Being sick, getting better, finding yourself

Last year did not begin well for me - on January 2nd I ended up in a hospital with a collapsed lung caused by misdiagnosed pneumonia. Over the course of last year I had pneumonia 5 times. The doctors had no clear idea as to what was causing persistent lung infections and after batteries of unpleasant and sometimes painful tests they would always prescribe antibiotics and steroids. Being sick sucks at the best of times, but when you have a small child at home, a full-time job, a business and graduate school... I don’t even have words to describe how much it stinks. In March of 2011 I had a pulmonary function test which showed that my lung capacity was down to 52% - I could barely walk up a flight of stairs without having to sit down and catch my breath. My wife Irina was absolutely amazing through the whole ordeal - she juggled the kids, cooking, cleaning and taking care of me. Sometime in the summer of 2011 I met an amazing Pittsburgh photographer John Craig. We met for coffee to talk about photography. Somewhere along the line John told me about his battle with illness, spending time with family, running marathons and just dealing with health issues on a level that never occurred to me before. My last bout of pneumonia happened in December of 2011. I hate coming up with New Year’s resolutions because more often than not I don’t follow through on them. However, I decided to make an exception for 2012 - inspired by John’s example I set a goal for myself to bike the Great Allegheny Passage.

Biking Great Allegheny Passage | Dmitriy Babichenko Photography
In January of 2012 I started training for the bike ride - I began riding to work (an 18-mile round-trip commute) first once a week, then twice, and eventually almost every day. I started biking to the grocery store and pretty much everywhere I needed to go (without my kids). It was difficult and painful at first, but eventually I could ride up the insanely steep and windy Commercial Street without throwing up my lungs. Last week I took a few days off of work, grabbed my bike and hopped a train from Pittsburgh to Connelsville. In two days I rode about 120 miles, including getting lost and riding in the wrong direction for 10 miles. I met a lot of wonderful people on the trail - a 75-year-old couple who ride from Pittsburgh to Washington every year, a guy from upstate New York to whom I gave a paperback copy of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and a lady from Toronto who gave me a bottle of Gatorade when I ran out of water between Frostburg and Cumberland.
Biking Great Allegheny Passage | Dmitriy Babichenko Photography
I guess what I’m trying to say is that when you are sick, you tend to concentrate on your disease and forget about the world around you. Getting out of that dark spot in your mind, meeting new people, setting a goal for yourself and actually following through will help you deal with almost anything life throws at you. And most importantly, spend as much time with your family as possible - I missed a lot of moments in my daughter’s life because of work, school, illness and to me that’s far worse than being sick.
Biking Great Allegheny Passage | Dmitriy Babichenko Photography
More photos from my trip on Flickr.