art imitates my life

I don’t know what haruspicy* means, but this is the story of my life at the moment:

Lerner, Ben (2014) 10:02, London, Granta, p. 206

Lerner, Ben (2014) 10:02, London, Granta, p. 206

A doctor discovers accidentally that the main character in poet Ben Lerner’s novel 10:02 has an unusual condition of his aortic root, which means he is at risk of a sudden dissection – a fatal tearing of the aorta.

I really don’t understand much of this book (all the poetry references are completely lost on me), and so I suspect I’m missing out on some significant aspects of the novel, but on my simple level it’s a story of a man whose life is changed by acquiring knowledge about the possible (maybe even likely?) mechanism by which he could die – and the fact that the death could occur any time from now on but there’s very little he can do to prevent it. As also in my case, the condition was not associated with any symptoms and without its accidental discovery, he could have gone on with life quite happily. Is it better to be ignorant, or to have the knowledge of your life-threatening condition but not be able to prevent the forewarned event?

I think my G.P. feels a little uncomfortable that she has, by testing for conditions for which I was not reporting any symptoms, inadvertently placed me in this conundrum. Of course, you can argue that anyone of my age (three decades older than Lerner’s protagonist), is at risk of sudden death from some hitherto unknown disease. But there is something different about having that additional knowledge. There’s also the question that Lerner alludes to in the passage above: once you discover a life-or-death health issue, how much time and money do you spend trying to define the parameters of the threat? And Lerner seems to be also exploring the issue of how this knowledge might change our behaviour. In his case, his character considers his proclivity to procreate, but in my case I wonder about what impact my death would have on the family I would leave behind. I have new impetus to clean out the shed, arrange for someone to manage my blogs/emails/etc, and most importantly, sort out my mother’s remaining life.

* OK, I did look it up – I now know what haruspicy means.

Posted in books, death, depression, emotions, friends, health, injuries, pessimism | Tagged , , , , ,

all over

I’ve been running as long as I can remember. I remember being the boys captain of our school athletic team that travelled to a small country town (Dorrigo) for an inter-school competition when I was aged 8 or 9. We didn’t do very well against those sons and daughters of dairy farmers, and I haven’t subsequently achieved any remarkable results in competitions either.

It now appears to me that my running life is over. As you can see on this graph, I’ve had three attempts to start running again in the past few months after a hamstring tendon injury forced me to take about 9 months off.

[my running distances from 01 July 2015 to 06 October 2016]

[my running distances from 01 July 2015 to 06 October 2016]

Each of those three attempts to start running again has ended in exactly the same way – with a fracture of one of my osteoporotic vertebrae. I can’t go on doing that.

So my running life appears likely to be over. The only consolation is that my cancer or ischaemic heart disease may intervene to keep the remaining sedentary years to a minimum.

Posted in annoyances, death, depression, emotions, health, injuries, pessimism, running | 1 Comment

A warning from the widowmaker?

I’ve had a heart attack, a myocardial infarction (MI). So says a cardiologist, anyway. It could be due to a blockage in the left anterior descending (LAD) branch of my left coronary artery, which the angiogram found to be 30% – 50% obstructed. This branch of the coronary artery system is known as the widowmaker because of its proclivity to obstruction and the likely outcome of a significant blockage.

[my heart - the Left Anterior Descending artery]

CT scan of my heart arteries – the Left Anterior Descending artery

Perhaps this is a warning of bigger things to come. I suppose the cardiologist is correct about the MI- he’s basing this call on the fact that I had high levels of troponin in my blood, a substance which is released from damaged heart muscle. My symptoms aren’t a good guide as I have pain in the chest region from two likely osteoporotic fractures in the thoracic spine and yet another broken rib (right anterior rib 4?). Further, an ECG and stress-echo test were both fairly normal. On the other hand, two investigations ordered by the cardiologist, coronary artery calcium scoring and coronary artery angiogram, did show plenty of cause for concern (report page 1, report page 2) and tend to support his diagnosis (and also suggests that I have a ‘hole in the heart’ – patent foramen ovale). Regardless of whether an MI has already occurred, I’ve now started on medication I’ll take for the rest of my life – however short that period may be:

  • aspirin
  • rosuvastatin
  • atenolol

And don’t do any activities you’re not used to“, advised the cardiologist. I didn’t find this or any of his advice very useful, nor do I think he did a very thorough job of investigating my particular case. He didn’t measure fasting cholesterol levels, and didn’t really listen to me describe my symptoms; he just wanted to hear me say “chest pain“.  He seemed determined to go through a standard investigative routine (and in the process keeping his own stress-echo lab staff employed), leading almost inevitably to the three drug treatment he ended up prescribing. The total bill for the cardiologist’s consultations and investigations was $1700! If I’d asked my GP to prescribe a treatment, with no more information than the troponin result she had already discovered, I reckon she would have come up with almost exactly the same regimen, at zero cost to me.

