When Kyle Bryant was 17, he was diagnosed with a degenerative neuromuscular disease that doctors predicted would one day put him in a wheelchair. Worse, they said, his genetic illness, Friedreich’s ataxia, might send him to an early grave.
Bryant could’ve been paralyzed with fear. Instead he taught himself how to ride a recumbent bike and, at 25, embarked on a six-week, 2,500-mile journey from San Diego to Memphis.
Twelve years later, he has written about in that monumental trip in “Shifting Into High Gear: One Man’s Grave Diagnosis and The Epic Bike Ride That Taught Him What Matters” (Health Communications Inc., 2019).
During the ride, Bryant often found himself unexpectedly on roads he hadn’t mapped out in advance, yet he wound up getting to his next destination more quickly and easily. The experience offered him a powerful metaphor for how he might live with a life-altering disease: Instead of committing to an angry route through a life of hopelessness or despair, he recognized that life offers imminent possibilities, many of which can lead to hope and happiness.
“It took me a long time to see myself as separate from my disease,” says Bryant, 37, who has used a wheelchair since 2011. “This was an important revelation for me. My bike ride helped me see that.”
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