Cycling Helps Brighten Future For Asbestos Worker
In 1993, Waymon Shadwick was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. MS adversely
affected his mobility, strength, vision and cognitive function. Waymon's
prognosis was bleak. He had lesions in his brain which were stripping
the myelin around his nerve endings. His doctors frankly advised him that
unless he injected himself regularly with an experimental drug and radically
changed his lifestyle, his days were numbered. He was only 37 years old.
Waymon was no stranger to adversity. For years he had worked in toxic clouds
of asbestos, fumes and gases. From 1978 to the day of his diagnosis, Waymon
the Asbestos Workers Local 36 in Portland, Oregon. He had seen first-hand
the grisly consequences of asbestos exposure. Many of his friends had
passed away from lung cancer. Many others were wasting away. He was spending
too much time at funerals.
In a strange way, the MS diagnosis helped change Waymon's fortunes
for the better. Waymon stopped smoking. He watched his diet. He cut out
the late-night carousing. He started to exercise. He bought a bicycle
and started to ride. Cycling fit him like a glove. In a matter of months,
Waymon's strength, balance and coordination improved. So did his attitude.
Waymon enjoyed the freedom of the open road. Waymon had happily become
another disciple of the "Church of the Spinning Wheel."
I met Waymon this summer at the Nike World Games in Portland, Oregon. He
saw the "Asbestos Kills!" logo on my cycling shorts and introduced
himself. I was immediately struck by Waymon's good cheer, positive
karma and enthusiasm. He was competing in the 40-45 division. He knew
his chances of standing on the winner's podium were slim, but that
did not deter his will to compete. His goal was to finish the grueling
70 mile race.
As it turns out, I wasn't the only rider who was impressed with Waymon's
exuberance. Waymon did indeed finish the race. He crossed the line several
minutes after the winners had already taken apart their bikes and packed
up their bags. The winner was Olav Stana of Kamloops, British Columbia.
Olav was a perennial gold medalist at international competitions.
Olav had never met Waymon before, but he couldn't help noticing the
Waymon's grit and determination. When the other racers were dropping
out like dead flies, Waymon continued to push the pedals. After the race,
Olav asked around and found Waymon's name and phone number. Olav called
Waymon that night and asked him to meet him the next day before the hill
climb (which, by the way, Olav won and smashed the course record for his
third straight gold medal for the week).
Unbeknownst to Waymon, Olav was following Waymon's "tortoise-like"
performance and was impressed with his perseverance. Olav whipped out
his Gold Medal Winner's Jersey and handed it to Waymon. "You
deserve it," Olav said. " You kept going when many others quit,
even though they may have been fitter."
Wow! Waymon was stoked. "In a Sport where winner's jerseys are
everything, I felt like I was on top of the world. The honor of a world
class racer giving up his 1st place jersey was just unbelievable. I have
never seen this in the big money commercialized sports. I will never forget
Olav's gesture. It has spurred me on to become a better rider, racer
and ambassador of the greatest sport there is, cycling."
A few weeks later, Waymon recorded a personal record in a 10 mile time
trial, where he averaged just under 25 mph. A few years earlier, Waymon
couldn't have averaged 25 mph for ten miles if he was coasting down
Mt. Hood. This is the power of motivation, guts and grit.
Waymon is a gem, but he's not rare. He's one of the hundreds of
unsung heros I have had the pleasure of knowing who refuse to quit. Whether
it's asbestosis, lung cancer, MS or even a bike race, it takes courage
to fight back. Nothing is handed to you. A champion ignores the pain and
despair and keeps going. Waymon knows this. It's not magic or luck.
Waymon could've given up when his doctors told him his future was
dark. But he chose to turn his life around. It doesn't just happen.
As Waymon knows, you have to make it happen.
We are proud to make Waymon Shadwick an honorary member of
Team Labor Power .
POSTED SEPTEMBER 23, 1998