How a decision to bike to Mexico saved my life.

I knew 2018 was going to be a challenging year based off a video I shared with the world back in November, announcing a new project: Shorten The Divide. What I didn’t know at the time, was that it would become THE most challenging year of my life.

Going into the year, I knew I had to run a business, make sure I was spending enough time with my family, walk my dog, train a lot and somehow figure out how to ride my mountain bike to Mexico through the Rocky Mountains… all while raising money for The Take A Hike Foundation by the end of September. 

This ride would not only change my life in so many ways in terms of outlook, perspective, expectations, and appreciation but it would also end up saving my life. 

 

The ride in itself was by far the most physical and emotional challenge I had ever taken on in my life. Starting in Banff mid August in hot smoky weather with warnings to limit time outside due to the forest fires was a challenge and a mental game in itself. We were about to embark on 90+km days with fully loaded mountain bikes holding our tents, sleeping bags, water and food as we didn’t know how far we would be able to make it or what the trail ahead was like. Truth be told, we had never even done an overnight bike trip with a tent before the first day of our trip. As we took off it was a pretty wild feeling facing the unknown. Looking back at it now we really had no idea how we would be building our own 3 person world for the next 38 days. 

The ride took us through physical struggles and injuries as well as emotional breakdowns and challenges as we tackled new scenarios and conditions that we weren’t in control of. It was taxing on the mind and I am so thankful for the team I had to support us along the way, both riding next to me, in the car with us throughout the trip as well as the community back home cheering us on. It was that community and support that made us believe in ourselves so we could push forward and remember why we were doing this in the first place. It was about getting away from “real life” for a while, going outside of our comfort zones, taking a risk, and focusing on the task at hand – biking all day, everyday, for 38 days. It was important not to worrying about things you can’t control from the past or what may lay ahead in the future, as you never know what that may be. Just be present and focus on the trail and to keep pedalling. 38 Days later we reached the Mexican border!

When I was finishing up my ride I had developed a cough, either from the forest fires, dust or riding at an elevation, pace and distance every day that I had never done before. It had caused some pain in my lower left abdomen so I wanted to be sure that I hadn’t caused any serious damage. I ended up getting an ultrasound when I got back home to Vancouver which resulted in them finding nothing in the area of concern (it was most likely a strained ab muscle) BUT by complete fluke they ended up finding a tumour in my right kidney which turned out to be a non-aggressive form of kidney cancer.

You can plan for your future as much as you like, but life loves throwing curveballs and next thing you know you’re finding out you have cancer. Enjoy each day, appreciate what you have, who you have in your life and put your energy towards things that make you happy. Doing this is what makes the mud less sticky, the desert a little cooler, the laughs a little louder and the tears a little sweater. 

When I arrived home from those 38 days on the bike, riding over 125km (avg) per day, I was feeling healthy, positive, excited and mainly that I am capable of taking on anything. To hear that I may have cancer was a complete shock and conversion that nobody ever expects to have. It brought everything else to a screeching halt. It was time to get a new plan in place to see how the future plays out. I did all of the tests I could, I got the right doctors in place and had to trust I was doing all I could do until after surgery and we knew what this tumour was. 

Christmas Day 2018, 12 days after Surgery

It was a wild fall and had my head spinning and appreciating life in new ways that I am so grateful to have gone through this challenge. It has brought new perspectives and outlooks to how I deal with problems, how I deal with friends, and how I manage my time. Now it’s important to me to be positive, focus on things I am passionate about rather than past issues that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. I had surgery mid-December removing half my kidney and the tumour and I can happily say it was a success and I am cancer free with a very minimal chance of it ever coming back. The surgeon told me “you dodged a bullet with this one”.

Sitting here today, feeling more optimistic and excited about life than I ever have is a pretty incredible thing. When I told the world I was going to be biking across North America, I didn’t know how the year ahead was going to play out but it was a decision I knew felt right to me in the hopes that it would help me get my weight under control and help pull myself out of a depression I had been feeling over the last couple of years. I knew that riding my bike, eating well and training were three things that help me feel good, so that was the plan. Set a goal that keeps me as committed as possible and see where that leads. With that decision came a whole new adventure to figure out with my friends, family and loved ones that gave me an incredible new perspective on life that I feel so fortunate to have been able to see.

I want to thank everyone that has been there for me over the last 18 months. Cam, Jess, Asa my parents, brother, the Noravera Crew (Brian, Jon, Benny, Fraser, Jacquie, Cal, Fraser, Ryan, Ashley, Carolyn) MEC, RYU, Traction on Demand, Fraser @ Treloar. I love you all and you are all incredible people to help me through the challenges that were in front of me and I can’t wait to see what the year ahead looks like! Hopefully a little less dramatic than the last, haha.
-Geoff

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We started this company in 2012 with one objective; to tell stories of human ambition through immersive, cinematic video – with no bullshit. We’re humble as hell, honest, hardworking, and don’t take ourselves too seriously.