Introduction

On March 14th, 2011, a CPTA scan showed that I had suffered a dual pulmonary embolism, in other words I had a couple of blood clots in my lungs. This was the latest domino to fall in a small catalogue of health issues that have peppered the last 16 years of my 43 year old life. I’ll cover those at some point in the blog, but this isn’t a public whinge. I don’t want to be the tedious drunk in the Old Arcade with a pint of dark who lists his ailments to a bored audience.

That reference to a pint of dark is relevant. The treatment for my condition is a lifetime consumption of warfarin, a blood-thinning agent which serves a dual purpose as rat poison. And when you take warfarin, you need to be careful with alcohol. What that means in effect is that I may never be able to have more than one or two drinks in a day. Basically, I will never be drunk again.

That hasn’t really sunk in. I don’t think I’m a heavy drinker these days, but booze has always been a big part of my life. I started going to pubs in Cardiff when I was 14, and throughout my twenties I was a regular in the City’s bars and clubs. I spent months on the road with my job at Welsh National Opera where drinking was a way of life for the whole touring caravan. I lived a rock’n’roll lifestyle for eleven years. And socialising for me has always meant watching football and rugby and the male drinking culture that entails. To be honest all that stopped to a great extent with the birth of my three young sons, and I regularly go weeks without a drink now. But to never be drunk again? Think about it – weddings, holidays, camping, celebrations, barbeques, funerals…without a drink they’re almost inconceivable. And if I can’t drink, that certainly means the end of any appearances on a dancefloor, which will be a great loss to the general public.

This latest development is going to leave a big gap. My lifestyle will be devastated. And to be truthful, that’s just mindblowing – but it’s also an opportunity. Because let’s be honest about this – my lifestyle was selfish, destructive and greedy. I was almost twenty stone a couple of years ago, and my weigh-in at the hospital on Friday showed that I was 18 stone 8lbs. In 2008, I was too fat to go under general anaesthetic for an operation I needed, and a doctor told me that my liver was like “fois-gras”.

So there we have it. I’m still here, and I’ve been lucky. I’ve got no choice but to get better and be positive. When I went into hospital, I mentioned it on facebook and was overwhelmed by messages from old and new friends. I wasn’t really taking things seriously until I saw how concerned people seemed. One of them, from a keen cyclist in Cardiff struck a chord: “Get well big man”, he said. “You’ve still got an êtape in you!”

The étape is a cycling event which allows amateurs to take part in a race across one of the stages of the Tour de France each year. It has always been an ambition of mine to take part. I had a place in the event about ten years ago, and trained heavily, 20 hours a week, for months before breaking down physically after a 100-mile training ride just a few weeks before the race. My legs just couldn’t take it. Even at my fittest, I was pushing a thick 15 stone frame across the hills and mountains, and my body just packed in. I haven’t ridden more than 10 miles in a day since that setback.

That’s going to be my aim. I’m currently seven stone overweight and I struggle to walk upstairs, but this is a recoverable condition. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t make that étape. My first target is to climb the hairpin bends of the famous Alpe d’Huez. There are no logistical barriers to that – no easy excuse for pulling out. And then will come an ascent of the other hors category climbs – Tourmalet, Ventoux, and the Galibier, where I watched Marco Pantani come out of the mist to win the Tour de France on my stag do in 1998. And then finally, I will enter the étape du tour, and this time I will finish it.

Why am I writing this blog? That’s a good question and one that I’m not sure I can answer yet. It’s therapy primarily. And if I play out my recovery and progress in the public eye, then hopefully I will be more likely to maintain my progress.

I’m somebody who is a heavy user of social media to communicate – from email lists to forums, facebook and twitter. I work alone, at home, and it’s just got that way. Some people..no, a lot of people find it uncouth to broadcast your problems, but I don’t see it like that. I’m not ashamed of being ill. If you can use Facebook to brag about your successes, then why not share the lows too? When my dog died, I had over fifty messages of condolences on facebook, each one as valid and appreciated as a flowery card. Honestly, you should try it..kindness, generosity and inspiration come from the most unexpected places. It also bypasses the village jungle drums and chinese whispers.

