South Salem Cycleworks, 4071 Liberty Road South
Salem, OR 97302-5752
(503) 399-9848
Hours: Monday - Saturday 10 AM to 6 PM; Closed Sunday

June 15, 2017 (updated June 30): I'm off the bike for now, or "The Summer I Didn’t Work in a Bike Shop!"

Original June 15 post explaining Michael Wolfe's diagnosis and initial treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma
June 19 update |June 20 update|June 25 update|June 30 update

July 21 update:

I’d had a consultation with the Oncology doctor at the Skyline KP earlier in the week. While he was pleased that the chemo from round one had knocked the cancer down some, it wasn’t satisfactory. He’d attended a “Tumor Board” meeting with other colleagues in his field, and in sharing my case, they decided to offer me an alternate program, which involved using the chemo blend I’d use 15 years ago, but instead of “force” shot thru a needle in less than 4 hours, they proposed using it as day 4 of the coming week’s treatment, but on a 24-hour gradual infusion using my Pict line. The ultimate decision would be based on the condition of my heart. One can only use so much of that blend without damaging/killing the heart.  The oncologists were optimistic that I could sustain some more of that drug, due to my cycling endeavors over the years, but wanted a heart scan as soon as possible.

I couldn’t obtain a heart scan before Friday, 2pm, and was scheduled to continue chemotherapy the next morning, Saturday at 8:30. Some tests can’t be evaluated for days, and I wondered if the doctors could make that decision between the time of the scan and beginning chemo again. Apparently so, as they did change up the chemo program upon my arrival at Sunnyside KP on Saturday. They added the heart wrenching blend on day 4, and added a spinal tap to be performed on day 3.

Saturday was a long dragged out day, while the doctors and nurses were getting their plans together. Angela dropped me off and pretended she was a patient in the window seat during these arrangement procedures, while Karen Frost came later and in the afternoon doldrums, and we entertained each other catching up on our lives. Karen now tells a mean joke on bike racing in heaven with all of the dead greats — just ask her!

I spent the days there reading books and catching up on 2009-2013 Giro’s & TDF’s that I purchased as DVD’s — remember when they made those! — still sealed in plastic. I’d buy them during the heat of summer in the shop’s frantic time, intending to watch them during the slower season of winter. Some years, that never seemed to happen!

On Sunday, day number two, I rode the LeMond recumbent exercise bike down the hall in my sweatpants, and for a short time, the gown. I used my slip-in Birk’s for shoes. The only interest I had was in my cadence, and the program took a bit to figure out. Within a short time of adjusting the straps to keep my Birk’s from continually slipping out of the pedals, I removed the gown as well. The view wasn’t as bad as the basement gave when I last rode trainers in the mid-'80s, with my Koss headphones on, or listening to the Infinity speakers beside me, but I had a fan positioned with reach of me there. The large window in the hospital provided an endless expanse of trees and sky. The trees did seem to sway in the breeze, and occasionally a bird would flit by, or Dandelion fluff would slowly pass by. Better than a basement wall, but I could have use a little more inspirational music or DVD, and a fan would have really helped. The machine could not be moved into my room, but they did find a portable fan. I managed to keep my cadence at 75 rpm, averaging 18mph, for a half hour, with a 15-20 warm down.

On Monday, day number three, I showered after breakfast, and between doctor appearances, nurse’s taking vitals, a scan downstairs, lunch, I didn’t get back to the trainer ’til late afternoon. My sweatpants were too warm and they loaned me a pair of scrubs made out of much more breathable cotton, thin but stiff. I had to roll them up on the trainer, as opposed to the elastic of the sweatpants themselves to my thighs when I pulled them up. Rolled up next to my crotch, the scrubs stayed put. I found I could put a little more spin in the workout, and I increased my rpms to 95, and averaged a little over 20mph.

Tuesday brought the dreaded spinal tap appointment. Down to the basement with a driver again, with additional warm blankets thrown on. I’d heard it was a painless procedure, as long as the tech was skilled and put the needle where it was supposed to go, and avoided hitting nerves . . . She numbed the area well, and I really didn’t think it was much more than a prick. After it was placed, the doctor came in and withdrew some fluid for cancer cell presences, and then re-filled with a chemo as a barrier to cancer cell invasion. I had to sign a release form as there was an extremely remote chance of complications. Some folks get a headache later in the day, and others have one for a week. I had lunch when I returned to the room and while Karen was visiting the second time, I experienced a slight neck/headache, and was allowed to take some Tylenol. I really didn’t want the side effects of taking heavier painkiller medication. The Tylenol helped, but I found the neck pain irksome, and so just watched DVD’s with dinner that evening.

