Leaping A High Mental Hurdle
A few months ago, I was talking with my nephew on the phone about his recent bicycling adventures. Riding is big in my family. I told him that I was recently in my garage and was looking at my commuter bike. This is the bike I rode to and from work every day before I was diagnosed. It was on this bike that I started to feel unwell.
As I looked at my bike that sat in my garage doing nothing but collecting dust, I pondered getting rid of it. Setting it free to once again help someone feel free, with the wind in their hair. I told my nephew that I couldn’t even imagine riding it again. I said I was worried and afraid to get on the bike again. Years of steroids have weakened my bones and thinned my skin. Blood thinners made it so that with any little scratch I bleed and bleed. I was worried that I’d crash or get hit by a car and my brittle bones would break or I’d bleed and bruise to a dangerous level. Additionally, I was even concerned that just the act of riding itself might damage me.
My nephew’s response was to hold onto my bike, that I might get the itch to ride again. My wife heard our conversation and agreed that I might overcome these fears and ride again.
Getting back on the bike
Also around this time, my right foot was giving me pain. It’s a long-time injury that acts up now and again. Rest allows it to recover, meaning I’d temporarily have to shelve my long walks and hikes. For exercise, I began riding an exercycle that also sat dusty in my garage. I started with easy 30 minutes sessions. I felt my legs churning and my muscles smiling. I decided on one of these sessions, that I’d get back on the real bike soon enough.
I set a goal of getting on my bike and riding to my old office building to celebrate my ten-year cancerversary. Seemed very apropos. So on May 2nd, I dusted off my bike, pumped up the tires, lathered my neck and ears in sunscreen, and headed down the street on my bike. It’s a ten-mile ride to my old work. Some might say, it’s silly to make my first ride in several years be a 20-mile round trip. I told folks it’s flat and I’ll ride slowly. My wife tracked my ride on her phone and we had a couple of meet-up spots along the route. She was in her car.
As I approached the building, emotions built up in me. Unexpectedly, this was more momentous than I had expected. I also was unprepared for how great it felt to be on my bike. It was freeing. It was exhilarating. It got me over my fear. I kept my head on a swivel to avoid any potential dangers. I held on to the handlebars tightly. It was wonderful.
The mental hurdles of myeloma
My wife and I arrived at the building at the same time, with one glitch. The building was gone. What? It had recently been torn down. We had no idea this was happening. Nothing was there, other than an empty gravel-covered lot. But even that felt appropriate. I was still around and had outlasted the building. We did a photoshoot along the fence surrounding the area where the building had been. We then stopped for breakfast and my wife asked if I wanted a ride in her car to home. Nope. I needed to complete the journey. And I did. I was tired but fired up. I was alive and had fallen in love with my bike all over again.
I’ve ridden a couple of times since May 2nd and it’s been great each time. I’ve always felt like the mental challenge of myeloma is almost on par with the physical challenges. And for me, I had never considered certain mental hurdles that I’d be facing. For instance, I never thought I’d be afraid to get on my bike. But I did it and facing that fear has given me a giant mental boost. It’s almost as if my balky foot had sent a message to the rest of my body. I heard that message and filtered out the negative messages coming from my brain.
Finally, I must say that, for me, setting goals is hugely important as I continue to fight my blood cancer. Lately, I’ve been singularly focused on ten years and thus have no idea what to do for the next one, five, or ten years. I’ll come up with something.
Do you worry about relapse?