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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Riding Through Cancer...

In my previous posting today, I describe my new challenge with this damn heart of mine, that I try to keep big, open and happy... but my genes keep getting in the way. And in the posting I mention how important being in good physical health can be... especially when, invariably, we get sick. And I mention that in the past, I have posted regarding my challenges with oral/head and neck cancer.

I have also changed the goals of my life to reflect my aging and perhaps some wisdom that I can pass on regarding health, through my various physiological trials. I have decided to start writing a book about my cancer, using a bicycle trip I took in 2010 that started in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada... and ended in Austin, Texas, America in an expansive metaphor for the experience. This 4,500 kilometer trip was one I took with about forty other riders and many support folks... it took a couple of weeks, and was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was also the easiest thing I have ever done!

It was especially hard on the road, when I was thinking I was doing it alone... as sometimes would happen when I wasn't feeling good on any particular day, or even just part a few moments of the day. When you are climbing a hill, starting from a couple of thousand feet, to a pass that is around 8,000 feet, there are some moments that the riding gets really, really, really hard... and lonely. Even if you really like yourself, if all you are hearing is your own voice or heart pounding, it can play tough games with your psyche.

But then someone comes along and gives you some encouragement as they go past... or maybe they slow down to ride along side and with you... maybe even put their hand on your saddle and give you a little push. Sometimes when these things happened I would get a little rush of adrenaline, and the strength would return, and my cadence would come back... it happened several times. On at least one occasion, it didn't!



( Photo Credit is to http://www.panoramio.com/photo/43505561 )

I was on Douglas Pass... it is just as you approach Utah in the Northwest corner of Colorado... our Team Five had ridden fifty-five or so kilometers that day when we approached the base of the mountain... I started up the mountain with the other four riders on our team... I had climbed poorly for about a mile and I could feel cramps in practically every muscle in my body... I got the message! It was about the hardest thing I had done on the trip so far... I got off my bike. It was so steep I had a hard time dismounting, and I was so cramped, I couldn't lift my 15 pound bike into the support van that was right there with me. My God it hurt... I had soooo wanted to climb that Pass.

In the van, we followed the riders up the pass to over 8,000 feet and at the top there was a spectacular view. I got out, it was just above freezing, but I was now rested and I didn't have any pain. I swallowed hard as the teams (a second team had done the ascent with us) prepared to descend... the whole reason in my psyche, for climbing a mountain is the thrill of the descent. Just as they were about to start off, one of the riders yelled to me... "Bruce, where's your bike?"

As I pulled it out of the van, raced to put the front wheel back on, checked the pressures, the chain, and my clips, I couldn't help think I didn't deserve to descend on my bike... I hadn't climbed it...

We crossed the cattle grate at the pass pinnacle, and the descent was on... I aimed the bike, down... the tears in my eyes were streaming, my ears were hearing an ethereal scream of delight, and when I looked at my speedometer it was at over 75km. I was wheel-to-wheel with the guy who got me there (my surgeon Chad Robertson), including up several earlier difficult climbs, and I could see the grin on his face... or was that the up-hill wind we were screaming into... a long sweeping turn to slow us down, passed, and then down again... then we looked at 80km...weeeeeeeha!

I realized that so many other people have so much to do with our big moments in life... but in the past I had, too often, not understood what was happening around me... this time, I got it!

The road flattened out after about an eight mile descent and we got to see tomorrow's mountains on the right side of the support van as we pulled away from the end of our section for the day. We had changed in a parking lot, not bothering with the other cars in the lot, with nothing but smiles pasted on our cheeks, hearts still flying... Now, we were in Utah's mountains where between us and the hot pink sunset, there were some snow crystals off in the distance... making it magical... but not so much as the descent!







( Photo Credit to http://www.motorcyclecolorado.com/douglas_pass.htm )

So, I have decided to begin writing parts of the experience and post some of them here. In a way I want to see them in print, and share some of the experiences, maybe with the details of the ride profile, or the cancer oncology plans, or other questions that I had and have about how to get through challenges... I hope they will be useful, and perhaps allow covers to one day embody them in an useful way.