Wednesday, day four. The chemo that I’d used 15 years ago to battle the lessor lymphoma, was introduced over a 24-hour period, and when finished I would be allowed to go home, barring complications. They’d given me shots back then, 4-hour infusions once every three weeks, and while I didn’t want another lime popsicle for over a year afterwards, I rode my bike daily, even the Saturday morning ride. These week-long sessions in the hospital left me feeling pretty week, and I couldn’t imagine riding a bike. Just going from the first floor to the second floor using the stairs left me winded at the Skyline KP. The neck pain had become intense, and I could only find relief thru standing or in a reclining position. We tried a stronger mix of Tylenol and hydrocortisone, but I found that it also had little effect.

Thursday, day five. Tom Stuck was working at the Tualatin KP, and was getting off around noon. The schedule showed me being thru and ready to leave before then, but after breakfast, the doctor came in and wanted another scan done. They had to assess the scan, which the results would not be available for a couple hours. When Tom arrived, I apologized for the delay, and he trundled off the Burley Piccolo that I’d had Angela bring up to show the interested nurses on Tuesday. They finally let me leave around 4 that afternoon, but I had to stop by the pharmacy to get a grocery cart of drugs, which had not been called in! I indulged in an iced latte and a boysenberry pastry while Tom and I waited for the pharmacy to fill the order.

When we got to the car, Tom had wedged the Piccolo in the back seat of his car, and rather than complain, I attempted to relive the pressure on my neck by reclining the seat as far back as the Piccolo’s bars would allow, and alternately, sitting straight up holding my hands under the front of the seat. Looking back, we should have moved the Piccolo to allow the seat to recline more. We stopped at the shop and dropped off the Piccolo, and I was in such pain that I didn’t want to get out and visit, even after 5 days absence! They were shutting down for the day, and I know how eager they were to get home anyway.

I also noticed that evening that the scrubs had chafed my thighs and groin to the point of rashes. We put some anti-bacterial ointment on, but with the neck ache and the rashes, I really had no motivation to ride the trainer, just vegetate in the recliner reading books and watching Netflix.

Friday, day six. I had an oncology consultation, along with the usual blood tests. I explained my frustration with the ongoing neck pain, and the accompanying white noise in my ears, and I was put on Prednisone, as the chemo they’d injected into my spine was the culprit of the pain. After repeating my story of how my mom lost her hearing during a routine surgery, due to antibiotics, they scheduled an audio appointment. I also informed them of my rash, as I was concerned it could be a further source of infection and a cause of more hospitalization. They suggested I not use the anti-bacterial ointment, but to get some diaper rash goop, in this case Butt Paste.

After two days of Butt Paste application, the rash and it’s discomfort disappeared! The neck pain and white noise continued, however.

I accidently rode a bike on Monday, I think! A customer came in and everyone else was busy, so out I went! She’d lived in China for a number of years, and had started riding bikes there. Since moving back to the USA, she wanted to continue to make the bike part of her lifestyle. She was accustomed to riding Chinese single speeds, but was open to having multiple gears. I showed her our line of refurbished Urban bikes, was intrigued with the Breezer Uptown 8, with internal gearing, enclosed chain guard, dynamo powered head & tail lights, fenders, luggage rack and kickstand. I knew we still had to replace a crimped electric wire, but assumed that the bike was ready to ride otherwise. I had to trade out the suspension seatpost to get the seat low enough for her, and wheeled it out into the parking lot. As she got on, however, the bars dipped with the pressure of her hands! I still had my tri-allen wrench, so I quickly remedied that! I thought about checking the quill stem for tightness, but was distracted by another customer who was delighted to see me! When I turned around, she’d ridden to the other end of the parking lot, only to find her bars pointing one direction and the front wheel another! She was okay, but I was sweating by then! I tightened the quill up, but she asked me to ride the bike just in case! Bear in mind that I hadn’t ridden a bike since the end of May, but without thinking about it, and raising the saddle, I hopped on and swerved around the parking lot, before getting comfortable on a bike again!

