Why am I going to compete in the Hell-fire Cup in November 2017 - a 4 day, 9 stage mountain bike event in southern Tasmania, covering approximately 200km?
Seeing my friend, Rhys Ibbott’s diagnosis with heart disease at the age of 26, has drastically changed my outlook on life. Rhys has a rare heart condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, which limits him from participating in many of the physical activities that used to provide him with so much pleasure.
While this challenge has forced Rhys to change some of the core elements around his daily functioning, it has not diminished his passion for life or his drive to be the best version of himself.
From the beginning of Rhys’s new journey I have felt a deep helplessness, so this is why I have decided to get on the bike and raise some money for the Heart Foundation.
I am doing this in collaboration with DROP Consulting, whose mission is to provide awareness, and promote holistic growth. DROP is helping people understand the importance of living a life in balance, whilst striving to be the best version of themselves.
This will be a great challenge, one which I am looking forward to enduring.
Lastly, Rhys has written a short letter detailing his story and experience with his condition.
Please take the time to read.
Listen to Rhys's story on the Merry Maker Sisters Podcast
LETTER TO MY FORMER SELF - Rhys Ibbott
Look at you. 25 years of age. Recently graduated from University with a Bachelor of Exercise Science and a Diploma of Education. About to embark on the trip of a lifetime, working, and travelling in the UK while beginning to shape my adult life.
What an exciting journey you have ahead of you. People to meet, places to see and experiences that you have only dreamt about. Travel is what you have in your sites, beautiful European villages, beautiful girls and mind-blowing experiences. London is your base. Teaching fulltime and discovering if that is the professional path you will pursue. So many exciting possibilities and you have taken that first step. Pulling that trigger. Stepping on that plane and waving goodbye to all your friends and family. It is the end of July 2014.
You think you are ready; you have done the hard work saving, now it’s time to enjoy it. This is the easy part you are thinking. But life never stops to give you a clear run. But for now you are ready to sit back and let the fun begin. First stop the USA for some sun along the Californian coast and then off to London.
You have landed your first job just out of London in a small village in Essex called Braintree. The name of the school is Tabor Academy, so you decide to rent a small room in a unit in Chelmsford, Essex. This is when it all dawns on you, you have moved to the other side of the world, away from your family and friends. Is it worth it? The school is far from perfect. The kids love that you are from Australia and constantly ask you if you know the actors from Home and Away. However, the behaviour problems are overwhelmingly stressful and the content you are delivering is not in line with the way you like to teach. Secondary school science isn’t your thing, but you know this already. You only last until the end of the first term and then you relocate back to London to work casually as a relief teacher at a number of schools in the inner city. The London winter is ruthless and the cost of living in London is really testing you. You begin to once again question was the move really worth it? From the white sandy beaches of the Gold Coast to the dark, dirty streets of London. You miss the outdoor lifestyle, the surf, and the sun. A little adversity you know strengthens your character, you use exercise as your outlet.
Your First holiday to Cornwall on the west coast of England makes you feel better about the move and that first taste of travel makes it all feel worthwhile. Little do you know your biggest challenge of all is about to creep up on you and strike you right from where you gather your will, then something else that will leave you even more heart broken will happen. It’s the 28 of November 2014 and you leave the small flat you are renting with a few mates from Brisbane to go on your morning run. You have the rugby to look forward to that night, some free tickets from some family friends. Australia is playing England at Twickenham. But on that run you experience something that changes your life forever.
On that run you experience a cardiac arrest. You are 26 years of age. The cause, a condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. Thanks to a Good Samaritan named Valerie Harvey driving past the scene where you were experiencing the cardiac arrest, your life was miraculously saved. Only moments from death Valerie performed CPR and was able to save your life. This event turns your world upside down, 2 days later you wake up in Hammersmith hospital and start to make sense of all the crazy things that have happened. That outlet of running and hardcore physical exercise to alleviate your stress has been taken away from you, and once you return home you fall into a deep bought of depression.
You decide to remain in London, and start back at work soon after getting out of hospital going about your daily life as if nothing has happened. Denial is what seems to be at play here. You are very weak and constantly fatigued following the accident. Working, partying, and the inability to see the severity of what has happened to you causes several problems in your life. You continue to fall into a deeper state of depression and soon you decide to leave teaching for a while.
You start working for your cousin in a well know restaurant in London called Dishoom as Maître D. You enjoy this immensely and are really great at working in a big team. You realize the importance of change; this vibrant environment helps you overcome the negative state of mind that you have been in (for now…)
After working at Dishoom for a number of months you feel like you have found yourself again. The confidence starts to reside back into your life. Its summer in London and the city is buzzing. But just as things are on the up your world comes crashing down again. You receive a message from your sister. It’s your mum she has a brain tumor. You feel sick in your stomach. The news cripples you. But you go away and take a deep breath. You realise it’s time to get yourself home. You travel to Spain, then the south of France, and finally Italy on your way home. The travel excites you and it freshens your mind before you return home.
Susan Jane Ibbott passes away a year after her diagnosis on the 12 of July 2016. Health and relationships are what you realise life is all about. Without them you realise you have nothing.
This challenge will reshape how you live your life. You are now unable to enjoy many of the physical activities that were such a large part of what made you who you are like surfing, and going to the gym. You will be forced to find new passions in mindfulness meditation, and yoga. This will help you balance your wellbeing whilst providing focus and direction to not just help yourself but also others.
Your heart health continues to improve and the start of a new relationship gives your heart all the strength it needs.
Have faith in your ability and always be kind to the people around you. Spend every day mastering your health and fostering strong and meaningful relationships.
Your journey is only just beginning.