I continue to be staggered and overwhelmed by the messages, cards and letters that are coming our way. People who have absolutely no connection with me are taking up paper and pen or the electronic equivalent and writing some inspiring things. I have not been able to keep up with thanking them or replying but sometimes that has to be the nature of being a receiver.
There have been several surprising packages – the first containing two boxes of Twinings’ special infusions – one ‘settling’ Ginger and the other ‘reinvigorating’ Peppermint. The sender, a former curate in the Diocese now blessing one of our neighbouring Dioceses, knew that these were ideal for calming ‘chemo-stomach’! Fortunately I have had only one episode of sickness and that was 6 days into my treatment – sadly that is not the case for most people taking these drugs and for that I am extremely grateful. Instead I seem to get prolonged, and quite vigorous, hiccups in the early days after dosage! However, there are no guarantees that I will remain sickness free so I am keeping the infusions at the ready for when I sense the little struggle starting up in my innards (as I sometimes do).
The second surprising package I want to pick out was a red and white cycling top – the ‘King of the Mountains’ polka-dot jersey of the Tour de France, awarded to the cyclist who soars over those gruelling mountain passes, sometimes riding over 140 miles and 3-4 killer climbs 3 days in succession! The message with the jersey said this: “Thinking it might be an uphill struggle at the moment I saw this and thought of you – really looking forward to seeing you get over this climb so you can do the ‘End to End’ [John O’Groats to Land’s End] in style!” What a great message for someone like me.
As it happens I am a rubbish climber as my clubmates in the Swindon Road Club are well aware. There will be some interesting conversations when I go out with it on – especially as I am really only riding flat and undulating roads at the moment. In fact I am having some great conversations about faith and challenge (that is when the pace is not too quick for my chemo-lungs!) I find there are so many echoes of discipleship in the sport of road cycling and I will mention one – the role of the domestiques (or equipiers). Their role is purely to serve the leader of the team – to ride in front of him or her to protect the leader from the wind and preserve energy, to ferry bottles to and fro, to give away her own bike in case of a puncture, and to lead the ride up the mountains until he is totally spent.
When I first started riding I misjudged the level of the ‘Sunday ride’ and ended up on what was one of the toughest courses when I had only had 5 previous outings on my new bike. Foolish boy! But the group saw that I what I lacked in talent I tried to make up for in persistence and the ability to ‘suffer’ (another key word in road cycling) and some of them kept around me, pulled me up the hills (and there were a lot of them!) and gave encouragement. In my uphill ride to overcome Hodgkin Lymphoma I feel like I am surrounded by a huge Peloton of praying and cheering brothers and sisters in Christ and it is bringing tears to my eyes as I write this. I am now almost half way up the first part of this climb. Thank you all. Thanks be to God.