I REMEMBER lying in ICU back in 2018 unable to open my eyes and thinking I was ready to die as the pain was so much.

It was just after my sixth surgery and I had suffered some strange convulsion the day before which left me in spasms, unable to even communicate.

I held onto the hope that I would ride again in the Alps.That maybe one day soon I would breathe the fresh mountain air, feel the burn in my legs as I climb a mountain pass.

I lay rolled up on my side in pain with tubes stuck up my nose and the sounds of ICU drowning out the thoughts in my mind.

The last time I was stood at the foot of the Alps was only a few weeks before this surgery – when I set off on the Route Des Grande Alps from the shore of Lake Geneva.

That ride across the Alps was my goal from the moment I found out I was paralysed after my 2016 surgery.

I did it before the surgery in 2018 – just in case I didn’t survive it or lost all movement in my body – but I always held onto the hope I would stand at the foot of the Alps again.

It was one of the goals I had set during radiotherapy in 2019 but as yet, like my other goals since ICU in 2018, this one had not come to fruition.

In sports psychology they talk about mental toughness and it is well-known that a test of mental strength is how many times you can get up after being knocked down.

Persistence is a key trait but not just in sport – you only have to look into any cancer ward to see some very mentally tough people.

I always believed I was mentally strong but after six surgeries and constantly having to learn to walk, I started to get beaten down.

Getting back has become harder and harder each time, yet still I hold onto the idea of cycling up an alpine mountain pass.

I close my eyes on the bad days and picture myself cycling those climbs.

I have held onto that image lots over the last few weeks as I have struggled with thoughts of death, cancer, and just living with a spinal cord injury like this. I know my best coping mechanism is on the bike.

So when I found that escape from my thoughts on a bike ride in the Surrey hills on Wednesday with a good friend but still with the constant buzz of cars and people shouting at us for cycling on the road, I decided it was time.

I got in my car and drove to the Alps on Thursday morning.

Twelve hours later, I arrived in a dark car park on the edge of Lake Geneva.

Broken from the drive I collapsed into my bed and my next moment of awareness was the morning sun breaking through my window.

I am now sat next to Lake Geneva looking over the lake. This is where I stood in 2018 before that 740km ride across the alps.

I know there is no way I could ride that this week, but I am here. I pause to take the moment in.

I am grateful to have got through another two operations and Radiotherapy but even more grateful that I am sat here with my morning coffee overlooking a spot I wasn’t sure I would ever see again when lying in ICU in 2018 unable to open my eyes.

I close my eyes and think back to that moment. The moment where I told myself I was ready to die.

I listen to the sounds of the birds next to the lake, take a deep breath of air and mutter the words ‘be in the moment, David’.

It’s my reminder to live in the present, and as I slowly finish my coffee holding onto every sip, I feel the sun on my face.

It is the first time in months I have really felt alive.

I feel an inner excitement of the day ahead exploring the roads around the lake on my bike. 

It’s time to climb into my cycling kit and just ride.