That’s what the Doctor’s said last January. Oddly enough, the first thought that came to mind in the following moment was, ‘I’ve got my bike. Can I still ride my bike?’.
There was a spot on my left lung discovered the previous Summer, and the Doctors called for a biopsy of the spot. It came back negative. I felt it was the correct call, since I had absolutely no symptoms that would inidcate a lung problem, let alone the presence of cancer. I felt great! Then came a follow-up examination in January, and the x-ray didn’t lie. I had lung cancer.
Several tests are given me, one of which I blow into a tube and the mechanism tells how much ‘lung power’ I have. I thought I’d do well on the test, considering the thousands of miles I’ve cycled over the years, but I didn’t do well. My lung power test was dismal. After that, there were conferences with medical specialists. Meanwhile my cancer is class 2B, and growing larger.
There is another problem. The tests show an operation to remove the cancer would not be beneficial, in that I would not have enough lung power left to enjoy a decent quality of life. The Doctors said that after the operation, I’d be alive, but probably be towing an oxygen tank the rest of my life. So I decide to prepare for death. Then a thought zipped across my mind. I thought that ‘I’m getting oxygen from somewhere or I wouldn’t be able to ride my bike as I do’. How come?
I asked how much time I had wihout an operation. Six to eight months was the answer. I am feeling great. The day before this consultation, I rode my bike 53 miles. I said I wanted to think about it. I wanted to weigh a few happy months of life against a longer life of barely a life. My choice was the former.
My daughter found THAT unacceptable. She convinced me to do the operation, but I had a caveat: I told the doctors that, once inside me, if they found they couldn’t get the cancer out, or that I’d be on oxygen the rest of my life then they should kill me right then and there. Of course, that was unacceptable to them. So I ask for another test. It will be the test that determines if I live or if I die. Without a successful stress test there will no operation.
The Doctors select a test, where a patient is hooked up to all sorts of apparatus that measures oxygen, blood pressure, heart performance, and other functions under stress. What luck, I thought. My test was to be on a bicycle! On the day of the test, I show up in full cycling gear, and make a fuss over small adjustments on their bicycle and then I mount. There are a half-dozen people in the room watching. From their look I gathered they didn’t expect much from me. Then they said ‘go’ and I took off.
The people running the test tell me to hold the crank rpm between 50 and 70, but my normal rpm is about 85 and I went there right away. Over the course of the test I am churning out the watts of an athelete– and a much younger athlete than myself at that. When the test was finished, the doctors say there is no question about operating on me.
After the operation, in the recovery room, one of the first things the surgeon told me was, “You don’t need oxygen”. Two weeks after discharge from the hospital, I was back on my bike. Now, six months, later I’m riding my bike farther and faster on a lung and a half than I did before the operation with a full set.
I attribute my good fortune to my bicycles. They saved my life. The miles my bikes and I have travelled over the years created the means for surviving lung cancer, not only surviving but coming away from it all the better.
I have a general purpose road bike, with lights fore and aft, and wide tires to accomodate the occasional off road experience. I also have a pure race bike, with nothing on it that doesn’t function to increase speed. I love them both. I am convinced that without them I would not be here today.
Silly or not, I pat them every now and then and say “Thanks bike. I’m here because of you”.