A Caregiver’s Story: The First Bike Ride

by Dave Cochran

It’s amazing how much dust can pile up on a bike while it’s waiting for you to get back on the road. Except for a few spins around the block, my bike has been waiting for over a year. A little over a year ago, my younger sister got the bad news: the pain in her shoulder was an aggressive form of cancer. Our plans for riding in Texas’ famous Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred were put on hold. Shortly after, those plans were completely scrapped. Nine months after beginning chemo, my little sister was checking into a hospice. Less than two weeks later, she was gone.

After her passing, it took me a lot of courage to get back on the bike again. I needed help recovering. Before my sister got sick, I only clicked on the “shop” tab when I visited the Livestrong website. It was always to pick up more yellow wristbands, a new bike helmet or a new bike jersey. But this time it was different. This time, I wasn’t clicking the shop tab. This time, I needed help.

These days, most guys won’t ask for help. We’re all about getting the job done, keeping the boss happy and paying the bills. I almost didn’t ask for help. But a cancer diagnosis either for you or for someone you care about is huge. Nothing in life can prepare you for the Pandora’s Box of emotions that come with the words “you have cancer.”

I don’t remember whether I filled out the online intake form or called Livestrong Cancer Navigation services, but I was relieved to be reaching out. Almost immediately after contacting a navigator, one of my first questions was, “what should I expect?” Turns out, they have it pretty well figured out.

At that time, I was easily distracted and not the happiest person to be around. It was the mental whiplash of watching a family member go from riding in 100-mile bike events to chemo to a hospice.

“Everyone is different,” said the experts at Livestrong. “But generally, this is what you’ll go through.” They provided me with emotional support, practical advice and strength.

After reaching out to Livestrong Cancer Navigation services, I decided it was time to get back on the bike. Tires pumped up? Check. Bike computer charged up? Sort of. Bike gloves? A little ratty, but check. Then it was time to slip on the yellow wristband — a symbol of strength and the memory of my sister’s fight.

The first few miles felt good. I seemed to be remembering where all the gears were. Even though the bike computer’s batteries were fried, the MapMyRide app on my phone was telling me that I was moving along at a good speed. I’d never had a bad day on the bike and today was no exception. Instead of my old training route, I headed down one of our town’s many bike paths. A few people were running, a few people were on bikes and it was still early enough to be pleasantly cool.

As I turned down a tree-lined lane, I saw more people out on bikes, and I wished my little sister was along for the ride. The familiar pain of a deep loss came flooding back. At this point, it had been 10 months. I thought, “Shouldn’t things hurt just a little bit less? Can’t I just take a short bike ride without tears coming to my eyes? Or just get through a day? When does it stop hurting?”

The truth is, it never really does stop hurting, but Livestrongcan give you the strength to carry on. The first ride was a good one. No bike ride will ever be the same, but thanks to Livestrong, I’m back on the bike.

Recovering is like riding your bike down a road you’ve never been down before. If you or a loved one is struggling with a cancer diagnosis, we can help. Please give us a call at 1.855.220.7777, or fill out our online intake form.

Originally published at endpoint89551e0f.chios.panth.io on November 8, 2014.

A Caregiver’s Story: The First Bike Ride was originally published in Livestrong Voices on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.