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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

After my recent accident, it seems prudent to post an update on my blog to go along with my recent Facebook updates. This update will include help for journalists wanting a quick way to get up to speed on my story, so no apologies for repeating what many of you already know. Wifi here is very intermittent and slow, hence why I seem to disappear from time to time.  Anyway here is the tale:

The accident

On Friday 15th August, while just 20 km from Rimouski (coming from Riviere du Loup) I approached the long steep downhill section of road on route 132. It was a very fast downhill and having had no previous problems on hills like this I let the bike pick up speed. I was soon travelling well in excess of 80 kph when with the sound like a gun going off my front tire exploded and I was thrown onto the road, scraping down it for what seemed like eternity.

It took a few minutes for someone to stop and an ambulance was called. No painkillers could be given to me and my injuries were causing me serious pain – I’m no wimp when it comes to pain but this was simply unbearable. At the hospital I begged for painkillers, but again was denied until they had fully examined me – fair enough but I was lucid enough to tell them where I had pain and where I had none and just wanted something to help me. It was a long time before I was finally given something, but not enough to make me even remotely comfortable.

My injuries

A dislocated shoulder, at least two cracked bones, many inches of missing skin which the tarmac had scraped off me and facial injuries which required stitches, as did a wound on my left elbow. The hospital was unable to get clear x-rays of my injuries because I was in too much pain for them to move me about enough to take them. I couldn’t understand why they could not just sedate me and get the x-rays, but hey, I got the distinct impression it wasn’t important after they found out I had no medical insurance.

So the doctor told me I had ‘probably’ at least two cracked bones in my arm, but couldn’t tell if my shoulder was broken. I was informed their was no point in referring me to an orthopaedic surgeon (again I have no insurance) and any injuries were most likely best left to heal themselves, even though it’s still not known what those injuries are. If I didn’t have other health issues I would not have accepted this, but as it happens, I really couldn’t care less.

Their was a really nice guy working in the hospital called Jean-Claude who helped me out when the hospital told me I was being discharged to the Repit du Passant (a place like a hostel for reformed criminals) at 11:00 pm that same night. I was incredulous, my wounds had barely been patched up, I was still in agonising pain, nauseous, and they wanted rid of me. I explained to Jean-Claude that I was in no condition to go anywhere at least until the morning and he managed to secure me a bed for the night.

The discharge

Next morning I was taken to the Repit du Passant hostel, only to be told I had to go back to the hospital until 4:00 pm. I duly did so and later that afternoon a taxi was called to take me back to the hostel. It did not go well there. Firstly the rules stated I had to take a shower, not something I could do with all my new dressings. Then I was asked to wear their pyjamas. While attempting to change into them I was told I had to go back again to emergency because they could not look after my needs. This was a joke, but definitely not a funny one. So back to the hospital, sit around for a good while before Jean-Claude told me I could go to the Centre de prevention du suicide, which seemed very apt because at this point suicide was certainly running through my head, I’d had more than enough and was still in excruciating pain.

The people at the crisis centre were wonderful and for the very first time since I had entered Rimouski I actually felt like a real human being. I posted my predicament on Facebook and offers of help have been coming in, I need no proof of the good people in this world, they are all around. A guy called Jean Madore has been my legs on the ground here, co-ordinating the social media and being my main point of contact. Without his help I dread to think what would have happened and he continues to be at my side on a daily basis. Ex-military, so nothing more needs to be said.

The bike

Is being sorted better than it was before and once again, Jean is taking care of this. It will be many weeks before I am well enough to cycle again, so our current thinking is for me to try and continue my journey without the bike while my injuries heal. I will then get the bike sent on to a location ahead of me that fits in with being able to ride again. So if anyone out there wants to accompany me on my journey via public transport, or even better by car, to help me reach St. John’s, Newfoundland, I would be more than happy to have some company.

The journey continues

Of course it does. What else is there for me?  Until such a time as I fall in love for the very last time, then I want to help not only myself, but everyone else who is battling against adversity. I too take inspiration from others, yet I’m well aware of my responsibility to continue to inspire my followers, new and old. And besides, I’m also ex-military and we don’t know how to give up do we?

A brief recap on my story

I’m putting this here for you new journalists, it should help you with background.

I first encountered cancer at the age of 14, when a growth the size of a pea was causing pain in my left leg. By the time it was operated on, it was the size of a large orange. The doctors told my mother it would be best if I had my leg removed, to stop any chance of the disease spreading. She begged them not to and was told I would probably have to wear a leg brace for the rest of my life, due to the amount of bone removed. Just 16 months later I ran my first marathon for charity around the local sports track. Sorry doctors, you were wrong!

One of eight (actually since cycling across Canada I have learned at the age of 58 it is now nine) children, I was brought up in care due to my father leaving when I was a small child and my mother not being able to have us all home at the same time. We took it in turns to return home.

I grew up an angry child with issues and joined the Army at 21 years old, to try and sort myself out. It worked for me and I got to travel around the world, the die was cast. I served for nine years, had some of the happiest times in my life and finally found what I loved most – being in the outdoors. I would continue on to work (and play) in this field for many years.

By the time I was diagnosed in 2005 with prostate cancer, I had been cycling for many years, both mountain bikes and road racing. My best performances had always been in endurance type events or sportives and I have cycling to thank for my cancer being discovered. It was a difficult time for me as I refused to really give up a sport I’m passionate about and while still undergoing treatment, I rode ‘The Race Against Time’ which is a charity event that cycles the 1,000 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats in Britain. Nothing special, until that is you know we did it in just five days. Cancer had become a big part of my life and would continue to be so for many years.

In 2007 my wife Caroline was diagnosed with breast cancer and had it removed. Her cancer returned in 2009, when she was told she had 12 to 18 months to live. She died just nine short weeks later. It was not enough time for me to say goodbye and I fell into a deep depression, refusing to acknowledge my own illness. When given the news in October 2012 that my own cancer was now terminal, a huge weight was lifted from me and my depression was gone. I now had a focus, I would make something of whatever time I had left and taking inspiration from my own hero, Jane Tomlinson, (a mother of two from Yorkshire told she had just six months to live – she survived for seven more years) I would not accept the 12 month death sentence handed down to me.

It was an easy decision to set off around the world on a bicycle. I had already planned to do an across America trip in 2005, when plans got put on hold due to my illness. Now it was my illness that made the decision immediate. It took just three weeks to sell up, pay my debts and leave the UK. The adventure would begin.

So here we are 21 months and 33 countries later. I’ve crossed 4 continents (Europe, Africa, Asia and North America) and cycled roughly 36,000 km (which is approx 22,370 miles) so only another 1,630 miles and I have officially become a ’round the world’ cyclist.

There’s more information in my blog and you can search by using the categories box, for example to see just my posts about Canada select it from the drop down list. However a good place to start would be by watching the excellent video made in Vietnam – I think they told my story very well. You’ll find the link on my about me page.

I’m always available to answer questions. Please email me, or contact me on my Facebook page as I’m more than aware that I cannot help others if I don’t help you.

Monday, August 25, 2014 at 11:58 pm

I read about you in this blog:

I´m so sorry for your recent accident, Hope you can recover soon so you can finish this dream´s trip and do another!. You really make me think about my owm live. Thank you.

Odette Desilets
Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 12:47 am

Hello Derek,
I am the physician you met in Québec at Maison Michel-Sarrazin 2weeks ago.
i am sorry for your accident.
I hope you will find good people around you to take care of you.
Thinking of you and praying for you!


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