Steve’s Blog – Aug 9 – weighty thoughts on a long ride – Sault St Marie to Blind River

What we are doing is very hard – tiring and taxing. Why did I agree to do this? I pondered that exact question today.  

Today was a tough riding day – 154km so and 750m vertical – but 30% (45km) on rough gravel roads, and a very late start due to a CTV interview. On top of that, despite very comfortable accommodations, sleep came slowly.   Why am I starting with these defensive statistics? To explain that I was tired, and I used some of that extra riding time to think through some weighty and uncomfortable subjects. Skip this post if you’re not in the mood.

A friend told me that he had an upsetting medical prognosis: he would die from his ailment within 2-3 years. His ailment was not PD, although that was the original mistaken diagnosis. I was dumbstruck. He was surrounded by loving family and friends, and didn’t need more emotional support. Instead, he asked me to be a friend that he could go to for opinions on practical matters – like a lawyer or doctor. I agreed. He was wondering why bother with the agony and humiliation of a painful demise. I gave this a few day’s thought, and responded with this: you still have an important role – to show your children how to face adversity – even the worst imaginable – with dignity and courage. He liked that.

I think about that conversation often, and just realized that since that time, I have been trying to give myself this same advice. I can’t change my prognosis and long-term I can’t escape the symptoms. But I can manage my attitude about how I will deal with my own adversity. I want to fight for my health, and I want others to join me in the fight for theirs. 

I enlisted with a team that had an audacious plan – almost impossible – and then worked very hard to prepare. It is working. I feel stronger and countless others have been inspired to reconsider the path that they are on and fight for something better – whatever that means to them. 

I want my boys to see me do this and to bake in their bones how to handle adversity, so they will know exactly what to do.

I miss my friend, and think of him from time to time. I think that he would have thought this cycling plan was crazy, but that he would have laughed and said to go ahead   without it anyway, with dignity and courage.

8 Responses

  1. Tough day physically and emotionally for you, Steve. You certainly are setting the example for facing adversity! ‘Bon courage!’

  2. Ups and downs on long trips. The only constant and touch stone is the routine and the bike. Just keep the legs moving as slowly or as quickly as they dictate, stop and rest as often as feels right and the thoughts and emotions continue to flow through the legs, lungs, heart and brain. The holy mantra is keep on keeping on. Northern Ontario is bleak sometimes. I’ve traversed it twice by bike and the darkness is there, the road is tough, the hills and forest constant but by the time you’re there, your body just keeps going.

  3. It is certainly part of the experience of a ride like the one that you are now on to reflect upon some of the ‘big questions’. I remember going through the same process. Sometimes, on a long uphill climb, I would think of friends who had passed on and would imagine that somehow they were responsible for the sudden tail wind that helped me along. I would think even more about the young family that I had waiting for me at home and my legs would hasten towards them even after hundreds of kilometers of riding. Take it all in, as I’m sure you are. I look forward to hearing the firsthand accounts of all of your experiences. Be well and safe journeys to you all, my friends.

  4. I like how you helped your friend (and us readers) how to re-frame their situation, taking back some power over how they respond to this difficult situation. Most inspiring! Keep up your good work.

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Why We Are Doing it

You have probably heard of Parkinson’s Disease. You may even know people who suffer from it.  Get used to it, as Parkinson’s Disease is the world’s fastest growing neurological condition, set to double in number by 2040.

Parkinson’s Disease occurs when the brain’s dopamine-producing cells die prematurely. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter necessary for many functions of the brain and body, including muscular control, and its loss affects all forms of movement and balance, as well as non-motor functions such as memory, concentration and motivation.  Think of dopamine as the electricity in an electric car: without it, the lights dim and the wheels stop spinning.

There is currently no cure, no bio-markers to aid detection, and little is known about how it is triggered, except that Canadians are disproportionately afflicted

Most people living with Parkinson’s reduce or even discontinue regular intensive physical activity after their Parkinson’s diagnosis.  Why?  Their actual skills and abilities do not suddenly evaporate on the date of their diagnosis, though their mental fortitude often does.  As a result, many abandon the very restorative health practices, such as regular exercise, when they are needed the most.  For people with Parkinson’s, intensive exercise can boost energy, sharpen the mind, elevate spirits and keep the body mobile.  Studies indicate that intense exercise can help train the Parkinson’s afflicted brain to use dopamine more efficiently and be able to do more with less.

Let’s use the dopamine we have to build the lives we want.

What are We Doing

Canada is a big country.  It is home to over 100,000 people living with Parkinson’s disease, 9 in 10 of which suffer in silence, isolation, or without the support of a knowledgeable organization or community.  Starting in June 2022, we aim to cross our big country by bicycle to meet as many of these people as possible to personally deliver this message: get moving to stay moving.  

We start In Victoria, British Columbia and ride east through every Canadian province, and hundreds of cities and towns along the way.  Our route is approximately 8,000 km, and we expect to average 125 km a day, six days a week for approximately three months.  Our Spinning Wheels Tour team will include two riders with Parkinson’s Disease, as well as two ride-along supporters to keep things moving.  Along the way, we will be meeting with people whose lives are touched by Parkinson’s, and encourage them to get moving with us, get engaged in support communities, and to set up their own group athletics.

We are not athletes, just people with the resolve to do what it takes to live well with this disease, and to encourage others..  

Along the way, we hope to hear these words, “If they can do it, I can too.”