I have never written about this, nor have I discussed it with many people. It is not that I am ashamed or embarrassed it’s just something I would rather forget and only remember as a distant memory. Juliet told me that she thought it would make for an interesting read, I was unsure and I suppose the real truth is; it scared the shit out of me so talking or writing about it can be difficult. It all began six years ago when I discovered a small lump on my testicle, it is one of those nightmare scenarios that you think will happen to someone else but not yourself.
So this post doesn’t have a lot to do with cycling, though it is an event that changed my life and it certainly took me off my bike for a few months. When I first discovered the horrid little lump I was working as a bicycle messenger; by this I don’t mean I rode around touching myself, I mean that was my career at the time. The first thought that popped into my head was ‘oh fuck’ then I thought oh well it might not be that bad it could be anything.
I went to the doctors and was informed it was probably a cyst as a result of riding my bike daily. I needed to be 100% sure so I asked for a second opinion and off to the hospital I went. I was hoping the doctor was right, after all he was a trained professional. I actually thought that it was more that a cyst, I don’t know why but I just had a feeling something wasn’t right.
To my despair I was informed by the specialist that I did in fact have a cancerous growth on my testicle. It’s not often I am short of words but this was one of the times, I honestly couldn’t talk. I felt sick and was in complete shock, this is something that happens to someone else..it was like a bad dream. After a couple of hours I had processed the news and began ringing around my family, I had been booked into surgery the next day which was a bonus for a few reasons; the sooner it was out the better my chances and it meant less time to think about it. Even now I get a lump in my throat when I write or think about it.
Then another thought popped into my head; I can’t ride my bike! I had to ring my controller and inform him of the news, it was so surreal. I rang up the office and couldn’t think of what to say; I was always a bit cheeky with days off but now I had a genuine excuse. So I simply said; ‘I’m sorry Kev, I can’t come in tomorrow or maybe for a while because I have cancer’. It’s these three words that still to this day haunt me; ‘I have cancer’, I mean what the fuck? Why me? Ok, I smoke; but apart form that I’m really healthy and the cancer I had was nothing to do with smoking, what a joke!
The whole debacle was over relatively quickly, I had the growth/lump removed and then had to wait until I had healed before I underwent a course of chemotherapy. This is where I fucked up a bit; I decided to go and ride my bike the day after my operation…stupid I know but I like bikes and they made me happy and I just needed to. Unfortunately or obviously I split my stitches which added an extra month to my healing time, so I was bed ridden for about six weeks in total; which sucked!
I was told that I had a very high chance of getting the all clear which made it a lot easier to process. The chemotherapy wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, you sit in a room with a bunch of other cancer patients hooked up to a drip pumping you full of this radioactive liquid. To be honest it was at this point I began to feel lucky, being surrounded by those in a worse condition than myself made me appreciate my situation. To my friends and family it was hard to explain, surely being lucky would mean not having cancer, but everything is in proportion and I was fit, healthy and was going to survive.
I think it was two weeks after having chemotherapy that I was back on the road as a messenger, I was advised to leave it six weeks as I had no immune system due to the chemo. Though I was bored and stubborn and needed to ride my bike…oh and make some money, so off to work I went. I was only working a few hours a day at this point, my body was just so weak from the chemo and everyday was extremely hard work. Every morning I felt like crying because I was so tired and angry that I wasn’t feeling any better. I changed the gearing on my bike because I’d become weak and I had to take it really easy as I burnt out quickly.
This went on for about six weeks then the ECMC in Eindhoven rolled along, I was not going to miss that! Maybe I could race maybe I couldn’t but one thing was certain; I was definitely going. So twelve weeks after being diagnosed with cancer I’d had my operation, chemotherapy and was off the the ECMC to drink, race and be merry. The main race was hard, I had to pull out otherwise I would not have survived the weekend. Though on the plus side I got to drink and hang out with awesome people. I even managed to place 10th (in Europe) in the goldsprints, not bad eh?!
As I write this I still feel that I was lucky to have such a fast recovery rate, whilst I ignored the doctors recommendations I simply did what my body allowed me to. As a cyclist I often push myself hard and I know my boundaries, I also know that I can push far beyond those; I think that this is testament to just that. When it comes up in conversation people are often surprised that I refer to having cancer like I had the flu, but it is all a state of mind and I’ll be damned if I am going to let anything stop me from riding. I was given the all clear last year after five years of constant tests and assessments and it felt great, I still consider myself lucky; cancer didn’t stop me and I beat that fucker hands down.
I am trying to think of some profound moral, kind of like the end of a He-Man episode but to be completely honest I can’t so all I will say is; thanks to my friends and family for the support and a special thanks to my parents for instilling the belief that you can achieve anything if you put you mind to it. Cancer is a pain, it’s a killer but this time I won so; fuck you cancer!