The Long Road Back Part Four
Standing at the entrance to the hospital, I thought it comical what was happening in front of me. Everyone was having their temperature checked and issuance of masks, when the nurse asked the man in front of me if he was having any Covid symptoms.
“Well, if I am, aren’t I in the right place?”
A few minutes later I am in the waiting room of my assigned doctor. My wife drove, but she had to wait in the car. After a few minutes, an x-ray technician took some new pictures. I knew not to ask how they looked. In another room, my blood pressure was excellent. Great. Having not even looked at a scale in weeks and weeks, the check-in attendant, who had taken my pressure, had me step on the machine. I was afraid to look. I wanted to ask if I could strip down and get a true weight but decided against it. I stepped up. Fully dressed I was 145 pounds. What?! That brought a smile to my face and reminded me what my wife had said many times about the food she was forcing to eat . . . It is working as a healing agent, giving your body what it needs to do its job. The weight loss I was experiencing was from muscle atrophy, but like G. Thomas said in his latest book, “What does a cyclist need with biceps?”
Shown to another room, I was now waiting on the doctor. I tugged on my neck brace and tried to relax.
The night before, I had not slept very well. It was not the braces. It was my mind. Questions kept racing around. Tammy had talked me out of selling everything cycling and told me not to make an emotional decision. I knew I still loved it, but I was angry at my current situation and the idea of starting over. I was upset with a wasted “season,” as I know, truthfully, my best years are behind me, not in front (in relation to atheticism). It is not like I am a kid in my twenties who can just rehab and still be even better. I am 51 years old.
I read an article a couple of weeks back about Chris Froome’s horrific crash and how he looks at the injury. For him it was a bad timing too; then again when is it ever a good time for a crash. He is at the age of a professional cyclist’s peak or a maybe a smidgen on the backside. With this injury and rehab, it could place him in a position of never winning his fifth Tour and having to compete against younger opponents or even teammates who see an opening to be the team GC leader, as the Ineos train keeps chugging along. When Chris was able to get back on the bike, he made a statement that caught my attention. When asked about descending at high speeds again and the mindset thereof, Chris said that you must be 100% in or out. The middle ground is where you will find danger again with a tentative mind. It made me think. What would I do on my first real descent, if I ever get the chance?
The doctor walked in. She looked at a chart and greeted me while still staring down. I smiled, even though it was behind my mask.
“Well, how are feeling?” she said, looking up. “Looks like you’ve been in quite the accident.”
I took a deep breath. “Fine. I am just–”
“Oh, by the way, you can go ahead and lose those braces. Everything seems to be healing just like it is suppose to.”
They were off before she finished the sentence. I had to cut to the chase. “Do you think it is okay for me to start spinning a bit on my trainer at home?”
“Of course, just nothing crazy right now, not a lot pressure on the pedals that would cause your back to shift back and forth.” I guess she could tell I was smiling. “Is that what you wanted to hear?” She returned the smile.
“Yes, yes it is.” I took another deep breath. “How does this look in the future? Like, what if I happen to go down again? Should I–”
“No, no. You’ll be fine if you continue to stay on track with your healing and not go outside of where you need to be . . . Don’t do anything that is jarring to you, like a riding a boat or a four-wheeler. Don’t jog. Don’t do any significant twisting. Get lots of rest and eat healthy foods.”
I nodded furiously. She could have said that I had to eat dog poo twice a day, and I would have done it. “I know this is a ways off, but as far as going down again in a hard training session or a race–”
“If you continue to heal as well as you are now, it is the same thing as breaking a bone. When fully healed, it is actually stronger than before. Okay?”
I could feel my eyes getting wet. I looked down and whispered a thank you. It probably sounds ridiculous, but it was such a tremendous weight lifted from my chest. And with a quick she would see my in four weeks, she gave me a thumbs up and headed out the door. I wanted to jump up and Rocky shadow box around the room, but I refrained. I also knew that this was a false flat. If you have ever ridden mountains on a bicycle, you know what I mean. I was a point where the elevation had leveled off, but the climb was not over . . . but I was gaining on the breakaway and feeling a second wind.
When I walked out to the beautifully sunlit parking lot, carrying my braces, I think my wife was just as excited for me. Birds were singing louder. The air was cleaner. We hugged and sat there a minute, taking it in. She had been through an incredible amount of stress with this whole event, and I am so blessed to have such a wonderful person in my life. I could not live without her in my life. Of course it was not completely over, but we had both had a massive sense of relief. She took a picture for everyone who had been praying for me and sent it out to our sweet friends and family.
We made our way home. I felt like dog in the back seat that bounces from window to window. I looked left and right, every five seconds. I could even look up and down! We would be home in a few minutes, and my wife knew what I was thinking . . . yep, I needed to spin my legs and begin another stage of this journey. I had a mission to be even better by my next appointment.