The cardiologist wants to see me again in 3 months’ time. Right now I’m thinking I’d rather spend his consultation fee on something useful instead.

Anyway, the SAH CT scan has provided enough evidence to convincingly support the argument that all is not well with my heart. I will heed the warning and will consume these three medications, hoping they will do more good than harm. And I’ll make sure I’m carrying a phone all the time, ready to dial the emergency ambulance if the widowmaker  decides to step up the attack to the next level.

Posted in death, emotions, health, observations, pessimism, technology | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment


I haven’t run much for quite a while. From September 2015 to July 2016 I was constrained by a hamstring tendon over-use injury. And when I tried starting running again I sustained two thoracic vertebral fractures, due to osteoporosis in my spine. That abruptly ended my return to running.

Last Sunday, however, I took time out from my normal early morning routine of coffee drinking and novel reading to attend the Blackmore’s Half Marathon – as a spectator. I was not permitted to drink coffee anyway, as I was preparing for this coronary artery angiogram and Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring at the Sydney Adventist Hospital (run by vegetarians!) because a cardiologist believes I have serious Ischaemic Heart Disease.

The main reason I attended the Blackmore’s Half Marathon was to cheer on my daughter, daiskmeliadorn. Under rain-threatening, cloudy grey dawn skies I set myself up at a location where I was sure I would see her. I stood at a point about 8 km into the route where the field would be somewhat thinned out compared with the start, and where the race course narrowed to just a single road lane as they ran across a pedestrian crossing. I had my supporter’s sign with me.

[Waiting at the 8 km point, Blackmore's Half Marathon]
[Waiting for the runners at the 8 km point, Blackmore’s Half Marathon]

It wasn’t too long before the leading runner came through, with his pursuers not too far behind.

[Leading runner, Japanese teenager Kei Katanishi, goes through the 8 km point of the Blackmore's Half Marathon]
[Leading runner and eventual winner, Japanese teenager Kei Katanishi, goes through the 8 km point of the Blackmore’s Half Marathon]

I had a good idea when daiskmeliadorn was expecting to go through, and I watched and waited. The numbers increased and soon they were running through thick and fast.

[Lots of runners go through the 8 km point of the Blackmore's Half Marathon]
[Lots of runners go through the 8 km point]

I watched, and watched….but eventually the numbers declined, leaving only their characteristic detritus behind, along with one disappointed father.

[runners' detritus]
[runners’ detritus]

Fortunately, just across the other side of road, the runners looped back on their way towards the finish, making that point the 19 km marker of the 21.1 km race. So I moved myself and my sign over to where there was already a trickle of runners passing through.

[19 km marker]
[I move across to the 19 km marker]

Not a great deal of time passed until I saw her running towards me. Yay! Oh joy!!

I waved and reached for my camera – but by the time I figured out that I didn’t have the camera switched on, she was running past, looking cool as a cucumber. She ran off down the road and I got this parting shot of her disappearing down the road towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

[daiskmeliadorn! That’s her with dreadlocks, wearing a white and red Sydney Frontrunners shirt, next to the guy with the blue top]

I checked my watch. Although I didn’t know exactly what time the race started, it looked like she was perhaps headed for a good time, close to her previous best of 01:47:20, set in the May 2016 SMH Half Marathon. I packed up my sign, collected my umbrella – thankful that it wasn’t needed – and took my coffee-deprived body back towards the train station to go home. About 15 minutes later, on my walk to the station, a message from Sam flashed up on my phone: daiskmeliadorn had finished! Time: about 1 hour 43!!! What a performance. How proud I was to see how daiskmeliadorn had worked so hard and trained conscientiously and was rewarded with a great personal best time.

[daiskmeliadorn and partner after Blackmore's Half Marathon 2016]
[Sydney Frontrunner, daiskmeliadorn, and her partner, Sam.
Photo credit:
Picture taken by a friend of daiskmeliadorn]

That achievement is nothing, however, in the overall scheme of things, by comparison with what you and I can see in the picture above. As I commented after the SMH Half Marathon, these two people have a wonderful partnership in which they provide magnificent mutual support and rejoice in each other’s successes.

