Hello all. I’m just back to my house in Italy after a lovely two week training camp in the south of Spain and have been wanting to write this blog for a quite some time now.
I have been wanting to talk a bit about my relationship with my Dad.
I consider my Dad to be one of my best friends. There is no one else in this world that I have spent more time with in my life than him. Between the age of when I could talk, up until I was into my ‘tweens’– almost every night he was home, my Dad would come into my room before bedtime and talk with me for hours on end. He would tell me stories of his racing days, I would ask questions, I could talk to him about anything…he was like my own personal therapist. If I was having a problem at school, I would talk it through with him, whether it was about a girl I had a crush on or a bully that was picking on me. As a kid, this time with my Dad meant the world to me and wound up being an outstanding highlight of my childhood.
I often wondered why my friends didn’t have a similar relationship with their fathers that I had with mine. My Dad would go off to different events every once and a while, but was never gone too long. I very fondly recall the ‘boys weekends’ we would spend together in the winters in various ski destinations in Colorado and around the western US. We would quite literally ski all day–full gas the whole time–then go out for burgers at night and just hang out and chat before heading to bed and repeating another adventure the next day. On those weekends we would be attached at the hip and I remember them as being some of the best weekends of my young life. In fact, when I think back to them now, I am overwhelmed with a strong feeling of nostalgia. I loved every second of the time I could spend with my Dad.
In 2000, my Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. As a kid at the age of 10, I thought, like most little kids do, that the world revolved around me, I figured my Dad’s ‘sickness’ wasn’t that bad of news. After all, it only meant that he couldn’t travel as much, and would have to spend more time at home; more time with me and my little sister Kelsey. I also had no real clue as to the severity of it, my knowledge of the matter only broadened as I matured over the course of the last 12 years.
My relationship with my Dad didn’t change at all after his diagnosis. Thinking back now to the way he handled it, I can’t really believe his composure. He kept on living, loving, and laughing. He easily could’ve lapsed into self pity and depression but he held his head high and said ‘I am going to live with this disease and I am going to live well.’ He spent even more time with my sister and me, and we got to do some pretty cool things as a family – like move to Italy for 3 years when I was in middle school. Just to do something different and because we could. I will say, however, that nothing we did as a family could how been accomplished without my Mom though, she is very much the glue that holds us together.
A lot of people ask me what it was like when I found out my father had Parkinson’s, but to be honest, at age 10 I was far too young to know anything about it, and as it has changed him over the years I have been growing into my own person and trying to find my place in the world. I would say that the only time I really noticed a huge difference in my father’s appearance was after he underwent a brain surgery called ‘deep brain stimulation’ or DBS. In 2008, as I was qualifying for the Olympic team in track cycling, my Dad had two electrodes implanted into his brain which were wired to a battery box that sits on his right pectoral muscle; it is otherwise called a ‘brain pacemaker’. These electrodes are then fine tuned and customized to his own personal setting that quell his tremors and vastly improve his quality of life. Before the surgery my Dad had been on an 8-year roller coaster of medications, but after? He no longer had to take anything. He was not cured by any means, but he was a new man, with new life inside of him.
Even though my Dad has had to fight through this disease for almost 12 years now, our quality of life as a family has not been hindered in the slightest. My Dad is a huge inspiration to me not only in my cycling career but also in my personal life. He reminds me that I should never take anything for granted, and that no matter what, I should be happy and grateful for what I have. Positivity goes a long way, and seeing the bright side of any situation is a trait I have definitely inherited from my father. He is a bright light in many peoples lives, maybe shining the brightest in mine.
Earlier this month I chose to support my Dad’s foundation, the Davis Phinney Foundation, by donating $25,000 of my own money. The work he does, inspiring people around the globe to live BETTER with their disease is incredible. He did not ask me to donate, I just felt that it was getting to that time in MY life where I needed to start to give back. If YOU are interested in helping me match my donation (and you are in the USA)…you can easily text the word VICTORY to the number 80888 to donate $10. If you are outside the US, and have the urge to help support the Davis Phinney Foundation you can donate here: davisphinneyfoundation.org
Many of you have been so very supporting in this endeavor, and for that I thank you! It is rather special for me to be able to share my love for the man that taught me everything I needed to know about how to live my life to the fullest, with all of you.
Thank you for reading, and a huge THANK YOU if you donate..it really means a lot to me!