Slice of Chaotic Life

The daily life of a celibate middle-aged man.

Archive for March, 2012

Enviable illnesses

Posted by Itlandm on March 28, 2012

“I’d love to go out and exercise, but for my health I had better stay on the couch and eat snacks.”

I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds hilarious. It also happens to be true for me. How did I end up in Bizarro world? Let us, in true Bizarro style, start at the end.

I stepped on the bath scales today and found the dreaded number 85 staring back at me. Actually 85.8 kg (189 lbs) but that is still too close for comfort. The actual weight depends on how food I have in my digestive tract at the time, of course, as well as  fluctuations in the water balance of the body. There is always a margin of error. But as I have mentioned before (?), 85 kg is around the weight where my heart will start racing at high speed (sometimes even at max pulse) at more or less random times, although most commonly during or after I take walk. Around 86 kg I experience increasingly frequent palpitations, or so it feels. There is some kind of increasing randomness of the heart at least.

It is to try to find out these two things that I need a Holter monitor, a portable EKG basically, measuring the heart activity in real life activity rather than while lying on my back.  But I can’t get that for a while due to the way health care is rationed here in Norway. So there is no point in triggering these things in the meantime. There may or may not be a risk to having them – I am not a cardiologist, but judging from the Internet they are not regarded as good things exactly – and they are quite unpleasant. On the other hand, I want to be able to provoke them easily when the Holter monitor arrives, which won’t happen if I am too fat. Ideally I should stay around 87 kg, which is usually fat enough to not trigger any irregularities, but something I can easily get rid of in a few days of walking.

But evidently the fattening project has failed me. Yesterday I took a short walk again, just half an hour or so, but of course the commute includes approximately 30 minutes of walking interspersed at various points (10 minutes to work and 20 minutes back, in addition to the bus ride) and then there’s the 20 minutes I walked during the lunch break. So I guess it all adds up. There were definitely some weird feelings about the heartbeats during the afternoon walk yesterday. So I was not really surprised to see my weight had gone down again.

I can’t help but find this amusing. Because I get horribly sick if I eat fat, I have to eat large quantities of carbs and I still can’t gain weight unless I stay very, very quiet. If I hadn’t been sick, I would have struggled with ever increasing fat like most people my age, probably. I certainly was heavier before 2005, and these things usually only go one way. So now I have to eat as much as I can without getting sick, and stay indoors on a sunny evening when the jogging shoes are beckoning.

There are probably literally millions of people who wished they were in my place. Whining about not being able to get fat is like whining about not having enough to do at work. Which, incidentally, I haven’t. My boss is super happy with me and has recently decided to give our team less to do. ^_^ I could have taken more phones, but I conveniently also have an illness that restricts my speaking. And one that restricts my traveling. I am all set! Better living through chronic illness!

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Summer in March

Posted by Itlandm on March 25, 2012

I walked for about 40 minutes today again. No symptoms. So that is good. But my weight is still between 86 and 87 kg so theoretically I am still in the palpitation zone. It is probably not quite that simple. I wish I knew what triggered those episodes and what they were really doing. But as long as I have an excuse to be lazy and eat like a pig, I should not complain… ^_^

It was so warm, I had to take off my pullover. Even a mid-thickness shirt was warm enough. There are days in summer that don’t feel this warm, although I am sure some of it comes from being used to winter. We who live this far north do get used to the winter after some months, and of course we also get used to summer. So a temperature that feels hot in spring might feel quite chilly in autumn.

Of course, it is still March. In less than a week there may be a snowstorm. You never know. I notice that April and May are both common names for girls. Perhaps with continued climate change, March will be included too? I mean, if the requirement is being unpredictable… ^_^

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Marching on

Posted by Itlandm on March 24, 2012

As I said in my previous entry, I decided to not exercise unnecessarily, but continue to eat as much as I could. There seems to be a clear connection between my weight and the disturbances of the heart rate. Above approximately 87 kg, there are no disturbances at all. Between 86 and 87 there are palpitations. Once I start to see 85, there is a seemingly random risk of tachycardia (racing heart). So my plan is to stay above 87 kg until just before I’m seeing the doctor again.

Today, however, the weather was so nice that I decided to take a walk. Besides, it is Saturday. That means I am not going to work. My commute includes nearly a quarter of an hour walk each way, and every couple days I also take a walk in the lunch break to shop groceries. So half an hour of walking, I decided, would be just business as usual.

