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Monday, November 14, 2011

Mortality

I hate to post on a depressing topic on a wet, gray Monday morning, but it's on my mind.

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, than you probably heard about the 39 year old woman - a married mom of a 4 year old, pregnant with her second child - who was killed by a truck while riding her bicycle last week.

Not only have the newspapers been filled with articles about this story, but because this woman, Jenna Morrison, was a yoga instructor, the fitness industry is also abuzz about this case. I did not know her, but, of course, as a mom and fellow cyclist, it has totally struck a chord with me.

Many cyclists in this city do stupid things - riding without a helmet, going through red lights/stop signs, talking on a cell or listening to an Ipod while riding, etc., but this case just goes to show that even when you are doing nothing wrong, cycling in Toronto is pretty risky.

I have been riding here since I moved to the city in 1994 and my parents have never liked it one bit. I am FORTUNATE to have ONLY been in one accident - in 1999, when a driver made an illegal turn and I ended up slamming head first into her station wagon. Had I not been wearing a helmet, I would not be here today. As it was, my nose was broken in 2 places (hence my now crooked nose) and my tooth split my lip in half.

I love cycling as a means of transportation - it is eco-friendly, good exercise, time efficient and free. But I am left wondering if it is worth the risk. The papers have been going on ad nauseum since the accident last week about the hostility between cyclists and drivers in the city and the lack of sufficient infrastructure, policies and laws to protect cyclists. We lag behind many other Canadian cities and the country, as a whole, is way behind a lot of places in Europe (i.e. Scandinavia) where cycling is a way of life.

Aside from this tragedy, there are other events weighing on me. Big A's school just sent a note to all the parents about a mom that passed away last night - both her children attend Big A's school. I did not know this woman either, but a quick Google search informed me that this young mom was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago and spent the remainder of her life tirelessly fighting cancer and advocating for patient rights.

This woman's kids will grow up without their mother. This is one of my greatest fears. I want, more than anything, to see my children grow up.

Even before the events of the past week, my last birthday had a significant impact on me. I'm not so concerned with the growing number of lines on my forehead, although I'd prefer not to have those, but I cannot deny, even if I still feel like a kid, that at 37 I am no longer a spring chicken. I am still fit and proud of it, but unlike in my younger years, I cannot drink a lot of alcohol (and get only 3 hours sleep and then get up the next morning and teach a high intensity step class!), I cannot do a hard workout and NOT be super sore the next day...and I already cannot remember things unless I write them down.

This is why I do what I can to stay healthy. I make sleep a high priority, I TRY to manage stress, I eat as healthy a diet as I can (while still enjoying life) and I exercise every day. I try to do everything in my control to avoid increasing my risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. But now I also have to wonder if my so-called healthy habit of cycling in the city, is actually too much of a risk?