Monday, July 24, 2006

A New Groove

My new hero.

Floyd Landis, the winner of this year's Tour de France has osteonecrosis of the hip, the very same miserable little malady that's laid me low for all this time.

Before my operation, I was in Stage Two of the disease, meaning that the ball of my femur hadn't collapsed yet. Floyd's in Stage Four.

In Stage Two, for 24 hours a day it felt like somebody was slamming roofing nails into my hip with a nail gun. I can't even begin to conceive of the pain that Landis overcame, ignored, cycled through. He can't even take the anti-inflammatories I was on to reduce the agony.

A couple weeks ago, Commenter Mike linked to this IHT article about Landis' (to me) insane drivenness that prevented him from submitting to a hip replacement, to preserve his career as a professional cyclist. As I read it I cringed with a combination of sympathy and incredulity that someone would voluntarily endure the agony of osteonecrosis for something as trivial as the ability to push a bicycle faster than everybody else.

The article presents this horripilating picture:
Landis's most useful adaptation, however, came in the form of an idea. It was planted in his head by Kay, who, as fate would have it, suffered osteonecrosis of the shoulder from a college car accident and had gone on to complete six Ironman triathlons. Kay's idea was that it might be possible, through repetition, to wear a useful groove in the bone and cartilage of his damaged joint. "Floyd really liked the groove idea," Kay says. "He never wanted to look at the hip or any X-rays or even talk about the clinical part of things, but he kind of fixated on that idea."

Landis explains: "When the hip does something weird and it hurts, I always imagine that it's cutting a better path in the joint. [GAAAAAA! -- ed.] I'm probably fooling myself, but I may as well imagine something good is happening, since it definitely doesn't help to think that it's getting worse."...

Conversation eventually turned back to the groove theory, specifically to whether this groove might actually exist. Chao, a brisk and cheerful surgeon who trained at Harvard and Northwestern, smiled knowingly and reached for Landis's X-ray. As we leaned in, Chao pointed to a cloudy, half-moon-shaped blur on the rim of the femoral head, just beneath the pelvis. It was 1.5 centimeters long and a centimeter deep; it looked like a tiny pearlescent goblet.

"There's your groove," Chao said, tapping the film with a pen. "It's soft, and the pelvis is pushing down on it. It's a dent." Landis looked at the X-ray intently, faintly pleased at this revelation but distinctly unsurprised.

When I ask him about it later, Landis said: "It was good to see, but it also makes sense to me. There's a lot of friction, a lot of pressure. Logically, that pressure has to go somewhere."
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! My nuts want to creep up into my thoracic cavity, reading that. Landis is due for a new hip very shortly, and I sincerely hope it will relieve his agony. Whether he'll have a viable career as a world-class cyclist remains to be seen, but at least we won't be subjected to the idea of somebody obsessively compelled to exercise a new groove into his destroyed bone.

Pain will do that to you.

(Neddie Update: I walked all the way around the outside of the building in which I work this morning -- brisk, purposeful steps, no rests. Bare trace of a limp. Doesn't sound like much, but it proves to me, I'm damned nearly All the Way Back, baby! Where de wimmin at?)

(Later Edit: Aw, shit. He may have been hopped up. Thanks to Helmut for the heads-up.)


cope said...

Good to hear that you're mending so well.

As for Landis, another reason to appreciate the guy is what I saw about him dissing President Bush over at TPM the other day.

ckennedy said...

Very glad to hear you're marching around again. I had an old friend who had two hip replacements. Whenever she heard about anyone going in for the surgery she would go visit them — total strangers, most of them — and would tap dance around the room and tell them "It won't be long, hang in there."

As for Landis, God bless him, and Charles Barkley, and everyone else outside of the dimwitted 32%. Look at it this way — you could say you're having a lot of trouble with your hip but the 32% are having intractible deficiencies with their hearts and minds. Little surgical intervention for those conditions.

eRobin said...

Cope: I missed that. Thanks for posting about it. So no long rides with BushCo are in Landis' future. God bless him. I thought I loved him for pissing off Armstrong. Now I can add this to the list.

Mike said...

Glad you liked the article. I've been getting up at 4:30 in the blessed AM to watch le tour. There's a good article on Floyd's miracle ride last Thursday in the Mercury News. The single greatest one day ride in the history of the tour, and done with half of the ball of his femur gone.

Glad that you're on the mend. Pulling weeds ain't Col du Galibier, but at least you're not having a jour sans.

Kevin Wolf said...

Was it the New York Times that had the recent article on Landis, complete with X-Rays?

I guess ya gotta be crazy to begin with to be a world-class athlete.

Glad you're better, Ned.

David Harmon said...

A certain Dr. Flea says the guy's a bad example for the kiddies... My response is basically "Achilles' Choice"....

Mike said...

Was it the New York Times that had the recent article on Landis, complete with X-Rays?

The IHT is just repacked NYT and WaPo articles for overseas distribution (primarily to American businesspeople.) It's nice to be able to get baseball scores when you're based in yurp for a year or two.

Here's the article from the NYT site with pictures, but I don't know when it will go behind the paywall.

Tom said...

Good job on the recovery, Ned! I understand that the wimmin are in Northampton, Massachusetts, although quite a few of them may be immune to your studly attentions.

Bobby Lightfoot said...

Nice progress, man.

I've been trying to wear a new groove into my brain for 25 years. It's going swimmingly.

Tom- Northampton is indeed where th' wimmin are. The scary ones can fix your car like nobody's business.

R. Lightfoot VI, Northampton, MA

Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

Cycling's a scary sport -- people always taking blood for these doping tests, guys getting cancer of the balls all the time, men shaving their legs to improve wind resistance, races that last three weeks. It's all so weird to me.

Anyway, I'm giving the guy the benefit of the doubt for now on the doping. The man has enough problems as it is, one would think. Could he really be stupid enough to invite yet another major one into his life? I guess we'll see...

Tom said...

One of the claims made in Landis' Wikipedia article is that he has hypothyroidism, and that condition causes low levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), which binds with testosterone; therefore, the result might be a false positive. Could be true.