The Cancer Journals: Uneasy Rider

This week, Sheelagh tells us about her experience fulfilling a fantasy and opens up about how going through with it was her way of dealing with her illness.


Everyone has those little fantasies. Things they might have done, but for various reasons-usually sensible ones-didn’t. Mine was riding shotgun on a motorcycle.

This desire crept up on me as I lay confined to my hospital bed, recovering from surgery. I think it sprung to mind at that particular moment because my mobility was so restricted by post surgical discomfort and weakness.

So the idea of speed, unconstrained and unprotected by the metal of a car’s shell was very appealing. I promised myself that this was one fantasy I would fullfil.

Which is where the Yamaha Racing Bike (a.k.a. crotch rocket) came in. The bike was a bit racier than I had envisioned, but undeniably a motorcycle. Not knowing when another such offer might come my way, I jumped at this chance six weeks post surgery.

The Yamaha Racer claims it can accommodate two riders, but that is stretching the point somewhat. There is a minuscule seat for a passenger and staying on board means wrapping your arms snugly around the driver and gripping his lower torso with your thighs.

Despite my fantasy, the first zip around the block was terrifying. All the acceleration was beneath you (well, beneath your crotch) and the bike was amazingly fast to respond to any request for speed. I didn’t have the sense to keep my visor down, so bugs were quickly splattered on my stylish glasses and teeth. I felt so vulnerable without the cab of a car surrounding me. When we temporarily returned to home base I was freaked and determined not to complete the journey. I just couldn’t see myself out on the freeways on this ‘thing’. I had been mistaken. I was too scared to do this.

“So you’re not going to complete the ride?” my companion enquired.

I was so torn. The fear factor was really, really high at this point. I hesitated for a few moments feeling badly about giving up. Defeated by my own fears.

Then I shrugged and heard myself say “Oh why the hell not? I’ve already got cancer; what’s the worst that could happen?”

We mounted up again. Biker Guy warned me to lean with him into the curves and not fight the bike by pulling the other way. I was delighted to find this came naturally to me; it was rather like following the lead in a dance. Very shortly I came to appreciate that Biker Guy knew how to ride this bike and that I was in good hands.

The speed and freedom began to thrill me. When we accelerated now I closed my eyes for a second and then popped them open to find us flying down the freeway passing what looked to me now like stodgy old cars.

When we finally returned to home base and I struggled out of my full-face helmet, I realized three things: (1) My hair was a disaster, and (2) I couldn’t stop smiling. I think I smiled for a full 24 hours. It was the most alive I had felt since my diagnosis and surgery. (3) Next, I wanted to ride a Harley.

My psychologist explains to me that what I am doing is taking my fear of the cancer and turning that fear into something I can manage. I love it when she explains myself to me.

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