In the second installment, Richie shares the emotional highs and lows of his cancer recovery and how the virtual cycling community is essential in his life.
In Part One of the series, Richie shared his two-year fight against cancer and the emotional and physical roller coaster that threatened to steal his life, family, and community. Richie had come to a fortuitous turning point involving virtual cycling when he left off. The rest is history, and he tells it now.
As told by Richie Sheerin, himself!
The Journey Continues
I joined a small admin team called IRL (Now Team RWB – Racing Without Borders). The guys showed me what they were trying to achieve and what they had done so far.
What started as only a handful of members quickly grew to 1000, 2000, then 3000 over the next few months during the lockdown. I came in and helped with product branding and web design, as well as torturing Eric Min and his events team for official event slots for our exponentially growing community.
I was helping to lead a Zwift monolithic community of Irish Watopians.
So Here We Go, Stem Cell Transplant Part 2
Covid restrictions started easing, and I got a call from the transplant coordinator. We’ve got a hospital bed lined up for you. Also, it’s Allo (Donor) stem cell transplant time.
After high-intensity chemotherapy, allogeneic stem cell transplantation involves transferring the stem cells from a healthy person (the donor) to the patient’s body.
I was back on Zwift and was getting on with things.
We ran a Virtual Charity Event. On Sunday 13th December, in aid of cancer support services in Ireland, Team RWB Cycling members took on various distances of a virtual route, with the longest ride set at 200km.
We asked our members to raise money which is vital for our charity partners to exist. 2020 has been an unprecedented challenge for all charities struggling to raise funds through normal channels.
We achieved our target and surpassed it, raising an amazing €5,500 for our charity partners, the Friends of the Cancer Centre and the Irish Cancer Society.
I just kicked on with 2021. With the easing of covid restrictions and the introduction of Spring, I started cycling outdoors again.
Big 6-month post-transplant test, and yet again, with cancer and the roller coaster, it is more bad news. The cancer protein showed a faint band in my blood work, and a PET scan showed a small tumor in my right thigh muscle.
Started oral Chemotherapy. The doctors decided against radiotherapy due to the position of the tumor deep within the muscle.
No cancer detected again. As I said, it’s a rollercoaster.
This month was my highlight of the year. I met the gaffer, aka Brian Donnelly, the guy who started it all at RWB. At Team RWB, we have several racing teams.
I manage and captain the RWB Serranos, these are guys I’ve only met virtually, but they leave everything on the bike when racing for each other. I was just signing off from work on a Friday, and I saw an RWB jersey scoot past my window, then another, then several riders passing.
I looked out properly, and the motley crew had cycled from as far as Wexord to Derry (Bottom to Top of Ireland) to present me with a framed RWB Jersey, thanking me for all I have done not only the Serranos but the entire community.
That’s What It’s All About
For me, this is what Team Racing Without Borders is all about. A community, a cycling family for mental and physical well-being, and burying ourselves on the turbo/trainer on Zwift for people we’ve never met in real life until now.
This gesture so humbles me, and I truly will never forget this. Later in August, we had another Team RWB meet-up. This time it was to attend the Lap of Lough sportive, an approx 140/50km trek around Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland. A smashing day had by all who traveled from all around Ireland to attend.
A family holiday and a sneaky ride around lake Garda with one of the best on Zwift, Matteo Cigala.
PET scan to see progress and, yet again, more bad news with some good news. The tumor on the right leg had disappeared, but a new one on the right leg. WTF. Anyway, the pain cave needed an update and a place for my amazing framed RWB Jersey.
Bone Marrow Biopsy time. Thankfully this came back negative, so no systemic treatment. My doctors decided on local radiotherapy to my thigh (top of my sartorius muscle). They did some Donor Lymphocyte Infusions (taking white blood cells from my brother and sticking them into me).
The theory is to create a graft vs. tumor effect from my brother’s immune system. Crazy Science, but fascinating, but such a pity I’ve had to educate myself on this because of myself.