I’m losing track of time, but I believe it was last Tuesday that I stayed late for Trevor to finish bringing bikes in. I rode a rental bike home that evening, followed by Trevor, in my slip-in Birk’s, on platform pedals! The bike swerved readily as my feet couldn’t find a consistent placement on the pedals!

I began riding my Stump to work the next morning and have been riding ever since. If my medical appointments are at Skyline KP, I just ride up there and lock it up outside. Low red-blood cell counts don’t contribute much in the way of oxygen, so yes, I’m huff’n’ & puff’n’ by the time I reach my destination. It’s not riding out Skyline to Independence Bridge and down to Buena Vista Ferry, and back up Liberty Rd. hill, but it’s freedom and exhilaration nonetheless!

Park View

A nice day to be at the park.

On Sunday morning, I joined my folks on their Greenspeed recumbent trikes for a ride over the Peter Courtney Bridge from Riverfront Park to Minto-Brown Island. I loaned my brother, Patrick one of our rental bikes, a Motobecane Super Mirage, and my great-nephew, Julian elected to ride his longboard. It was a first for me, as I had refrained from exploring the bridge hearing of elbow to elbow traffic on it. I took my time, taking pictures of the bridge, while my folks just scooted on down the path! We found them waiting at the former northern end of the island, where they decided they’d had enough and were returning. Patrick, Julian & I continued to ride the park using Homestead as a loop back. We stopped at the ’30’s car, still there, whether someone abandoned it because it wasn’t worth repairing and just pushed it over the bank, or somehow it’d been driven there. Back in the Midwest, I remember the ditch on my grandfather’s farm, where old bottles, cans, and cars were pushed down the embankment. Garbage service and recycling didn’t exist back then!

We rejoined my folks on the bridge, where they were enjoying ice cream, and when they finished, I had them try and ride back up the bridge for pictures, but unfortunately, wedding pictures were being taken, repeatedly!

Ice cream & recumbants

A beautiful day with ice cream and a furry friend.

Mike and Patrick

Another shot with Patrick (left, standing) and Michael (right, standing) with Michael's folks on their recumbants.

Wedding

Hard to find a more beautiful way to block a bridge

Mike

Michael stops by the river. The fish are probably safe from this fisherman.

June 30 Update:

Let’s see, I came home on Saturday, June 24th, and had pushed my belongings in a wheelchair leaving Salem Hospital, including the box of books and DVD’s that my good friend, Mark Pisaro in California had shipped me. (His daughter, Stea, sent me a card as well, thanking me for the bikes I’ve made for him, and to inform me that she loves mountain biking!) A godsend, as movies had become the speeding freight train with graffiti images that one just couldn’t grasp the images before they vanished down the track! A book is something one can march down at one’s chosen speed, and even back up to truly capture the image the author is portraying. Some can even entice the mind to risk getting a speeding ticket!

I don’t recall what I did the rest of Saturday, other than I was out of the hospital and could return to “normal” activities before leaving for Portland and another bout of chemo on Saturday, July 1st. I do remember feeling the best I’d felt since May 25, when I’d entered Salem Hospital for the first time. I vaguely remember spending the rest of the afternoon paying bills, responding to email inquiries, and updating my blogs. Sunday was spent at the shop, returning paid bills and printing an Aging Report — and then color coding the list to help Nate to identify any errors made since I’d entered the hospital the first time. Nate was there working, but left after a couple hours. My lower back ached from being perched on the stool behind the computer, but wearing jeans also put pressure on the quadruple seam fold where my butt pressed it against the seat. I got the office chair out, and found the pillow I use at the shop to take naps with when I drape myself across the two office chairs. This time the pillow was used on the other end of my body, as whatever gel is left in an older man’s butt, was drained out through the chemo treatment so far. I alternated between working the computer and color coding the report in the chair with a back. I invited my friend Charlie Burleigh down to rub my back, but he had responsibilities at home. It was a long day, but I felt a real sense of accomplishment when I finished. I let Nate identify the cases that had landed on the report since I’d entered Salem Hospital, as he was here monitoring the other employees. I think Di dropped in later that evening and gave me a lift home.

I got up early the next day, Monday, having completed some more bill paying, and arrived at the shop, thanks to my step-father providing the ride, before Nate appeared. I entered some invoices in the computer, and began working on a smattering of small repairs I’d saved for myself. The first being the conversion of a 2015 Chorus short cage rear derailleur to a mid-cage. This involved some contact with Campy USA, and watching a U-Tube dissect and install the assembly. I was happy to have that done, as it was one of the things I wanted to complete before returning to Portland for another round of chemo. I re-packaged it and Nate took it to be shipped back to southern Oregon. I’ll be doing a second one, as the customer has two bikes with the same drivetrain, and wants to put lower gears on them. Didn’t get everything done I’d hoped for, but still some sense of accomplishment.

