Standing out of the saddle, I thrust my right foot into the peddle with as much force as I can muster as I turn the corner on another switchback. My quads are screaming, but the louder complaints are coming from my lungs. Two and a half miles into a three-mile ascent on Els Angels, a common training climb for Tour de France riders, a professional whizzes by me with minimal effort and I curse the chemo that stole 20% of my lung function. The thought of chemo takes attention away my grumbling body, and back to my upcoming scan. I realize it’s just one week from today. My mind begins to travel down a “what if” rabbit hole, but pivots to a memory of a phone call with my mom a year earlier.
I’m in the infusion room for a round of maintenance chemotherapy immediately following an appointment with my oncologist. Through tears of joy, I relay the news to my mother: I’m cancer free. I joke with her that this is probably the happiest anyone has ever been during an infusion. In the following weeks, she would plan a celebratory bike trip, a week cycling in northern Spain with her and my stepfather.
“Beeeeeeep,” I look down to see the Garmin on my bike telling me I’m 300 meters from the top, and I can’t help but grin ear to ear as a flood of relief washes over me. “I got this. I got this,” I keep repeating, unsure if I’m talking about the hill or my scan. With each passing meter, the burn in my legs succumbs to a more powerful feeling flooding my heart. Two hundred meters to go and it’s entirely overwhelming. For a split second, my mind wanders back to the scan, and at that moment, I jump out of the saddle again and crank with everything I have left.
Whatever happens a week from today, I know that there’s nothing that can take away this moment. This moment of redefining my body’s limits, this moment of spending quality time with my mother and stepfather. This is #OutLivingIt.
About the author: Jake AKA “Socks” is a lymphoma survivor and FD alum determined to use his experience to positively influence others. Through his work with Resilience Project, Jake is helping patients bring personality to treatment with custom socks. Patients design their own socks to wear throughout treatment and those same designs are sold to defray the patient’s medical costs. Recently, FD worked with Resilience to create an #OutLivingIt sock and proceeds benefit First Descents.
Update: scan was clear—more hills to climb!