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My Latest Challenge

Never a dull moment in life as we age... mine has been a roller-coaster of late... to say the least. About ten years ago I was lucky to have been able to have a diagnosis of a genetic heart defect; one that was getting to the stage that it could suddenly end my life. It was a bicuspid aortic valve... and it had a calcific stenosis that had become acute. Through persistence and the help of close colleagues in the cardiology business, I was able to have a heart catheterization when I thought I had symptoms of some sort of heart problem. This led to the diagnosis of a heart valve in crisis, even though the heart itself was otherwise in great condition.

My 2001 open heart surgery that followed was a sudden experience... one that I haven't shared on this blog. This, because it has always seemed that my subsequent and unrelated cancer was something I could share to the benefit of others, by exposing the issues associated with the epidemic of cancer. In comparison, cancer takes many more lives than my heart valve problem, so I have in the past highlighted the cancer issues.

However, by annually having an echo-cardiogram, we followed the performance of the prosthetic valve that was placed at the Arkansas Heart Hospital by a fabulous team of professionals. In July this year, I became aware that again, my aortic valve was developing problems. It wasn't enough to stop me from my cycling projects, but it did cause me to be much more aware of my sagging performance over the fall months. In an echo cardiogram follow-up this month, we found that the valve is approaching acute failure at an alarming rate of speed. It is again calcified, and has to be replaced.

I want to help people understand this little understood heart ailment. I will copy below the layman details of Aortic Valve Stenosis. This is from Wiki, but is quite accurate, so worth reading. It is a silent killer most of the time, although people who 'listen' to their bodies... and are aware of their exercise output capacities can in some instances catch things like I suffer from, before being killed by them. By my continuous effort to stay in shape, listening to my body, I have been lucky enough to twice now, catch this thing. Yes, I am lucky to have made a career choice that kept me in the medical device arena, therefore close to people who can help, but first, I have had to be in shape and listening, in order to question the things I occasionally feel, about my output.

So, what does this mean. Well, "its elementary", to quote Sherlock Holmes in "The Crooked Man"... replacement can happen in two ways... First, open heart surgery is the way I was treated ten years ago, and that remains the Gold Standard today. There is a new technique, still under clinical investigation/trial here in North America. It is called TAVI, but it is yet unproven to the standards here, and it is not at all approved for "re-do" situations, like mine.

After a good deal of consultation I have decided to have the Gold Standard procedure, open heart surgery... even though the recovery period is much longer. I had seriously considered the TAVI be done 'off-label', but there was in the end no reward for the risks involved in a procedure that does not have clinical efficacy, here in North America. I have a great level of respect for the clinical trial process that is utilized to 'prove' a new technique or device... and in our decision, Lynnda and I leaned on the experience we have had at the Arkansas Heart Hospital and our friends there, who have over the years been our great care-givers to both of us.

I will keep my blog updated as to the procedure, the outcome and so on. I am very confident in my physicians and in the outcome.

For the moment, my message is, again, that it is very important to understand that when one gets sick (and with time we all will), it is important to be in the best physical condition possible. Why? Simply because it opens doors to treatments that could otherwise be closed. When we battle cancer, or trauma, or congenital diseases, our chances of success are enhanced if you are starting out with good vascular and pulmonary function. These good conditions accumulate through cardiovascular and stretching exercise; healthy eating and weight management; great dental hygiene; non-smoking; avoiding environmental hazards; and so on.

Further, it is important to have regular check-ups and listen to your body when it is telling you things... don't hang up on your 'wake-up calls'.


Here is a pretty good description of my problems...just copy this and paste into your browser... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aortic_valve_stenosis

Below is a cool video of the procedure that I will have in January... since I have had it before, I know what to look forward to... great drugs, beer on the second evening, and lots of moderate exercise for six weeks or so... then, back in the saddle!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jLfPlQBYuw

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Looking Back and Forward at the Same Time

It has been a long time since I visited Spectranetics Inc. This is the company for which I toiled during the end of the last century and the first four years of the 21st... and if that sounds like a long time ago, for me, it is. In fact, it has been seven years since I worked with the team at SPNC... that's over 10% of my lifetime... and I figured I was a) over it and b) would have forgotten much of the technology and even the people.

I was wrong on both counts. As to a) above, I wasn't over it. So much happened during my tenure there that it is probably impossible to forget.