I leafed through a vendor’s catalog, page by page, to compile a list of possible items to add to a “Thank You” order for an outside rep, who has given us twelve years of valuable assistance, but has been let go because he wasn’t delivering enough “new” accounts in the Portland area. He lost half his territory a few years ago because the company felt he wasn’t visiting shops in remote areas of southern Oregon often enough. I protested to the vendor when I was informed I’d be assigned the new rep back then, and was allowed to be the one shop outside the Portland area to continue working with our outside rep. When told of his departure this time, I was so indignant that I immediately fired off another letter protesting his being let go. He knows our shop — we’re not a Specialized, Trek, or Giant dealer, and while we don’t have obligatory contracts, we do have needs as an independent bicycle dealer that are different than one of the big three. After over a decade of taking our orders, he was so in tune with us that when there was a special sale he knew what items we might be interested in, and what would otherwise just take up our time. The kind of understanding takes a long time to develop, and some folks just never learn to understand a shop, just futilely fishing the shop with random offers and wasting both of our times.

With my absence, his assistance will be missed in guiding the shop thru the coming months before I return, wan and outside the circle of information that takes place on a daily basis within a business. The new rep won’t be getting any business from us for a while after placing this “Thank You” order, though we’ve joked about ordering every item in the vendor’s inventory that was carbon or titanium, and giving it to the new rep as returns!

Tuesday was spent behind the computer noting items on the list and indicating whether we needed anything, and occasionally helping customers. Of course, customers I’d built a relationship with over the years wanted the scoop on my health. I tried to keep upbeat, focusing more on the rides they’d recently done, and upcoming rides they would do.

June 25 Update:

I got up today full of pep and vinegar, ready to take on a list of projects. Breakfast, shower, pay some bills and finish off cleaning the tandem. Lemon Pledge works wonders at removing soap-resistant stuff on a bike at times, and so I attacked the tandem with the rag and toothbrush. I started at the front and worked backwards, focusing on the hoods, housing and saddles especially, to get the paint residue out. When I got to the rear wheel, the tire was flat! One more task! I took a break in the recliner to relieve the tension in my back muscles for a bit before returning to the other side of the tandem. I tired easily and promised myself a nap when I completed the drive side of the tandem.

When I awoke, I decided to share an episode of Midsummer Murders with my English mother-in-law who had popped in. Rather than going out to the garage to repair the flat, oil the chain and re-align the left ergo lever on the tandem, I decided it was too close to dinner and waited. The air conditioning was on as it was a hot Sunday, an I noticed I’d begun to chill. By the time dinner arrived, I had no appetite and decided to plunge into the hot tub. Initially the water felt cold, and it took ten minutes for my body to warm up to the 102 degrees of the water! I went to bed, and fought off chills and read a book.

I ate breakfast in bed the next morning, still not willing to leave the warmth of the bed, and was still there when my mom appeared with lunch. Surprised to find me in bed, she laid a hand on my forehead and felt I had a fever, which the located thermometer revealed a 101.9. I’d read that this was a potential side effect of one of the chemo drenchings, and thought nothing about it. But at everyone’s urging, I contacted my oncology manager who instructed me to head on down to the Salem Hospital’s Urgent Care, where they rapidly admit chemo patients. Initially I’d asked my mom to drop me off, but Angela had stopped by and thought my mom looked like she’d had a long day. It would have been a much longer day for my mom, and I was thankful Angela talked me into letting her take the rest of the day off to take me. They did some quick blood tests and discovered that the kind of white blood cells that fight off infection were low, a .3 in my case. No choice, I was going to spend the night, and maybe more, being pumped full of antibiotics and electrolytes thru the Pict in my arm. What? One or more of my precious days not designated for chemo treatment in Portland? Aaaaaarrrggh!

