Pushing my limits… a trail to recovery

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I enjoy riding my mountain bike (MTB) when I can. It has always been a way for me to push my physically ability and skill level while having fun. I like the rush of speeding through the trees and catching some air from the jumps. Yes, there is the occasional crash or run into a tree, but you get back up and keep moving. Sometimes crashing is the only way to learn new skills.  It’s about knowing the line that separates what could cause a relatively minor injury versus a major one that puts my wellbeing at risk.  As my skills improved, the line moved as well.  That line has a new shape after cancer.

Just recently, I have been able to ride my bike on the trails again. Other than the obvious of not being able to push myself like I could before cancer, yet, I’m actually worried about falling.  That’s new territory for me. Normally taking a spill wouldn’t bother me so much, but now I can’t get the fear of crashing out of my head. It’s not the fear of breaking a bone or needing stitches, which does cross my mind from time to time. What I’m now worried most about is damaging my stoma and needing surgery to fix it. Going to the hospital for a serious, yet preventable, injury is not what I need.  However, I don’t want to let that stop me from doing something I enjoy on my journey to recovery.

You see, it goes beyond the love of riding my bike and being outside.  I love seeing how far I can push myself. The adrenaline rush I get pushes me to try something new.  I have become experienced enough that I typically don’t injure myself, but like any rider, I have had my fair share of spills along the way. Right now I don’t need those spills. With my new digs, a urostomy and a stoma, I have to constantly consider something that I’ve never thought about before.  I’ve never had to actively protect an exposed part of my body other than wearing a helmet.

Take yesterday for example. There is now a really nice wall ride on a section of the trail I was riding. If you are going fast enough you can get some air off the end. Normally, I would have stayed for about an hour jumping off that wall. Now, all I could think of was slicing my stoma open. That was mainly because of the tree I would need to bounce my rear tire off of to land the jump.  I attempted it once and crashed.  Thankfully, I lived with no visit to the E.R.

After that last MTB ride I had a huge smile on my face. I was able to push myself further than I did the time before. I also proved to myself that I can handle some of the obstacles, the easier ones. Nonetheless, I improved over the first time and it made me happy. BUT, as of right now, I still have to “take it easy” on my MTB. I’m my own worst patient when it comes to those words. I respect the fact that I’m still not back to normal when it comes to my MTB, or anything for that matter. What I can’t stand is the fear and frustration it puts in my head. The only way for me to overcome this is by riding or doing the things I need to get better at.

Even though I was worried about slicing my stoma open, I made myself go through with it anyway.  That’s how I want to live, but will I always be able to make myself push through the fear?  When does brushing aside fear cross into stupidity?  Holding back is something I have never had to do so I am struggling to find that balance.  When do I say, “go for it” versus “this really is a bad idea and my safety is at serious risk, not perceived risk?” Where I live there are good technical trails that aren’t that difficult. Mountain biking allows me to take out my frustration and work on my fears while pushing myself all at the same time. I just need to make sure I can handle the terrain I’m on before I go all out. I can live with that, for now.

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