When Christian is talking about his upcoming bike adventure across Europe with bright eyes, smiling, you wouldn’t believe it has only been a couple of weeks since he last had his “head opened,” as he puts it. When he was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 24, it took him, his family and friends a while to learn how to deal with the disease. In order to make it easier for others and give them courage, Christian came up with the Tour for Life, that anyone can join. Before he’ll take off next weekend, he patiently answered our nosy questions.
Hey Christian, how are you?
I am doing great, thanks. Until Easter, I was undergoing chemo therapy and during that time, I wasn’t doing well at all. The happier I am now, that the weather is warmer again and I can go outside on bike rides and hikes.
What is your story?
It’s a pretty intense story, if I may say so. It all started at age 24, when I suddenly had an epileptic seizure and was rescued from the bottom of a swimming pool. A litter later I knew the diagnosis: brain cancer. This was in 2007 and I have had to deal with it since. I’ve had three surgeries, one radio therapy and three chemo therapies. The last surgery was especially hard to take, because I couldn’t walk for two weeks. This sickness has changed my life completely, but also gave me a second life, that I didn’t really ask for.
What is the Tour for Life? What do you want to achieve?
With the Tour for Life, I want to raise awareness for the situation of people who have to deal with cancer. Sadly, almost everyone knows somebody amongst their friends or family, who suffer from the disease. It is my goal to give them courage and a platform and to have a good time together, on the bike. I want to motivate others to re-discover their life, by joining me on the tour, even if it’s just for a small distance. At the same time, I am working closely with some charity foundations and we started a campaign to raise money for cancer research and counseling.
What motivated you to come up with the Tour for Life?
Work-out, nature, encounters and exploring the world. This is what cycling means to me. Cycling keeps me fit, it strengthens my immune system and also gives me a lot of mental confidence. I would like to pass this on to more people and encourage them to ride with me. I am also looking forward to see new countries and cultures as part of Tour for Life.
What do you get from biking?
It simply is a lot of fun. Feeling the air, taking in the sounds and smells around me and getting to know friendly people on my trips is great. And last but not least it’s great to keep me fit. Moderate endurance sports such as biking, running and swimming are very much recommended for cancer aftercare and prevention. And by now, I even enjoy repairing and taking care of my bike.
Why the route Berlin-Istanbul?
Berlin-Istanbul is just the beginning. And to me it is synonymous to “across Europe”. A lot of people travel to Southeast Asia or Australia. But who can say they travelled Europe by bike? I find “slow traveling” more intense and better for relaxation.
Isn’t it dangerous for you to go on such a physically demanding trip?
By now, I have learned to listen to my body and can estimate how many kilometers I can go on one day pretty well. During the trip, there will be regular resting days. The route leads through civilized regions, so medical care will never be far, in case it is needed. Of course, anyone who wants to take part should be fit enough for the daily amount of riding and have a medical insurance. However, most important is for the bike to work properly, especially the brakes. I’ve gotten used to wearing a helmet by now, even though it looks goofy. My daily commute through the city is probably more dangerous than biking from Berlin to Istanbul.
Is it possible to join you for just a part of the tour? Is it possible to join for a “healthy” person as well?
Sure, I am happy about anyone who wants to join! Even if it’s just for a small part, whatever you feel like. If you enjoy it, simply go on. There’s the big Kick Off Tour on June 6th from Berlin to Heidelberg, as well as a beautiful ride vom Freiburg through the Black Forest to Lake Constance and onwards to Salzburg. You can find the exact routes on the Tour for Life Website, on Facebook and on komoot, of course. If you have any more questions, simply send me an email.
Are there other ways to support Tour for Life?
Tell all you friends about the project and motivate them to take part. If you want, you can donate money to cover some of the costs on betterplace.org. There will also be a Tour for Life jersey for biking and running, whose earnings will go to the same charity organizations.
You are fighting for a more open way of dealing with fatal illnesses. Why?
I have made the experience and heard the same from many others, that a lot of people will label you as “incurable” or “deathly ill” after being diagnosed with cancer or other serious sicknesses. I believe that is why many people don’t talk about their disease openly. I have had a hard time in the beginning, too. With the Tour for Life, I want to fight those clichés and proof, that many of us aren’t willing to give themselves up and withdraw themselves from society.
You are full of strength, courage and positive engery. How do you do that?
I have learned to be happy about every new day and see the world with different eyes. There are so many things ready to be explored out there. In my opinion, gratitude is an important step towards a happy and fulfilled life.
Thank you for your open words, Christian. We hope your tour will turn out as you hope and wish you all the best.
Find more information on routes, donating and ways to join on the Tour for Life website. You can also follow him on komoot. And if you’d like to hear Christian explain the whole story, watch the following video.