I was informed the next morning that while I was registering a .5, the average is 3.5, and they wouldn’t let me go home ’til I batted a 1.0. I was subjected to a number of scans down in Imaging, and the urologist there had the Foley catheter re-inserted . . . . I hadn’t been fully conscious when I’d had the first one installed, and had been under a heavy dose of pain meds. The nurse made out like it might cause some discomfort, but before it was fully inserted I’d gritted my teeth and let out a yelp! Several of the nurses were curious as to why the catheter had been ordered due to the volume I’d been leaving in the urinal beside my bed. When the urologist came, she drew a pair of kidneys on the whiteboard. She indicated that the cancer tumor on my left kidney had condensed due to the chemo treatment and was constricting the exit port, not much she explained, but it was limiting the function of the kidney. Concerned about the possible backing up of my bladder, potentially to backing into the kidneys, she feared the possibly of a kidney infection on top of everything else.

My count was now at 3.5, and I could go home she informed me. But, she felt I should consider having a stent put in that exit port of my left kidney out of concern for further condensing of the tumor under additional chemo drenchings. As much as I wanted to go home, and maybe not embrace things like the payroll taxes and quarterlies that awaited me, I elected to undergo the surgery and possibly spend another two days in the hospital. Fortunately, the surgery bays were at an unusually low level of use, and twenty minutes later I’d been scrubbed. The last thing I remember was asking how much longer I would be coherent, but by using the Pict in my arm, the anesthesia prevented me from hearing the reply!

I awoke to unfamiliar surroundings, not like another galaxy, but at least a different hospital as the only person in the spacious room I recognized was from a different facility all together! While she worked full-time at KP, she also worked at Salem Hospital part-time! They wheeled me back to my room and informed me that most likely I would be going home the next day. Still groggy, I slept heavily, but awoke to order dinner with Angela. After she left I went back to reading my book “Domestique” by Charly Wegelius, burning both pages and hours, impatiently watching the clock’s hands wind towards my release.

Prior to my beginning “Domestique”, I’d completed “Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike” by William Fotheringham. While I’ve read other works on Merckx, this was just as stirring as any and it only further increased my respect for a true athlete and cyclist. I’m embarrassed when I tell the story of my first job in a bike shop, and coming across a rolled-up poster of Merckx in the back of the shop, I was given it. Being green, I thought it would be hilarious if I inscribed it “To my pals at Hawkeye’s The Good Life, Eddy Mercx” and posted it on the shop wall . . . The derision of the racers in Eugene still rings in my ears over the misspelling of the greatest cyclist’s name!

One of my nurses was Jake. I hope he remembers who Eddy Merckx is, and as he recently moved from Jacksonville, home of Don Stathos the co-father of the Oregon Bike Bill. I worked with Stathos on the Oregon Bike/Pedestrian committee for nearly 12 years. Jake is 6’5”, and while he rides an XXL mountain bike, he’d like to begin triathlons, but lacks a road bike. I recommended he look into Leonard Zinn, who offers bikes to bigger riders than Jake and the components are proportionate to the frame size, as well as the strength of the wheels, whereas production bikes might have the right frame size, but the components, including the wheels would not differ much from one size to another.

I’d also mentioned the Swede Magnus Backstedt, who at 6’4”, was the totem pole of the peloton in European racing. While reading “Domestique”, the author describes joining team Liquigas where Mario Cipollini was the star rider. Cipo initiated the four newbies by having each drink a carafe of wine, and ride stripped to the waist in freezing weather, two laps on a short course around the team camp. To make it a time trial, the rider was by the other members of the team with cold water on completion of the first circuit as motivation for the second! Each had to ride Backstedt’s enormous bike, followed by Cipo driving his Bentley, with Dario Andriotto yelling encouragement! While “hazing” comes to mind, the author himself being one of the newbies found the event hilarious! Being 6’3” myself, I have only had a few customers whose bikes were too tall for me to ride, but have watched employees attempt to test ride repairs way too big for them, and it was still amusing, even though all of us were sober.

I exchanged stories with many of the staff on my stay at Salem Hospital, all of which had buoyed my spirits, and I sold cycling as an activity, perhaps a passion, to them as an act of thanks on my part.

When I left this morning, I also left cards for those who had expressed interest in cycling, with notes on rides, destinations, and immortal names in cycling, along with my sincere appreciation for their support during my time there.

June 20 update:

I finally had the catheter removed! Probably more suspense than hurt, though my good friend Tom Stuck who took me to my appointment, neglected to tell me of his discomfort at having one removed! Didn’t want to add to my anxiety, he explained!

As I suspected, the catheter having been in place for three week led to a bladder infection, which sucked what energy I had left. I contemplated the Ritchey on the trainer, but even without the prospect of the catheter slapping against my thigh as I pedaled, I couldn’t gain the enthusiasm to mount the Ritchey.

