Last week we had a new customer-Jonathan-in the shop who was looking for a new bike. A specific bike.
When anyone comes in the shop looking for a new bike, we usually have a conversation about what the bike is going to be used for-the purpose of it. Obviously, this helps us figure out which bike is right for the person in question. Every so often, though, there's a story behind the bike; a reason why the person is buying a bike at all, or why they're buying this particular bike. We've had several folks come in and tell us that the bike they're looking for is either a reward for having lost a tremendous amount of weight or a tool to help them move in that direction. We always feel lucky to be involved in those stories.
Jonathan's story was different. He's been sick.
Last December, he was diagnosed with a rare and particularly awful form of cancer. The diagnosis was severe enough that, initially, he assumed that he wouldn't see that Christmas. That he wouldn't see his first grandchild be born. He was sure that his life was over. As if that weren't bad enough, there was a good chance that even if he lived, he'd lose part of his vision and even possibly one of his eyes.
Luckily, he pulled through(more on that later), and, as you might have guessed, the bike was a part of his celebration of finishing his last round of chemotherapy and radiation. The story was amazing-every part of it was hard to believe-but a couple of parts of it stuck with me.
The first was his description of a few rides with friends. This was in May, and Jonathan had just learned that, after the first round of surgeries to remove tumors, the cancer was back. After having gotten that news, I imagine it would have been tempting to just curl up in a ball and succumb to grief or self-pity. But, for whatever reason, Jonathan decided to head out on the road and meet up with some friends. He said that ride saved him. That ride and the few that followed were the therapy he needed; a reminder of one of the things he loved most in life, and what he had to live for. He said that he'll be eternally grateful for those rides-rides that were just normal, weekday morning spins.
The second thing that he said was on a larger scale. He said that, after receiving his diagnosis, for a couple of days he prepared to die. He thought about how to tell his family, and started making arrangements. But, on that third day, he woke up and said, "Hang on a second. For the first 25 years of my life, I didn't take care of myself very well-I was the first one to the party and the last one to leave. But for the last thirty, I've been living well. I've been eating organically, running and riding my bike, and living in a very healthy way. I've been making deposits in the bank, so to speak. Now I'm ready to make a withdrawal".
And, as it turned out, those deposits mattered. When Jonathan's doctors found out the kind of shape he kept himself in, they were heartened. They decided that they could give him an especially aggressive form of chemotherapy, coupled with radiation- because they knew his body could handle it.
There was something else. On that third day after his diagnosis, Jonathan thought about all the running and riding he had done-all the marathons and centuries. Countless miles over thirty years. He realized that all of that training would stand him in good stead for what he was up against-and not just in a purely physical way. He had built a reserve ofresistance; he was well used to tolerating discomfort. "I was prepared to suffer", he said. "It seemed like all of it was just preparation for this moment. I was ready to dig deep". So he did. He dug deep into that reserve. And that's how he came to be in the shop. Alive and well, finished with chemotherapy, walking around and looking for a bike.
I've been thinking about his story since the moment he told it. To change his mindset from preparing to die to preparing to suffer...I can't help but think that that made a difference, somehow. And, luckily for Jonathan, suffering was a place he was used to.
If you're reading this, you probably have something in common with Jonathan. You spend the time out on the road, or the trails, or the pool. You do it because you love it, because it fulfills you in a very certain way. But you can also take heart in the knowledge that if you're ever faced with some larger challenge or trial, some life-sized obstacle, you've been unknowingly preparing for it. Like Jonathan was, you'll be ready to suffer. You'll be ready to dig deep.