November 10, 2017
Knowing the date of the next consultation with the oncologist, I rashly book a place on a cycle sportive in Norfolk. My feeling is that whatever he says, I’m going to do that ride. Every last mile.
We are making a weekend of it. Manda has booked us into a cheeky Mr and Mrs Smith hotel, and I am here at Fakenham Racecourse, the start and finish of the ride, nervously fixing my number to my handlebars. I am surrounded by hundreds of other riders, all shapes and sizes, most of them keen to get underway. Manda sees me off at the start line, and my timed group of 30 or so heads of down the track. Immediately we have a choice – turn right for the 45 mile course, turn left for the 73 mile course.
I turn left.
Groups of riders are set off about two minutes apart. My groups spreads out quickly, and within a couple of miles I am riding alone. The flash Harrys have leapt ahead, the more moderates are behind me. Pacing myself is difficult – with excitement and nerves I can easily increase pace unsustainably. I steady myself and ease off a little.
The north Norfolk countryside is rolling, open, big skies, and windy. The anticlockwise circuit is a large wobbly oval, the start at the southernmost tip. Gradually turning north I am buffeted by blustery wind coming over The Wash from the North Sea. I pass other cyclists who are struggling. Only twice over the course do I chat alongside other riders until our pace changes or we lose each other at feed stops. But I am happy in my own company, consciously trying to be in the moment, pedalling, breathing, appreciating the passing landscape, the sky, the light.
10 kilometres to the finish. The small orange sign makes me laugh out loud – I can do this. Hell, I’ve almost done it. 5 kilometres. I’m smiling all the way. I’ve managed to pace myself well, eaten all my energy bars, drunk all my bottles. There is the inflatable Finish line. Amanda is there and I feel a huge wave of relief and pride wash over me. I feel emotional as I write this. It is a big deal. I receive my finisher’s medal from a smiley marshal, and I feel like I’m being knighted. Ridiculous. But there it is.
I averaged exactly 16 miles and hour, and rode 73.18 miles in 4 hours and 46 minutes (do follow me on Strava if you fancy). I finished in the Silver category, only 6 minutes outside the Gold category. Should have gone faster!
A few days earlier, I am sitting with Amanda in the gloomily familiar consulting room at Mount Vernon, or Mount Vermin, as a friend’s spell-checker prefers. The young man who comes into the room is not my oncologist, but one of his registrars. A perfectly capable doctor, no doubt, just not mine. I feel disconcerted by his inevitable lack of familiarity with my cancer history. He introduces himself as Mo.
He does his best, clearly only just having read my notes. He tells us that I have 5 more lesions on my liver, one of them is 3 centimetres. There are two old ones that have calcified as a result of the previous chemo treatment, and are no longer a concern. He says that as I responded so well to the chemo I had before, I am to have another 3 sessions, starting at the end of November.
Despite having thought there would be some further growth of the cancer, I am still saddened to have the suspicion confirmed. Mo is optimistic, and we agree that the same chemo regime should have the same effect again and dramatically reduce or calcify the new tumours. When we speak to our Macmillan nurse a few days later, she says that people are having two or three chemo sessions a year to effectively manage their cancer. She says it’s the new normal.
I have strict words with myself. I remind myself that when All This started back in March, I was very poorly with chronic anaemia and a non-existent fitness level. I’m now fitter than I have been in years. I know I bang on about diet, but I’m convinced that has also made a difference. My bloods are all back to normal, or as we say now normal-normal, as opposed to new-normal levels, which are good for an ill person. It’s all about context.
So I’m good and ready for the next bout.
Seconds out. Round 2.
Bike images courtesy of SportivePhoto