As the weather turned on Sunday to warm and dry, I enlisted the help of my family to retrieve the tandem from the rafters in the garage. Knowing the kids would be home from school, and my extended stays in Portland, I had ordered a long cable to secure the bikes in the garage. I’d secured them with a lock on each end of the cable, including the tandem. I’d tossed the keys in a drawer afterwards, intending to tell my wife of their whereabouts in the unlikely need of unfastening one of the bikes, but the velocity of the events leading to my trip to Portland, let that bit of info slide into oblivion. When I pulled the collection of keys from the drawer, I assumed one was to the U-lock, and the other collection should contain the key to the heavy padlock. The padlock was at the end of the cable that secured the tandem, and to my dismay, none of the keys fit! I went back to the drawer to see if somehow another key(s) had been obscured, but no. It turned out that I’d had the foresight to add the padlock key to the zip-tie holding the U-Lock key! Similar keys in color and construction, but different!

The hoist uses pulleys to raise and lower the bike, but I couldn’t remember how to release the tension on the rope! The garage shelves had been rearranged in the endless shuffle to create efficiency, and the device to wind up the rope was wedged against the backside of a shelf as well! I managed to release the safety on the hoist and by shoving a shelf, unwind the cord to lower the bike. It looked like it had been stored in a woodworker’s shop! I’d last ridden it on the Monster Cookie where it rained. Trevor had expressed an interest in riding Monster, his only interest in placing his butt on a bike, and I decided the tandem was a better solution than worrying how long it would take him to undertake 62.5 miles with no preparation since the last time he’d ridden Monster Cookie.

The responsibilities of the shop in spring led me to forego cleaning the tandem, and it returned to the rafters for the years to come. Trevor’s enthusiasm for building models of weapons in Aimee and related internet games, led to painting and sanding of foam to create them. The garage was warmer than the outdoors in the winter, so that became his workshop.

We aired up the tires after releasing the tandem from the hoist, and wheeled it out onto a shady part of the deck. Sunlight can cause adverse side effects when your body still has chemicals lurking within it. I initially attempted to dust the tandem off with a foxtail brush, but it was obvious that the silt was embedded in the rubber, plastic and leather on the tandem. A vacuum cleaner actually worked, especially on the seatbags! I had a bucket of suds, a toothbrush, and a rag to work with, and a stool to sit on. I rinsed the bike off, but it really didn’t remove anything until I applied soap. My shortness of breath, and the weakness of my muscles made it quite an effort, and I hated standing up to get to the areas that required it. I was careful to quickly rinse what I’d loosened with the soap, but was happy to take breaks afterwards on the stool. Even with repeated attacks with the toothbrush, the cable housing, brake hoods, saddles and the plastic of the American Classic bottle cages showed the residue of silt. I made myself complete the task, but little on the bike was shiny afterwards. I resolved that I would take some Lemon Pledge to the tandem at a later date, when I recovered. It was with relief that I returned indoors and sank into a nap in my recliner.

I offered the use of my tandem to one of my customers, to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Avid Ultimate Shorty cages, as his brakes continued to squeal despite my attempts at re-alignments, new/different pads, sanding of the rims, etc. I’d built the Burley Paso Doble, made in Eugene, Oregon, from the ground up, putting Campy Record 10s on it and one of the first carbon forks designed for tandems, a True Temper full carbon. I’d gone thru two sets of canti’s attempting to remove the squeal when the brakes were applied. No need for a bell — just earplugs for the riders! The Ultimates eliminated all noise, and I understood the physics of why. Expensive? Yes, but what’s the price of a ride when the purpose is tranquility and peace of mind.

June 19 Update:

Well, I did finally give that Ritchey P29’r its initial ride, almost 2-3 years since I started building it. Just had to have a white fork that weighed little, 180mm travel, with 9mm dropouts! Meant to ride it with Nate on all kinds of overnight adventures, so as to be back to run the shop within 48 hours!

It sat in the living room on the trainer for a day or two before I mustered up the courage to climb aboard it. My catheter bag wanted to engage things on the accent and I felt really weak. I was afraid my muscles would suddenly give and with my height, have the leverage to topple the whole thing over into the German-made converted stereo cabinet. I had Angela spot me on one side, and Trevor my stepson, do so on the other side. Unwilling to force my cleats into the pedals, it took a while to engage them, but once I began pedaling, I couldn’t resist beaming, almost tears of joy. No, of course not the joy of the endless horizon, the undulations of the terrain beneath the wheels, but just the unforgettable rhythm that conjured up so many rides and destinations of the past. I can beat this again, and there will be more rides to add to my memories in the future.

