed my front tyre had gone flat. Happily I had all the kit with me and I found the puncture where a little bit of yellow glass was still stuck in the rubber. It was sunny and windless and although I had a spare inner tube, which would be less hassle to fit, I thought I'd try first to do an old fashioned puncture repair. I haven't done that in many a moon and I was pleased that I managed it.
It was my first time on the bridge since it was closed to general traffic.
Over the other side I'd planned to find my way to the Fife Coastal Path in North Queensferry, just to see where it was for another day. I took a wrong turn though and found myself heading up the Forth to Rosyth. I went with it. I'd never been up that way before. Sailing down a long downhill sweep it suddenly hit me that if there was a problem with my heart then I couldn't have given it much more of a testing. I had quite happily pushed it to its limits over and over and over again and I had never dropped down dead once.
Not saying it won't happen, but it seems reasonable to take the chance. I found one paper that said that most (80%) of people who died of sudden cardiac death did so when they were doing nothing or asleep, so the advice to avoid exercise was erroneous. I don't know how much credence I can give that though - that's the trouble with t'internet. I found another paper that said that people with HCM should give up most competitive sports but could still participate in golf and billiards.
I thought this was an elegant blending of the old and new. Lol.
The green fly were so intense on the way home I wore my yellow Little Britain specs for the first time.
"I want that!"