Reassessing Key Values in Life
As dedicated cyclists, we often get fully absorbed in racing and training and blinded to the importance of other values and it often takes an adverse situation to impel us to reflect on what is important in life. I am not trying to suggest that our dedication and commitment to our riding is without merit. On the contrary, it is a vehicle for our passion, a stage for personal success and failure, and an avenue to self-fulfilment. It fills our lives with purpose and excitement and injects us with joy, while surrounding us with friends sharing a common unifying bond.
Recently, I underwent a minor inguinal hernia repair, but I have fallen victim to a rare and unexpected complication that has snatched away my cycling obsession, at least in the short term, leaving me afraid and empty and grasping for meaning and an explanation as I have found myself tumbling into a personal abyss of despair.
After coming across a small hernia on the 11 April, I quickly made extensive enquiries with several surgeons and soon got a date for surgery, all on the public system, and I felt like the stars had aligned in my favour. Following the operation on the 4 May, and my release a day after surgery, I was surprised to find the surgeon had also removed a lymph node and, shortly after, I started to notice abnormal swelling in my groin and had further pain. Two weeks later, I had three aspirations to remove over 1300 ml of seroma fluid before my surgeon decided emergency surgery was needed, which was performed on 25 May. The hernia mesh was removed, fearing it may have been infected and causing the reaction, but the fluid continued to leak into a Bellovac drain, which had been inserted into the side of my abdomen. A blue dye, injected during this same operation failed to locate the source of the leak. Currently, two surgeons have concluded that I must remain in hospital until the body can repair itself, believing the lymphatic system has been disturbed by the removal of the lymph node during the original operation and, unfortunately for me, a major lymph duct has been severed. I have been told I have suffered a virtually unknown complication for this type of operation, far more common in cancer and other major surgeries.
During my current ordeal, I have been hurled along a rollercoaster of emotions with more downs than ups. Two days before my second operation, I found myself in a very dark place. In my mind, my life was over and I was mentally writing my will and distributing my assets to family, friends and those most deserving. This actually provided me with a degree of solace. I think I can be far too self-absorbed and I was now thinking about some of the great people around me, a fact I often take for granted. I now realise I must help these people much more in future.
Perhaps, no more than anywhere else, this compassion and generosity of spirit can be observed in hospital. Everyone there has problems and everyone is struggling to come to terms with their own particular situation. A bond is invariably formed in a shared suffering but the most noticeable aspect is the generosity and compassion that exists between patients. As a more long-term patient, I have seen a number of patients come and go. Friendships are quickly formed and stories of misfortune exchanged. For some reason, so many of the patients here have suffered complications or, like me, are returning for additional surgery. Without fail, each person I have met has shown concern and we help each other to the best of our ability, sometimes just with sympathy and advice or, at times, with more proactive assistance. My faith in human nature has been somewhat restored during my current sojourn.
Without doubt, the world can be a cruel beast but, no matter how bad life may feel, there is always others who have suffered, or are suffering more. The timeframe for my recovery is still unknown and, of course a full recovery cannot be guaranteed. But I still have hope, and hope is a powerful ally. Indeed, Lance Armstrong, amazed the top medical experts to recover from life-threatening testicular cancer that would have killed most people. He harnessed his, infamous pig-headedness, refusing to yield to death’s black touch and return to cycling’s top echelons. Furthermore, I now realise I have to step out of my egocentric world and remind myself that others are suffering far worse fates. All around us, people die in senseless acts of violence, in wars and in terrible accidents. Others are left handicapped or their livelihoods snatched from them. I will do well to remember this.
Life is a beautiful gift and we must all make the most of it in the short time we have in this world. On a planet soaked in the evils of hatred and corruption, it is so important that we try to make the best of the world by enriching the lives of those around us, be it our family, our friends, our work colleagues or a stranger in the street. Of course, it is naïve to believe this will change the world but it will make it a better place for those whose lives we can influence in our immediate spectrum of influence. I, for one, will be making these changes in my life and this will, at least, be a positive outcome to my current misfortune.