Asthmatic Athletes

65_RedRoses: Discovering Warrior Sage Eva Markvoort

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We’ve all been there. It’s the end of a long day, everyone’s asleep, and it’s time to thumb through new movies streaming on Netflix or available on iTunes. There’s always that one compelling movie that begs to be clicked on. Still, you pass it by, night after night. Once in a while you may click through for more information, but you never end up watching it. You’re just not feeling the title, promo photo, or subject matter itself. It’s a little too heavy or hits too close to home. Then, one night, something deep inside tells you to go for it, or rather, makes you go for it. You click on the play symbol without even realizing it and the results are life changing. For me, that night was last night and that movie was called 65_RedRoses. 65_RedRoses is a very true story. A documentary. A work of art. A teaching. It’s a very real representation of perhaps the most challenging period in the lives of three special young women, all suffering from Cystic Fibrosis (CF). This is not Reality TV, this is reality. A raw view into the out-of-control chest congestion and lengthy hospital stays that often accompany CF. In 65_RedRoses, Eva Markvoort, part warrior, part sage, exposes her great pain and vulnerability but also her great zest for life. She opens up and extends her creative mind and adventurous heart for us all to experience. We are brought deep within her inner circle to ride a roller coaster of emotions.

Eva, along with her loving and supportive family and two fellow CF fighters Meg Moore (aka megmucus) and Kina Boyce (aka Spirit_of_Kina), helps us to better understand this disease and the organ donation process associated with a skillful but risky double lung transplant. A process full of on-call waiting, waiting and more waiting. Through online journal entries and footage shot during excruciating moments, we share in their struggles, join along in their friendships and cry with relief when they shine. Shine, a good word. Even in her worst condition, Eva couldn't help but shine on family, friends and everyone else who crossed her path.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with CF, in short simple terms, it’s a disease that causes heavy mucus to accumulate in the lungs and other organs, eventually impacting the digestive system. Among other things, this results in severe breathing issues, infections and fatigue. Treatments are improving and the miracle of organ donations and lung transplants may extend a Cystic Fibrosis patient’s life, however, as the American Lung Association puts it, “People with CF have a shorter-than-normal life expectancy.” That means, that as of today, there is no known cure for Cystic Fibrosis.

Through my Standing Cyclist projects and my own Allergic Asthma challenges, I was somewhat familiar with CF, but my understanding was very limited. I only knew that CF patients had trouble breathing. That’s all. But it’s far more than that. During one of my adventure cycling fundraising trips, I had the opportunity to meet a child with Cystic Fibrosis. I chatted, trailside, with his parents. I listened to their story, impressed by their positive attitude and strength. In that moment, I got to know them, but I never really got to know CF first hand. Not until now. Not until I clicked on that one movie I had been passing on for many months.

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In June 2014, Eva’s 65-year old father Bill Markvoort participated in a 9-day cycling event called GearUp4CF. He rode in honor of his daughter and to raise awareness and funds for the CF cause. This was Bill’s second time riding in this particular Cystic Fibrosis event. His first ride back in 2008 was a celebration of Eva’s successful double lung transplant. Eva later joined the team as chief cheerleader while still recovering from surgery. This year, Bill and 21 other team riders completed the 1,200km route from Vancouver to Banff, Canada on June 29th. This was the 9th annual GearUp4CF. This year’s event was a great success, thanks to Bill, his team members and the many generous people who donated. Over $370,000 was raised for CF research and care.

While here with us on this Earth, Eva wanted to make a difference. She wanted to raise awareness for CF and for the organ donation process. As it turned out, she accomplished this, but so much more as well. Beyond the 1 million plus dollars raised as a result of Eva’s story, she has made an even deeper impact on millions of people. Anyone who sees this movie, anyone with even the slightest hint of empathy and compassion within them, will see life differently going forward. Eva’s challenges will inspire young people to never take their ability to dance, work, study, laugh, love and breathe for granted. Parents will hug their children just a little tighter and a bit longer because of her willingness to share both her pain and her magical smile. For generations to come, Eva’s perseverance, potent triumphs and her brilliant shine will remind us all to live this magnificent life to its very fullest, each and every moment, with every single breath we take.

