An 88-year-old man's inspirational return to bicycling

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You might find it inspirational to learn that an 88-year-old man won three gold medals at the Connecticut Senior Games earlier this year.

But the back story for cycling enthusiast Bob Sawyer is so much more amazing than that.

A year earlier, the Bedford, Massachusetts, man had been hospitalized with lymphoma, complicated by pneumonia and the inability to eat because he could not swallow. His doctors had discovered the lymphoma on a CT-scan after he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.

So there he was in the hospital, wasting away. Everyone, including Sawyer, had started to give up hope.

Didn't give in

Then, one morning he realized he could swallow. As he told the Boston Globe:

“I felt I’d had a good life and if this was where it ended, then so be it. But then there came a time when I felt like I had to make a decision. Can I make it back? Do I want to lie here like a vegetable for a year?”

He didn't. He started eating again. He got better and returned to his graduated-care retirement community where the nutritionist and physical therapist worked to improve his health and strength so he could return to bicycling.

Sawyer was known around the retirement community as a bicyclist. He had been an active member of the Charles River Wheelman Bicycle Club for more than 20 years; his name is associated with route-mapping and advocacy issues in the Lexington area. His love of bicycling dates back to when he was a kid.

Take ownership

The Globe says that, although he got lots of help and encouragement along the way, Sawyer's recovery was based on his commitment to his own health and wellness.

That's the important lesson that Sawyer can give us — to take ownership of our own health and well-being. At some point after an illness, we have to decide how hard we want to work to get better.

Sawyer made his health a top priority, and now he's joining 30- to 40-mile group rides and shopping and running errands on his bike.

And he's riding in those occasional senior cycling competitions. Although he says there isn't a lot of — if any — competition at his age level, the important thing is that he can still ride.

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