This post is written by my friend and work colleague Susie, a who has recently completed the Ride to Conquer Cancer – an absolutely amazing feat on its own, but especially gutsy considering Susie went through treatment for cancer two years ago.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, two years ago, I got on my bike and rode …. and rode. My mind was full and I was now a member of a club that I didn’t even want to join, so I rode to take my mind off it all! Eventually, my husband pointed out that I couldn’t ride 24 hours a day – the avoidance had to stop.
I’m a cyclist, (yes, one of those!) and I love it! I love the pain of grinding up a long steep hill and the thrill of speeding down the other side. I love the wind in my face and the endorphins flooding through my body after a gruelling ride. I love getting up early and seeing the sun rise …… actually, I don’t really like getting up early, but that endorphin fix will drive you to do some desperate things! And I especially love the people I ride with – a few gutsy girls and a considerable number of very likeable, crusty old MAMILs (middle-aged men in lycra).
As soon as possible after my mastectomy, I was back riding. Life was normal on the bike and I could pretend all the other stuff wasn’t happening. Even in my non-chemo weeks there was always someone to ride with me, no matter how slowly. The MAMILs joked, in their pragmatic way, about my ‘drug-enhanced’ cycling performance and whether my haematocrit levels would see me ‘kicked off the tour’. They turned a blind eye on the days when, in the rush to get out of the door, I couldn’t find my prosthesis and rode lop-sided….
……”Sorry I’m late, I couldn’t find my helmet/gloves/boob?” ….It certainly brought a new meaning to “I’ve got a flat.”
Even my bald head was not out-of-place amongst those formerly hirsute gentlemen. But there was always a helping hand on my back to push me up a hill when I needed it and an unspoken acknowledgement that thank God this wasn’t their wife/girlfriend/daughter. Cycling gave me such a positive boost –not only the exercise but the social interaction and the coffee-shop banter afterwards really kept me going.
When I was going through chemo, I saw an ad on TV for the Ride to Conquer Cancer – a 220km bike ride raising funds for cancer research. That became my goal. The bike and all that went with it had helped me through so much and this was the perfect way to acknowledge it. It took two years before I got there. The gutsy girls and the MAMILs saw me through further surgeries and trained with me on beautiful winter days and on dark, freezing, windy mornings.
The weekend of The Ride finally arrived and after months of drought…….it rained! We had ridden just 950 metres when I felt the rain trickling between my bum cheeks …….”only 109km to go ….. it’s going to be a long ride!” However, it’s incredibly motivating to ride with over 1,100 other people who are there for the same reason……riding for themselves, a friend or a loved one who have experienced cancer…….and what they all went through was much harder than this. We laughed off the wet weather and embraced the moment.
Cheering supporters stood in the rain to encourage us along the 110km route to our overnight camp where our tent accommodation came complete with running water …. luckily, not down my side of the tent! The party atmosphere continued with yoga and massage to ease the aching muscles, music, laughter and the collective celebration of raising $3.8 million for cancer research. The next day was fine and sunny, the mood was high and the ride was easy.
Arriving home that night with a bag of sodden gear and a filthy, gritty bike, I reflected on a journey of two years and 220km. Thank you to the gutsy girls and the MAMILs. Thank you to the bike……..I couldn’t have done it without you!