Posted in coffee, emotions, family, friends, health, injuries, running | Tagged , , , ,

Not fair

A few years ago my sister died, aged only 60. Then, a couple of years later, her husband died, aged 61. Now, my brother’s ex-wife has died, aged in her 50s.

In contradistinction, it seems as though my mother is going to live forever, much to her own disgust. Every single time I see her, she tells me she wishes she were dead. Although she has dementia, she has told me this often enough, consistently enough, and over a long enough time, that I’m sure she does really mean it.

Recently, however, she defied both my predictions and her own desires, and she became a nonagenarian.

[congratulatory phone call]
[Receiving a congratulatory phone call from Scotland]


[cutting the cake]
[Cutting the cake]

It isn’t ‘fair’,  but why should we have any expectation that fairness would prevail?

Posted in death, emotions, family, food, health, special days | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A very good morning

It was a cool early winter morning, just after sunrise, as I walked up King Street, Newtown.


King Street Newtown
[King Street, Newtown.]

I was meeting daiskmeliadorn for breakfast in here, Handcraft Specialty Coffee. Neither of us had been here before, but I had walked past a couple of weeks ago and it looked interesting enough to explore further.

Handcraft Specialty Coffee
[Handcraft Specialty Coffee, King Street, Newtown.]

They had only just opened (at 07:00) and I was the only customer in the shop.

Handcraft Specialty Coffee
[inside Handcraft Specialty Coffee – nothing out of the ordinary here]

While I waited for daiskmeliadorn to arrive (I was early, of course), they gave me some iced water – with a sprig of mint in the bottle.

iced, minted water
[iced, minted water]

“That’s a good start”, I thought. Definitely a class above the plain, unrefrigerated tap water provided at most cafés.

It wasn’t long until daiskmeliadorn arrived, hungry for something substantial to get her through a busy morning to come, working in the campaign office of the local Greens candidate. She ordered the granola, but without yoghurt and with soy milk instead.

granola with fruit and soy milk
[granola with fruit and soy milk]

The granola came beautifully presented (my photo doesn’t do justice to the thinly sliced apple on top) with apple, strawberry, passionfruit, kiwifruit and banana, and with the soy milk in a cute little bottle.

We both ordered long blacks, hers made with the standard house blend while I opted for one of their single-origin coffees. I chose the Ethiopian as I have had good experience with another Ethiopian coffee, and I have a soft spot for that country. It is, after all, the birthplace of coffee.

Ethiopian coffee
[Ethiopian coffee]

My coffee turned out to be absolutely top drawer! Excellent flavour and extra hot. We talked while we enjoyed our breakfast, and the attentive staff replaced the cold water as we drank it, without us have to request it. As usual we covered a fair bit of ground in the conversation, but obviously the status of daiskmeliadorn’s brother, and the Greens campaign for the forthcoming Federal election were the major topics. We also talked about daiskmeliadorn’s employment, with the good news that she has been offered a job . . . two jobs, in fact! One is a public service position – secure, permanent, and moderately well paid. The other would be working as a researcher-activist for the international transport workers’ union – pay and duration unknown. You can guess which position she’s likely to accept.

I loved everything about Handcraft, and I was especially grateful that they didn’t follow the trend of most Sydney hipster cafés of providing hard metal seating. At Handcraft they provided very comfortable cushions.

[yes, even a cushion!]

It was a very good morning, and I went on my way rejoicing.

Posted in coffee, emotions, family, food, observations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

another one gone

OK, it’s nothing like the real thing, but I like this stuff. I make sure I have a spare jar or two, both at work and at home (it comes from America!)

empty jar
[empty Strawberry Fruit Spread jar & full jar ready to open]

There are no strawberries in this. Further, its texture is more like jelly (‘Jell-o‘ to you North Americans) than jam, but it contains no gelatine. It’s very hard to extract from the jar because it slips off your knife. But it’s sweet, has a vaguely strawberry-like flavour, and it’s moist. Given that most of the dumpster-derived freegan bread I eat is up to a month old, sometimes I need a spread to liven up the toast. Or I just need to satisfy my sweetness addiction.

The best aspect is that it has (supposedly) zero calories! There’s nothing nutritious in it!

There’s one other good thing about it. The empty jar is just the right capacity to hold the 85 g of coffee beans I use in one day’s coffee (that’s four cups), with a bit of extra space if I think it will be a day when I need stronger coffee than usual.  So I can line up 3 or 4 jars of coffee beans and know the next few days of my life are adequately catered – in the style of  J. Alfred Prufrock.

strawberry spread jar recycled as coffee storage jar

[strawberry spread jar recycled as coffee storage jar]


Posted in emotions, food, health, observations | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment