“I have a brain tumour.”
Not the words you’d expect to hear from your 24 year old mate, a young guy who was fit, healthy and didn’t have any detrimental vices that may impact his health.
Yet that’s what Josh told me on that brisk winters morning back in 2015. I was left in a state of mild disbelief, a million questions running through my head simultaneously… how was he feeling? How was he coping with the news and the future? What would I do in a similar situation? I knew I had to do whatever I could to help.
The next time I saw Josh was at my place a few weeks later, he was undergoing chemo and was starting to really feel (and show) the effects. I’d been pondering over the best way for me to help him through this ordeal, something to really show my support and make his life a little more enjoyable. I quickly came to the conclusion that providing Josh with a longer-term focus was perhaps the best way to go about this. And what better to anchor that focus than a massive physical challenge? I asked him if he wanted to cycle across Australia once he was given the all clear. It didn’t take him long to agree to the idea. I hadn’t of course, considered the fact that this meant I had to do it too…
Here we are, over 2 years later having completed a successful journey across Australia. 7 riders cycled every metre of the route from Melbourne to Perth and 5 unfortunate souls drove either the whole or part of the way behind and in front of us. What an expedition it was. Along the way we managed to raise over $83,000 for the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, an organization helping to find a cure for the terrible disease that struck Josh at such an early age.
How hard was it? Well, the physical side wasn’t incredibly difficult. We averaged 140km per day, not unreasonable, though we often had headwinds to contend with which meant a lot of time on the saddle. Still, it was a fairly casual pace with enough rest along the way to keep us relatively fresh. The mental side was the bigger challenge.
Having to wake up at 5am each morning knowing you’d be spending most of the day on the bike got a little tiresome. We had to be constantly alert with regards to traffic hazards; what trucks were doing as they overtook, making sure we maintained our line and stayed right on the back wheel of the bike in front. There was also a fairly wide-ranging level of fitness between the group, meaning it wasn’t possible to get into your own rhythm and get into the ‘zone’. Add to that, the scenery throughout most of the middle part of Australia is fairly consistent: absolutely nothing. So it was a bit of a mental drain, particularly as we got into the middle part of the ride.
Despite this, everyone maintained a positive attitude for most of it. Not much complaining and no real arguments despite 7 males of varying character spending every waking moment together for 25 days straight. I’d consider this one of the biggest achievements of the whole journey. That’s pretty damn impressive looking back.
We set out from the Yarra River in Melbourne and rose into Fiona Stanley hospital 25 days later, the place where Josh received his cancer treatment. It was an incredible reception, greeted by a crowd of friends, family, the deputy premier and a news crew. We were joined on the last 30km leg by over 60 other riders, causing havoc to the local traffic as we blocked up a lane of major highways. What an experience!
I’m particularly proud of Josh. When I proposed the idea of cycling across Australia, I wanted to give him a focus and vision to help get through those long days of treatment, where only his imagination could take him away. When we made the final ride into Fiona Stanley hospital, I was obviously pretty excited to have completed this challenge on a personal level. That paled in comparison to the excitement I had for Josh and what he must have been feeling after 2 years of preparation in not only getting ready for this event, but doing so with all the other hurdles he had to face. I was incredibly grateful to have been able to share that moment with him.
One of the true beauties of endurance pursuits is the tangible goal they can provide us; a definitive focus which is lacking from many of our lives. This is what I’d learned from the last few years of my own pursuits and this is what I was looking to provide to Josh.
I’m proud to say, it seemed to have worked.