Perhaps I should explain what SPNC is about... this is a company that develops, manufactures, markets and supports interventional cardiology products. These are the tools with which specially trained physicians (we call them interventional cardiologists, electro-physiology (EP) cardiologists, vascular surgeons and interventional radiologists) might intervien when patients have had, or are about to have a heart attack; have to have a pacemaker replaced; or have clot and plaque build-ups in the lower leg, causing severe pain limited walking ability. These products are in the form of catheters that are threaded through arteries or veins into the heart or peripheral regions of the extremities. They are then attached to a cool temperature (40C) Excimer Laser which 'ablates the plaque, scar tissue or clot that is causing the critical situation for the patient.

OK, so I was wrong about being "over it". I had grown to love the action of the job and the incredible rush one gets when one sees a patient survive and then thrive because a very talented physician used our products to save a patient's life. I guess I will never be over that feeling. When I walked into Spectranetics on Monday, it was like 2004 all over again. I wanted to call my troops and customers and make things happen. More on this feeling later...

I was also wrong about b) above... I had forgotten almost nothing about the clinical aspects of the business, the motivation, the budgets, the customers and especially the team. I always understood that a sales and marketing team is only as good as the product needs analysts; the engineering in the product; the production systems from material purchasing, through manufacturing, and the built-in quality systems; the shipping and receiving teams; the installers and service team and so on... and as I met these people while walking the halls of SPNC, I realized how much they had meant and still mean to me. I also met several people in the administration and non-line organizations... Finance, Human Resources, Planning, IP, IT, Regulatory and so on. And I remembered all of them... except that there were a lot of them no longer with the company. At least I hadn't forgotten... at my age, that's a great thing to realize!

So, I had that feeling that I wanted to call the troops and customers... it was an urge... but when I thought about it afterword, I realized that I would be calling them to say... WOW! I saw a lot more than I had expected to see in the form of energy, commitment, enthusiasm and so on. I didn't need to put my hands on the current catheters... to know that they were probably as good, or better, than we had seven years ago... and those were great! The people I met, and the few that I knew, were able to convey to me that they had a product, a team, and a leadership that is capable of expanding this wonderful technology through the industry.

My experience is that the Excimer laser energized catheters in the hands of talented, experienced interventionalists; in properly triaged patients... has the potential to extend and improve the lives of tens of thousands of people who would otherwise have compromised emergent outcomes. This company has not only survived the many challenges proffered by 'executives past' it has thrived.

With the leadership of the new CEO, Scott Drake; CFO, Guy Childs; and the new Chairman of the Board of Directors, John Fletcher... I am convinced that Spectranetics is on solid ground and will keep developing innovative products in the image of Bob Golobic the founder. For certain I am not here in giving any investment advice, and I should disclose that I have recently purchased 1,000 shares... but I do wish that I still had the many thousands I once purchased as an investor.




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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Today, I learned I lost a new and good friend, yesterday

Its amazing to me, that in just two years, Lynnda and I became very good friends with Nick and Liz Ikonikov... our neighbors across the street. Yesterday, Nick was hiking with Liz and a group in a provincial park in South-Western Ontario. Nick was doing what he loved, in the outdoors, with friends... he had a massive heart attack and could not be revived, even though there was an experienced medically trained person on the trail.

Nick had a huge life! He was in his middle 70's, but reminded me of a robust 60 year old. He was an engineer who directed the building of several large projects like power plants, mines and oil refineries during his career. He and his wife Liz had two children who meant the world to him, and just the thought of his grand children brought a wide smile, and a chuckle to him. What a great guy!

Nick occasionally would visit with Shamus... always bringing either a cookie or a gift for him. One can always tell when someone is a great person, when the family dog thinks that person is awesome. Shamus would see Nick, even through the window across the street, and his tail would start wagging. He would be at the extreme end of the leash when Nick would start coming across the street saying in a teasing voice... "Shaaaaaamus" and then jokingly, as Shamus licked Nicks face and ears, "stay down boy! Seeeeeat boy... gooooood dog!"... and then produce a cookie. He would compare Shamus' shenanigans to his beloved Cody who passed just a year or so before we moved to NOTL.