Michael Wolfe

Getting in time on the bike any way I can

I pedaled for probably 20 minutes and was as weak the proverbial newborn. I had to get assistance to release my cleats and lower myself off the bike, but certainly felt a sense of accomplishment, even with so little a feat as this.

I was looking forward to riding with chamois shorts after having my catheter removed, but I managed to pick up a bladder infection and it sucked all the energy out of me once more. More meds . . . .

I watched a fair number of DVD’s while in the hospital in Portland, and was looking forward to watching NetFlix here at home, but found myself falling asleep in the midst of them, and sometimes not caring what the outcome was. An endless bombardment of images I struggled to identify and maintain congruity of. I returned to my love of books, where one can proceed at the pace your mind can comprehend and maintain context.

I started Charles Kelley’s Fat Tire Flyer while in Portland, a large coffee-table book with large print. I’d ordered it some years ago because it was an important piece of bicycle history, not because I’m an avid mountain biker. It sucked me in. It was engaging to read about the formation and travails of the heroes of Marin County. Most of them have lodged themselves prominently in the bicycle industry, but they all started out as small entrepreneurs.

A sister-in-law had a book waiting for me, It’s all About the Bike, the Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels, written by an English lawyer, telling of his pursuit and passion for the hand-crafted bicycle of steel. He traveled the world visiting parts manufacturers that he was interested in equipping his frame with. Some might say “jewelry for the bike” but durable components last forever, and the tantalizing upgrades often have little reward.

Picking a frame builder to make the perfect frame is placing trust in the builder. To my consternation, I have discovered that even a builder of long renown may take your money with little incentive to provide the requests spelled out and signed by both parties. I received a reply after sending my frameset back to the Seattle builder for lack of completion, that “A frame builder knows what is best for the customer . . .”, and the frameset still lacked the braze-ons and was a single color now. That frameset is now in southern California being remedied with the proper braze-ons and paint scheme. A very expensive mistake on my part.

Of course, at this point, I have other irons in the works to worry about rather than the frameset I waited 30 years to order from the famous frame builder in Seattle. When finished, you can bet your last spare tube that it won’t have his name on it!

Ah, rant, rant, rant! Yep, I’m going kicking and shouting into this abyss, but I’ll win this one!

And here’s a quote I pulled from The Bike Snob, another entertaining work of bicycle literature: “I’m the pate’ on the universal cracker. I’m the grout holding your shower tiles on. I’m out of the saddle, sprinting up that hill and eating glazed donut bracelets off the right arm of Jesus.” - Charles Manson

Original June 15, 2017 post:

I’ve been off my bike for three weeks now, and am not sure when I’ll feel up to it again.

I began experiencing lower abdomen pain, back, maybe kidney, unable to sleep very well, and finally towards the end of April went into to check it out. They observed me, took a chest x-ray and scheduled me for a CT scan for the 16th of May. The nights became a roulette of finding positions in bed, the couch, even the toilet attempting to relieve the pain. After a few more days, I called them and said I need to get that CT Scan sooner, but they were booked up. They promised to put me at the head of the cancellation list, and I was surprised to have them the next day to inform me that they had the cancellation the following morning. But before I left that day, they called and the specialist was sick, and I would need to re-schedule for the 24th. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, and on the morning of the 24th at 2am, unable to sleep or sit, I got on my bike and pedaled around the neighborhood for 45 mins with no pain. I came home and caught a 20 min nap, woke up with the same amount of pain, and rode for another two hours without pain, pushing myself hard in hopes of the exertion would allow me to sleep upon my return and make it to the 2pm CT Scan.

The pain prevented any hopes of sleep, and instead of riding some more, I woke up my wife to take me down to Urgent Care of the Salem Hospital. I thought about just riding down there, and letting my wife sleep, but it was close to her regular rising time anyway. Would have made a better story if I’d ridden, just would have been more complicated for my family.