As it happens, I ended up walking for approximately 50 minutes, as I decided to take the long way back home. My pulse was ridiculously low when I started. It was as if I was just ambling around the kitchen rather than walking at a fairly good pace. This is typical when I have not taken any long walks for several days, unless I happen to have an infection. This is where it is tempting to start speeding up. That’s what I did last summer when I triggered a tachycardia so bad I had to be fetched in an ambulance. I ignored my low pulse this time, walking quickly but not pressing myself. The pulse increased to a more believable level after 35 minutes as usual. There was only little palpitation, and they did not appear in the evening either. So this was a triumph. I’m making a note here: Huge success! It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction. ^_^

The sun was shining, the weather was so  warm it could have been May instead of March, except the trees were still black. Or that is what I told myself as I was walking. When I came home, I looked at the outdoors thermometer, and it showed 11 degrees C (52 Fahrenheit). I guess I am still used to the winter!


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Let the fattening begin!

Posted by Itlandm on March 20, 2012

I was not shocked. I have lived in a Social Democratic country all my life. I know how socialized medicine works (and sometimes why not). So when the kind doctor at the Emergency Room yesterday wrote a letter for me to give to my regular doctor within the week, I was not really sure this was possible. I tried, though.

April 16 is the first opportunity to meet my doctor. Almost a month from now. And no doubt there will be some time before an actual Holter monitor (portable EKG) is available. Perhaps another month, who knows. Let us hope it doesn’t collide with the summer holiday. ^_^

I was still a bit nervous last night, as my pulse remained higher, although it went down a bit as I approached bedtime and went past that by an hour or so. Yes, I was a little shakable, I guess. I was not entirely sure I would wake up this morning. Of course, in principle we can never be, but sometimes I feel my mortality more strongly. But as you can see, I woke up this morning. Long may it last. Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!

But my pulse is back to normal speed, so that is good. It is still irregular, except when lying on my back (which I don’t do for a living, nor do I recommend that for others). Especially irregular after standing up or walking, but also just sitting there. Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, I can measure my pulse with my smartphone and the app “Instant Heart Rate”. Actually not instant, it takes 9 seconds from it detects the pulse by shining a bright light at my fingertip. During those seconds it draws a graph of the pulse on the screen, vaguely similar to an EKG. After 5-10 heartbeats there is typically a trough, making the graph look like a row of teeth where one has been pulled out and the gums have retreated somewhat in that place. This coincides with the sinking feeling I get when my heart skips a beat.

People can and do live to a ripe old age with occasional palpitations. It is something almost everyone experiences even without provocation, from time to time. There is a correlation between palpitations and fibrillation, but you cannot say that if you have palpitations so and so often, you will get a heart attack within so and so long time. It cannot be used to predict, only to warn that there is a higher risk than usual.

Omega-3 fatty acids supposedly help stabilize the heart rhythm, but not in proportion as you eat more and more of them. It is when you don’t have them at all that you will get the most benefit from adding them. I eat these fairly regularly, a capsule or two each workday.  (Cod liver oil, common and popular in Norway, might be cheaper; but I have very limited ability to digest fat, so have to eat very little of it at a time.)

Anyway, in my own experience the one thing that seems to trigger palpitations and later tachycardia (speeding heart) is losing weight. The irony is that losing weight is warmly recommended by the doctor who doesn’t have time to see me. And I’d love to exercise more myself – the long walks are quite pleasant. But from my experience, adding just a couple kilograms (5 pounds or perhaps even less) will completely erase palpitations. Certainly I have no memory of them between 2006 and last year, except for a short time in the winter the year before last. (This was after the extremely cold winter the first year in Riverview, and I lost some weight simply from shivering in the cold whenever I was outdoors or even some of the rooms.)  At the worst they can not have been a common feature, or I would have written about them.

So if I resist the temptation to take long walks, and still eat as if I did, I should be safe in a couple weeks – from the palpitations. It is not going to do wonders for my prediabetes, I suspect…

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Heart goes wild again

Posted by Itlandm on March 19, 2012

Palpitations from the morning, on my way home I could feel my heart speed up. It now varied from +30 to +50 above normal speed. (I just came home from work, and put the pulse watch on.) Temperature around 37.5C  (99.5F), the same that made the doctor diagnose influenza when I was in the emergency room a week and a half ago. Obviously I don’t have an influenza that comes and goes. That’s not how influenza works. So all we know is that I have SOMETHING, which makes my heart race and my temperature rise, but we don’t know what.