When Nick came for dinner with Lynnda and me, it was Shamus who got center stage with Nick... until the European Beer came out... wow, did he like a great and cold beer... and his smile lit the room as did his laughter fill it with fun. We will all miss Nick Ikonokov...

To Liz, we commit our undying support, as we do to the rest of the family. Nick's Mother in Montreal will have a hard time, at 98, absorbing his passing. She lives on her own and Nick visited with her just a couple of weeks prior to his and Liz' recent three week trip to Europe where they visited Nick's homeland. He loved his Mother, as a child would... who could ask for more, yet he gave more, visiting her in Montreal several times a year, for a week at a time. Amazing to me... but that was Nick. We will all miss him... ciao Friend... BRuce and Lynnda



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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On washing my hands after using the restroom...

Have you ever wondered "what is the point of washing your hands after using the washroom"? For many of us, the answer is no... between 70% and 80% of us don't question it. Studies have shown that since the threat of the H1N1 virus, the washing of hands following urination or defecation by humans has gone up, from 70% to 80%, approximately (studies from 1997 and 2009 were consulted). There are actually people who do 'undercover' studies of these habits... We know that if we don't wash, we could spread various bacteria and virus from the toilet area to ourselves; or to others from our hands to food, other hands, our eyes and so on...

But what about the 20% to 30% who don't wash their hands? Certainly they have direct risk to themselves and to their acquaintances... spouse, child, friend and so on. And have we given any thought to when these people leave the public washroom where they didn't wash their hands... but used those same filthy hands to open the door to the washroom. Yes, that is the same door that everyone else will put their hands on... clean or otherwise... to escape the washroom. Yuck... makes me sick thinking about it. We wash our hands, only to contaminate them by opening the door to the washroom on the way out!

So, to fool the perpetrators of such virulent habits, there are some of us who circumvent the potential for contamination by using the towel we use to dry our hands, as a protective cloth between the door handle and our clean hands, when we open the door... this in facilities which supply towels. The tell-tale of this is when you sometimes see a pile of paper towels on the floor near the door to a washroom. It happens often enough that you may see some facilities who place the trash containers near to the door where it swings out.

But then there are the McDonalds, Tim Hortons, Burger King, and thousands of other restaurants and gas stations, who don't have towels in the washrooms... they just have 'blowers'. These companies did cost studies where they realized that by not putting towels in the washrooms, they saved money... money for towels; money to clean up the paper on the floors; money to snake the toilets when they get plugged; and so on. In these establishments, you can't escape with out getting contaminated... I hate these places, and try to avoid eating at restaurants where I know the door knobs likely have the virus and bacteria from 20% to 30% of the patrons on the door handles! Hmmmm, I wonder what would happen if more people decided on where they eat based on whether they can wash their hands before eating, or after going #1 or #2 ... and return to their food with clean hands... not touching the door handles...

And when I can't avoid it... when I enter a bathroom with no towels, and those incessant wind machines... I have a new tactic! I go back to my table, or in the case of McDonalds, to the dispensers, and grab a handful of napkins... I go into the bathroom, do my thing, and use the napkins to dry my hands, then to open the door... and then I throw the napkins back into the bathroom in order to contain any virus or bacteria that I may have wiped off the door handle, in the bathroom.

I recommend such Gorilla Tactics at every restaurant, every hospital, and every gas station restaurant which uses the wind machines, and not the towels. If these facilities want to save money on towels, start building washrooms with no doors like in airports, or doors that open out, so you can open them with your foot...

Pass this on, but not the contamination in your next pit stop... think about the millions and millions served at these restaurants... for every million served, there are between 200,000 and 300,000 patrons who don't wash their hands. If only 10% of those end up contaminating the next person through the door, that would be 20 to 30 Thousand people for every million served... that may catch a cold; or worse a flu; or a sty; or MRSA; some of them cold die. And we know that in some cases, there are billions served!




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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Let the Sun Shine


After reading and re-reading the letter from Jack Layton, I am convinced that there is a message in it for more than just Canadians and just young people. It was a 'large' letter that tells me that what it has meant to be a Canadian, American, Brit or what ever... won't cut it in the future. It was telling us that we have to be bigger than we have become...

His final paragraph said... "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world." This is clearly a different tact than what we have fallen into in the western world... and without fundamental change, that comes from within, from individuals, and certainly from leadership... we will become a horrible place to live. It is time to find leaders who actually live by these credo... not just talk them.

