10: Back in the Saddle Again
Update: It is a full two weeks after Cycle 2. Here’s the pattern – for now. For the first four to five days after infusion, you hate life (see April 26, 2020, “09: Sick” blog). Then your gut feels better. Kinda. Then, you wake up and you feel alive. This week, I tried something that I haven’t done since March 21st. Timmy is quiet. He’s not moving. Should I kick him? Yes – I shall.
“Happiness is an inside job. Don’t assign anyone else that much power over your life.” ~ someone
“Ride as much or as little, or as long or as short as you feel. But ride.” Eddy “The Cannibal” Merckx, 11 Grand Tour winner (5 Tour de France, 5 Giro d’Italia, 1 Vuelta a Espana)
It was only 6 miles and it took me a long time, but I was reminded of something I love to do: ride a bicycle.
My first two-wheeler was a “girls” bike (as if that matters). I had uncovered a rusty old thing with no tires – just rims – in our backyard shed and started riding it in the ditch - because we couldn't afford a bike at that time. A neighbor must have seen me and felt sorry for me, so he gave me his daughter’s old bike. I didn’t care: it was dark purple with glitter baked in, but I loved it. I tried jumping a ramp – which did not end well. No helmets back then, either. And since then, I’ve always had a bike in my life.
But it was 2005 when cycling became a more serious part of my life. I got a used 90’s era Giant Cadex from Dr. Warren McKelvy. I literally put a couple of thousand miles on that bike. I love cycling because it’s a pure blend of man and machine. It will give you no more than what you put into it – but you can always put more into it. It helped me lose weight, it helped me grow stronger, it introduced me to more friends, which introduced me to triathlon (which reminds me: I’m missing the Milkman again).
Then Timmy came along. The shock of lymphoma forced me to reset, so I set cycling aside – so I could concentrate on killing him.
But on Thursday April 30th, I got back in the saddle again.
Sure, I felt fat and bloated in my Lycra (Lycra tells no lies!). I got winded. I got tired. My legs got tired. At one point, I stopped at a stop sign and felt dizzy – but it was wonderful. It felt wonderful to put on my helmet, to clip in, and pedal. I didn’t know how much I’d be able to go – I needed to be careful because injury might complicate my chemotherapy. But I wanted to risk it. I had to. Walking is fine, but I can’t run (yet). And there are 1.5 weeks in between therapy that I can’t or don’t want to do much of anything.
But to feel the wind in your face. To click up the gearing. To ride familiar places and trace familiar ways. It was more therapeutic than I remembered, nor realized it's importance.
I am grateful for that neighbor who literally gave me the wheels to start my journey; to the McKelvy’s who let me buy Luke’s old bike; to Perry, Jim, Ed, Maurice, Bob, Mark, Robert, John, Carol … the “OG Roswell Bikers” – and the many friends that followed - that encouraged me and pushed me (sometimes literally). Getting all those miles in my legs, “building the base” of a strong cardiovascular system … they prepped me for today’s fight.
So, here I am. I’m back in the saddle, again. I’m on my bike, stoking the flames of my metabolism once again, so the engines of war against cancer can continue.
I was on a different bike, when I met a cyclist named Bill. In 2009, John Drusedum wanted to do the Livestrong Challenge in Austin, TX. Ironically, it was a “charity ride” meant to raise funds for cancer research. So, he recruited me, Lendell, Kenneth to join him. I chose to do the 90 mile ride and I was a little past the 45 mile point when a guy caught up with me and we chatted a little. Bill was a cancer survivor and he was riding for himself and others - and he only had one leg. “Yeah, I got bone cancer a few years ago, but I’m not going to let that stop me.” And not even trying to prove his point, he said, “Well, it’s nice to meet you – have a great ride!” and he pulled away. Now, it’s always humbling for a cyclist to watch another person pull away – but with one leg?! I was incredulously bewildered.
Bill: if you’re out there, I hope to meet you on another ride and have you kick my tail once more. Just know that, now, I’m in it for a different, but same reason. I know why you ride so hard.
Cancer – no, life – can steal a lot of things, but we can say: “I will never let you dominate my life, my attitude, my joy, or my goals. We will meet on the battlefield or the racecourse of my own choosing. You better come prepared; because I will be.”
Romans 8:31-32 - What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?