I’ve been trying to keep fit and not managing very well. It’s a time thing. You know how it is, you sign up for a gym, you do the math(s) of how often you think you’ll go, how much the subscription is and so on, and then reality kicks in, work and family do their thing, and the gym owner ends up doing a lot better out of the deal than you thought.
I also used to run quite a lot. Heck, let me just casually drop in to the conversation (this is quite definitely being my conversation after all) that in my time I’ve run the London and Berlin marathons, and used to do some “mountain marathons“, where you and a similarly masochistic friend navigate for two days across some remote mountain terrain, with everything you need (tiny tent, tiny this, tiny that) to “survive” for the weekend. It was fun, really!
But the running hasn’t gone so well in the last year-ish. It seemed to be OK in the first year after my diagnosis in 2012, and I even got back in to it pretty quickly after my high-dose-and-stem-cell-rescue treatment in 2013. But in about the last year it just hasn’t been as much fun. The pace I could manage was a lot lower, often to the point that even on a shorter run (e.g. 5K) I needed to stop a few times to recover before continuing. And bike rides have been harder as well – especially the uphills! I used to be the polka-dot-man (Tour de France jersey reference) amongst my cycling friends. Not recently. Not good. And in the back of my mind I didn’t really know why. Was it the effect of the underlying disease on my heart? Was it just psychological? Was it a feature of the ongoing treatment in some way? Perhaps a mix of the three?
However in the last few treatment cycles (months), I’ve been on the same old, same old treatment, but have also had some ferrous sulphate (iron tablets) thrown into the mix. My iron levels were a bit low it turns out, and as a result (one assumes) my haemoglobin levels were also a bit down. The normal level for a man is approximately 138 to 180 g/L. I wasn’t a huge amount below this (I’ve always been over 100 say) but was certainly below the lower bound. So I’ve been taking ferrous sulphate for the last few months, which have now brought the haemoglobin levels nicely up into the acceptable range.
I hadn’t been running for a while, but arrived in SW France a few days ago with the family for our summer holiday and finally had the time to get out and try running again. Just jogged along the coast and back for 5km, but wonder of wonders, I could keep jogging the whole way. Shoddy pace – 5km in about 32 minutes would, I confess, have elicited some poorly disguised derision from me only a few years ago – but it was great to just be able to plod along for the distance without stopping. Next goal – crack the 30 minute barrier! Seems this haemoglobin stuff is quite useful… So as I’ve said before, keep taking the (iron) pills…