The Cancer Diaries: Ride On

electric bike.jpg

Life is hard. Even when things are going well, daily living requires a lot of effort—as a response to our own demands, needs, and expectations or those of other people. When you are retired, the demands slacken and you have more control over your time. But if you’re anything at all like me, you might actually miss the good old days when you had to show up somewhere every morning at 8 a.m. Without effort, there’s no payoff.

For many retirees, it’s easy to follow the path of least resistance, sleeping too much and accomplishing too little. The farther down that path you go, the more susceptible you are to depression. We all need a reason to stay awake, and we need people to validate us. Loneliness is a serious health problem among the elderly. Studies have shown that the risk of premature death from loneliness equals that from smoking.

Since my lung-cancer diagnosis a few months ago, loneliness is the least of my worries. For one thing, my friends and family have treated me like royalty. For another, I’m aware of the dangers of isolation, so I make more phone calls and schedule more outings. And finally, between doctors, nurses, and chemo, I have too many appointments to get lonely.

So instead of being solitary, my days are cluttered and disorganized. Now, when time is more precious than ever, I don’t treasure it the way I ought to. My meditation practice is spotty, as is my church attendance. I’m not as useful as I’d like to be, to humankind in general and to my friends and family in particular. I spend little or no time in natural surroundings. The only exercise I get is when I’m forced to walk up and down the single flight of stairs between my individual apartment door and the main front door.

In part, whoever stole my electric bike is to blame for this sorry state of affairs. I had a nifty Cyclamatic CX2 folding electric bike until someone sawed through the cable lock and made off with the bike while I was in the hospital last month. I had relied on the Cyclamatic to transport me when I wanted to run errands, visit friends, get a little exercise, and enjoy some fresh air, plus it was just a whole lot of fun to ride. I could adjust the power level to determine how much effort I wanted to expend, so I could zip up hills without breaking a sweat or I could power down and elevate my heart rate.

The problem was that I had to keep the bike outside. It was securely locked—or so I thought—and was practically invisible from the street, but it was still vulnerable. The bike could be folded to fit in small spaces, but it weighed 57 pounds—much more than I could manhandle up and down a flight of steps.

Since I acquired the Cyclamatic, I’ve seen Amazon listings for e-bikes weighing as little as 25 pounds. These, too, are foldable. The sensibly priced ones cost $400 to $600, plus $100 for assembly. The sturdiest lock I could find is priced at $150, though I wouldn’t need to secure the bike outside if it weighed only 25 pounds. I might have to do some arm-strengthening exercises, but I think I could manage a 25-pound two-wheeled vehicle.

I’m considering crowd-funding the whole shebang—e-bike, assembly, lock, a basket for “cargo,” and a better helmet than my old one, plus tax. That comes to a total of about a thousand dollars. I’ve never crowd-funded anything before. It feels a little tacky, asking strangers to pay for something that was taken from me in part due to my own carelessness. On the other hand, it’s the only way I’m going to get a replacement for my beloved e-bike, so I should probably get over my squeamishness and just do it.

There’s an elephant in the room, and it’s called “life expectancy.” Am I likely to live long enough to get my money’s worth? And how long am I going to have the energy and optimism I have today? Not very long, I’m thinking, if I make every decision as if I’m going to pop off in a week or two. So I think I’ll get the bike—to improve the present and as an investment in the future. And if I’m right about Heaven, it’s lousy with e-bikes. No golden chariots on the other side of the pearly gates. Just electric bikes, lined up neatly and waiting for angels with weary wings to hop on.

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