It is possible that it will take time to have this in our political, religious and business leadership. We can however start it in the sphere that we control ourselves. I like to think of it as someone walking around with a cloud over there head... and everyone with whom they come into contact, getting wet. With a simple smile, the sun comes out!

So once again, we have control, we can start things ourselves... and once we start, and we expect others to do the same, perhaps we can change the world... we can do a Jack!



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Monday, August 22, 2011

To Jack

Jack Layton died today... four weeks after announcing that a cancer was interrupting his life again. He was to be back in Parliament in September for the Fall Sitting... not to be. This is a large loss for Canada and for Canadians as individuals. Jack was teaching us what being a Canadian is all about. Even in dying, he gave yet another lesson... he was a class act, and I am afraid, a hard act to follow.

This guy had eternal optimism... I am hoping the eternity part of that means that it will stick around... and possibly stick to some of us. He wrote us a letter... two days before he died, no less... I am posting it here below... because I think every Canadian should read it. This from a guy who knew he was dying, and soon. He had the presence of mind to capture the nuances of life and understanding that we are owed nothing in life... we need to make the best of what we can grab. He wasn't angry, not wondering why... he was just letting us know what he thought about the future... without him.

A great guy, did many great things for individuals and for the country... I hope we learned from him, and that we will be a better place going forward...



August 20, 2011

Toronto, Ontario

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.

A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton




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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Come Ride With us... in 2012

Below is a letter I wrote to the folks who donated money to my recent ride around the Cabot Trail... 300km in two and a half days... hope you will consider riding next year....

Hello there... I hope this finds you doing well and enjoying the summer. I have been busy with the riding for various 'causes' and am invigorated by the response from our friends to these efforts. Today I am "in recovery"... I drove home from Nova Scotia yesterday (about 1,200 miles door-to-door) and after the Coast to Coast Tour For Kids Cancer ride on the Cabot Trail, it was a real challenge. But the main thing that I want to communicate in this note is my deep appreciation for the funding you donated to the Kids Camps Charity we chose to support this year. Here are a couple of data points...

a) we had approximately 65 riders of whom about half were from the Maritimes and the rest from Ontario, Alberta and the USA. We had Nova Scotia liquid sunshine for the first day and the really heady climb up Cape Smokey on Friday... we rode the trail counter clockwise which most will agree is the most aggressive direction for climbing... then we had spectacular dry sunshine for two days with the assents of North and MacKenzie/French mountains on Saturday and Hunter Mountain on Sunday giving our brains memories of spectacular vistas.

b) those listed here contributed $2, 732 dollars to the ride and I want to again thank you very much for the support. The B&LR Foundation added enough to go over the $5,000 I wanted to get to, but more importantly, because of the tradition of Coast to Coast and Give to Live ensuring that every penny donated by people like you actually goes to the Kids... we combined with the other riders, contributed over $150,000 to the three charities listed on the Give to Live site... Camp Good Time (Nova Scotia), Lion's Sick Children's Fund (New Brunswick) and Camp Delight (Newfoundland and Labrador)... divided equally. The structure of the fundraising has sponsors who underwrite the costs... but most of the people involved in both Coast to Coast and Give to Live are VOLUNTEERS! They keep the costs down, but companies like Investor Group (provided much needed financing), Tim Hortons (Provided bus transportation), New York Fries (provided the cooks and equipment), Telus, Louis Garneau, Sears, Cadillac Fairview, LG and Marsh allow the ride to function as a 100% organization. I am proud to be able to tell you that all of your philanthropy got through to the kids and their families who need it.

c) we are hoping to, next year, add another 100 riders to this endeavor. I have to say, this ride was the best organized, safest, best supported, best riders, best scenery, best bike mechanic, great food ride I have ever been on. It was also 'tough'. But is wasn't as tough as the kids who came to the morning motivations with their stories of survival, the support they received from people like you, and so on. We met families and kids that had trials that brought tears to us. Humble people who were unfortunate enough to be struck by cancer... and they told us about how these philanthropic endeavors helped them through the toughest days... then we climbed Smokey and North and MacKenzie and Hunter... WOW!


