Bike Camp Bravery with Cerebral Palsy

Bike camp note: I have cerebral palsy. I had selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) on March 29, 2013. The number one goal on my post-SDR bucket list? Learn how to ride a two-wheel bike.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.  Albert Einstein  

Bike Camp Day 1:

Bike camp day one  + my 41st birthday! Thanks to my brother John and everyone at Baldwin iCan Bike for making me feel special. The staff and volunteers sang Happy Birthday and gave me a beautiful bouquet of sunflowers!

Bravery with Cerebral Palsy     Bravery with Cerebral PalsyIf I learn…or should I say WHEN I learn to ride a two-wheel bike I may cry. I’m not sure I can hold it in! Being able to do something that is a right of passage for so many feels surreal. I hope I get the hang of it (when it starts getting harder)! I need help on and off the bike because I can’t lift my foot high enough. Thank God for my spotters. They made sure I didn’t fall. I would’ve gone down a few times without them.

Day Two: 

Today was tough! There aren’t adequate words to describe how hard it is to do something your brain and body don’t naturally get. I pushed through and am more sore than yesterday. The tandem ride with Clayton was so much fun!

Day Three: Bruising + Cruising

After getting a new bike (the roller bike kept leaning, making it harder for me to learn, since I also tend to lean my body) and falling a couple of times (not fun but I got right back on), I was able to graduate to a regular two-wheel bike. I didn’t think that would happen today! I did great! I went on another tandem ride so Clayton could feel/see how I was riding and give me feedback. Note to self: holding the handlebars too tight makes everything harder! As a result, I’m sore and tired every day. But, if I keep getting better, I can ride outside in the parking lot. Some kids got to do that today.  I hope they don’t have to wheel me out on a stretcher on Friday! Bravery with Cerebral Palsy

Day Four: Overcoming Fears + Tears of JOY!

I started out struggling again. I couldn’t figure out why I kept leaning my body and/or hips. Clayton, the bike whisperer, worked with me and found the solution. All it took was a tap on my hip every time I leaned. After practicing with Dawn and Rachel, this happened:

First of all, I cried after this ride. It was so emotional for me. So, I took a break, hugged my brother and wiped away the tears. Clayton, Dawn and Rachel hugged me. They were so happy to see me riding on my own! And, a reporter interviewed me for a story in the Baldwin City Signal.

Bike Camp Bravery with Cerebral PalsyBike Camp Bravery with Cerebral Palsy

Graduation Day: Spills + Thrills!

Bike camp was full of thoughts (“I can’t do this” or “I’m not getting it” crept in) and emotions, both of which I tried to keep to myself. Also, I wanted to trust the process as much as possible. When I had no idea what I was doing, I kept going. When I got frustrated and questioned if I could do this, I kept going. When my brain and body were taxed to the max (I have the bruises to prove it), I kept going. Finally, when Hannah walked me to my two-wheel bike — despite feeling scared — I hopped on and kept going! When I gripped the steering wheel too tight — holding on for dear life — especially when I thought a crash was coming, I gradually learned to keep going. Here’s what happened:

Don’t Give Up

While a lot of the riders were outside and I was inside, I kept going at my own pace inside the gym. If I was ready, I’d be on the pavement, too. Plus, I was happy for the kids. Most importantly, I’d be okay if I didn’t progress to the parking lot by the end of the day. Thankfully, I caught on quickly. Clayton worked with me so I’d be ready to face the pavement. As much as it hurt when I fell hard, I kept on going even though I DID NOT want to get back on the saddle again, so to speak. Consequently, the lesson learned: KEEP GOING! Remember the words of the late Jim Valvano: “I urge all of you to keep your dreams alive in spite of problems. Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”

Thank You, iCan Shine!

Riding a bike is a rite of passage many of us would never experience if it weren’t for your organization. Thanks for believing in — and, most of all — showing us that we CAN do what many believe is impossible — especially for someone with cerebral palsy. Yet, IT IS possible! Seems like all it takes is a little creativity (the rollers are genius), dedication, kindness and, in my case – blood, sweat, and tears. However, I need a bike and some additional training before I’ll be able to ride on my own. Because of bike camp, I’ll never forget how great it feels to ride like the wind!

In conclusion, thank you to everyone at Baldwin iCan Bike – the wonderful hosts Barb and Betsy, Clayton the bike whisperer, Hannah – and all the supportive volunteers who helped make riding a two-wheel bike a dream come true. The gift you give adults and children with developmental and/or physical disabilities is priceless!

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