The room was one I was very familiar with.. A mixture of magnolia and blue paint adorned the walls.. The hum and beep of machines and pumps counting down my time as a guest. In the centre was the standard NHS bed a place I would spend many hours in and around over the next few weeks.
So how was I going to cope with the isolation during yet another hospital stay ?
Well what I was going to do was use exercise to create a vibe of personal energy and positivity to what was a critical time in my life. The gym equipment was to be my bed , my chairs and most exciting of all the static bike that the staff had been kind enough to drag into the room before I was sealed in!
Only by transporting my mind set into my happy place was the next three weeks going to be possible.
So began a familiar pattern to the exercise regime.. Warm up with stretches and wall push ups .. sit ups and crunches on the chairs.. all jotted down in my training diary to monitor progress . Then onto the bike , starting off doing a solitary mile .. which took around an hour . Then collapse on the bed in an exhausted state, my body struggling to cope with the demands of a bone marrow transplant and exercise regime.
So work , rest , repeat became my survival mantra during the post treatment days.
After my recovery was deemed to be good enough for release I found myself back at home on the sofa, not watching daytime TV , but planning how I was going to achieve a ride on my bike of such a challenge that it would require all the strength I could muster up.
“Remember you can keep going long after you think you can’t “
I discovered cycling after a thirty year hiatus, when my wife bought in a copy of the American Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong’s book for me to read in hospital .
It charts his return from Cancer through to his legendary career as a pro cyclist. I was inspired by his words and story .. Excited at the prospect of a healthy recovery I decided cycling would help me on that journey too.
The first rides came as a shock as to how much work I would need to do . A maximum of half a mile , back home rest and recover for a couple of hours then repeat .. up to three times a day .
Slowly, very slowly my fitness began to improve.. eventually heading out of my local streets onto more and varied routes.. able to do ten or more miles in a single ride became normal . Riding out at least five times a week things began to take shape over the summer and autumn of 2017 ..
Christmas 2017 came and went in the usual blaze of turkey and tinsel..
I rode into the New Year with a hope and enthusiasm for the future .
February 2018 .. I was out in the Peak District enjoying a crisp but cold mornings ride , at a stop I checked my phone .. It was the hospital.. I needed to get in touch with them .
Relapse confirmed ..
A relapse of my condition is never a good thing , chances of getting well again is limited.
However this time I was offered the chance to do a revolutionary trial down at UCLH which might just save me.
The main difference second time round was I had become so much more focused and fitter to take on the rigours of the treatment. So going into a London Centre for a month was actually an opportunity to get fit and motivated to get back out and to achieve my Century cycling goal .
Armstrong is great for quotes , I had a quotes wall set up in my room , which I added to as things got tough, it really inspired me to survive in those days.
Back out on the road in September 2018 , my first ride was on a wet and cold Saturday morning, the rain was driving in , I was struggling to keep upright.. But I had an overwhelming sense of hope , hope for a bright future, hope on this the first day of the rest of my life.
At the time of writing I have been in remission for a year (31st July 2018 received treatment which started the remission)
How long that will last is uncertain, however as long as I keep those pedals turning I have no doubt it will be for a significant time . At the moment my next cycling goal is June 2020 to ride Lands End to John O’ Groats ..
24th March 2016 diagnosed with Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)
Treatment : Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy and Bone Marrow Transplant ( August 2016)
16th February 2018 Relapsed
Accepted on a Trial at UCLH