Rookie Derrick Perrin here. I’m starting my first season of riding long distances on a mountain bike packed with wilderness camping gear. I’m going to short list my reasons for having a passion for bike-packing and then write you out a few run-on sentences with a lot of spelling/grammar errors.
Reasons to ride ultra marathon wilderness mountain bike races:
- Watch Ride the Divide June 2014 and was excited to ride ultra races. Bought a bike 15 days later. Was diagnosed with cancer 2 months later.
- Riding for James, Label bike TOKC
- Figuring out what to do next – how is life post cancer work out?
- What money goes for – Awareness & education
- I have never set goals and now I am.
- What if I fail? Pick up the pieces and keep moving in a positive direction
The bike broke me, the bike fix me. That is the book theme here.
Overnight I had so much attention I felt like I was a rock-star. Only I was a rock star without a band and a tour bus and groupies, no only thing I had was cancer.
September 2014 I’m sitting in a hospital bed at MD Anderson and my charge nurse pops in the room with “Oh is this your first time for Chemotherapy?”
Yes, I’m a rookie. Quickly ideas of never wanting to be a veteran here at 1515 Holcomb lane arrive. This is the first of 5 days of my first round of Lymphoma treatments.
I was treated great, but I felt like a rookie. Growing up playing youth sports the feeling of rookie had come and gone several times. Those times if you screwed up or didn’t get it right people laughed or teased you, but as I sit in a hospital with cancer there were was no time to mess things up. I was out to get it right.
I was diagnosed with cancer towards the end of August 2014. The 12 months before my right hip had been giving me troubles. Time and time again I shrugged it off and took more over the counter painkillers. They did the job and kept the pain under control. After long days on the job I would have extra pain, but thought it was muscular or a structural issues. I never thought for once it was cancer. Well, I take that back. After looking up my symptoms on doctor diagnosis website I read it might be cancer. This was supported by a friend of mine who had recently passed. She was younger than me and ran into some hip pain. She was crazy active and the owner of a Zumba fitness studio. That is the equivalent of salsa – yoga dancing for the uninformed. So after a few years fight she passed and then my hip pain set in. It was easy to blow off the cancer concept due to the fact I’m 10 foot tall and bulletproof… I had been up to this point.
My entire life I had been active and this hip thing was hurting my activities. I went to my general doctor only to get a pill that worked worse than I what I was already on. I iced, foam rolled, had professional massage appointments, multiple trips to the chiropractor over weeks and weeks. I never seemed to get any better. Things did get worse. After long shooting days I would crawl to bed or use the dirty clothes bin as an ole-lady walker. It was painful, but I didn’t have cancer. I figured it was just a muscle issue because that is what the orthopedic specialist said it would probably be. He made a list from most likely to not very likely and cancer was not on that list. The items listed where:
- Torn Left Hip labrum
- Muscular tear or strain
Like I mentioned before, no where did my orthopedic doctor mention cancer. He did want me to get a MRI with a cortisone shot. I put it off thinking a torn labium was the problem and I could not schedule a surgery for months and there is no use looking at my inner bits without the opportunity for surgery. I continued my life of massage therapy to remove my knotted up muscles. I also quit running and started looking for a bicycle. I found one on my wife’s birthday in June 2014. I got on it and rode for double digit miles the first day. I was so excited I had an activity that didn’t piss off my hip. The freedom of getting on and losing the pain that came with walking was great.
Two months passed and my hip was no better and no worse. I had really enjoyed my time on the bike. It had been years since some asshole took mine and rode off into the sunset. That had to look fun being most folks around my parts don’t fit on a XL bicycle frame. Yes, I’m still working on that forgiveness thing. I don’t have it down quite yet. So I was out riding at night and I found a cool little ditch to practice shifting gears quick and pulling myself out of a hole. I was super cool up to the tipping point. I came up the side at a diagonal and missed a gear shift sending me toppling right. If it would have been my left side I would have just stuck out my leg and rolled back a bit, but it was my right side. My right hip was the injured hip and made it hard to throw one leg over my bike frame to get on. I was babying it and didn’t know it till I landed on my hip and crash, boom, bang there was a crap load of pain. I was lying at the bottom of a ditch with my beloved bike frame on top of me. There is some sort of metaphor there but I just don’t know what to read of it.
