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.
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
comment from a friend that “a couple of mates are doing the leukaemia ride’
implanted the seed that I should follow course.
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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
been blessed with some great weather but that is soon to change over the next
few days, where we confront rain and wind.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
fellow riders, organisers, all support stuff and volunteers!
some wonderful memories despite the pain!
More Inspiring Stories
Ride as One
New Zealand 2016