Buy One, Get One Free

There’s something I’ve seen a lot on Social Media over the last couple of years that resonates with me today. It’s that stuff about the winners not being the strongest or the fastest, but being the ones who never give up. Today I’m living that message because I’ve crossed over from being the slow, strong guy who just kept going, into the reflective guy who realises that whilst a much sought opportunity may have passed him by, the comeback is now the real show in town. It is indeed about never giving up.

From being a 25,000 mile endurance test, LCFN is now a 2,500 mile sprint.

When you read this you will know that I thought I was on the threshold of a calendar year of 200 miles weeks. But when I set out two and a half years ago, that statistic was furthest from my mind: so in that regard it’s immaterial. I gave it my best shot, made 35 in a row in all weathers then crashed and wrecked my hand. Record over.

But if I needed a dose of reality, I got it when I read Lisa’s post about wee Kian on Facebook yesterday. It was only a month ago that Kian underwent surgery, dangerous surgery (I think we’re allowed to say that now) to remove the tumour that was threatening to take him away from his family. The surgeons got 92% of the tumour that day and the wee fighter that he is, Kian was up and about within 48 hours and home within days, as opposed to being in the High Dependency Unit as expected. Yesterday, Lisa and Steven got the scan results from the latest tests: zero tumour remaining. I have to say, I had to read it twice. Did I really read no tumour? I did. Human life is amazing.

That’s what this journey is really about.

Life is easy when everything is running in your favour. When your family has no significant stress to worry about, you can just go about your daily business and do stuff. Like normal stuff. Hanging out, eating out, just being out… until one day you can’t. Because cancer has taken over your life: not necessarily your life but someone in your family. Then your life has changed forever. Because cancer never goes away: not like that. The worry is that it’s always there, lurking in the background, waiting for your guard to drop: just for a second. Then wham, you’re back down to earth with a bang and you’ve to start the process all over again. Vanessa’s been there and she remains my all time never giving in to this thing heroine because she survived neuroblastoma. Twice.

The way I’d planned it, I was going to ride into the finish on a succession of easy days, running mileages lower than anything I’d seen in 18 months. Essentially it was going to be a bit of a doddle.

Then I crashed.

My dominant right hand has ligament damage to the thumb that means I can’t brace the thumb against the handlebars to change gear or to brake, without significant pain. And last night I realised, after about 8 hours of typing on keyboards on and off throughout the day, that the back of my good hand was swollen behind my ring finger. It took me all of five minutes to get my wedding ring off. I also removed the five neuroblastoma/Solving Kids Cancer wristbands as they were clearly masking issues down in the wrist too. Same fall, other hand, different injury. Leona, when you read this, can I say that it’s the first (and only) time that I haven’t worn Oscar’s wristband since you put it on my arm at the Sick Kids Hospital in Belfast. But I promise you that it will be re-instated once my left (good) wrist is as small as my right (bad) one. Work that one out. Good hand, bad hand but labelled only by the severity of the pain. Both impacted but in different ways.

So next week I’m on holiday. You know that wonderful feeling you get you put the out of office on, saying you’ll respond to emails on your return? That was me today. Yet I can’t wait to be back. I enjoy my work and I’m desperate to see if I’ll be well enough to be back on the bike a week on Monday. I’ll ride in pain, that’s not a problem. Because I know that with each passing day, the pain will become less, and if I’m really lucky it will be gone before I head to Belfast on 5th May. Now therein lies a challenge…

For every scheduled day that I’m off the bike [that’s yesterday and today for starters], it adds a mile a day to each of the remaining days. So for 42 a day as it stood when I left the house on Wednesday morning, it now reads 44. But that’s no big deal as long as I’m back on the road a week on Monday because that 44 was 45 at Christmas. I’m happy to work hard to get myself back to where I used to be. And then there are Fridays…

The significant thing about being so close to the finish (just over 50 days) is that under miles or over miles make a huge difference to the asking rate. Belfast on May 5th is fixed: that’s not changing. It’s only the workload that’ll set up the final leg that’s up for debate. I’ve got about eight Fridays left to claw back some of the shortfall, should there be any, and I’ve done enough 60 mile Fridays to bag me 150 miles extra if push comes to shove. And the nights are gonna be getting lighter. Two weeks today, I’ll be cycling home in daylight with no need for lights, except to make myself super visible on the Clunch Road down into Stewarton.

But I can’t leave this week without mentioning a photo that Angela and Gordon uploaded to Facebook last night. Angela took the LCFN flag out to Australia 15 months ago when she went to visit her son who says in Roxy Downs, about 7 hours drive from Adelaide. Now she and Gordon are back to visit and they’ve taken some time out to do some touristy stuff, which included catching up with JJ and Tara and some of the LCFN Adelaide crew. And they’ve got the Aussie flag (what I call the Vanessa flag). It’s coming home. But what they did yesterday blew me away. Totally. Like a pair of lovestruck kids (who’s to say they’re not?) they went down to the beach, carved “LCFN Australia” into the hard sand, with the ocean behind them, and got a picture. Then they uploaded it for the world to see. It made me so, so proud. In that moment, I came to realise that maybe LCFN has changed some lives after all. While I was laid up, it made the journey somehow seem worth it: really worth it.

It’s been a difficult week, and last night’s blog was a wee bonus because I found myself in the house an hour earlier than normal and when I realised I’d got an empty, I just thought I’d bash some keys. This is Friday: this is blog day: this is the tradition.

Except this week it’s Buy One, Get One Free.