This is Why I Cycle

This is Why I Cycle

Jess Newport

 

My Fuji Tread cyclocross tests my lungs; easing me out of my comfort zone and pushing the boundaries my body has always kept me safely enveloped within. I’ve cycled regularly for the past four years, but every trip on my bike is a reminder of the journey I’ve taken to get here.

 

I used to be trapped in my own body, tied to the whims of my lungs. I had end-stage lung failure from 23 years of lungs scarred by endless infections, due to the genetic disease cystic fibrosis. Instead of graduating from college, I had to travel from my home in Florida to North Carolina in order to get listed and receive a double lung transplant. The worst day for my donor family was one of the best days of my life, and I feel that profoundly when I think about my transplant.

 

One of the first purchases I made as someone who could breathe was to buy a nice bicycle. There’s something about the ability to move yourself quickly through your own body’s conscious and subconscious actions. Breathing is an unconscious action. It felt like every breath used to require thought. It was a struggle, no doubt about it. It’s now been nine years since I had to breathe like that. A hero stepped into my life and gave me a gift I could never repay. Now every breath comes easy and allows me to hop on my bike without a second thought.

 

When I attended my first Transplant Games of America in 2014, seeing the competitions awakened something in me. It was a need to really get moving and see what I could do now with these new lungs. Cycling became not only exercise, but a relieving of stress, as well as a great way to explore the natural world. During my 20k at the 2018 Games, the cycling route was a trail that wound along a parkway in northern Salt Lake City, close to the lake itself. The trip out, the elevation didn’t seem to affect my breathing at all and I felt exhilarated. The six miles back, I felt a wind like no other I had felt before. It was trying and added minutes to my time, but at the end of the finish line, I knew I had won no matter the outcome. That’s what is great about being able to cycle; I’ve already won before even clipping into the pedals. 

 

I’ve received the best gift out there. Medals mean nothing alongside these lungs. I get out on the trails with the motivation that I CAN. When you start every journey already winning, you can never lose.