I dreaded writing this post. I didn't want to do it, and so I've been putting it off for weeks now, but not writing about it doesn't make it less real. So here goes.
In June of 2014, I got sick. Like, ugly, ER sick. After several days of fighting it, I ended up spending the night in the ER with a fever that made my bones hurt and stabbing pains all through my belly. After blood tests, pee tests, an ultrasound, and a CT scan, they gave me antibiotics and sent me on my way to recuperate. When I made it to a specialist months later, they looked skeptically at me and told me to "come back if you end back up in the ER." Clearly, I was wasting his time.
A year passed, and nothing happened. I got on my bike and didn't look back.
Until I started to get tired. Like, really tired. I thought it was poor sleep catching up with me that made 60 miles seem like an eternity, but then the nausea came back. "Eh," I thought. "Everything makes you nauseous. Just chill out, get some rest, and carry on. You'll be fine."
Then came the belly stabs, the dangerously high fever, and the body pains. It was back, with a vengeance, and when the first doctor I saw sent me off with medication for an ulcer, I knew without needing further evidence that he should probably never have become a doctor. Also, that there was no way that this was an ulcer. By midnight, I was in the ER experiencing déjà vu, silently cursing the specialist who'd dismissed me so flippantly 15 months earlier.
Five days later, I was discharged from the hospital with antibiotics that make your ligaments brittle and the bleak prospect of spending the next two months off-bike (doctor's orders, because ligaments).
I began my trip knowing full well that there were myriad ways in which this trip could end. I knew, and I went anyway, because it was a dream that had lived only in my heart for far too long. Right from the start I told myself that if I had to stop, it would be alright. By now, I'd made it 3,000 miles already—I tried to convince myself that I should just be glad I'd had such a great ride.
But I'd tasted the freedom of the road, and I felt robbed. Every time someone wrote me to ask how things were going or when I'd be back, I'd feel my heart do a little twist and couldn't bring myself to respond. I still don't want to. Two weeks after I arrived back home, I ended back in the hospital again, with the same symptoms and a mystery illness that an additional week at UCSF couldn't solve.
And, through all of it, I just really wanted to be back on my bike. I still do.