I won a bike race on the weekend, by over a minute.
It is a few days over 12 months since I was diagnosed with a severe heart issue and advised I would need open heart surgery to perform 4 bypasses around severe blockages in the arteries feeding my heart muscle – that is, I had to have quadruple bypass surgery.
I was not yet 50 years of age, although I was in my 50th year.
I was quite fit, by no means overweight and ate a reasonable diet. It was quite a shock.
I had passed out while cycling on election day in November 2007. I underwent heart tests and passed them all being cleared to resume normal life and the explanation given for passing out was (quite reasonably) dehydration. However when I passed out again while cycling 2 weeks later, it was obviously something more.
I then endured a few weeks of countless blood tests, x-rays, scans, etc and all came back clear. It was then back to the heart and a decision to perform an angiogram which revealed the problem.
I won’t go into the explanation as to why the previous heart tests had not revealed anything.
I spent quite some time in the cardiologist waiting rooms. I would look at all the other patients, over weight or elderly and think “why me? “and “what am I doing here?”
In order to have the surgeon I wanted and to go to the hospital I preferred, I had to wait 5 weeks. It was 5 weeks walking on egg shells but it also gave me time to learn more about the process I was to go through, the possible after effects and to understand post surgical processes and rehabilitation.
It also gave me time to make some decisions and set some objectives.
I borrowed some inspiration from Lance Armstrong and adopted his Livestrong theme for my journey. I also borrowed a phrase of his “You’ve gotta be strong and you’ve gotta to be brave” as my own and it was the last thing I recall saying to myself as the anesthetic was taking hold. “You’ve gotta be strong and you’ve gotta be brave.
I decided on a couple of things
I was going to do exactly what I was told and do it better than anyone else had ever done it.
I was going to play at least one game of hockey in the 2008 season
I was going to return to work after 6 weeks
I was going to ride my bike by week 4
I was going to relax.
I was going to race again in 2008
I cannot really judge number 1, but all others were achieved
The human body is a marvelous thing and its ability to heal and recover is extraordinary. The skills of our heart surgeons and their support staff are extraordinary and the professionals who care for heart patients in intensive care and then the heart wards are amazing are the post hospital rehabilitation staff.
I won a race on the weekend. I am simply very happy and thankful to be alive, let alone to be able to race my bike.