I called the ER again. They said I could come there in half an hour. But I had a pulse of 150 just standing up. I felt like I was going into shock here. I was not sure I could go that distance unless I got so much better I no longer needed to. Still, when the time approached, I trudged off. Interestingly, my pulse was only a little higher while walking than when standing or sitting. It seems the speed of my heart comes from something else than the muscles needing oxygen. But I don’t know what.

The wait was less this time, and the doctor spoke Norwegian.  She hooked me up to the EKG machine again. I was half sitting instead of lying flat, but the readings were pretty much exactly the same. When sitting normally or walking, my heart does double beats quite a lot today, and has done since the morning. That did not show on the EKG at all. But she could eliminate some dangerous conditions simply from the shape of the graph, which she pointed out for me. So as far as the heart was concerned, there was no need to do anything tonight. She still had no idea what it could be. Not influenza this time. She said it was not sepsis, she had seen patients with that and I did not look the part. (I agree. I mentioned it because of the tooth, mainly.) Besides it is not something that comes and goes. My blood pressure was higher this time, but again not dangerous. (I had been more worried that it would be too low, actually – I felt weak, as if I had somehow lost pressure.)

The ER doctor gave me printouts of both of the recordings (from today and 11 days ago) and a letter to my regular doctor. I could not remember his name, still can’t. So it’s been a while. ^_^ She advised me to call him tomorrow and try to get an appointment this week, for blood tests and to apply for a portable EKG to catch the arrhythmia while I am exercising. (Or just sitting, in today’s case.)

I am pretty sure it is not a mental thing, since I did not panic until after about half an hour. (Same as last time, more or less.) It is first when I continue getting worse and worse for a while that I feel fear. I am a bit ashamed for being afraid of death, but it really is something I think any mammal would feel when the body inches closer to shock.

I am still a bit shaken (and my pulse is still 90-100 instead of 60-70). I appreciate any prayers for my soul. Well, as long as they don’t imply me going to Valhalla or some such.

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Influenza is the new normal

Posted by Itlandm on March 16, 2012

I refer you to my visit to the emergency room a week and a day ago. The doctor concluded that it was the influenza which rages around here at this time of the year, even though I have certainly never heard of anyone having influenza symptoms like that, and even though I have had influenza many times and they never were anything like that. Still, the lady has quite a bit more education and practice with these things than I, so I did not entirely exclude the possibility that she might be right.

She was totally wrong, I think we can safely say by now. Unless influenza lasts for at least 8 days without getting better, worse, or different in any noticeable way.

That said, I have definitely changed in some way from before. I am just not sure whether I changed on that particular day, or earlier, or gradually.

For years and years, my temperature has followed a certain day rhythm: It started at 36C (96.8F) or a little lower in the morning. It increased gradually until around midnight, where it reached or slightly exceeded 37C (98.6F). Well, those days are over: Now it starts at 36 in the morning, rises to 37.2 or 37.3 after work, and falls back to 36.8 at bedtime. So the max temperature is almost the same or perhaps half a Fahrenheit more now, it just falls at another part of the day. What’s up with that?


I am definitely stiffer and more achy than I used to be in muscles and joints, and I was already unpleasantly stiff and achy as it was. I assumed this was due to old age. Generally I ignored it, and kept going about my life, including my exercise. The exception was biking, which caused unreasonably much stiffness and ache for so little exercise.

The last few days, I have taken half an hour’s walk after I came home. This fits nicely with the daylight, which now lasts for about that time. My pulse varies from day to day, but only one day (three days ago) was it so high that I decided to go home after barely ten minutes. It was not critical, but 20 beats above normal, so I decided to let my body do whatever it was doing in peace. The day after, the pulse was back to the lower range of what it was before. Next day, in the upper range of the normal. Today, I may well have set a new personal record in  low pulse compared to walking speed. That does not sound like influenza to me, either. I extended the trip to 50 minutes and toward the end got back to more normal pulse. Normal for me, that is.