I made it 3 days before I dug up my MRI orders. It was 93 days passed the prescription date and I had to call the orthopedic office to reschedule. I was ready for answers but wasn’t sure about the cortisone shot. After weighing the options I went with it. It was August 21, 2015 when I walked into my local radiologist shop. The shot and scan were easy going. This MRI would be my first ride in the big doughnut, but not my last. I tried to scan the screen right after my MRI and see if I could see a labium tear or anything else. I saw nothing out of the ordinary and figured I would be feeling better once the shot kicked in. I was right, the next few days brought me relief that had been on vacation for a while.
The weekend came and went and on my hip started to feel better but not perfect. I really wanted my radiology report so I called and dropped by for a copy. I ran out to the car to see what my problem was. I read it twice before falling into tears. Right acetabular fracture and also a mass” we some of the first things I gathered from the notes. I then came across this little gem of life changing information, “ Given the patient’s age and appearance, differential considerations would be led with multiple myeloma/plasmacytoma, lymphoma or sarcoma.” Well crap Lymphoma is what Zumba Christina had and I had just attended funeral services for my friend James Ragan who lost his fight with osteosarcoma. I knew the hill I was facing was huge when I looked up myeloma/plasmacytoma and it pretty much told me to go write up my will.
The next 72 hours were a train wreck at best. Sleepless nights, blog post, my self imposed Facebook prohibition was lifted and the prayers began. We drove to Wimberley Texas to visit one of my new doctors and while we were there James Ragan’s mom called and let me know my ass needed to be at MD Anderson by 6:30 the next morning. So we stopped off at picked up some clothing and a toothbrush between San Marcos and Houston. We arrived around 4 and I found a nice place to sleep before labs opened. From that day on I learned that cancer had more to do with hurdles tossed in your way than with simply taking some medication that might kill you if the cancer didn’t get you first.
If it would not have been for the Ragan family and their involvement with MD Anderson I would not have been in their care so fast. There is a reason God put them in my life.
As I went thru chemo treatment I kept riding my bike. My oncologist and mom would talk about my safety and ability to ride a bike. He said it was okay for me to go and push as hard as I can. So that is what I want to do. I did a lot of research on what it took mentally and physically. I also read a lot of trail reports on what gear is must have and what can be left behind. I don’t mind being a rookie on a bike. I’m looking forward to it. I figure I have been in and out of a lot fighting cancer. My mentally is stronger at a cost of leaving my physical weaker.
I was receiving chemotherapy at the same time I was trying to heal my fractured hip bone. My doctor had one concern and that was for me to not die from lymphoma. He didn’t really care if I could walk right or how well my hip healed. All subsequent MRI scans show a star style bone reconstruction. I have stuck with my bike and with yoga as my 2 main rehab activities. The yoga keeps me limber, the bike keeps me sane.
Sure I would love to go out in the wilderness and disappear for a few days in the back country, but there are a lot of things that have to be done for that to happen.
In between, and during many of my chemotherapy rounds I would get on my bike and ride. You don’t get to think about much but the bike when you are on a ride. The brain is functioning on balance and direction when the lungs and muscles are trying to reach a happy medium of converting oxygen to carbon dioxide. Its really a great feeling to ride a bike.
This is the trailer for the film that first perked my love of bike packing. One day I would love to have the chance to ride the Tour Divide. Between now and then I would love to start off my rookie season by riding the AZT 300, CTR 500, and then come back the next year for the AZT750. That would be a hell of a rookie season.