Some of you will know this feeling. You’re on the run leg in IRONMAN. You still have 20 kilometres left and your mind is entering a dark place. Everything hurts and you’re wondering how did I get here? You ask yourself questions like why am I doing this to myself – willingly. You wonder how on earth you’re going to run another 3 kilometres let alone another 20.
Through times like that you have to draw mental energy from somewhere. The mind is the thing that gets you to the finish line and the body always follows the mind. For me, I always draw from my cancer diagnosis.
I was 26 years old, married for 6 months when I sat across the table from a doctor who told me I had cancer. I could not believe it. I was young, fairly healthy and had been a cyclist my whole life. There are no ways I have cancer, I thought.
Up until the events leading up to that moment, I was never a sickly person but two years leading to the diagnosis, every month I had to deal with something. Vomiting, shingles, bronchitis etc. I never connected the dots that my immune system was under attack.
It was only until we were in Thailand, lying on the beach on Kho Phi Phi island with the most beautiful view when shortly afterwards I started vomiting blood. I knew something was seriously wrong. When I returned to South Africa, I still delayed going to see the doctor, then, I broke out in a rash from head to toe. I think that was my body’s way of telling me to get to the hospital.
My doctor sent me to have a CT scan. A junior radiologist was doing the scan. She left the room and returned with the senior radiologist. This can’t be good I thought to myself.
They suspected Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I spent a night in hospital when they cut out a lymph node from under my arm that had grown to the size of a gold ball. They tested it and it came back positive for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the immune system.
Six months of chemotherapy was scheduled. I hated two things about chemo:
- It takes away your freedom. The ability to plan anything for the next few weeks was impossible because you wouldn’t know if your body would be ready for the next round of chemo or if it was pushed back by a week.
- The smell of the chemo room. The moment I’d walk into it I would vomit before receiving any treatment. It just shows how strong the brain is. One time I went for a checkup and wasn’t scheduled to receive any treatment, but the moment I saw my nurse I had to run to the bathroom to vomit.
Six months of chemo didn’t work. I needed more. This time I was in hospital 4 times for 3 nights at a time followed by a stem cell transplant where I was in isolation in hospital for a month.
The cancer still wasn’t gone after that and I needed radiation. The two weeks of radiation over Christmas was ok except for three days when swallowing was extremely painful. After two years of treatment, the radiation finally did the trick.
While I was in my isolation room dealing with the fact that my freedom was taken away from me again, I made a promise to myself – Once I’m out of hospital, I will never take a single day for granted and live intentionally.
This is why, six years later, I’ve done IRONMAN, multiple 70.3’s, Trans Baviaans (230km MTB event), multiple 200km road cycling events and I am only getting started. I’ve built a dream business where I get to travel the world and work in my passion, cycling.
Health is a true gift and there is no freer feeling than the wind against your skin on a cycle or a run. Friends, family and work colleagues always ask how I can train so much. What they don’t understand is, training is not an addition to life. Living healthily is life. We LiveFit. That’s it.