July 2019 – Post individual time trial race on Kew Blvd
Sharp stabbing pains are radiating from the bottom of stumpy – like a knife being poked with ferocious glee. Again, and again, and again. I am struggling to breath for air as hysterical sobbing, which goes hand in hand with copious amounts of mucus production, has been wracking my body as I crouch in the kitchen. The feeling of being alone and in pain. And not knowing how to make it better. Paralysis by fear and exhaustion. All capped off with 1970’s lino flooring to create the perfect ambiance.
You aren’t alone Han, you have so many beautiful friends and family who love and support you….
This too will pass….
[Scoffing of salted caramel vegan chocolate].
Slowly, recalibration returns. Breath by breath.
Apparently, I had some rather sever residual psychological/physiological pain from the broken ribs and trying to race – trying to push to hard, as per normal.
The Lead in to Worlds
I am highly aware that I had a ‘far from ideal’ preparation leading into the 2019 UCI Para Road Cycling World Championships. We kicked off with three broken ribs and a concussion during the World Cup trip to Europe in May. Believe me, laughter is not the best medicine in this case, and rib-eye (medium or rare) does not help with healing.
The month of June then kickstarted frustrating and continuous issues with the Stumpstinator (my missing bit or amputated congenital limb for those who are reading my blog for the first time). Skin break downs, stump infections, loss of circulation resulting in blue hues culminated in –
- Almost two weeks of not wearing my prosthetic leg
- Getting around on crutches and wheelchair, and,
- Pulling out of the World Cup in Canada and a training block in Italy that was scheduled for August.
The devastation of not having Italian gelato, riding in the sunshine was immense. Oh, and not racing was also tough too… With two weeks till we were due to fly out for the World Champs in the Netherlands, I was still unsure if I would actually make it onto the plane.
During this time, I feel completely blessed to have been supported by so many people. The team at Cycling Australia and Paralympics Australia – including Keren Faulkner, Warren McDonald, and David Betts, provided continuous reinforcement, such as – “Han, your health is first priority”, “we are here to help”, “you don’t need to rush”, “this will not impact Tokyo 2020 goals”. Combined with the VIS team of my coach Nick, Strength and Conditioning coach Ben Willey, Cycling Program manager Bill Tait, and check-ins from Harry Brennan, Mat, and many other VIS staff and athletes, I was able to slowly rebuild and get on that plane!
Critical support, treatment, and advice, from Jason Nichols, Natalie McColl, Michael Keshishian, Glenn Ewin, Tara Brayshaw, VICSES, and Jo Mitchell was received, perhaps not always with grace, sorry!! Being told to use a wheelchair and crutches for living life, so that you can prioritise cycling, was tough – and there were many tears of frustration with heavy doors, getting in and out of cars, not being able to carry things, or dropping all pieces of recycling on the way to the bin downstairs. Legs up to those that do this every day.
Biggest of legs up to Monique Van den Boom from Promotion Prosthetics for your never-ending patience and having faith that we will get there. Our combined frustration of not knowing what specifically caused all the skin break downs, loss of circulation, and pain, as well as hitting every barrier under the sun (I am encouraging Monique to write a book called “How we were stumped”), would have been enough to throw in the towel. At least a few bazzilion times.
The picture would not be complete without kudos to my friends and family – loved ones who helped, and are still helping me, brainstorm pathways to move forward. Who helped me move house and create a new home filled with love and laughter; my housemate Britt and I now have at least 30 meters of fairy lights in full operating after Operation De-Tangle-and-hang was successful.
Kudos to my friends and family who didn’t flinch when my tears and mucus found their way onto jumpers. Who gave me nurturing hugs filled with love and unconditional support. Who, despite their own battles, had enough energy to make me laugh, bring flowers, and make me chicken soup. Grazi Mille. Danke Val.
Thankfully I did manage to peel myself of the 1970’s lino in my old kitchen and get on the plane for the 2019 UCI World Championships. It took a village above and plus some. Plus some:
- Vegan chocolate and single malt whiskey
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Tai chi and qigong
- Healthy food and quality sleep
- Physical touch and affection
- Asking for help
- Routine and change
- You got this –
I am not seeking sympathy, or even empathy, from what I have written. Selfishly it has probably been cathartic. My desire rather is to illustrate that life is far from the happiology of social media and appearances – and this is okay. This is what life is. We are human beings – we can shine brightly and there will be times in our lives when shit hits the fan. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Let’s continue to accept our humanity, and ask for help when we need it. Recognise that it is wellbeing, not illbeing, which we need to focus on, nurture, and cultivate.
Admittedly, I have struggled to write this blog, and reflect back to an extremely painful time period in my life. And the leg sagas are still continuing to – joy. I have also struggled to write this blog because I have not completed the whole picture of the pain and suffering that has occurred, as it is not my story to tell. So perhaps remember to judge your fellow human being less, and apply the platinum rule – “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”
I am still carrying around the fear baggage of damaging my leg again, as I am highly aware of how critical the next few months of training will be. Breath work, support, compassion, doing less, and asking for help, are part of my game plan.
To find out how the World Championships and a race that was part of history panned out – continue reading in Part 2!
Until next time,
Ride with a Smile, Ride with a Purpose, Ride in the Moment,