January 2017 my husband was diagnosed with Stage IV terminal cancer. I’ll remember the moment of the diagnosis with crystal clarity for the rest of my life. The heavy silence in the room, the shockwave imploding in my chest, the way time seemed to stop and the thoughts I kept repeating to myself after hearing the diagnosis: This IS happening. There’s nowhere to run to, and nowhere to hide. Don’t freak out and make it about my own anguish, because it’s not about me. It’s about Pelle and how I can make this unbelievable situation the best possible experience for him.
We spent our fifteenth wedding anniversary at the hospital. Pelle had a radiotherapy appointment that day and it felt so wrong that we couldn’t escape his illness just one day to celebrate, for the last time, our commitment to each other. We spent more and more nights at the hospital as Pelle became weaker and weaker. I realized that I needed to find a way to alleviate the stress that was building up inside me if I was to make it through this emotional and physical marathon I didn’t sign up for.
I’ve always loved riding bicycles, motorcycles, anything with two wheels. I had tried spinning before at another studio in Hong Kong but the experience there had not impressed me enough to go back. It wasn’t what I was looking for. A friend told me about how pumped she felt after each class at XYZ, how no matter what mood she was in, without fail the music and the atmosphere in the Cave brought her to another level. I immediately signed up for my first class.
I can’t begin to express how much of an impact XYZ has had on my life since that day. In the darkness of the Cave, I felt safe to let go of my emotions and cry when I needed to. Then I’d have to pull myself together for the next sprint and after the cool down stretch, I’d leave the Cave ready to face whatever challenges the day would bring. Each ride was a metaphor for my life. Face the challenges head-on, give my honest best, keep my thoughts positive. Pushing myself on the bike gave me the strength and endurance to manage my life outside of the Cave as my husband’s condition deteriorated and my emotional resilience was put to the greatest test of my life. In the Cave, I could leave all of my frustration, anger, despair, and rage on the floor, literally, as the sweat flew off me during each ride. No matter what state I was emotionally in, I rode. Even on days when I’d have to avoid all eye contact because if I saw my fragility reflected back in the gaze of another person, I knew I’d lose it.
The compassion and support of the instructors, the camaraderie and friendship of my fellow riders, and the encouragement and smiles from all of the XYZ staff were incredibly healing for me during the final few months and afterwards, as I navigated the transition to my new status in life. They were reminders that life is both the darkness and the light, the joy and the pain, and most of all, it is about the connections we make with each other. In the words of spiritual leader and author Ram Dass, “We’re all just walking each other home”.