Riding Through Cancer...

In my previous posting today, I describe my new challenge with this damn heart of mine, that I try to keep big, open and happy... but my genes keep getting in the way. And in the posting I mention how important being in good physical health can be... especially when, invariably, we get sick. And I mention that in the past, I have posted regarding my challenges with oral/head and neck cancer.

I have also changed the goals of my life to reflect my aging and perhaps some wisdom that I can pass on regarding health, through my various physiological trials. I have decided to start writing a book about my cancer, using a bicycle trip I took in 2010 that started in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada... and ended in Austin, Texas, America in an expansive metaphor for the experience. This 4,500 kilometer trip was one I took with about forty other riders and many support folks... it took a couple of weeks, and was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was also the easiest thing I have ever done!

It was especially hard on the road, when I was thinking I was doing it alone... as sometimes would happen when I wasn't feeling good on any particular day, or even just part a few moments of the day. When you are climbing a hill, starting from a couple of thousand feet, to a pass that is around 8,000 feet, there are some moments that the riding gets really, really, really hard... and lonely. Even if you really like yourself, if all you are hearing is your own voice or heart pounding, it can play tough games with your psyche.

But then someone comes along and gives you some encouragement as they go past... or maybe they slow down to ride along side and with you... maybe even put their hand on your saddle and give you a little push. Sometimes when these things happened I would get a little rush of adrenaline, and the strength would return, and my cadence would come back... it happened several times. On at least one occasion, it didn't!

( Photo Credit is to http://www.panoramio.com/photo/43505561 )

I was on Douglas Pass... it is just as you approach Utah in the Northwest corner of Colorado... our Team Five had ridden fifty-five or so kilometers that day when we approached the base of the mountain... I started up the mountain with the other four riders on our team... I had climbed poorly for about a mile and I could feel cramps in practically every muscle in my body... I got the message! It was about the hardest thing I had done on the trip so far... I got off my bike. It was so steep I had a hard time dismounting, and I was so cramped, I couldn't lift my 15 pound bike into the support van that was right there with me. My God it hurt... I had soooo wanted to climb that Pass.

In the van, we followed the riders up the pass to over 8,000 feet and at the top there was a spectacular view. I got out, it was just above freezing, but I was now rested and I didn't have any pain. I swallowed hard as the teams (a second team had done the ascent with us) prepared to descend... the whole reason in my psyche, for climbing a mountain is the thrill of the descent. Just as they were about to start off, one of the riders yelled to me... "Bruce, where's your bike?"

As I pulled it out of the van, raced to put the front wheel back on, checked the pressures, the chain, and my clips, I couldn't help think I didn't deserve to descend on my bike... I hadn't climbed it...

We crossed the cattle grate at the pass pinnacle, and the descent was on... I aimed the bike, down... the tears in my eyes were streaming, my ears were hearing an ethereal scream of delight, and when I looked at my speedometer it was at over 75km. I was wheel-to-wheel with the guy who got me there (my surgeon Chad Robertson), including up several earlier difficult climbs, and I could see the grin on his face... or was that the up-hill wind we were screaming into... a long sweeping turn to slow us down, passed, and then down again... then we looked at 80km...weeeeeeeha!

I realized that so many other people have so much to do with our big moments in life... but in the past I had, too often, not understood what was happening around me... this time, I got it!

The road flattened out after about an eight mile descent and we got to see tomorrow's mountains on the right side of the support van as we pulled away from the end of our section for the day. We had changed in a parking lot, not bothering with the other cars in the lot, with nothing but smiles pasted on our cheeks, hearts still flying... Now, we were in Utah's mountains where between us and the hot pink sunset, there were some snow crystals off in the distance... making it magical... but not so much as the descent!

( Photo Credit to http://www.motorcyclecolorado.com/douglas_pass.htm )

So, I have decided to begin writing parts of the experience and post some of them here. In a way I want to see them in print, and share some of the experiences, maybe with the details of the ride profile, or the cancer oncology plans, or other questions that I had and have about how to get through challenges... I hope they will be useful, and perhaps allow covers to one day embody them in an useful way.

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