In February of 2019 I signed up to do a charity bike ride to raise money and awareness for young women and men with breast cancer. I figured that since the bike ride was in October I had lots of time to train, which I needed as I hadn’t really been on a bike since my own breast cancer diagnosis in 2017. The ride was 200 miles in 3 days…in New Jersey of all places.
2. What are some challenges you faced that elicited that change or that made you want to go for that goal? What barriers did you run into while pursuing your goal?
Doing this ride was important to me because all too often women and men (especially men) who are younger and diagnosed with breast cancer find themselves thrown into a world that does not have them in mind. There isn’t a lot of information for young women or men on being a parent and going through cancer treatment, young women facing breast cancer have different worries than women diagnosed in their 60s (should they save the breast to breast feed, what will treatment do to their fertility). The YSC does an incredible job of providing information and support for young women and men battling cancer.
While training for this ride I had to learn to ride a different kind of bike and how to ride “clipped in”. Thankfully the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center has some amazing spin bikes that have the same clips that my bike had so I was able to practice clipping in and out on a stationary bike which eliminated my fear of falling while I practiced. When I finally felt ready I was able to clip in and out of my pedals while riding without any fear.
Training for a 200 mile bike ride means spending quite a bit of time on your bike, just fitting in the hours was hard. On days with lots of miles scheduled I had to break it up. I would ride to work taking the longer route, ride home, and then take a long bike ride after work. I struggle with all or nothing thinking and so breaking it up was a way for me to fit it in and to conquer my thinking pattern.
All the time on the bike also made my body sore and I learned that swimming laps at the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center was incredible because it forced my body to move in a different way. I swam a mile a day during the most intense bike training just because it felt good and was a way to relax. This summer I realized that it is possible to do things like swim and play pickle ball because they are fun or because they feel good and not because they are exercise, this was a revelation after years of thinking of exercise as punishment for being overweight or for eating too much.
About 7 weeks before the big ride I did a long weekend of training rides. On Monday morning I called 911 on myself because I felt so awful and I was going to collapse. I had given myself some heat exhaustion and dehydration. The ER gave me IV fluids and told me not to exercise for a week.
The day I was allowed to ride again I took my dog for a walk before going to work. I tripped and fell, I landed really hard on my ribs. A few hours later and I was having difficulty breathing so I headed back to the ER to get checked out (thank goodness for the employee shuttle to St Mary’s). While I didn’t break anything I was in lots of pain and couldn’t bike ride or do any exercise for quite a while.
I ended up flying to New Jersey to do the bike ride, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go since I hadn’t been able to bike ride or even exercise in over 7 weeks, since it wasn’t a race I gave myself permission to ride the “hopper” van. The first day I rode 70 miles, Day 2 I rode over 64 miles. I might not have made it a 100 miles in one ride but I did 2 metric centuries back to back. The last day I did the 48 miles from Princeton to the shore. I rode over 181 miles in 3 days and didn’t use the hopper van.
3. What are some factors that helped you make that change or that helped you achieve your goal? List any specific services you used at the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center.
Last January I started doing the Pilates reformer classes to rehabilitate my body after the trauma of breast cancer treatment. Pilates gave me the confidence to try new things and to challenge my body in a safe environment. My instructors and classmates have been an incredible support system and have challenged me to keep going. Had I not been doing the Pilates I am not sure I would have signed up for the bike ride or have been able to do it.
One of my first phone calls after my first ER visit was to the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center to see if there was availability for a nutrition consult. I knew that these were offered but I hadn’t thought much about it. I did the consult because I needed to figure out how to meet my goal without making myself sick. In the consult I learned more about how much to eat when training and how to eat while riding my bike, and got tips for staying hydrated. Turns out when you are riding your bike hours and hours a day you need to eat while riding and to make sure that you are eating enough throughout the day. This was a major shift for me as I have spent my life dieting.
4. What would you tell or encourage someone with who is in your old shoes and doesn’t know where to start? Anything in particular that inspired you throughout your journey?
It is pretty cliché but just do it. Sign up for the class, the ride, the run. Give yourself time to train and just give yourself permission to do the best that you can do.
Yes it is crazy to sign up for a 200 mile 3 day bike ride in New Jersey…but that makes it even better. The fact that I had to fundraise to do the ride made my goal very public. I didn’t want to let people who had donated money to the cause to be let down. That really helped to keep me motivated.
When I first moved to Rochester I realized that I met people through the letter B (on the bus, at bowling and band, I work in the Bio Business Building) so breast cancer and biking are just 2 more Bs to make friends through. If I hadn’t done this ride I would not have met some amazing people both here in Rochester who helped me to train and the men and women I rode with in New Jersey.
5. How does the future look different than it did before?
When I signed up to do this ride I thought that I would do it for 2019 and never do it again. I am so looking forward to riding in 2020. I am now part of a huge group of men and women committed to riding and supporting breast cancer patients.