Hand job, or, health issues that affect cycling
May 12, 2012 § 9 Comments
For the last couple of years my right palm has been getting really callused. A series of hard lumps has formed around the base of my middle finger, lumps that are so large and hardened that they have made it impossible for me to fully open my hand.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “I bet his vision is worsening as well.”
It’s not, smartypants.
Since I spend so much time typing, it made sense that this was carpal tunnel syndrome, or probably, according to Dr. Google, “Trigger Finger.” I wouldn’t ordinarily have given much thought to it, since it never really affected me, but over the last two years it’s become harder and harder to reach the front brake lever. And when something starts jacking with my ability to ride…I pay attention.
(Not) Rushing to judgment
It usually takes me a long time to get to the doctor. For anything. The last time I had a physical was in 1997. I had a cold. The infection had traveled into my chest, and avoiding medical care allowed it to become full-fledged pneumonia in one lung. After recovering I went to the doctor, who took a chest x-ray and told me that I was in great shape.
Haven’t caught cold and haven’t seen a doctor since.
I don’t like doctors for the same reason I don’t like dentists. They hurt. When I was a little kid I had lots of bad doctor and dentist experiences. That, combined with a daily diet of beatings from my brother, didn’t make me tough. It made me weak. Weak and fearful. I remain that way today. As a result, I’ve never gone to get my trigger finger treated because Dr. Google said it would require minor surgery, and as everyone knows, surgery means needles and blood.
I don’t mind blood. Unless it’s mine. In which case I will do anything to avoid it. And when the only thing I have to do to avoid it is not call the doctor, it’s pretty simple, since I never call him anyway. Like I said, though, it has started to affect my cycling, so about a year ago I started making plans to get ready to prepare for perhaps getting in the mindset to be fixing to think about making an appointment with the hand doctor.
Yesterday I went to see him. You know how you always bust your butt to get to the doctor on time? And you know how once you get there you wait for an hour, which makes you wonder what in the world you were hurrying for? That happened. Filled out the forms (No, no STD’s. No, no heart disease. No, not allergic to any drugs. No, not currently pregnant. Last period? She was complaining about it a couple of weeks ago, but I don’t remember the date. What does her period have to do with my hand?)
And then…”Briefly describe your problem.” Wow. Briefly? I took a stab at it: “My problem is that I’m pretty fucked up because I’m from Texas.”
I turned the paper around and looked at it from different angles. Somehow it didn’t look right. So I added, “And my middle finger hurts and is callused and I can’t open my hand all the way.”
The French are watching you
If you were a cynical bike blogger who always made fun of the French and the Danes, what kind of disease would karma send your way? It would be a disease with a French name that was caused by a recessive gene among people of Scandinavian descent. Of course it would.
In came Dr. Slutsky. Yep, that’s really his name. And nope, I’m not going to make fun of it. What am I going to say that he didn’t hear every single day of his life the first 12 grades of school? Nothing, and I can’t stand not being original, unless I’m copying CapTaintBag.
Doc Sluts glanced at my palm, and said something that sounded like “De Pooter’s Contracture.”
“D-u-p-u-y-t-r-e-n-s Contracture. It’s named after the 19th Century French physician who first tried to treat it surgically, Dr. Baron Gillaume Dupuytren.”
“You kidding me? I got a French disease? How degrading is that?”
“Not exactly. The name is French, but the condition is genetic, most likely of Scandinavian origin.”
“Danish. Even worse. Dolphin-killing-inbred Viking disease named by some French dude. So you’re going to operate?”
“No. Surgery doesn’t really help. It’s incurable.”
“We have a cure for syphilis. For bad spelling. For small breasts and short penises. Don’t tell me you can’t cure this claw-hand deal.”
“Eventually your hand will contract so much that you’ll have great difficulty doing normal activities. Unfortunately, you’re right-handed, and it’s your right hand, and you’re young, which typically means a fast progression. We can do some surgical procedures later, but the problem is that the genetic defect causes uncontrolled Type 2 collagen growth. The collagen will come back even more quickly after surgery. It’s genetic. 100% rate of recurrence.”