It was a good time for a check-in at an ER but the wait seemed infinite. I may have been awake when they inserted a Foley catheter or not, but they emptied over a liter out of my bladder and I guess I’d had some pain meds as well, the pressure was gone, just an irritation lingered. They got a CT scan immediately which revealed growths around my left kidney and surrounding areas there. They did a biopsy which later to their relief, showed that the non-Hodgkins lymphoma I’d been treated for in 2002 had returned. The option would have surgery and removing body parts. Nice choice, eh!

I spent 4-5 days grogged-out before being sent home. Nice folks, a really good inspirational crew. Wasn’t looking forward to being returned to the hands of Kaiser Permanente my health insurance provider whom I’d had to wait so long for the CT scan.  KP was not aware of the cancer treatment I’d received in 2002, to my surprise, but in juggling the expenses of health care, we’d switched providers since then. Worse, Salem Oncology, where I was treated by Bud Pierce, who ran against Kate Brown for Oregon governor this last round, destroyed the records on a ten-year-rotation, as they hadn’t started computerized filing until 2013! Someone there sleuthed the name of the treatment from the billing department, R-CHOP.  I remember riding my bike thru the entire 12 weeks of treatment, with the exception of the day of the weekly chemo injection, and finally learning to hate even the taste of lime popcicles!

I was released after 4 days at Salem Hospital.  Upon a consultation with the oncologist at Kaiser Permanente, I was scheduled for a 10:30 PET scan, but had to be taken to Portland for that.  My folks drove me, and while I just wanted to snooze, my lovely 87-year-old stepfather had to make comments on cars, interchanges, weather, etc.  I wasn’t worried about getting there, he’s pretty proficient with his navigation system, but his reaction times are not that of a younger person, and listening to directions in crowded Portland traffic and having to make decisions had ultimately involve me as well!  Such is life!  We made it, but I’d made the ultimate boo-boo!

After waiting for a half hour, they wheeled me back into a corner of the facility, and asked if I’d consumed any food during the last six hours, and I replied I hadn’t since just before 6 am.  Brake lights really lit up at that point!  Not possible, the scan isn’t accurate with only a 4 hour fast.  I asked if I could wait another couple hours — no, they were booked up.  I explained that I was supposed to return to Portland at 8:30 the next morning to undergo a week of chemo treatments, and if re-scheduling a PET scan would really mess things up.  She hesitated, and said she’d look to see if there was anything she could do.  She returned and informed me that she had a couple of regulars who had shown up early, could move them up and shoe-horn me in at the appropriate time.  Whew!  I explained to my patient parents awaiting a very sterile atmosphere outside.

My folks drove me up the next morning to the Sunnyside Hospital on 205, and yes, there was some traffic jam, which I think secretly delighted my stepfather in his search for the faster lane, but had me constantly looking for brake lights coming on!  He drives a lot less aggressively than a decade ago, the gas pedal doesn’t get as much force as it used to, but his ability to keep his peripheral vision when scanning to see an open lane and not tailgate left me in unease.  I wasn’t sure what to do when we got there, whether to thank my folks and send them on home, or again have them wait for eventual initial consultation. They didn’t really have to wait, not much new info was dispersed, so I sent them home.

During the last five days, I’ve had three different drenches of chemo with no nausea, thank god. I got to watch a lot of DVD’s, which initially no one could find a remote that would work with it! The nurse’s would have to stand by and fast forward the disc to the play button before leaving, and I had no way to pause for the numerous vital checks and other routines of life in a hospital room. If fell asleep, well find someone to rewind for you!

I did take a few books with me, notably Repack and the Birth of Mountain Biking Fat-Tire Flyer by Charlie Kelly, which I’d initially ordered as a “well, it’s a bike story” kind of read, but turned out to be pretty engaging. The other books I took were pretty dated, or superfluously light reading.

Ever since American Cycling ceased to be a book distributor, I’ve fallen behind on books. Bill McGann, the founder of Torelli, publishes books on bike racing and lives up the road in McMinnville. He manages my webpage, and is currently adding bicycles, framesets, and parts to it as an ongoing gallery. He doesn’t watch movies unless they are bike related! Here at home, I have Netflix to entertain my veggie brain, but still at this point, I find I’ve fallen asleep though as much as an episode of some show.

Three weeks off the bike, and my right knee wants me to remember the tear it received nearly 4 decades ago! Just a daily pedal to the shop and back has kept it in place. I’ve yet to ride that Ritchey P-29’r, but it is now set up in the living room on a trainer for watching Netflix, when I can get on it. Catheter has got to go first, I think!

Be my virtual rider,

Michael