Medicine of ChoiceDaniel Coles enjoying his medicine.
By Daniel J. Coles
Sitting there with my legs hanging off Dr. Chan's examination table, I couldn't help thinking that he wasn't really busy with another patient. No. He was probably sitting in the break room, sipping tea, ensuring that I waited the full standard 20 minutes past the scheduled appointment time. I studied the anatomy chart on the wall and played with the sterilized paper covering on the exam table. I thought about how my teenage son was thrilled with the idea of my 50th birthday and the scheduling of my colonoscopy. He described the upcoming event to his friends as a bad day with Darth Vader and a garden hose.
Finally, Dr. Chan walked in, wearing gray slacks and a white lab coat. Skipping the preliminaries, he read aloud from my lab report on his clipboard.
"You're 40 pounds overweight, have high blood pressure and bad cholesterol numbers," he said, shaking his head as he continued. "If you can't get your lifestyle under control, I'm going to put you on blood pressure medication."
"But that's lifetime medication," I protested. My mind raced. I detest pharmaceuticals and the greedy corporations that manufacture them.
"You're a candidate for a heart attack. Oh, and I've scheduled your colonoscopy at California Pacific," he responded bluntly and handed me a referral slip.
"I'll exercise. I'll diet. I'll get it all under control."
"A year, one year, then you're going on medication. Can't have you dying on my watch." Dr. Chan smiled and walked out.
It all came down to daily exercise. I tried the gym at the local Jewish Community Center just a few blocks from my house. I'd walk over after dinner and try running on the treadmill while watching the world end on CNN. The whole thing was depressing. For starters, there was always some wrinkled, old man parading around the men's locker room stark naked except for tennis shoes. Plus, my legs hurt and I'd inevitably end up running next to some sleek, shapely woman putting me to shame by running three times as fast as me while listening to her iPod and staring dead ahead.
I ended up riding the cycle machines, admiring the runners' rear ends while watching the same news stories. Then I had a flash: "why ride the cycle machine when I could just go ride a bike?"
I bought a heavy hybrid Gary Fisher with fat tires and a poufy seat and realized the only way I could fit it into my schedule was if I commuted to work. It's about an eight-mile round-trip ride from my house to my office downtown, and, as luck would have it, getting to work is mostly downhill.
On the way home, I had to stop every few blocks to rest on the big hills. By the time I got there, I was drenched in sweat. I went through some jars of Aleve and Advil in the first few weeks. But it was fun, and getting exercise before dinner, instead of after, felt a lot better. I lost 20 pounds in the first year.
Then I bought an old steel road bike; it was a ten-speed, but one of the shifters was broken, so I only used five. It was faster than the hybrid and more fun to ride. I lost another 15 pounds the second year and picked up a light 30-speed road bike. Now I work at keeping up with the youngsters riding fixed-gear stuff. My blood pressure is fine, the cholesterol numbers are in line and the bicycle is my lifetime medication of choice.