Something is weird, but I know not what. I think we can write off influenza. The question is, will exercise heal me or kill me? It is all too clear that asking a doctor is utterly pointless. While they do have equipment I don’t, such as the EKG machine, they simply have no experience with treating mutants.  Or whatever I am. Why do I have the pulse of an athlete and the lung capacity of a smoking couch potato? Why do I have high blood sugar but low blood pressure? Why do I become violently ill from eating fat? Why am I usually ridiculously happy unless I have some acute illness at the moment? I don’t think doctors can answer things like that. They have to concentrate on the average person, and I am nothing like that.

Unless something exciting happens again (Light send it doesn’t), I will assume the “influenza” is the new normal, and go back to my 700 calories a day exercise habit. I may also ask my regular doctor whether I can get a prescription for blood sugar measuring equipment now that I have pre-diabetes. It seems a bit absurd to have to wait with checking one’s blood sugar until it is too late.


Finally (this is getting too long) I opened the box of fructose today. This hotly debated sugar is sweeter than ordinary sugar, has a low glycemic index (meaning it does not cause a spike in blood sugar) and is the only sugar that is converted efficiently into fat.  That may sound like a bad idea, but remember that I cannot eat fat except just a small taste without falling ill. I do not know whether the effects come from the fat in the bloodstream or in the digestive tract. If I gradually start taking more fructose, I should find out, since it is sugar while in my stomach but is slowly converted to fat in the liver. I habitually warn against fructose, for that exact reason. But fat is not my problem. Blood sugar is.

See, most type II diabetics are fat, to put it bluntly. In a few it is not visible, they contain it inwardly. But in my case, it seems likely that my pre-diabetes comes from eating large amounts of carbs, flooding the body with sugar faster than it can get used or stored. And I intend to continue that way, because eating fat makes me horribly sick. But if I can replace some of my other carbs with fructose, I may maintain my weight (and thus avoid constant hunger and reduced metabolism) but with lower blood sugar.


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This blog was hacked

Posted by Itlandm on March 14, 2012

Evidently WordPress blogs are pretty easy to hack if they are not updated constantly, so I assume that was the reason. There was no defacing, it was just loaded up with scripts that would try to infect visitors without sufficient defense and send them to some kind of Russian malware house or something. The fact that someone had logged in from the UK was not very heartening either.

I have deleted both of my blogs and tried to reinstall. With this one it seems to have succeeded. The fresh install should be as safe as these things get. That is not much, I think: There were nearly 8000 infected files, none of which were made by me. There is something just wrong about having thousands of non-content files for a trivial thing like a personal blog.

I do not know whether I will continue to use this blogging software or go back to the old format. Actually, I plan to do the following: Delete plugins and themes I am sure I don’t need. Mark it as auto-upgrade (Dreamhost, my webhost, has come through with flying colors in this case and I will definitely use their services). Then I will continue to use these blogs as before, Light willing. If it gets infected again after that, I will return to the hand-coded format. This takes more time so probably means less updates, though.

Now to try yet another re-install of the primary blog and hope I can recover the couple years of entries that lie there. If I could get this one back, it should be possible to also get the Chaos Node online.

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More flu (or whatever)

Posted by Itlandm on March 13, 2012

It feels kind of bizarre to be held prisoner by a “fever” of barely one degree Fahrenheit (or a little past half a degree Celsius). The truth is that if the doctor had not mentioned it, I would not have thought of it. For all I know I may have had this for a couple days before the sudden illness too. I would never have noticed. I am more stiff and sore than usual, but I am sometimes stiff and sore. I don’t normally measure my temperature unless I feel worse than I do now.

Yesterday I took a walk for half an hour or so. My pulse stayed comfortable the whole trip, rarely ever getting up to 110. But boy was I stiff and sore afterwards, as if I had walked for two hours carrying various stuff. So there really is something weird going on, whether it is a flu or not.

Today I went to work. There was a big upgrade this weekend and the boss’ boss wanted as many as possible in tech support from the morning. Since I was neither sneezing nor dripping, I assumed I could avoid infecting others if I cleaned my hands regularly with alcoholic disinfectant. This went well enough. But I still have that slightly higher temperature when I came home, I am still more stiff than usual, have a shade of a headache and now my nose is actually getting stuffy. If I get a head cold while I have the flu, I should probably stay home to not infect more people. Old people take that bus. I don’t want to hasten their demise! But for now I am just a little bit more human than usual. I could stay like this for the next 30 years and not complain, if there was only me to be concerned about.

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Flu? Really?

