Monday, April 8, 2013
Back on the bike!!!
I am officially back on the bike! At least a bit. I’m feeling slightly less flat-out awful than I had been over the past weeks, and today went for a 4 hour endurance ride with some other semi-broken racer friends (one is recovering from being struck by a car, the other from tendonitis).
Here’s hoping that I’ll manage to avoid more surgery in the future, if things keep on looking up. The difficulty of all of this is that at this point cycling may actually BE my only option for non-surgical treatment. Because of a melanoma that showed up on my ear over the course of one week last May, and was described as “surprisingly pathological”, many of the immune suppressant agents that are the go-to’s of current treatment for severe Crohn’s disease are totally out of the question. And, I’ve been through the ringer with everything else and it hasn’t worked. I’ve also already got the bone density of a bird, which means that prednisone is a dangerous choice for more than a week long course once in a blue moon.
And so, my treatment plan is to try to stay positive, avoid undue stress (but I have so many tests to take at school!), and keep riding and enjoying life as much as possible. Why does this work? We do know that endorphins and exercise (independent of endorphins) help the body regulate inflammatory processes and intestinal health. For one thing, your intestines have neurochemical receptors and an entire network of nerves of their own to communicate with. It’s not entirely clear by what mechanism exercise and joy itself help control the inflammatory processes of IBD, as opposed to generally supporting a healthy system, but there is some evidence to say that it does.
Sounds simple? No. Consider for a moment what that means in the face of a painful and often disparaging illness. Keeping a positive outlook and getting on the bike even when I feel exhausted or otherwise horrible may be one of the most difficult prescriptions there is. Comparatively, I tend to think that Remicaide infusions were a piece of cake.
However, there is something also amazing about deciding to put off studying to ride in the sunshine because it is a prescription.
quality climbing right in my own backyard. sunshine but no spring foliage yet.
-----Note: I really truly do not follow the “think positive and good things will happen to you” train of thought. Please do not confuse this post with that genre of [weak] logic. Bad things do happen even to those who are good people and try hard and have a positive outlook. But, because we know that neurotransmitters are partially influenced by emotion and stress, we can consciously control some of those internal processes by learning to alter the way we react to daily life. This general idea of the trainability of reactions is the premise of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). For some people, that might be helpful in managing stress related IBD flares. Personally, cycling is my stress management tool and joyful addiction, so I haven’t gone that route. But, because I really do believe in the science behind it, I have suggested CBT to a few of my weekly-stress-crisis having classmates who don’t have IBD but none the less do experience extreme GI upset every week before
Posted by The Gutless Cyclist at 1:51 PM