2020 was a shocker of a year. Heading into the early months of February and March I was feeling dialed and ready to rip the enduro scene. I was fully committed to training & improving my skills over the winter. This excitement quickly turned to disappointment as news of the pandemic broke out and it’s ramifications became clear:
Racing Is Off The Table Until Further Notice
As disappointed as I was that races were being cancelled, there was a silver lining. My life had been raging at a break neck speed and the lockdown forced me to slow down, value my time more and de-value external demands. I spent a lot more time with my immediate family.
Just When I Was Getting Comfy…
As I settled into enjoying the break from the pressures of racing, training, coaching, & volunteering, life hooked a sharp left and I found myself held hostage at my local hospital – confused, scared, isolated. This was mid May. Here in NJ we were still deep in the initial Covid peak and a hospital was not where I wanted to be.
Riding Isn’t Just Pushed Aside, It’s Not Even On The Table
I’ll keep this part brief, but if you’d like the long-winded version of this experience, you can read it here. I woke up in the middle of the night with a severe stomach ache. I was in the hospital for about a week, where they removed a large cancerous tumor along with a foot and half of intestines from my abdomen. My world shifted so fast and so hard I felt completely dislocated from the ‘me’ that’s always been, I was utterly disoriented, bouncing between exhaustion, rest, stress and utter intense focus to educate myself about gastrointestinal stromal tumors.
There was a lot of doctor appointments. Follow up scans. Bloodwork. Second and third opinions. There was a lot of worry. If you’d like to read more about my recovery and dealing with a cancer diagnosis, that’s here. There were hours and hours of discussions with family and friends hashing out every single detail of every document, every report and every appointment. Each doctor visit or call was its own roller coaster of emotion. Every time I thought I had things figured out, I’d be shocked by some new piece of information or new understanding.
The Slow Road Back to Two Wheels
I had 6 weeks of rest waiting for my intestines and abdominal muscles to heal. Unlike any other injury I’d had, the recovery was not a smooth path. Intestines’ are a fickle thing, and it’s not obvious what their status is. I came a hair’s breath from having another surgery.
I approached recovery like any other goal – clarify the big-picture, figure out the steps to get there, focus on 1 step at a time, celebrate small achievements & accept that this would be a lengthy journey.
I eased back into activity with my dog Odin. As the weeks went by I started seeing gains. I went from not being able to walk around my block without stopping to rest, to jogging 5 miles. I started hiking and eventually made my way back on the bike. I implemented a home physical therapy routine for my abs & incision scar and eventually got back between the tape, winning an enduro at Glen Park, before 2020 came to a close.
Along side this recovery I was dealing with an undercurrent of anxiety and the lingering side effects from the chemo drug I’ll be on for the next 3 years – but it’s all manageable. One thing I learned to do over the last 12 months is to take a day – when that emotional turmoil boils up to the surface – take a day – or 2. Take whatever is needed. And here’s the key – there’s no need to feel guilty about it.
Heading into 2021, I’m Keeping My Options Open
I don’t have many expectations for 2021. In terms of cycling, I’m going to continue to improve my fitness, strength & skills on the bike. I’m planning on doing some racing – just not nearly as much as I used to. I’ve got a lot of things on my bucket list and plans to tick them off sooner rather than later.
May 16 marks 1 year from my tumor surgery. Last week I had the ‘1 year CT scan’. There is no evidence of any disease. My bloodwork indicates that my liver is handling the imatinib rx without any issues and I’ve graduated from seemingly constant oncology visits to a 3 month period before my next appointment.
Although all of this brings a feeling of relief, it doesn’t fully quell that underlying layer of anxiety – I’m not sure anything will.