Jak The Lad

The Ride2Cure shirt that commemorates the journey across Australia is a classic, limited edition cycling jersey. I’ve got a few, of different sizes for road and leisure wear, big Paul’s got a couple, then the rest of the ones that I know about are with people in my life who matter…

Big Lardy has one, as of a couple of weeks ago, because he won it at auction in support of Solving Kids Cancer and The Beatson.

My long time Facebook friend Arild Ostbo has one. Arild cycles from Norway to Paris every year, with about fifty other extraordinary (ordinary) people, in support of children with critical, life threatening illnesses. Note to self: that ride needs added to my bucket list.

Amelie has one, as a token of my thanks for everything that she did for Eileidh.

Anna Meares has one, and surprisingly, Anna doesn’t have many cycling tops so I hope she wears the R2C jersey with as much pride as the Aussie gold.

Nic Naish has one down in Worthing, because as a cancer survivor herself, Nic recognises what it means to live your life on the edge.

And my long time Weir Pumps friend Jak has one. Jak was kind of late into cycling but now he does the daft stuff like hundred mile Sportifs as a matter of course.

The thing that links all of those folk is that they care: they care about kids who don’t have a choice: they care about kids who never had a choice, they care about kids who’ve been tapped on the shoulder by ill fortune and offered, well, not much choice. Ride2Cure2, like Ride2Cure and LCFN before it, is a vehicle for supporting research: as with any form of cancer, research is the only way to find a cure: and it’s expensive.

I mention all of that, by way of an introduction, because by Wednesday of each week, I’ve always had the theme pretty much sorted for Friday’s night’s blog. The weather’s usually favourite because it’s shit for cycling in the West of Scotland most of the time: the prevailing wind rules, and the rain just makes it deeply unpleasant. So I was all set to reflect on how hot rain and tired legs were making it increasingly difficult to transition between the embryonic Ride2Cure and the fast maturing Walk2Cure.

Wednesday morning changed all that.

I’ll give you the summary version: Jak was out on a bike ride a few weeks ago and had an event that caused him to lose control and crash. As he put it so eloquently himself: “bit of road rash but thankfully the bike was okay”. That’s the way we bike riders are: ‘bodies mend, bikes don’t’ is basically the philosophy.

Bypassing the interim story, I’ll cut to this week: Jak told his story in great detail, personal detail, in a social media post on Wednesday morning. I read it propped up in bed with a cup of coffee at my side and a cat on my lap, contemplating an otherwise ordinary day of walking, cycling and a wee bit of work. My day changed in an instant.

Jak had been diagnosed with a brain tumour.

After I’d got over the initial shock, I was transported back in time to March 1989 when I was diagnosed with septicaemia after returning from holiday. Only later did I find out that another couple of hours and I might not have been here to tell this story. These are life changing events.

While the patient suffers through treatment, the family suffer through emotional trauma. Back in ’89, I’d been married to Ross’s mother for just two weeks: Ross was just an embryo at the time. The journey stays with you forever, and today, my thoughts are not just with Jak, but with Angela, his wife and Sophie, their daughter.

But Jak has always been Mr Matter of fact, Mr ‘this is the way we’re going to deal with it’, and ultimately Mr Optimistic. That’s Jak: owner of the loudest laugh, and an attitude that has always screamed “let’s go about it this way and find a solution”.

So I wasn’t in the slightest bit surprised to read, in Jak’s inimitable style, that yesterday, about a week after diagnosis, they were going to remove this thing before it caused any further issues.

Now fast forward to 5am this morning…

I’d stayed off the sauce last night because I wanted to bag a load of miles today, and I wanted an early start. I woke at 5am, just as Jak had posted a very Basil Fawltyesque photo from the ward: he was hungry and not wanting to mention ze voar (his word’s not mine [well, I added the Germanesque pronunciation]).

But the hard work starts now. The last week, indeed the last month, will have flown by. There remains a long road ahead: further treatment and a huge amount of tiredness. Thinking back to 1989, I was in hospital for two weeks and a further week at home before I decided to venture out to the local shop. On a normal day, that trip would have taken me six or seven minutes: I remember it taking twenty on the way out and longer on the way back. I was absolutely goosed.

But that experience did something for me. It taught me that life is fragile, and what seems good today can be gone tomorrow. In the weeks that followed, I vowed to have another crack at the Cumbernauld Marathon Walk in August of that year. I’d won in ‘83, ‘84 and ’85, got ill in ’86 and never went back. But adversity can make you, or it can break you. I was lucky because the Marathon Walk of 1989 was only a nine hour affair so I didn’t really have to dig deeper than was absolutely necessary. I won my fourth, and no one else ever won four.

The events of the past few weeks will have changed Jak’s take on life forever. And Angela’s and Sophie’s too. But knowing Jak as I do, I look forward to the day, probably not this year, but maybe in the spring of 2020, when he once again gets back on his wheels, sporting his limited edition Ride2Cure jersey, and goes for a wee tootle around the block.

Not much else matters really this week: I’d originally intended to take a recovery week after last week’s 250 mile first week back, but Jak’s story changed all that. The last three days have instead rated at 2, 4 and 5 in the embryonic twelve day comeback, and unless something untoward happens in the next 48 hours, week 2 is going to eclipse week 1 by a distance. I guess I was just getting a wee bit complacent when I thought I wasn’t up to it.

That’s the thing about cycling and positive thought y’see: there’s so much difficulty to overcome on a three hour ride, day after day, that you eventually reach a point where you’re prepared to take on anything that life can throw at you. And I know that my mate Jak is gonna throw it all back, with interest.

Big man, you’ll never walk alone.

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