A couple of years ago, when I started getting involved in riding my bike for more than just the health benefits, I decided to ride with the Give To Live Foundation because of their commitment to 100%. They have not let me down in any way... in fact, they have been nothing short of spectacular. I said the first time that I rode I would ask you only once to contribute to my efforts... but that turned out to be wrong... I have asked again. And this note is fair warning, that I will ask again next year... because this is the way to help those with cancer; it is the way to contribute to the gradual demise of the disease (like polio, we can beat it); and it is the way I can demonstrate to my friends that you can get on a bike, get and stay healthy, and do something for someone else. Coast to Coast also lives by this 100% model and has raised nearly $20,ooo,000 for these causes over recent years!

Thank you again for your support, and please remember that it isn't me that you are donating to... 100% of the funds you send in this direction, get to the target! If you are donating to other causes... of course you do, as do Lynnda and I... please check out how much of your hard earned dollars are getting through, and choose the ones who approach 100%.

Ciao... BRuce

CONSIDER RIDING NEXT YEAR... HERE IS THE LINK TO THE CABOT TRAIL PICTURES... HAVE A LOOK AT WHAT YOU WILL EXPERIENCE... WE HAD SEVERAL FIRST YEAR RIDERS WHO RODE THE BIG CLIMBS AND ARE BIGGER FOR IT...

http://www.google.ca/search?q=cabot+trail+pictures&hl=en&prmd=ivns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=NVpBTof6Da-LsAKe-s3TCQ&ved=0CCgQsAQ&biw=1680&bih=935


The map below and this website link... written by Brian Hedney describes the route that was chosen for our ride on the Cabot Trail which is the Counter Clockwise direction... this puts your bike on the cliff-side of the road... best views, and the steepest climbs. We think it also makes for the safest rides, since the descents are easier, particularly if it is Nova Scotia sunshine in which you are riding... link here






A few pics from the website link above...



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Friday, August 12, 2011

Life's a Bike... and its all down hill from there


Its been some time since I ventured back to the blog... I don't know why, it seems like things just haven't been right for a while. All through the winter and spring I was fighting an IT Band Leg injury... this is a tendon pain in the leg that is caused by not stretching (properly) both before riding, and after. It was a painful lesson, since I really hoped to do some serious riding in 2011. I missed the Colorado Springs Carmichael Climbing and Descent School, and had to cash it in for the Coast to Coast ride for Kids Cancer from Vancouver to Halifax.

In May, things started feeling better and I started some short rides... nothing over 25km, but with some time, I started to practice on some hills, too. All through the winter and spring I was helping to organize the Tour du Lac... a 910km ride around Lake Ontario from St. Catharines to Kingston in Canada, and then through Oswago, Webster, Lockport and Niagara Falls in America. As time went on, it became apparent that while I wasn't planning to ride the Tour du Lac, it might be the only long ride I would get in this year... if only I could get into shape.

I committed to the ride in June and started some fund raising for the Cath Labs in the new hospital for St. Catharines. When the ride day came, I was on deck and did the first "mile" century of my year... 170km. It was hot, and the track took us through Toronto, but it was a good day. We continued the next day with another 150km and then a 162 on day three. By then, I was starting to feel good, working my way into 'shape'. It was on this ride that I started thinking about my life as a 'bike'. It seems to me that when I get on one, I start feeling better and better. I like climbing the steepest hills... because when you lip over... its all down hill and that's what its all about... fast, smooth and letting it all hang out...

Years ago when I would drive my Porsche in Cleveland there was an exit off I271 onto I90... it was a long up-hill curve that I could get into at around 100mph and then at the apex of the turn and the hill, I could accelerate down into the interstate and hit about 135 before letting off... I called it "playing with the devil"! The years have passed, and while I was a cyclist way back then in the late 1980's, it was the car that was doing it for me... now, when I hit 70 to 80 km on the bike... I feel the same way! Grin on my face all the way up the hard part of the hill, so I could have a white tooth smile on the way down... Playing with the devil... don't ever crash! Never mind the road rash... at these speeds it could be heaven, or it could be hell...

