Riding a bike gives you the same joy as an adult as it did when you were a kid. It also gives you time to reflect. I needed a lot of that during the pandemic. Riding my bike got me away from the news, out in the fresh air, and under the sun. It was a Godsend. But it happened in a roundabout way.
My first attempt at exercising in my 50s was running. I was decent in my younger years. I ran track and cross country back in high school and a year in college. With no excuse not to get in shape, I thought I would get back at it in April 2020. I did in a big way but before I knew it was pushing too hard. Eventually injuring myself and getting a painful case of Plantar Fasciitis (if you know - you know).
I still wanted to exercise and decided to hop on my old Wal-Mart mountain bike. It got me going and it didn't hurt my foot so I kept at it. Eventually, I found my way to some greenway trails nearby. Soon, I literally pedaled my pedal off of that bike and "wiped out" on a corkscrew curve going a little too fast.
I ditched that bike and got a "road bike". The kind with drop-down handlebars. It took a little getting used to but it was smoother and I could go further. That bike was replaced a little later on with a lighter bike (Trek Piot 5.0). Now I had to learn how to "clip in" to cycling pedals. That led to about a dozen or so mild crashes. But I got it.
By the Fall of 2020, I was doing rides of 60, 70, and 80 miles. I decided to try a "century ride" of 100 miles in one day. It seemed a little crazy. But you don't learn things about yourself unless you try something new. I read up on how much food I would need to consume in order not to "bonk". I mixed up more than a gallon of Gatorade Zero.
I found a 33-mile route that I could do three times. Arriving back at the start and refreshing my snacks and drink before tackling the next third. It also gave me a little comfort knowing I could call it off if something came up. That initial century ride took me six hours and twenty -two minutes of riding time to complete. Mission accomplished. I had pushed both my mental and physical boundaries to new lengths.
I was feeling pretty good about things. In the back of my mind, though, I thought maybe I should get a physical to make sure my heart could handle all the stress of riding. What I learned from that doctor's visit would change me forever.
[Read "Staying Healthy for the Family"]
I began cycling in 2020. The pandemic gave me a break from touring the country as a comedian and speaker. Instead, I toured the neighborhood and countryside on two wheels. Before I knew it I was hooked. I lost weight, felt great, and had more energy than I had in twenty years.
In the Fall of 2021, I decided to get a check-up. I felt fine but a friend of mine had major heart surgery and he was in terrific shape. I thought it would be best to get my heart checked out before I cranked up too many miles. The good news? My heart is fine.
The bad news? Blood tests revealed an extremely elevated PSA level (63). PSA is the marker used to check the potential for prostate cancer in men. You really don't want a number over 5. I was shocked. A biopsy confirmed the high presence of cancer cells. The next few months were filled with scans and tests. I met with radiologists and surgeons. I had to choose how to address this invader before it got any worse. My wonderful wife Lisa was right by my side throughout it all. I am certain she asked more questions than I did.
After weighing all the options I chose a radical prostatectomy. Fortunately for me, the results have been great since the operation. God blessed me with terrific surgeons who worked on me using a wildly sophisticated four-armed Da Vinci robot. Say what you want about A.I. but this fella was a big help. I am not 100% in the clear yet. My numbers are really low but are slightly increasing. We're keeping an eye on it and have more treatment options if necessary.
None of it was easy. But, compared to many people who have heard the scary phrase "you've got cancer" I escaped with less rigorous treatment and in a relatively shorter amount of time. My heart goes out to those who have gone through a battle like this or who have lost someone in a battle with cancer.
Men - starting at age 45 ask your primary care doctor about getting a simple PSA test. All they do is draw a little blood and send it off to the lab. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, about 1 in 456 men under age 50 will be diagnosed, the rate shoots up to 1 in 54 for ages 50 to 59, 1 in 19 for ages 60 to 69, and 1 in 11 for men 70 and older. Nearly 60% of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65.
The survival rate is greater the earlier it is detected. Don't put it off. Feel free to call me if you need someone to talk to or have any questions at all.