Category Archives: Health

That Last Walk

Just over a year ago – as it ultimately turned out – I took my last walk with my very good friend Chris Gulker.

As last year’s post notes, Chris, Lily and I had been walking almost every Tuesday and Thursday morning for two years. Our walks together were such good fun. We solved all of our problems on these walks and came away invigorated. Very much kindred spirits, Chris and I had only met a year or so before we began our walks.

Chris Gulker

When I wrote last year’s post, I was traveling in India – having left for that trip just after having taken what turned out to be my last walk with Chris. I remember writing my thoughts then from far away – about how we’d had such good times together on these morning walks. About what an inspiration Chris was for me – learning new things, sharing our thoughts, just enjoying each others’ company. Thinking back now, also about how he had such patience with Lily, much more patience than I.

And, I especially remember very much not wanting to title that post The Last Walk. I hoped I’d be able to come home from my travels and do a few more walks with Chris. I’d hoped our walk had been just a milestone – two years walking. But, that wasn’t to be. It had been our last walk. When I got back home, we shared new times together as he bravely dealt with the harsh realities of life – but we didn’t walk together again.

Chris was a great teacher for me in so many ways. His zest for life, his infectious laugh and smile, his love for his family and friends – all stand out in my memories. Plus his great talent as a photographer and his love for learning. It doesn’t get any better.

I’m not exactly sure what it was that brought us together – for that first breakfast meeting – but it was something very special. I’ve come to appreciate this kind of special serendipity when it happens. And, to respect it.

Two Years Walking

Beginning on July 15, 2008, Chris Gulker and I (along with Lily, our Cavalier King Charles spaniel) began a regular walk routine every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

Most days, we walked a 1.5 mile loop around Chris’ neighborhood – chatting about all manor of things, events, life and just generally enjoying each other’s company. Lily always managed to keep us moving – tugging as she always does on her leash and helping to protect Chris and I from the big SUVs she’s convinced are barreling down on us.

We became great pals along the way – as we logged what I figure is over 250 miles of walking together. We finished our walks and conversation over coffee – just a great way to begin a morning!

This past Monday – marking our rough two year anniversary of these morning walks – Chris, Lily and I took another one of our walks around the neighborhood. But, our walk this particular mid-July morning was a short one – just around the block.

As Chris wrote over the weekend on his blog, there was the terrible news last week that several new tumors had appeared in his brain. The physical effects on his stamina had begun to weaken him – so we kept this walk short.

I’m now in Asia traveling on business – but I’m looking forward to getting home again soon for what I hope might be a few more short walks with Chris. He’s a great pal, helping me get some much needed exercise, teaching me a bunch about so many things – photography, cooking, technology, faith and more – but, most importantly, sharing his wonderful perspectives on life.

As he and Linda bravely confront this terrible disease, they are always in my thoughts and prayers.

Some Musings on 2009

Looking back at my late December 2008 blog posts, I made a wish about simple and beautiful HDR photography becoming super simple – unfortunately, it hasn’t yet. I’ll restate what I said last year: “But it still feels like we’re living in a 1995 world when it comes to HDR photography.”

On the other hand, on this day last year I wrote about Walking with ChrisChris Gulker to be precise. In mid-2008, Chris, Lily and I began a twice weekly 1.5 mile walking regimen every Tuesday and Thursday morning when our mutual schedules permitted.

We had a great time continuing our twice-weekly walks throughout 2009 – solving the world’s primary technology and political problems along the way – and very much look forward to resuming them next week – on the first Tuesday in 2010!

What a Difference a Day Makes!

On Wednesday, I had Mohs surgery to remove a nasty basal cell carcinoma from underneath the right temple area on my forehead.

Over the last few years, I had had several basal cell’s removed from this area – all with “clean edges”, etc. But, they kept coming back. When I had the last one removed earlier this summer, my dermatologist suggested that there might be something more serious going on – worthy of Mohs surgery.

I expected this might take an hour or two – but, instead, it took all day on Wednesday to finally get a clean removal of the basal cell tumor that had been living underneath a roughly 2×2 inch section of my right temple area.

After the tumor’s removal, I got a half “face lift” as the skin on my right cheek was pulled up and stitched to cover the wound. Fortunately (!), my puffy cheeks had plenty to give – and stretched just enough to cover it.

My doc, Dr. Jon Starr, was superb and did an amazing job with a “difficult patient” (me!).

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My Life in a Sling! – Rotator Cuff Surgery

Update: See my note about personal journaling and how it’s been valuable to me. If you’re heading to surgery, think about how you’re going to capture your feelings afterwards!

