Glory through suffering...

We are all affected by Cancer. This article and video struck a powerful nerve with me and I felt very compelled to share.

Words: Slate Olson | Photography: Jered Gruber | Date: December 3, 2014

Film by Kintaro Studios

Courage. We all suffer. Keep going.

Those are the closing thoughts of Graeme Fife’s essay on the battle faced by every cyclist, that between the mind and the body. Graeme’s was one of the earliest articles on the Rapha website and is fundamental to the Rapha mantra: ‘Glory through suffering.’ This idea of suffering has been interpreted, internalized and celebrated by cyclists who recognize that moment where pain, pleasure and satisfaction come together to transform the rider. We revel in the suffering because we seek the glory that accompanies achievement.

Perspective is a wonderful thing.

In Spring 2014, we met Justin McLean, a rider from Melbourne, Australia, who shared a story that resonated with us as cyclists, as parents, as human beings. His is a story all too familiar. Justin’s life received a jolt on 5th September 5, 2013, with the diagnosis of an aggressive form of bowel cancer. The 40-year-old father of three reacted brazenly, the way that any otherwise healthy athlete would: “Fuck this, I’m going to live.” Justin saw no other option, there were too many people who counted on him, people whom he loved too much to leave early. He had no ‘plan b’.

One way or another, it is reckoned that one-in-two people will be affected by cancer. With Justin’s ethos captured perfectly by a hashtag, #noplanb, his battle for survival started to gain momentum, with the help of his friends and through the support of his family and the people at PWC, where Justin is a Strategic Partner. When we met Justin, he was in the middle of his second round of chemotherapy and his story was still taking shape — with the bike firmly at its centre. On one of his darker days, Justin’s best friend, Adam Davis, loaned him a Watt Bike and made him another very special gift – a striking portrait of the Passo dello Stelvio, by the photographer Jered Gruber.

Adam gave Justin the expletive-filled advice only a best friend can, and the two came up with a plan – to celebrate the end of Justin’s chemotherapy treatment with a trip to Corsica to ride with friends. With Corsica as the carrot, Justin started putting in time on the bike during his treatments. Five minutes, five miles, whatever his body would allow. That moment, that photograph, that dark day, he made a pact to not merely survive cancer, but to live and to thrive.

And in some ways that was just the beginning of the story. Surprised at the fragmented and often alienating nature of the treatment process, in 2014, Justin founded Thrivor, an organisation that serves as an advocate for the needs of cancer patients, their family and caregivers. By bringing together health professionals, corporate sponsors and influential individuals, Thrivor is working with partners around the world to ensure the care pathway is of the highest possible standard.