On July 17, 2016 I will begin my bicycle ride across Canada from Victoria, British Columbia to St. John’s, Newfoundland with a completion date of September 21, 2016. As part of the ride, I am raising money for Brain Injury Canada. I will be personally funding all of the expenses of the trip, and so 100% of the money raised will be going towards the organization.
Within a period of 16 months from October 2013 – February 2015 I received three concussions, the last two happening in the final two months of that period. Getting two so close together significantly affected me both cognitively and physically. Headaches, nausea, fatigue, and fogginess were just some of the symptoms I felt. What concerned me was not the symptoms themselves, it was what they signified. On the advice of doctors, I stayed away from any activities that caused my symptoms to worsen. This list was incredibly expansive, and essentially meant that for the first two weeks after being diagnosed with the third concussion, I was simply moving from resting place to resting place. Moving from bed to chair to sofa to chair and back to bed was a typical day during this time. I felt fortunate to have so many sitting options, as a lack of furniture would have truly tested my will. How long could this go on for? My doctor told me he had no way of knowing and that it could be a few days, weeks, months, or even a year or longer. There’s a certain sense of hope and dread that you experience when your recovery time is so utterly unknown.
The following few months were a trial of patience, as I would try to complete new activities like carrying groceries home only to feel nauseous during the kilometer walk. My cognitive abilities were also significantly affected. Reading became largely impossible. I could try, but this would only lead to a significant physical shut down where I would experience extreme fatigue and lose coordination. A nap was sufficient to reboot me. Even my general ability to think had deteriorated, and if I tried to push too hard like debating various topics with my friend, I would have to initiate the reboot process again.
I was constantly reminded by both a general physician and a neurologist to not aggravate my symptoms, and so I heeded their advice. It was not until August 2015 when I saw a concussion specialist that I started to see significant progress. This was because he told me the exact opposite of what I had been hearing. He said that I should be pushing myself within reason, and that experiencing symptoms was not giving me brain damage. His advice was to rest a lot, but to earn the rest by doing things that made me uncomfortable. Suddenly, the world seemed open for exploration.
It was at that point that I finally felt in control of my recovery. Each day allowed me to test my limits, and push a bit past them. This process continued until sometime in January of this year where I felt like I had fully recovered. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when, as after going through such a lengthy process you question your perceptions quite a bit. I no longer restricted my ability to read, and began seeing steady improvements in cognitive ability. One of the goals I had been working towards before the concussions was to write the LSAT, the entrance test to law school. I wrote the test in June, and scored in the 93rd percentile.
Other than walking long distances, one of my first physical progressions involved the use of an exercise bike at a gym. On the first day, sometime in August, I limited myself to 15 minutes at the lowest setting, and now less than a year later I will be bicycling across the country. Training for the ride has been difficult, but I often have had a smile on my face during even the most difficult hills. I’m sure during the 67-day journey I will have many moments of doubt and questions of my ability. But, it is my belief that the support of friends, family, and strangers will push me past such doubts.
Having suffered through a debilitating condition for so long has motivated me more than I would have thought possible. As much as I am doing this to prove something to myself, I also want to inspire others, as many have often inspired me. I have heard that it is through adversity that people are able to accomplish great things, and I would love to take the first step in that journey with you. I sincerely appreciate any donations you can make towards my ride, Pedal to New Levels for research and program initiatives headed by Brain Injury Canada.