This is just a diary of a bloke who is ill and a journal of his attempts to turn misfortune into something positive. The fact that anyone can read it is almost irrelevant, except that putting these things in the public domain can sometimes inspire profound connections, interesting feedback, it can develop relationships, provide support and share knowledge. That’s a pretty big claim for such a humble act of writing down your experiences, but you’d be surprised at the results of blogging.

This is all set up like a Holywood movie isn’t it? The reformed blogger turns a medical crisis into a positive force and rides across the Alpe d’Huez finishing line to bouquets of redemption. Well that’s bollocks sadly. There is no script to this one, and there are all sorts of barriers to be knocked down before that happens. But at least I’ve got a target and at the moment, that’s all that counts.

About 2clots

47-year old Welsh cyclist. I suffered a dual pulmonary embolism in March 2011, following an attack of transverse myelinitis in 1994. Apart from that, I'm fine. Author of Red Dragons: The Story of Welsh Football.
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10 Responses to Introduction

  1. Good for you Phil. Sounds like you’ve had a pretty scary time. It’s dead easy then to fall into the ‘I can’t ‘cos I’m poorly’ role but somehow I can’t see that happening. I’ve known you for what, 3 or 4 years even though we’ve never actually met except in SL. From what I’ve seen you’re a stubborn bugger and that will see you through.

    I like cycling but I’m sure as hell not volunteering to join you on your day out over the hills but I will be rooting for you all the way.

    Get well soon and stay that way. We’d miss you if you didn’t! 😉

  2. blogdroed says:

    Great opening piece, Phil. I’ll pledge to join you on that ride up the Ventoux – now if that’s not an incentive I don’t know what is!

    😉

  3. Kowalski says:

    Bloody hell, that kind of thing is scary.

    Good luck with it all, you can borrow my yellow jersey!

  4. Gwyn Wms says:

    Phil,
    Darn onest iawn, pob dymuniad da, ma beicio fyny o Plas Menai i Crug yn ddigon i fi a Nant y Garth yn codi ofn arnai.
    Bydd y daith yn hir a’r lon yn serth, ond gyda’r gwynt wrth dy gefn, a’r haul uwchben mae popeth yn bosib.
    Cer amdani
    Gwyn

  5. Tracey says:

    Bloody hell, Phil – only you can get me laughing and crying in the same sentence.
    Your posts remind me of all the things that are great about you, not least your complete lack of self pity.
    Chin up, chick. You’ll get there.x

  6. Cubillas says:

    Scary, fascinating and, as always, wonderfully entertaining. Life in the mid 40’s is too scary by half. Diagnosed with pneumonia a few months ago, and several X rays indicated something was amiss. GP, consultants, more X rays and a CT scan later I sat outside the hospital, on my own, wondering if the results I’d get in 10 minutes were going to be that ‘life-changing’ moment that we all read about and fear.
    I’d been told that the worse-case scenario was cancer, but ‘it’s highly unlikely as you’re not a smoker’ were the actual words, yet all I could think of was Roy Castle.
    It wasn’t and although it still needs monitoring, whatever it is hasn’t prevented me doing anything that an overweight 45 year old can.
    Don’t know whether it’s age, or being a parent, but I’ve reached the age when every symptom seems accompanied by four horsemen and some vultures.
    Take care mate – being selfish, your condition may be half-decent news for those of us who enjoy reading, agreeing and disagreeing with your thoughts.

  7. Rich B says:

    Phil, an amazing piece. I’ll do that etape with you.

  8. Peter Bradbury says:

    Good Luck Phil. Cardiff City fans everywhere are rooting for you mate.

  9. Pingback: Let Them Eat Cake | 2 clots & the Alpe d'Huez

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