Posted by Itlandm on March 9, 2012

It certainly does not feel like influenza. My “fever” stops at 37.5, and apart from being a bit tired and stiff, I feel pretty normal. Had a very weak headache yesterday night and this morning, but barely any coughing or even a running nose. How this could cause me to almost go into shock yesterday is beyond my imagination. It may indeed be a flu, but if so it is one I have had before.  I stayed home from work just in case, and to not infect others. If it is influenza, others may not be immune to it and bad things could easily happen.

I honestly have no idea what really happened, and that is the worst part of it. Because this means I have no idea what will happen next. I am not really the type to live as if each day was my last. True, one of them will be. But only one.

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Emergency room!

Posted by Itlandm on March 8, 2012

Today I had one of my rare visits to the emergency room. It started while I was talking the walk after coming home from work. After around 10 minutes, I started feeling a “ring of pain” circling both my stomach and back when I breathed in deeply. Only then, but it was quite pronounced and unlike any pattern of pain I could remember from before. Well, I turned around and started going home, but on my way home my pulse began to increase. It had been low as usual when I started, but got higher and higher and soon approached max pulse, even though I was walking leisurely. When I stopped at the supermarket, it slowed down a bit, but still too high. I called the emergency number, and they put me in contact with the emergency room here in Mandal. At this point, my pulse was lower, although still above normal, so I said I would walk over there.

I did walk there, but my pulse was in the 150s or above much of the way, which cannot possibly be a good thing when I have a resting pulse of 50. By the time I arrived, I felt pretty bad. I was shaking, my hands were icy cold, and my pulse was still racing. I waited like this for a while.  Then I was let into a room and a nurse measured my blood pressure. This did not scare her, although I have no idea what the numbers meant. She took a small blood test to rule out sepsis, I think. It was fine too. This was good, I must admit that had been one of my worries. I still have that tooth abscess after all. If that emptied into the blood, bad things might happen.

After sitting for a while, I got worse again. Shaking intensified, pulse rose, despite sitting in my outer jacket with a quilt over me I was still cold. I was taken to another room where they took an EKG. This showed what I already knew, that the pulse was abnormally high, but they found no other irregularities in it. (For some reason, the palpitations only happen when my pulse is below 120. Thank goodness for that.) So my heart got a clean bill of health again. It is indeed a remarkable heart: Its resting pulse is lower and the max pulse is higher than for healthy men my age. When it doesn’t have one of its irregular days, it is the envy of the neighborhood.

The doctor was Danish. They understand Norwegian easily, since our Book Language is basically Danish with a Norwegian pronunciation. (It is a heritage from when Norway was a Danish province, up until 1814.) It is much harder for us to understand Danish. Those on the south coast have a much easier time with it, the dialect here is closer to Danish and there has been regular contact across the strait here for centuries and still is. But I had a hard time understanding her and sometimes had to shift to English. Ironically, their English pronunciation is only marginally worse than ours.

Every time we conversed, I began shaking. She thought this was because I was scared by the things we talked about, but it happened even when I did not understand her. The real explanation was probably that I could not meditate and understand Danish at the same time, and it was my meditation that kept the shivering at bay the rest of the time. I meditated continuously when not talking, although it was not a deep meditation due to the circumstances.

I was also getting a very slight fever, which increased a little eventually. Judging from this and the available data, the doctor decided it was probably the flu, which is raging around here right now. I have had the flu every few years but never had symptoms like these, but she claims it happens occasionally. Since I later got a faint headache, she may well be right.

I also asked them to measure my blood sugar. It was 7.1 mmol (the European unit of measurement, I believe it corresponds to 160 in the units of Differentland) which is well into the pre-diabetes range. That crushes my hypothesis that strange behavior of my heart comes from having lower glucose levels than it has grown accustomed to. (It was in normal human levels last summer when it last went to full speed.)

In any case, my survival several hours later implies that no internal organs have ruptured, and anything less should probably succumb to sleep, meditation and chicken soup. So I walked home when the original symptoms had disappeared. The ring of pain seems to be gone, the frost and shaking are gone, the pulse is down to about 30 beats above the normal, which is what one would expect from the body battling a virus. So I am cautiously optimistic.

I felt a bit guilty about going to the ER once I realized that it might be just the flu. But providence assuaged my guilt by letting me overhear another person contacting the ER after me. Their emergency was head lice, and they knew it. Your emergency may vary!

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