Two weeks ago, I had surgery on the rotator cuff in my right shoulder. A few months ago, I took a nasty fall in the dark and managed to do some serious damage to a couple of tendons in my shoulder. Apparently, they were in rough shape to begin with and, according to the Doc, the fall just finished them off.

After learning more than I ever cared to about shoulder surgery (and surgeons), I finally went under the knife two weeks ago. It was an outpatient process – I showed up for the prep at 9:30 AM, the surgery began about noon, and I was waking up in recovery about 2:30 PM that afternoon – shortly to head home.

The worst pain of the whole experience was definitely in recovery – as I was learning to grapple with what hurt. After that, the pain abated – within a few days it was gone completely – replacing the dull ache pre-surgery. For the first 72 hours after the surgery, I used an ice machine while awake to help with the healing. It was a painless affair – not even feeling cold in the shoulder.

Scott Loftesness - Rotator Cuff Surgery SlingLearning to live my new life with my right arm in a sling is the rest of the story so far. I shed the sling 2-3 times each day to do the “elephant trunk” passive therapy exercise – designed to help ensure the joint remains flexible. I also am able to shower without the sling – but all of the rest of the day (and night!) are spent with my arm in the sling. No driving, rough sleeping – I’ve got a whole new appreciation for what arms are for! Fortunately, I’m able to use my right hand to type even when the arm is in the sling – so my computer work has not been impacted at all.

My sling needs to stay on for another four weeks – it’s scheduled to end on Dec. 7. Between now and then, learning how to best sleep (Tylenol PM seems to help a lot!) remains most challenging. I used to prefer sleeping on my right shoulder – the one that had the surgery – so I’ve had to learn to sleep on the other side. Sleeping on my back, the only other option, is just not comfortable for me.

By the way, my surgeon was Dr. Colin Eakin at Palo Alto Medical Foundation. As I learned and appreciated (!), he’s extremely skilled at this kind of arthroscopic surgery!

One more thing. It’s fascinating how when something like this happens to you that you learn just how many other people have been through the same experience! Have you had rotator cuff surgery?

The Morning Constitutional Walk

As I mentioned over the holidays, Chris Gulker, Lily and I have been walking a 1.5 mile loop (Chris G’mapped it) around west Menlo Park every Tuesday and Thursday morning – before we sit down for a good cup of Peet’s coffee and discuss the solutions to the world’s problems. It’s sort of like The Capital Gang minus 1. Too bad more folks don’t agree with our solutions!

Seriously, though, it does seem like we always do learn something in the process!

Walking with Chris

At this time of year, even minor milestones seem especially relevant.

For the last six months or so when work schedules cooperate, Chris Gulker and I (and Lily too!) have been doing a twice a week, early morning, 1.5 mile walk (Tuesday and Thursday mornings) around Menlo Park – and really enjoying ourselves!

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Workouts Can Lighten Heavy Hearts

About 18 months ago, I started working out with a personal trainer twice a week. After years of never being able to find time to exercise, I simply made time — my appointment is on my calendar and the rest of my life has to “work around it”. Suddenly I had the time to exercise – and everything else adjusted and settled in around it. Delightful. As I’ve told many of my friends, making this small commitment to exercise is among the best decisions I’ve ever made!

The title of this post come from an article on Forbes.com by E.J. Mundell writing about the effects of exercise on depression citing research published five years ago by Prof. James Blumenthal at Duke University.

My personal experience mirrors the points made in the article — when you’re least in the mood for exercise is when it has the most positive impact. Feeling stressed? Take a quick walk — even better yet, make that walk around the park.

Bird Flu Action Plan

Can you believe it? We now have a “bird flu action plan” that’s going to cost the country over $7 billion. Amazing.

Last week Peggy Noonan had a great column in the Online Journal about how things aren’t feeling quite right around here any more.

I think that a lot of people are carrying around in their heads, unarticulated and even in some cases unnoticed, a sense that the wheels are coming off the trolley and the trolley off the tracks.

That in some deep and fundamental way things have broken down and can’t be fixed, or won’t be fixed any time soon.

That our pollsters are preoccupied with “right track” and “wrong track” but missing the number of people who think the answer to “How are things going in America?” is “Off the tracks and hurtling forward, toward an unknown destination.”

Today’s bird flu headline just confirms it. Talk about cognitive dissonance!

Re-Entry

Returned from Hawaii into the “real world” late Friday evening after a delicious week mostly in the sun, always in the joy.

Reality stepped in quickly and slammed a door. We lost one of our own late yesterday afternoon after a long struggle.

We miss him — but we’ll always love him and appreciate everything he did so generously for us and others along the way.