“What does this mean for whacking off?”
“As long as it doesn’t spread to your left hand, you should be fine.”
“Left hand? I can’t use my left hand! It doesn’t even feel like me. And what do you mean ‘spread’? Don’t tell me this shit spreads.”
Dr. Slutty tells me that this shit spreads
“It can. Do you have any calluses like this on your feet?”
“I don’t know. They’re so gnarly I don’t get down there too often.”
“What do you mean, ‘gnarly’?”
“Oh, the usual. Stuff between the toes. Giant ol’ crusty yellow toenails that smell like dead eggs when you try and scrape ’em clean underneath. Just not a real cool place to hang out, y’know? It’s one of the benefits of being tall. Your feet are a long ways off.”
“At this point all I can tell you to do is to keep an eye on it. Come back in about a year or so, or whenever your hand is so arched that you can’t lay it flat on the table.”
“I already can’t lay it flat on the table.”
“Hmmm. Yes. Well, there’s nothing for it as of now. And keep an eye on other body parts.”
“Whoaaaa—what do you mean ‘other body parts?’ You mean, aside from my left hand and my feet?”
“Yes. You want to make sure it doesn’t develop into Peyronie’s disease.”
“No! Not another French disease!”
“I’m afraid so. It’s another type of collagenic thickening.”
By now I could see the two little twins from The Shining covered in gore shouting “Redrum! Redrum! Redrum!” only it was worse than that. They were shouting “Sinep! Sinep! Sinep!”
I got faint and had to sit down, but I was already sitting down. So I lay down on his leather couch, and wondered why a hand doctor had a leather couch in his examining room. I slowly choked out the words. “So…tell…me…about…Peyronie’s thing.”
Doc Slutmaster tells me about Peyronie’s thing
“It occurs in the penis. The collagen lays down bands beneath the skin of the penis, causing it to curve.”
“This can’t be real. Anglecock? If you were doing a stand-up comedy routine I wouldn’t even laugh.”
“You don’t have it yet. It only occurs in a minority of cases of people with Dupuytren’s.”
“A minority? Dude, 49% is a minority. How many, exactly?”
“The penis develops a bend…”
“A bend? Like a river? You’re telling me my dick is going to look like a U-bolt? Good Dog, what’s gonna happen when we stop at the Ocean Park toilets on the Saturday ride? Everybody’s gonna laugh and say, ‘Don’t stand behind that dude when he whizzes!’ Can you imagine the nicknames? ‘U-Turn.’ ‘Double Joint.’ ‘Comin’ and Goin’.’ My Dog, this is the worst thing imaginable.”
“Not the worst,” Doc Sluthopper said. “The worst is that when the curvature becomes sufficiently hardened and pronounced, it can result in penile fracture during intercourse.”
By now I was softly sobbing. “Great. Fucking great. My pecker’s going to break off during sex. Then what? Call a tow truck to pull it out? And what happens to the stump? Do they put me on Dr. Phil to do a panel with that dude whose wife chopped his weenie off while he was sleeping? This isn’t happening. It’s not real. Tell me it’s not real. Please, Doc Slutbag.”
Moral of the story
There isn’t one, except for his assurance that the Peyronie’s disease thing was unlikely, and I was probably just going to have my right hand turn into a deformed claw in the next five or ten years. So I have that going for me.
I was feeling pretty sorry for myself until I went to a party with King Harold, Roadchamp, DJ, Polly, Triple, and Bull. I showed them my hand and they immediately turned my deformed fingers into a gang sign…”The Claw.” And when they found out that one day I might have the dreaded U-dick, they made so many jokes and laughed so hard and came up with so many funny nicknames that I almost felt better.
And of course they all promised to take care of Mrs. WM for me if my pecker broke off. “We’ll make sure she’s taken care of,” they said.
These dear buddies helped me realize that no matter how bad off I get, they will always be there to laugh at me and steal my wife. That’s what friends are for. Cycling friends, anyway. Allez, allez.