Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Health, Wealth, and Cycling

It's been a while since I posted anything here. I have been cursed to live in interesting times.


This past October I caught the dreaded hamthrax (a.k.a. "swine flu"). It kept me at home for a couple of weeks, but the doctor-prescribed antibiotics seemed to help.

After I finally recovered, I got hit with a nasty sinus infection. The kind where any external pressure (including pressure from a pillow while trying to sleep) is horribly painful. The kind where your face feels like it's in a vice. Another doctor visit, another round of antibiotics, and I was cured. Or so I thought.

Then came the migraines; horrible headaches that felt like an ice pick in my right temple. These headaches really knocked me off my feet. They hit hard and frequently (8 or 10 times a day). Another doctor visit, more drugs, and the headaches never really went away.

The headaches were strange -- always localized in my right temple, usually accompanied by a tingling/numb sensation on the nearby skin, watering in my right eye, and spasms in the right eyelid. They usually last about 20 minutes or so.

A full-head MRI was ordered. The noise and confinement of these machines is not particularly pleasant, especially if you start the process with a headache. Fortunately, the MRI showed nothing terribly wrong -- no tumors, no aneurysms -- just a few sinus cysts. My regular doctor thought the cysts might be causing the headaches; he sent me to a local neurologist and headache specialist.

The neurologist was a great older gentleman, a very "old school" doctor. He and I chatted in the exam room for about 90 minutes, talking about symptoms, timing, etc. I don't think I've spent a total of 90 minutes with any other doctor I've ever had.

Eventually, he diagnosed me with Chronic Paroxysmal Hemicrania. This literally translates to "periodic pain on one side of the head", but it's an actual condition. Unfortunately (for me) it's a relatively rare condition, so very little research is done on it. As a result, there's no known cause and thus no known cure. Fortunately, the drug Indomethacin eliminates the symptoms. Unfortunately (for me) Indomethacin causes extreme drowsiness; after I take a dose, I usually need to nap for a couple of hours.

It appears that, for the short term at least, I must choose between being either ) semi-conscious and pain-free or b) fully conscious and suffering with the horrible headaches.


As you can imagine, this has made my work as a software engineer rather difficult. After long and careful deliberation, I decided to retire from Microsoft in order to focus on my health. As I mentioned in an email at work, I hope to find a magical combination of beer, caffeine, and bicycle riding that will cure my condition.

My manager, his manager, our local HR representative, and everyone at Microsoft were very supportive through this ordeal.

To David, Henry, Mark, Rajesh, Tyler, and everyone else: I don't think I can fully express how appreciative I am for your help & support.


I've been off the bike since 09/26/2009. Kasia has been off the bike even longer (07/04/2009, I think) due to her knee surgery. It's high time for both of us to get back in the saddle.

As a forcing function, we've signed-up for a few organized rides, including:

02/28 - Chilly Hilly
03/20 - McClinchy Mile
04/17 - Tulip Pedal
04/18 - Daffodil Classic
06/12 - Flying Wheels Summer Century
06/21 - Seattle Livestrong Challenge
08/28 - Ride Around Puget Sound

Now we just need to get off our butts, get back in to shape, and ride ride ride!


kreger said...

keith, read about your health on facebook. sorry to hear about this, its nice that you have options in both treatment (insofar as you have one that works) and job, i heartily second your beer plan.

ill be there on alot of those rides. including flying wheels where ill have a 'im riding my bike instead of going to my college graduation' sign.

That being said, i didnt see LIVEstrong on that list.

keithmo said...

Thanks Matt, and I fixed the glaring omission.