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‘Keep moving’: A fearless Dutchwoman with epilepsy cycles 60km with an Olympian

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    "Every person with epilepsy is different so there are only a few general pieces of advice that I can give to people having epilepsy: “Keep moving, keep doing the things that you like, keep going, trying” is one of them.

    As I grow older, I need less medication and have fewer seizures so I can do many things that I could not a few years ago. I have always been sporty, but I also know the reality of lying in a corner in the sports hall having had a seizure. Of course, it can still happen to me, but the risk now is far less.

    When Olympic medalist Marion Clignet invited me to participate in a 60km bike ride in France I said ‘Yes, Yes, and Yes again’. UCB was willing to sponsor my attendance so I started training. I live in Alkmaar in Holland where there are no mountains or hills but I trained – hail, rain or shine – and by May I was ready.

    I made my way to the small village of L’Isle Jourdain. And there I was – one of the few ladies – sitting on a bike I had borrowed from Marion, waiting for the starting gun.

    At 60 years of age I was, perhaps, a little slower than some of the more professional participants but I set off with a sense of optimism. After a few kilometres the sweat is dripping down my back and I have to walk up one of the steeper hills but I remind myself that, for the first time in my life, I’m on a real cycle race in the south of France – and it feels great!

    After what seems ‘hours’ of biking, the hills become higher and it is getting hotter. Two of the race stewards stop their car at the top of the hill and wait for me to reach the top.  ´There are still 35 km to go – do you want to stop?’ they ask. I see a woman in the car. She is much younger than me and apparently she has given up already, but I say ‘No – I’m not ready to stop yet!’

    After walking up a few more hills, one of the stewards gives me some tips on handling the gears and I can now cycle uphill instead of walking.

    Still, the road seems endless and it’s tempting to throw in the towel. But like I never gave up hope after having a seizure - I drew on all my strength to get back on my feet again and to go on living and doing what I needed to do - this is my moment of not being able to think of failure as well. I put all other thoughts out of my mind and focused everything I had on the moment. A photographer happens to take a photo of me going downhill and somehow I manage to produce a smile which encourages me to go on.

    Again the stewards give me the option of calling it quits but I refuse. They shout some encouragement and I push ahead towards the finish. I am aware that this is my race against epilepsy and  I – and not my epilepsy – will decide whether I will finish or not.

    Suddenly there are 10km left. My muscles ache and I wonder whether I could take another big mountain but the road turns downhill and I pick up speed. I’m flying – a fearless Flying Dutchwoman bearing down on the finish line.

    Of course I am relieved having landed safe as well. But I also feel that today I wrote a new chapter of ‘keep going’, and of living my life with passion, in spite of my epilepsy!

    And next year, I intend to participate in the Marion Clignet Cyclosportive again. Now that I’m aware of the professional level of the ride I will be able to prepare myself even better next time!".

    Article was written by Wieke Gaus

    UCB sponsored Wieke’s attendance at The Marion Clignet Cyclorace 2012.

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