Good Friday 2018, Day 0 Christmas Eve 2020, Day 1,000
I live within the Driftless Area, a region of southwestern Wisconsin that also includes parts of Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. The region escaped the flattening effects of retreating glaciers during the last ice age and is characterized by steeply forested hills and deeply carved river valleys. For bicyclists, the Driftless Area offers riding routes with numerous scenic vistas, and hill climbs to challenge the best of riders. The region is more than enough for a middling rider like me!
Lodi Marsh State Natural Area – one of my favorite destinations
For my entire adult life – 40 years – I have pedaled these roads and been ceaselessly enamored with the landscape and changing seasons; winter dormancy, spring and summer greens, and golden glows of autumn. This has been especially true in the years since a lymphoma diagnosis. Indeed, the name of my blog – A few more miles – is both a literal reference to my cycling passion and a metaphor of life after a 2018 bone marrow transplant.
The transplant process, not unlike the gradual accumulation of miles on a bicycle, is characterized by a simple accounting, and enduring, of individual days: ‘Day 0’ for transplant day (my new ‘birthday’), followed by ‘Day 1’, ‘Day 2’, and so on. By the happenstance of health complications that postponed the start, ‘Day 0’ occurred on Good Friday, marked by Christians as a day of the gospel’s good news anticipating the joy of Easter. Despite my weakness and mental fogginess at the time, I was pleased by the coincidence, as it, much like the sadness of Good Friday itself, struck me as an omen and made me eager in anticipation of better health ahead.
As recovery days slowly passed in the hospital, and upon discharge on ‘Day 14’ through the days, weeks, and months of home recuperation, I inevitably lost track of the daily count. Instead, as time blurred, I attempted to be mindful only of the here and now. Beginning with my first post-transplant ride, I focused on individual pedal strokes, and gained strength by simply riding “a few more miles”. This allowed me not to dwell on profound weakness and lack of stamina, but rather to recover on terms that my body allowed. To think otherwise was simply overwhelming. I like to think of the lows and highs of disease itself as being analogous to the characteristics of each ride, and the early ones in particular: steep hills to climb and headwinds to overcome, of course, though also exhilarating descents and happy occasions with winds at my back.
Recently, out of curiosity more than anything else, I tallied the days and was pleasantly surprised that ‘Day 1,000’ will occur on Christmas Eve. I consider this a nice symmetry and fitting coda to the long and difficult process that started on a Good Friday!
In this season of Thanksgiving, in the year of COVID-19, I am grateful for the figurative and literal downhill descents and tailwinds. They help steel my resolve for inevitable hills and headwinds awaiting, not just on the bike but in life itself. As of this writing, 8,950 miles over the course of 400 rides have accumulated within these 1,000 days; numbers that seemed far beyond reach when struggling to pedal even the shortest distances.
I look forward to the days ahead, with hopes of many more rides. Of course, I do not know what the next 1,000 days will bring or, as is true for all of us, if there will even be another 1,000 days. This I do know – I will count each day as a blessing and continue to ride “a few more miles”.