After the Tour du Lac I was worn out. The heat got to me, the miles wore me down. Lots of things were not right about the way I felt after the ride... legs swollen and sluggish; hands sore; four toes numb and the bottom of my feet were sore... my mood was a little down... mostly because it was over! The ride was a blast... we had great riders with us, good friends. We met some fine new friends along the way in Trenton, Webster and Lockport. But something wasn't right...

It turned out that what was bothering me was my poor performance during a couple of training days after the Tour. I had three practice rides, getting ready for the Cabot Trail ride that would occur the following weekend... August 5th to the 7th. I found some hills to practice on... but in the back of my mind, I was finding out that I was not going to do well on the trail... and I was right! Hills that I was blasting up in the weeks before the Tour du Lac, I could hardly climb, at any speed... this was going to make the Cabot Trail really bad... with four major climbs coming in the next week, it was sure to be ugly. I put my best face on and headed east to Nova Scotia.

I got to Halifax with several days to spare before the Cabot Trial ride. I decided to try one more training ride... I did Highway #7 on Monday with legs to East Petpeswick and on #357 to Cozy Corner... all about 80km... it was a good ride, and I was feeling better... but the next day, my legs were like lead! My recovery capacity sucked and I wasn't sure why. I decided to take the rest of the days until the Cabot Trail off...

I was lucky, it rained a lot over the next few days... a planned ride in Halifax with some fast guys was cancelled due to the liquid sunshine and I found other things to do. I was heading for Cape Breton with Chad Robertson and Stuart Richardson on Thursday and we arrived as planned early the evening before the Cabot Trail ride was to start... what a great evening. We saw all sorts of folks we knew from the Vancouver ride last year.. spirits were high and we were ready to go... 6AM Friday morning came and we were on deck...

We started riding at about 8 AM... I was a tour marshal and had six really good riders with me. We started out tight and together... I was moving up and back in the line and everyone was doing well. I dropped back to help a rider with a tire problem and picked up a pull back to the group I started with ... all in all things were OK for the first 75km... then I hit Cape Smokey! I had again dropped back to help a rider and had not gotten back to my group when we started this ascent. It was just spitting a little, it was warm, but no hot, there was no curb lane, we were exposed to traffic... but thankfully, in the whole 2.1km and 425 meters of vertical I noticed only about five cars... but Oh Lord was it hard... I had a friend climbing with me, Mike Cross who has become a really interesting part of the ride as we compared notes from the Vancouver ride... we got to the top of the climb, and there was a clear view of the basin below... but I was spent and rested... we were a large group that were resting there... knowing the rest of the ride was 'all down hill to Ingonish with smiles on our faces'... but I was really spent!

In the morning I was feeling the effects of the day and night before... I had arrived in Ingonish, 'all in'. We had our recovery routines and I went through mine... to no avail... I didn't feel recovered. Then dinner and it was a good one... put on by Coast to Coast and 'the guys from New York Fries'. At around dusk, we all piled into the Tim Horton's bus and headed to a party in a local pub... after shooters, beers and wine we were back in camp and sleeping. While I had mostly abstained (gone are the good ol' days of "hunting with the Owls at night, and soaring with the Eagles in the morning"), I felt like I had done every shooter! Thanx Todd and Jeff...

We pulled out on what was to be the hardest climbing day... North and MacKenzie Mountains... Here are two videos of the descents... the first is of MacKenzie... and the second of North.



These are what we saw... in reverse... these are the descents of what we were to climb this picture perfect day... but for me it started out really poorly... The group was in great shape... everyone was riding well. It started well for me, although I was hurting in my legs... they were like lead. Just about 10 clicks out of Ingonish I dropped back to help out friends from the Vancouver Trip... Peter and Angelo Gatti were having bike problems... Peter's front derailer had been a problem before, and was now causing him to be unable to get to his small crank. Angelo, like me, wasn't feeling well, and we decided to go slow... Peter had to put his bike on the rack of the support vehicle. Angelo and I continued, like the two older guys we are, and at some stage we decided we had had enough... the support vehicle came and I decided I could continue... there wasn't enough room for both bikes at this stage, and Ashley Ward decided she wanted to do some riding... we had not ridden together on the road bikes, even though we were both on the Vancouver to Austin, Texas ride last year. Ashley is the ED of Give to Live and has a lot of responsibilities during the ride, so some times decides to ride or not... I was lucky, and she motivated me to ride the rest of the way to the base of North Mountain. I didn't think I had the legs to go it alone, and Ashley had to get to the lunch location, so we packed the bikes on the bike rack and rode North in the comfort of a car... I was a little ashamed, but it was best for me.

