When Queen wrote ‘fat bottommed girls they’ll be riding today, so look out for those beauties, oh yeah…’ I wonder if they’d actually been to Amsterdam? I suspect not, as anyone who thought that cycling over cobbles and a million bridges would make one’s arse ‘a beauty’ had clearly not experienced the pain that my arse has felt today, and for which I suspect my coccyx will punish me heavily tomorrow.
Sensibly preparing for chemo 5
Red blood cells carry oxygen around your body, giving you energy. So if you have fewer red blood cells than normal, the general idea is to look after what you’ve got, and not use them up by overdoing it.
So the day before chemo, when your blood is tested to see if you’ve recovered enough to go again, it’s a good plan to take it easy.
And when you don’t have much strength in your legs or knees, and haven’t ridden your bike in over six months, the logical place to start is somewhere flat, on soft turf, away from traffic (on wheels or on foot), and give yourself plenty of space and time to avoid unnecessary pressure or injury.
So this morning, I set off to the hospital on the other side of town… on my bike.
Google reckons it’s only 17 minutes
And it probably would take 17 minutes if you were bell-happy, paid no attention to the traffic laws, had the strength and stamina of Dafne Schippers, and knew exactly where you were going.
I, on the other hand, wobbled a lot. My bell is on the left handlebar of my bike (my bad hand side). I know you’re meant to give way to the right (but not on which roads that old rule actually applies). I have naff all strength or stamina in my legs. And I’ve only ever traveled to the hospital by car or tram.
So I allowed 20 minutes.
Riding like a local
Now aside from the highway code, there are unspoken rules to riding a bike in Amsterdam, most of which the tourists don’t know and the locals like to keep to themselves. For example; running a red light, even if traffic is coming, and regardless of whether the traffic is bigger than you. It’s like a silent way of showing you’re a local, one of them (a bit like being a Freemason, but without the apron or secret handshake).
Last time I rode my bike, I was clued-up on such behaviour. But having spent the best part of the last six months in Ubers and on trams, I’d forgotten about it, until today.
At first, I quietly impressed myself by having made it up a (slight) hill and onto a main road, avoiding at least three dogs, two tourists and leopard skin wheelie case. Continuing along Haarlemmerstraat, I approached a stationary truck, blocking my side of the road while he unloaded his contents to a nearby shop. I came to a wobbly stop and put my feet down to wait for him to move on, just as you would in a car. After being overtaken by at least three cyclists riding the wrong way down the cycle lane on the opposite side of the road (totally normal behaviour, for locals), I realised how British I was being by waiting patiently. Composing myself, gathering my energy, and deciding that the logical thing to do was to ride into the mayhem, I then realised that a steady stream of locals were now approaching from behind and in front, weaving in and out of each other in the single (one way) cycle lane, into which I had no chance of joining and every chance of crashing.
Eventually, as the locals passed, I finally had a gap into which I could wobble, and my confidence as a ‘one of them’ returned as I pulled out and cycled smugly past the truck.
50 yards on down the road, the truck came sailing past me… Whatever, I rode the wrong way down a one-way cycle lane – I’m a local again, I’ve reclaimed my metaphoric ‘apron’ 😉
The route is ‘mostly flat’
Except for the bridges over the canals. Again, when I cycled before I didn’t really notice this, as I approached those pretty little hump-backs at quite a pace. But when you’re riding slowly, it’s much harder; and when you don’t have the leg strength to stand up and ride, it’s a case of keep pushing or come to a standstill on the way up.
Being on a bike without handlebar brakes makes hill starts almost impossible. So the prospect of stopping on an uphill gradient meant only one thing – rolling backwards. So keeping going (however tough) seemed the lesser of two evils.
By this time I was in the east of the city and surrounded by young, fit students, flying past me on their bikes… damn, there goes the metaphoric apron.
But don’t overdo it on the first ride out
One joy of cycling in Amsterdam is that you can lock up your bike almost anywhere there’s a space. You don’t pay at a meter, there are no permits, as long as there’s a space in a rack, you’re welcome to it.
So in the back of my mind all day, was the option to stop and lock up Berta somewhere safe en route and come back for her tomorrow. If it got a bit much, if I didn’t have the strength, if I thought I might be overdoing it…
But after three stops to check Google maps, almost coming to a standstill on two bridges, and a moderate fight with a bike rack, I arrived at OLVG in slightly more than 17 minutes but in one piece.
My blood rocks
So despite a cough setting me back a week and my apparent determination to do things I probably really shouldn’t, my immune system has somehow managed to withstand four rounds of chemo, fight off infection and still give me enough energy to keep fighting.
My blood test results today were strong; my red cells, white cells and platelets are all back up and we got the green light for chemo 5 tomorrow.
Feeling super pleased and upbeat, what did I do? I cycled home, all the way, one stop, in 30 minutes.
My legs and arse might not thank me for this tomorrow…