Wednesday, June 8, 2011

#17: Compete in a Bike Race

My whole life I found value in and built my self-esteem on my physical capabilities. After years of competitive swimming, I was never forced into a situation where my ability was limited. But after starting chemotherapy treatments, and enduring months functioning with only half of my lung capacity, what had become my life's priority - maintaining a healthy lifestyle through sport - was suddenly second after survival.

I couldn't breathe, so joining my Masters swim club was out of the question. My knees were constantly aching and stiff, so biking to work was simply not an option. I couldn't make it to the subway station and back on foot, so I drove to work.

And then finally, I couldn't make it to work anymore. I went from a half-marathon training body to that of a 65-year-old after one short chemo treatment.

But after I started my sick leave, I was able to put my energy to more fulfilling use. I remember one fall afternoon in particular, when the air was crispy cold, but the sun was fiery bright. My sick note was due at the government offices down the street, and the idea of standing on the bacteria-filled streetcar terrified me. So, I covered my bald head in a helmet and jumped on my bike.

I always knew how much I loved to ride my bike, but I never knew to appreciate my body's ability to perform the act. Feeling my feet firm on the pedals, my leg muscles pushing me forward with each revolution, and my strong hands tight around the handlebars made me genuinely happy to have even an ounce of my former physical ability. The best part was knowing it was only a matter of time before I would be completely back to my former self.

This past weekend, I "competed" in the Bike Ride for Heart, which closed off the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway to thousands of Toronto cyclists. It wasn't a race exactly, more of an opportunity for me and my bodyto showcase all that we're made for.

I have enjoyed my bike rides more than ever since finishing treatment. And to be completely honest, I'm taking it a little easier on the physical demands I put on my body these days.

Fortunately for both of us, we have the rest of my life to do all the half-marathons, Ironman triathlons and bike races my heart desires.

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