You can find the film on iTunes, purchase it via the official movie website, or stream it via Netflix. To learn more about Eva, 65_RedRoses The Movie, her dad’s tribute ride and CF, visit:

65_RedRoses Movie - http://65redroses.com/

More About Cystic Fibrosis - http://www.cff.org/

Eva’s 65_RedRoses Online Journal - http://65redroses.livejournal.com/

Bill Markvoort’s GearUp4CF Ride - http://65for65roses.blogspot.ca/

Article - Bill Markvoort Rides for Daughter Eva - http://www.newwestnewsleader.com/news/252329451.html

Great Strides – CFF Walking Events - http://fightcf.cff.org/site/PageServer?pagename=gs_homepage

Practicing Patience: Touring Iceland Standing Cyclist Style

Back in 2006 while bouncing back from severe allergic asthma attacks and a 2-year back injury, my worn spirit began to once again crave adventure. I was always interested in polar regions and thought how challenging it would be to journey on a seatless cycling expedition in chilling, remote locations such as Antarctica or up north above the Yukon. After researching the possibilities for several months, Greenland became the obvious choice. The old military base and permafrost trails would be a perfect combination of isolation and social experience. I put a plan together and began my training. The universe had other plans for me, though. When it came time for me to purchase my airline tickets, I was informed that due to a lack of interest, flights from the US to Northwest Greenland (my target destination) were no longer available. I would have to fly to Greenland via Europe at four times the cost. This was not an option. I went back to the drawing board and revisited my second choice, Iceland. It was an easy decision and one I would not regret. I've always felt that my choice of bicycle touring destinations held great meaning in my life, at that particular point in time. This trip would be no exception. Iceland proved to be a brutal test of my ability to travel alone, in severe weather, in my typical seatless, standing cycling position. Everything was difficult. Even simple things like cooking (in 50 mph winds) resulted in great frustration. My patience was stretched thinner than ever before. In fact, patience soon became the theme or lesson of this trip. For me, this was the ultimate practice. My lack of patience has always been my greatest personality challenge. This trip isolated me, slowed me down, and gave me no choice but to look inside, remain calm, and be very patient. In terms of difficulty, one day stands out the most. I had to cover 40 miles seatless over a mountain pass in strong winds, with gear. For hours, gusts would toss me off my bike and into a ditch along the roadside. Each time I had to regroup, reorganize my panniers, remount and get rolling once again into the high winds and driving horizontal rain. The scrapes and blood stains would remind me of each battle lost to gravity. Talk about patience. After a while I was humbled by mother nature's attempt to demolish me physically and mentally. In fact, eventually I truly enjoyed the challenge I was presented with. Patience was no longer an issue. I had passed my test, for that day anyway. So remember, when picking a destination and building a game plan for your next bikepacking adventure, consider the bigger lessons looming in the background. You never know what you may learn along the way. Happy trails! 

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Exercise as Medicine: Asthma Management, Cycling and Adventure Touring

With modern medicine promoting itself during almost every commercial break, many of us tend to forget that simple has its place within our circle of wellness. I'm not saying that pills do not save lives but it is becoming more clear everyday that pills are often incorrectly prescribed and misused. I, for one, remember a time when the words "rare" and "minor" were used to describe side-effects. More often these days we see "common" and "serious" popping up in fast talking summaries and small print. Again, not to knock modern, traditional medicine. I believe there is a place for many different methods of healing...as long as they address root causes rather than mask symptoms. Providing they add more healing power than side-effects. Case in point. I am asthmatic. Specifically, I suffer from Allergic Asthma which means environmental triggers such as chemical vapors, pet dander, and pollen can significantly impair my ability to breathe. This is usually accompanied by severe sinus pain and pressure (sinusitis). The most common treatment for this sort of discomfort includes pills and inhalers that open up the lungs. I myself have used many of these to control my allergic asthma. For me, however, the best medicine was a bit more...organic. My body and often my mind did not react well to manufactured medication. As a life long cyclist,  I reenlisted exercise, in the form of cycling and later adventure cycling/touring, to rediscover my own personal wellness. Exercise became my primary source of healing, along with dietary changes, meditation and the more spiritual side of cycling, Adventure Touring. I found this combination of effort most effective for me. I not only began healing my body, but my mind and spirit as well. As my energy increased, my passion for cycling returned. This passion eventually transformed into www.TeamStandingCyclist.com and fueled my seatless "cycling for a cause" activities. Often when out on a charity bike tour, I meet individuals, parents, and children who become confused when they learn of my asthma. I hear comments like "You shouldn't be able to..." and "My doctor told me I would never..."  I take the opportunity to tell my story and provide a bit of hope. I am concerned that too many children are hearing the message that asthma is the end. I am proof that it can in fact be the beginning. Some simple requests to parents and doctors. Don't write us off...before we even get started. Don't drug us up...when drugs may not be the best solution. As for us, please take the initiative to learn about your own body and mind. Are you leading a healthy lifestyle? What environmental triggers are you sensitive to? How will you avoid them? Is your fitness level where it should be? Are you eating healthy foods? Do you have food allergies? Are you managing your stress level? Are you following your passions? First address what is right in front of you and within your control, before looking off into the distance for complex solutions. Use your intuition. Often the simplest solutions are our best solutions. I suspect that will remain true, always, no matter where technology takes us. Peace.

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