Danny is 44 years old and lives in Rhoon, in the Netherlands. He struggled for years with Ulcerative Colitis. In January of 2013, he underwent an endoscopy. During the procedure, several areas of inflammation were detected, although there seemed to be no reason for alarm. But his symptoms continued, and in April Danny went back to the internal medicine specialist.
Following a second endoscopy, Danny was diagnosed with intestinal cancer with metastases. The result was an ileostomy and a urostomy. He was quick to accept the new situation. Because, as Danny puts it…
‘If you have the choice between life with two stomas and no life at all, then the decision is easily made.’
Back on his bike…
Danny has always been an active cyclist. Several months after the operation, he was back on his bike again. First, he went in search of a good bicycle seat, one which eliminates the chance of saddle soreness and he soon rediscovered the joy of cycling and noticed that he was recuperating nicely.
Together with a few partners, Danny has a customs shipping company in the Port of Rotterdam. The company’s principal banker invited Danny to participate in the Alpe d’HuZes. This is a well-known Dutch challenge to raise funds for cancer research and improve the quality of life for people with cancer. On a single day, 5,000 people bike, walk or run up the 21 hairpin bends of Alpe d’Huez, climbing more than 1km each time, and doing it as many times as they can. The maximum is 6.
Danny was happy to accept this challenge, and the preparations started immediately.
For an event like this, you must follow a rigorous training regime. Danny clocked up many kilometres, especially at the weekends, with rides between 80 and 100 kilometres. During the rest of the week, he added three hours of spinning to his training schedule. Combining it all with his work was not too difficult.
After participating the first time, when Danny succeeded in climbing the famous mountain three times, he was soon planning a second attempt with the Rotterdam Fundracers team. That was in 2019, and he ended up with four climbs. He had energy to spare, but unfortunately, he ran out of time for the fifth ascent.
This year he would have been on the starting line again. On Thursday, 4 June, to be exact. He hadn’t defined his goal for this year, but he did drop a hint or two. ‘My wife knows me by now, and she told me that I would want to aim for five climbs. I will have to start earlier than last year then and be sure I feel as strong as I did then. Because, a day like that easily requires a total of some 12 hours of cycling.’
Unfortunately, the 2020 Alpe d’ HuZes has been cancelled as a result of the Coronavirus, but Danny plans to be back in 2021.
How does having 2 stomas affect Danny’s cycling?
When asked to what extent the stomas hinder his cycling, Danny is resolute. He is hardly bothered by the stomas and certainly does not feel limited in any way. Drinking enough is always important – that is something that he must keep a very close eye on, especially now. And on the route, everything the cyclists need is provided with posts where they can eat and drink. Healthcare issues are handled by the team, and Danny doesn’t require any extra help there. When it comes to emptying his bags, there are plenty of toilets available everywhere.
Danny knows precisely when he must stop to change his materials. ‘If it’s time to stop, I yell the word “leak” to the group.’ In the world of cycling, this means a flat tyre, but his cycling mates know that for Danny this means his bags. On race and training days, he always checks his bags extra carefully and makes sure to bring along sufficient supplies. A toilet visit never takes too long; the ride can often be continued within a few minutes.
An added reason to cycle
The many banners along the route, especially for people who have already succumbed to this terrible disease, continue to make the greatest impression on Danny.
‘That’s when I always realise how well I came out of it. In fact, in my daily life, I no longer think too much about the period of my illness, because things are now going so well for me. I function just fine and do not have any more problems. For me, living with both stomas is not really a limitation.’
This is a nice segue to the forums that Danny belongs to on Facebook. There, he reads that many of his fellow ostomates often have issues with leakage. Luckily, this has not been his experience. His reason for participating in Alpe d’HuZes, but also for participating in this interview, is that he would like to show other people with stomas another side of the story, ‘It is certainly not inevitable that you will be bothered by your stoma.’
Danny wants to use the money that he collects from next year’s event to contribute to a world in which people no longer die of cancer. Anyone who wishes to support Danny in this effort can make a donation here up until one day before this cycling event.
This was originally published in the first issue of the Welland Nederlands newsletter, Hecht in 2020