After a long day of work, it was well after 5 PM, and I needed to be at my regular training session by 6:30. I started shuffling around the house getting ready including gathering the water bottles, hydration drinks, energy bars, and all the other required gear together. By 5:30, the car is packed, bike is strapped on, and I am winding my way through traffic.

I turned on the radio and listened to a few songs. When I got close to the training studio, Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm” started playing. “...I was burned out from exhaustion, ….Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm…..”

I did not pay it much mind at the moment.

When I arrived at my coaching clinic, which is where I train, many of the other distance athletes had already racked up their bikes and were warming up. I did the same. And after some small talk with familiar faces, I started to warm up. After about 30 minutes of warmup, we were all briefed on the training program for that night.   Oh no, it’s a combination of low RPM power with lots of simulated climbs. There was a collective groan at how difficult and challenging this was going to really be, and then we got onto the work at hand.

I put on some really good workout music, Keller Williams “Dance of the Freak” and got into the pace of things. Maybe 20 minutes into the workout, my heart rate is at 158 BPM, check. Power is 195 watts, check. Cadence at 100 RPM, check. Thirty minutes in, we hit the simulated climbing, ugh, got to change the music or I won’t make it…put on Dream Academy’s “Hampstead Girl” – set on auto-play. Who would have thought a harpsichord would be good climbing music?

Sixty minutes in…checked my cadence, ugh, too high, got to get it down to 70 RPM. Seventy minutes in, checked heart rate, ugh, 170 BPM….am I going to blow up?? At this point, my whole body is screaming at me to stop. Stopping, though, is not an option.

Before I knew it and 1,100 calories later, we were done with a nearly 2-hour workout that was exceptionally difficult. During the workout, not much else was on my mind other than getting through this.

And for those few hours, I was not a CLL patient. I did not think once about cancer during the entire routine of getting to training, warming up, doing the workout and finishing it. Other than my coaches and a couple of athletes, nobody there knows I have cancer. I am just another athlete there to get training. And the expectations of the coaches are still that I give everything for those few hours. Those few hours are a shelter from the storm.

One of the unique aspects of CLL under watch-and-wait is that it can be a slow grind. For me at least, having a “shelter from the storm” allows some mental space to forget, for at least a little while, the bigger fight.

We all have our own unique ways of coping with cancer. Please share some stories about your shelter from the storm in the comments below.

Thank you for reading!

Always hope. Never quit

- C.J. Chris