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Dr Kollios takes the Ride As One challenge

Published Date: 18 April 2016 Categories: Fundraisers

A general practitioner at a family practice, Doctor Dimitrios Kollios understands the challenges a life-threatening blood cancer diagnosis presents to a family, and has supported many people through their journey.

Recently, Dr Kollios undertook a challenge of his own, registering for the Leukaemia Foundation’s Ride As One New Zealand. Putting pen to paper, Dr Kollios shares the memories of his journey, in which he raised more than $4,500 to help the Leukaemia Foundation provide vital emotional and practical support to families impacted by a blood cancer.

Ride As One parallels the challenge of confronting severe illness

A fleeting comment from a friend that “a couple of mates are doing the leukaemia ride’ implanted the seed that I should follow course.

Great idea, so why not join? And there I was, registered for the Leukaemia Foundation’s  Ride as One New Zealand.

Many a patient has presented at the suggestion of a spouse or a friend, "Just thought I'd have a check-up Doc, as a friend was recently diagnosed with ..." 

Just a good idea at the time I had no expectations or any real trepidations of what may eventuate. The reality of the task began post registration. 900 kilometres in six days! That's scary. I've never confronted anything like it. Yes, I ride a bike, but have never ridden over 100 kilometres day after day. That's for the pro’s. I'm not sure I can do this.

The words echo in the patient’s ears "I'm glad you came in. We will need to do some tests.” Fear grips the patient who “only went for a check-up." 

I only thought it was a good idea to do this ride. The reality that this is going to be physically and mentally challenging kicks in and I start getting my head around the effort I must put in to confront the challenge.

The diagnosis of the severe illness is like a sledge hammer. What have I got myself into? Why did I even bother going for tests? How am I going to do this? It's Mount Everest to climb and I just can't do it! 

I begin to plan my day and week differently. When can I fit a ride in? I get up earlier than I've ever done before. I ride before sunrise which I've never done. I take my bike with me on the Christmas holidays to get some riding in. The legs seem to burn on a continuous basis as I increase the training, but at the same time I get support from friends, I do some amazing rides that are challenging, but awesome.

As each test comes back for the patient they confront new frontiers. They get overwhelmed but, without realising it, support from the medical team, family, relatives and wider community pushes them through the barriers and they extract strength from sources they had never even thought possible - so they push on. 

The training parallels the treatment. Physically demanding, challenging, painful and an emotional roller coaster. 

You get through it, never quite sure how, or how successfully, but you have given it your best shot. You've got to that space of acceptance - it's not totally in your control but you have certainly not been a passive bystander. 

There are always things beyond your control but accepting that is part of the challenge. The months of preparation and treatment pass in a blur, and the real test is upon me. I need to pack the bike and catch a flight to New Zealand to do the ride. 

Treatment plan completed, the patient is a bundle of nerves awaiting the results to check whether the pain, agony and suffering have been "worthwhile". 

I have no compass to know if my exercise plan will enable me to be successful, as the patient has no bearings to judge the success of his treatment. Reliant on the input of others to make the call that relinquishing of control is not always as easy to do as it seems. 

The ride itself is a roller coaster in a geometrical sense and physically. We all gather at Christchurch Airport where the bike bags are the identifying mark to introduce yourself to your fellow riders. We bus it to Tekapo, where we stay in the beautiful Peppers Resort, where we set up bikes and begin to meet our fellow sufferers. Names are a blur but the goal uniform, with some inspirational snippets of information, are already emerging. 

There are others that have walked the valley of death to emerge on the other side.  

200 kilometres awaits us the following day to Omarama (and a reality check as far as accommodation goes) via Mt Cook but we are no longer alone. The others are no longer super-humans but goers like me, so my confidence lifts. 

We cycle to Wanaka, and then over mountain passes to Queenstown and we've done close to 400 kilometres and all is well. The responsibility to the group has become paramount, to help each other achieve our goal. Names are no longer a blur but friends.

We have been blessed with some great weather but that is soon to change over the next few days, where we confront rain and wind. 

Life never goes to plan - expectations for day five is difficult - 170 kilometres into the wind and rain. Instead we have a wonderful morning and are flying for the first 100 kilometres, averaging over 32 kilometres per hour. Thinking life is good, the crosswinds then begin and they blow us like ragdolls into the grass by the side of the road. While some thrived in those conditions the majority feel that we are at the winds mercy and unsafe. 

The decision to abort the rest of that day’s ride is a compliment to the brilliant organisation that characterises the whole event and the wonderful people involved. Their decision is applauded loudly by all.

Our final day takes us from Te Anau to Milford Sound, with an incredibly tough ride but awesome scenery to detract from the screaming quads demanding we stop.

Having completed the ride successfully through some extremely challenging terrain and weather, the outstanding memory is of the camaraderie that developed amongst people I've never met before, from every walk of life and age.

The encouragement provided to me by each individual within that group surpassed that provided by friends. We had a common cause and goal and worked as a team to achieve it. Age, gender or background paled into insignificance. Self preservation, although important, was no longer the driving motivator as the success for the group over-rode it.

Our final dinner at Queenstown is memorable. Not for the food, but for the amazing bond that has germinated in one week. There are many hugs, tears, and laughter as well as feelings of satisfaction that someone's vision has come to fruition, and through the riders and everyone who sponsored them, many others will benefit for years to come. 

On a personal note, in recently confronting serious illness in my family, the shocking realisation that you are not in control of life but in the hands of a higher power, is overwhelming and fearful. It's only the support of family, friends and wider community around you that gets you through. It is those supporters who surprise and delight us. 

Thanks fellow riders, organisers, all support stuff and volunteers!

Thanks for some wonderful memories despite the pain!


By Doctor Dimitrios Kollios
Ride as One New Zealand 2016

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