Throughout treatment, the love and support I have from my rock, my wife Lisa, who has been through the wars with me, cancer’s constant ups and downs, and the mental battle. Lisa really has steered this ship.
I feel a Christy Moore ensemble coming:
“With no maps to guide us, we steered our own course
Rode out the storms when the winds were gale force
Sat out the doldrums in patience and hope
Working together we learned how to cope”
The Voyage by Christy Moore
The Tremendous Support Steers the Ship
Lisa, along with my Son Aedan and close family and friends’ support, make this journey a little easier. In addition to their support, my mental medicine throughout all of this has been Virtual Cycling. It is where Team RWB comes in. I’m so honored to be part of and help lead Team RWB. Find the link to the team on ZwiftPower here.
Zwift has been such an excellent platform for me physically and mentally. I’ve been able to get fit while cycling and racing (albeit not at the level I was at yet!). I can channel my mental focus into helping other folks, whether Irish, have Irish blood in them or live on Ireland’s island, North or South. Together we are creating a craic-filled community of cyclists racing without borders.
A Bit of RWB History
Team Racing Without Borders (RWB) was formed in 2020 by a group of seasoned cyclists based in Ireland riding on Zwift from the early days and subsequently started racing in TTT together. Everyone in Ireland knows everyone else, and it seems. Word spread fast, and more people took an interest, especially through the lockdown.
The idea came from creating a community to support and guide aspiring Zwifters and create an All Ireland community based around cycling. Now with over 4300 members worldwide, we welcome anyone who wants fun-filled racing and riding. You just need to have visited an Irish bar and enjoyed a Guinness or partied on St. Patrick’s Day to join up. You’ve already got a feel for how RWB works if you have.
Our mission is to push the boundaries of esports in a safe, all-inclusive environment for every existing and aspiring athlete. Ireland has a lot of history, and as the name suggests, we Race Without Borders as one team. A team with a common bond in the love of cycling, the benefits of community, and the very Irish need for a bit of craic (fun).
There are so many benefits of virtual cycling and why it is vital in my life. The mental and physical support that exercise brings in a community stands out. At a practical level, the team supports technically (helping people new to Zwift), training plans, encouragement, getting out of the chair, and meeting with friends in a healthy, safe, and inclusive environment.
This friendship, the craic, and banter that can turn a tough day into a great day is at the core of why we exist. Whether riding socially or racing individually or as a team, RWB caters to all. There is always an Irish/Northern Irish flag on Zwift to give a ride on or chat.
Team RWB membership is a lifelong association with eternal friendships, not a flash in the pan thing you try and then give up because you didn’t enjoy it or feel supported.
Ireland is known for many things. At the top of the list is our hospitality, a warrior spirit, humor, and at the absolute core, having fun with others. That is RWB in a nutshell. We represent our collective cultures and are proud.
Conclusion - Our Wish
Our wish is for those who join our races or socials to go away thinking they got more than just a workout. They loved being part of the Irishness of RWB. We race hard, but our integrity and fairness are beyond reproach, and we respect those we ride with and compete against each race.
We host a wide array of rides each week. There are socials on a Monday with discord for the banter. Early morning rides on Wednesdays, race leagues on Fridays, and endurance rides on Sundays.
The best way to keep up to date is to join the RWB Ireland Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/rwbireland.
Or like our page https://www.facebook.com/rwbcycling where we post everything planned for the week. In addition, you will find ride reports and everything you might need to know about the club, including how to join and the various support groups within.
Also, check out our official Zwift events here https://www.zwift.com/uk/events/tag/racingwithoutborders
See you on the virtual tarmac, ride on and stay healthy in body and mind.
Team Racing Without Borders
You are braver than you believe,
Stronger than you seem,
Smarter than you think.
Your Thought of Support
Do you have any words of encouragement for Richie or someone you know who has experienced the rollercoaster of illness? Share below! Your fellow virtual cyclists are interested.
For more inspiring stories of the extraordinary ordinary individuals of virtual cycling check out the Community page of The ZOM!
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!