A Note from Fatty: Today’s the second day in the “My Proudest Moment on a Bike” series, guest-posted by readers. This post is from Michele Ringwood, who owns a business in Chicago and is finishing her MFA in Creative Writing. She is writing a book about her breast cancer experience called; “Breast Cancer; Wish I Knew”. This September she and Ken are biking across Italy. Ken’s training plan, “We’ll start with a smaller country and move up.”
My second chemo session was worse than the first session. I was allergic to the chemo drugs and went into anaphylactic shock. As alarms went off, Lori, the nurse I’d already nicknamed Chemo Queen, was joined by two more nurses. Those little clear plastic needle caps popped off walls and bounced on the floor. They couldn’t pump drugs into me fast enough, I gasped through an oxygen mask, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” My husband, Ken, stood beside my hospital bed, pulling his blond hair straight up, his eyes bugging out (and he hadn’t even had any drugs).
I knew it was bad, when afterward the oncologist called me into his office for an “extra visit”. He waltzed in, his usual distant coolness warmed a few degrees, his gray eyes actually touched me.
“I’m sorry. I hear you’ve been having some trouble with the chemo drugs. You know, we really weren’t trying to kill you.”
“You could have fooled me,” was the only thing I could think to say and I went home to bed.
A week later when I could get out of bed, I decided I had to get out of the house. I had to breathe some real air, even if it was January in Chicago. Ken hesitantly agreed to walk me around the block. For 45 minutes, I held onto his arm and I creeped. There was lots of time to talk. I told him I was afraid they had crossed a line. I mean, I know the whole point of chemo is that they are killing stuff, but I said I thought they had gone too far and were actually killing me. Then I started to get a little pissed. I told him if I lived through this next six months I wanted to bike a century. Yes, 100 miles on my bike in one day. And not in the distant future. This summer.
Maybe a century is not a big deal for a lot of you but my husband and I are casual bike riders (read slow). Both hovering 50 (I’m the one that is a LOT younger than 50, I’m 47), I had only been biking a few years. My idea of a big ride was 25 or 30 miles on the Chicago lakefront path. I love the second hour, when I find a long smooth rhythm and it feels like I am flying, the lake on one side and the city on the other.
One thing you have to know about my husband. He’s Swedish, so he doesn’t always tell you what is on his mind. Now, I’m Irish and if my mouth isn’t moving you, you know I’m mad at you. So when I said, I want to bike a century, he said what he said most of that year, “Whatever you want.”, “Yes, of course.”, “You want cake doughnuts, let me run to the store.”, “You need to go to another doctor, I’ll be right there to drive you.”, “You want to ride a 100 miles in a day, and it is taking you 45 minutes to walk around the block, we can make that work. I’ll set up a training plan.”
They changed my drugs and the rest of the chemo went uneventfully, not to say that it didn’t suck and I didn’t keep getting weaker and weaker. More surgery and June 12th, 2010, I got onto my bike for the first time since the summer of 2009, before breast cancer, a mastectomy and chemotherapy, reconstruction. The best that can be said is that I made the pedals go around. I groused at Ken to stop riding around me in circles. We went 7 miles and it took an hour. Recovery consisted of 45 horizontal minutes examining my living room carpet before I was strong enough to stand up and shower. Ken told me months later (after the century) that I was going so slowly he thought I might fall over.
We followed Ken’s plan. Longer rides. I got up to 11 miles an hour and thought I was a rock star. Then he added some intervals. And I got a trainer to help me build back muscle. Do you know how much muscle you lose sitting in a recliner for months watching the entire West Wing series and eating cake donuts?
The Apple Cider Century was September 26th, 2010. I was terrified of the last 25 miles. I shouldn’t have been. I should have been terrified of miles 50-75 when we were going north, onto the hilly section (ok, hilly for me) into a 15 mile an hour headwind. This fat cyclist and I kept rubber banding, I would pass him and he would pass me. (It wasn’t you Fatty. You’re much thinner and faster than this guy was.) At 65 miles there was a turn; go left and you finish in 10 miles. Go right, still into the ^%$& headwind, and you take a 25 mile loop for the 100 miles. I so wanted to turn left. Desperately. I made Ken stop. I got off my bike and looked at all the young, healthy people lounging on this rural corner laughing and joking about the cold wind. The van for the ride organizers sat there waiting to help people in trouble.
I got back on my bike. Eventually there was a tailwind. I love downhills and tailwinds.
I did the century. From bed in June to a 7 1/2 hour century in September, not too bad. That night, Ken said that when I told him on that walk that I wanted to do a century, he thought I had completely lost my mind. Perhaps.
By the way, the other thing I told him on that very same walk is when I’m 50, I want to bike across the United States. So he’s in the study right now, working on training plans. I’m working on being cancer free.