After lunch, Ashley and seven others decided to try MacKenzie Mountain. I was not really feeling up to it, but my generous ego got the best of me and I got on the bike... wow, was I glad I did... don't know where the legs came from, but I had the power that was missing for the 24 hours before and climbed MacKenzie very well. Not as well as I would have liked, but I made up for the failure on North (where I will reprise my failure of 2011 in 2012 with a strong ride)... the best part was the really great descent... there are several 'fool's knobs' (good hills up that you don't see ahead, causing you to be fooled into thinking that the climb was over) at the far end of this climb... but the descent is not only steep, it is curly and the views could cause you to lose concentration and become a part of the view for the next rider! Wow, but a picturesque descent... I passed a surprised half-ton truck driver who decided to try and follow me down... as I hit 48 mph on my speedo, he backed off coming into a 30km curve (for what ever reason, I still calibrate in mph) and I lost him ... now I was starting to feel better... and by the end of the day, when I rode into our camp in Cheticamp, I felt awesome.

That evening, I rested, and caught up with some really good friends. Many of the riders 'from away' had gone on a whale watching trip. It gave some of us who were from Nova Scotia a chance to spend time as we awaited them... we were accused of drinking all the beer... but it was a great time... I spent time with Ron Allan and learned a little about his many Iron Man competitions and the area of the South Shore where he lives... it was a great afternoon.

On Sunday, it was planned to be a short ride... about 92km... and it was. My lead legs were back, I rode well on the flats, but when the relatively short and low Hunter Mountain presented itself about 70km out, I had to have a psychological pull up the hill from Chad Robertson. Chad had been the fastest, strongest rider both days leading into Sunday... but this day, he was good enough to ride with me, and he paced me all the day... he coaxed me up several hills before Hunter, but kept me with the team most of the time. Here I was riding with the guy who did my cancer surgery in Halifax, and a guy who easily could have been leading the ride into Baddeck... well, he really helped me yet again... as he did on several of the big climbs in the Rockey Mountains last year.

After we did the descent from Hunter, we all massed at the point where the Cabot Trail meets the Trans Canada Highway... the RCMP lead us all onto the highway and we rode the last 12 km en-mass, two up, and ended with a big party in Baddeck... 300km of absolutely spectacular riding. And I was 'all in'. I had completed 1,200km of riding in two weeks... more than I should have, and I knew it.

Chad, Stu and I drove back to Halifax... I was starting to feel like I do now about the ride... I had learned so much about my own physical and mental characteristics that I felt like it was a totally great weekend. I added to it by learning so much about the way the two doctors I was riding with operate in the healthcare system in Nova Scotia... Stu and his wife Paula are prosthedontists and Paula was the dentist that designed and maintains my prosthesis that resulted from my cancer. Chad is a Maxillofacial Surgeon with degrees in both medicine and dentistry. Both Chad and Stu treat cancer patients along with others... and both interact through the Maxillofacial Tumor Board in the QE II Hospital. It was around these activities that I went to school during the three and a half hour drive to Halifax. I have joined the Board of Trustees of the Niagara Health System, and I was able to have an education on the way these cancer guys work... and perhaps how the Walker Cancer Center will work in St.Catharines... a place we are raising money for as I write.

The weekend ended with my getting in the Prius and starting the 1,200 mile ride back to Niagara. I would drive to Woodstock by 1AM that night... sleep till 0800 and head to home by 11 pM... thanx to a huge traffic accident that caused a two hour delay. In the end, I was done! But mentally, I know that I passed through a stage of my life where I overcame the largest physical challenge I had ever come up against... and I am ready to go again. I have a couple of challenges coming up... have the Walker 100mile cancer ride that I plan to do non-stop with a 28km average time in September; and I will be having surgery on my heart again some time in the next year to re-replace my aortic valve... the one I have seems to have started decaying with one leaflet having seized so far... we will change it out before it causes me any trouble... I figure this will slow me down for a month...but I plan to be back on the bike next spring... and again, it will be 'all down hill from there...



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Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!