We are blessed to live in a society and a part of the world where we experience a level of freedom and prosperity almost unparalleled in the history of human existence.
We aren't often pushed (and then typically not far) outside our comfort zone. One of the things that COVID-19 has done is helped me to re-evaluate my priorities.
To spend time thinking about what is really important in life. To recognize how pervasive an underlying attitude of selfishness and laziness has become in my life because of such ease. I believe this to be true (to some extent at least) of our society generally without denying for a second the very real hardships that we do still experience as human beings.
Call it a wake-up call, call it a paradigm shift, these lines of thought have galvanized me to action. My wife Mary-Lin and her two brothers Jonathan and Timothy all have Cystic Fibrosis.
This is the most common fatal genetic disease in Canada, affecting over 4,300 Canadians. There is a defect in the body’s cells resulting in the production of particularly thick mucus in the lungs which, if left untreated, creates the perfect breeding ground for bad infections.
Forty years ago, children born with CF typically died young. For decades, Canada has been at the forefront of research and development of therapies and improved patient care.
Now CFers often live into adulthood, sometimes even middle age. But it’s still not possible to beat the disease, with the final recourse of treatment being a lung transplant. As drastic a procedure as that is, it is really like putting a Band Aid on a broken leg.
I've known that Mary-Lin has CF as long as I've known her. I try to convince myself that I've been supportive in regards to her disease throughout the years that we dated and have been married. But, if I'm honest, I haven’t really done much about it.
I was reminded this spring about an annual cycling fundraiser called GearUp4CF that I first heard of a decade ago. When I was a teenager, I rode my bike all the time, so why haven't I been part of this for the last 10 years?
Well, better late than never. I jumped online and found the website.
Turns out this year's fundraising ride is "virtual" to encourage social distancing. What that means is instead of a group ride, participants are setting personal challenges to complete individually. I signed up the same day, and set a fundraising target of $25,000. Within an hour, a ride challenge began to formulate in my mind.
I would ride to Penticton and back from New West in five days. I literally hadn't pedaled my bike for 10 years.
That was two months ago.
So, for the last two months I've been training. I knew I had to do two things.
1) Get my legs in shape. The ride requires me to pull off at least 150 kilometres per day for five days, with some real climbs involved too (day one includes summiting the Coquihalla)
2) Prepare my mind. I'm not an athlete, but I am in reasonably good shape and my work involves physical labour, so I was fairly confident I could prepare physically.
However, to pull off five long endurance rides in a row requires mental toughness as well. I realized that the mental training could come partly from the physical training. Confidence in my physical ability to accomplish my goal would go a long way towards being mentally prepared. Therefore, I would train towards a really hard training ride to be accomplished shortly before the actual challenge.
Well, I dug out the rusty old mountain bike I bought as a teenager and brought it to the shop. I decided it was better to ride that than buy a new one so that I could kick-start my fundraising campaign with my own money (which I did).
Unfortunately, after a full tune-up and new tires, it was stolen out of my parkade after only a couple rides. I borrowed a bike for a week so I could keep riding (often commuting to the jobsite as a way to squeeze more time out of the day, since I was working fulltime) and then replaced it the next weekend.
Now the training could really begin. I've put 1,300 kilometres on the new bike in the last six weeks, and last weekend accomplished the last big training ride, a Triple Crown ride which involves summiting Seymour, Grouse and Cypress on the same day.
Which brings us to today. Now I just have to pull off five of them in a row, while sleeping on the ground and eating from a backpack.
On July 20, I'm leaving from New West early in the morning. And since five days might be too easy, my new goal is to do it "as fast as possible."
I'm going push myself hard every day, and post regularly to social media so people can follow along.
I want to say a heartfelt thank-you to all my supporters. Together we've raised $16,000 (over 60% of my goal so far!) and this money is so important for everyone whose lives are directly or indirectly affected by CF.
The funds are for CF Canada, a non-profit that works tirelessly advocating for and funding world class patient care and research into life-sustaining therapies and treatments and ultimately, hopefully, a cure.
You can help, too, by doing your part to protect immuno-compromised people like those with CF.
Washing your hands, staying home when you're sick, the exact things we're so aware of the need to do now due to COVID-19.
Normal little seasonal illnesses take a huge toll on someone with CF, and as Mary-Lin's husband I've observed the cumulative damage they have caused her over time.
Save lives by being an organ donor.
You can also help by sponsoring my ride. Donations go directly to CFCanada and are tax receipted. Just go to www.gearup4cf.com and search for Darrell. And follow along on Instagram (@darrell.hoekstra) if you'd like to see how the ride goes.
Together we can make CF stand for “Cure Found.”
Darrell Hoekstra is a New Westminster resident.