Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Biking Through Cancer, and Life
About a year ago, with the help of my wife, I got a nice bike for my 48th birthday. It was my first decent bicycle, a Gary Fisher Tiburon. It’s a hybrid, meaning that it’s not quite a mountain bike, nor is it a road bike. It’s ridden in a comfortable upright position, with plenty of springs and shocks to cushion the middle-aged rider. It’s the bicycle version of a Toyota RAV4. A little bit SUV, a little bit sedan. It’s beautiful, and I love it unashamedly.
I chose this particular model because I envisioned myself using it to commute the two easy miles to work. I do--sometimes. But the real joy, like so many of life’s pleasures, has been unexpected. It turns out that I do ride to work sometimes, and I do take my son on little outings; but the real mileage comes in the form of longer rides--one or two hours--along the many miles of irrigation canals that run through this metro area.
The canals, some of them started in the 19th century, follow ancient Hohokam Indian canals. Paved bike paths run along each side, diving beneath intersections in tunnels. Wide open spaces within an urban environment await the biker, calming the psyche and invigorating the spirit. It’s easy to forget that you are in the middle of a three million-plus metropolis.
I come across parents taking their kids for first-time bike rides, horseback riders roaming through vast, grassy flood-control fields, disc golf players, runners, people fishing for white amur and catfish from lawn chairs, and inevitably, the homeless. In one particular tunnel, early in the morning, I often see Reading Guy, who sits with a book in his little camp before departing for the day. The tableau of characters and landscape recalls the childhood classics by Lucy Boston, the Green Knowe books.
Prostate cancer, as a challenge and worry, has faded over the years, with consecutive undetectable PSA tests and clean exams (if you’re reading this blog for the first time, I was diagnosed at age 43, treated first by surgery and then with salvage radiation when my PSA rose). There are other issues now within my family in regards to health and well-being, and those, along with work pressures, and everyday anxieties are the reasons I get on my bike and ride miles from home.
As the miles pass, the worries diminish behind me. I stop to eat lunch beneath massive eucalyptus trees planted a hundred years ago by long-departed farmers. In the Green Knowe book, the trees were sometimes more than trees, and I think about this briefly as I sit back against their cool trunks. Then I relax and just exist in the moment.