Why I Ride: My Journey to Via
Deep down, I knew it wasn’t going to be good news. I’d seen it there, the weird freckle, a few months earlier. I’d even gone to see a doctor about it but he brushed me off, telling me “I’m not a dermatologist. You’ll have to make another appointment and see someone else.” Weeks went by before I went back to get it checked out. When I did, I could see in her eyes what the tests would tell me. Hearing the word “cancer” at the age of 25 was not an easy thing to come to terms with. It was a few days before my 26th birthday. To be honest, I stopped listening after a few minutes of medical jargon and pointing at diagrams. My brain just couldn’t take it in. I think it was Albert Einstein that said “Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving forward.” I would soon find out how very true that statement was.
Early 2000s – A Human ExperienceI was never super sporty at school. My sister and brother were natural athletes, while I was always more of a participator. I never really excelled at anything and never felt particularly in love with any sport or activity. I’ve started and quit more gym programs than I can count. Nothing active really seemed to excite me that much. My first experience with death was at the age of 19. I took a year out of university and had taken up jogging and some casual laps in our swimming pool, so I didn’t think anything of it when my lower back started to hurt. After a few days of feeling under the weather but pretending I was ok, I was in the car with my mother and her friend on our way to a concert (Robbie Williams if you must know!) and I fell really ill. I couldn’t move, I was nauseated. I started vomiting and couldn’t even keep Panadol down. My mother took me to the emergency room and the last thing I really remember is laying down on the floor of the emergency room. An untreated UTI had left me with pyelonephritis and peritonitis, progressing to septicemia (blood poisoning) and finally moving into septic shock. In the hospital, I was hooked up to a bunch of machines including a heart monitor which would start beeping if my resting heart rate went above 170 or below 50. Mine was routinely doing both. There was a moment when I felt it – a gentle pull. I could see my body from above the hospital bed. I could see my mother leaning over me. All I wanted to do was sleep. I can’t tell you what brought me back. Years later, someone once said to me “We’re not human beings. We’re spiritual beings having a human experience.” I know what I saw… and what I saw is that life is but one stop on a much longer journey.
2010 – Fairly Dark IndeedLike every other New Zealander, I moved over to Australia. Unlike many of my friends however, I had a secret: I was in an abusive relationship. It started out so slowly, I hardly noticed it. He was protective. I dismissed it as just caring about what I wore. He didn’t want other men to look at me. That was a good thing wasn’t it? Over time, things got worse. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere on my own. I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone without him in the room. I wasn’t allowed to make private phone calls. Eventually, I wasn’t even allowed a phone. I made every excuse conceivable. I didn’t want to believe I had become a person who let this happen to them. I didn’t want to believe things got this bad. I wasn’t this weak shell of a being, was I? I had always considered myself to be a pretty strong person and yet I couldn’t believe how much of myself I had lost. Where was my voice? Where were my standards? Where was my self-respect? My confidence?
Where was my independence?On a cold July night, with the help of a childhood friend I confided in, one bag and the clothes on my back, I got on a plane looking for a fresh start.
2011 – Never The Same AgainIt took time to build back a shred of confidence. My trust in people had been dashed and I couldn’t accept that life could be good. I was suspicious of anything going too smoothly and would routinely sabotage things because by that stage, failure and misery had become my good friends. In May 2011, life made sure I would never be the same again with the mother of all curve balls. In the same week as I met the love of my life, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was a scary time, full of uncertainty and fear. After 2 months of sitting around hospital waiting rooms with people 3 times my age, dozens of appointments, surgeries and guessing games, my love and my life were back on track. A few weeks later, as a way to inject some happiness back into my life, he bought me my first bike as a present: a Giant Via. At the time I didn’t know it, but this would be one of the single most important moments of my life. Even the name would act as a metaphor, mirroring my life. My journey. Via is a word we use to describe the route through which we get to a destination or sometimes the stopping points we take along the way. My Via would become my greatest teacher, reflecting everything I was, outside and inside, back at me. She would become my voice, my self-respect, my confidence, my voice.
She became my independence.