Friday, February 7, 2014

One Step Forward and Two Backward

At the start of the year, I wrote of my fitness goals for 2014.  And I have dilligently been making progress on at least some of them.  I still can't fit into all my jeans, but I have lost two pounds, which I could easily gain back in a day or two of unbridled gluttony if I am not careful.  I've been walking a fair amount.  I've been on the eliptical machine a few times.  I've been doing crunches and planks.  I am walking the stairs at work at least 90% of the time, only using the elevator if I am late for something.  And I have been doing two to three upper body workouts a week.

And that is where my setback, my "two steps backward," has occurred.  I recently moved up to 80 pounds from 70 and it didn't seem too bad - until Wednesday night.  About seven years ago, I partially tore my right rotator cuff, and now I am having very similar pain in my right shoulder.  It is not agonizing - and in fact, I've had more or less continuous low level pain in that shoulder for seven years - but it is pain that was not there before this past week.  And it should not be there.  So clearly, I have done something I didn't want to do.

So what to do next?  I think I need to knock off the upper body for a week.  Then try a few light weight, say 50 pounds, workouts and see how that feels.  Or even 40 pounds, or if need be just 30.  I probably need to focus on lighter weights and many more repetitions.  I am not sure how best to do it, but it does seem that this particular fitness goal may be one that I need to back off of.

It is always discouraging to have setbacks, but they are part of life and we just have to do our best to move forward, even if we don't get quite as far as we hoped for.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Mesothelioma - A Big Word With a Terrible Implication

Have you ever toured one of the great World War II Battleship museums, like the USS North Carolina in Wilmington, NC or the USS Massachusetts in Fall River, MA?  It is fascinating stuff.  You can go all over the ship, from the bridge and the gigantic gun turrets to deep below the water line, and get a sense what it was like to be one of 1,500 - 2,000 men living aboard one of these ships in war time.  You can even get to the engine rooms with the massive power plants for the ship.  And while you are down there, you can see some of the heavy use of asbestos made on these ships - and in so many other places at the time, and since.

I remember the first time I saw this, it struck me how much the men who built and later served in these ships must have been exposed to asbestos, a valuable and useful mineral with a terrible cost: mesothelioma.  This is a lethal cancer of the lungs that is only caused by asbestos fiber inhalation.  Thus, it is a totally preventable cancer.  Yet, about 30 million pounds is used annually in the USA.

US Navy veterans of World War II and the Korean War have the highest incidence of asbestos related diseases.  But of course, many others are afflicted as well.  I have wondered for some time if my father could have been one of them.  In the late 1930's through the mid-40's as a young man, he worked in ship yards as a shipwright and later as a naval architect, helping to build and design the ships that helped the men and women of that generation literally save the world.  Forty years later, he was dying of a terrible lung cancer.  It was not necessarily mesothelioma - he had been a smoker earlier in his life.  But he certainly had been exposed to asbestos, and that could have been the cause of his death in 1983.

At the time my dad was working in the shipping industry, very little was known about the hazards of asbestos.  That is not true today.  Should we still be using so much of it?  What will the cost be in 30 years to those handling it today?  No level of exposure to asestos is safe.

Want to learn more about this not too well known cancer?  Here is an excellent fact sheet about mesothelioma.