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When I am not riding my bike, life loses purpose, I lose my lust for life.  
So long as I am pushing my pedals, with my heart beating & warming up my body, the creativity and answers present themselves to me…its where all my great ideas come and its where I find renewal and can rise above the daily fog that often surrounds me.

My name is Jessica Douglas.

Its 2015 and I am 42.

I have a 21 year old daughter, Saskia.

My husband Norm and I have been married 24 years this December.

I ride bikes and it defines me in every sense.

I have told this story many a time…but let me indulge again.

I was born in Geelong, in the February of 1973.  My parents were young, my mum 21 and my dad not quite 18 yet.  As you reflect on these times, often through smells and senses along with photos, I recall that I loved hanging out with me. I loved exploring. I loved creating.

As I type this I can remember going to an easter egg hunt at my Oma’s and later that day hiding easter eggs in my local neighbourhood as something exciting to do. I have no idea if anyone ever found them, but I had a lot of fun.  I remember devising episodes of my own little explore world where I would travel far and see things I had never seen before, right in my own back yard.  I would dig up dirt until I found clay and build sculptures and let them dry in the sun and paint them.  I even remember innocently escaping through my front door down the street to see the goat in an empty house block and my parents being a little worried!  

As I got older I remember loving going bush walking with my dad, I loved the journey.  

When I was four I was given a bike, and I rode this bike with great love.  My first recollection when my dad put me on it, was pedalling and then realising he was no longer holding on and then I just kept going, so thrilled that I was propelling myself forward by myself.  The strongest recollection of emotion was “freedom”…and so it began…the bike that gave me the means to go places that were further than I had been before.

Jess Bike 1

During these formative year, I do not recall being encouraged to play sport, but then I do not recall being told I could not do anything. Life was for me to make up as I went. The first born, no older cousins or siblings, just me and the world.  In fact it was authors like Enid Blyton that grew my mind and who wouldn't want to create their own Secret Seven or Famous Five?

Nope, sport was not for me,

but finding out about the hidden places that the world held secret was what I loved doing.

When I wasn't catching tadpoles, or digging up dirt, or building cubby houses, or taking all the dirt paths on my bike I was cooking and creating meals for my family from well before the age of 10.  I loved to draw and paint and my favourite pastime of all was to look at the house plans in the real estate sections of the paper and make up my own house plan drawings.  As I got older I learnt to use the sewing machine and made up my own clothing patterns often using my own handprinted fabric.

Jess Bike 2

I guess I just loved to create, dream and make my world a special place and I did not need anyone to come along the journey with me.

Let me talk about the primary school years. So bittersweet. Lots of good times, lots of learning, lots of just being a kid, but so much pain, so much that I am sad about and whilst I know you need to go through things to make you who you are, I am still saddened for the young Jessica.
I was bullied and a experienced being an outcast on certain days. If a friend was sick, I was on my own. When my friend left the school, I was on my own again. I was befriended by one of the popular girls only to have my shins kicked in every day as I walked home.  It makes me a bit teary just writing about it.  But this has made me who I am.  

Its my choice and always has been to not hold grudges but to forgive those who wrong me, and in turn I find peace.

There was one thing I continued to love during primary school and that was riding my bike.

Solo jaunts along the river for 20km with a backpack and a couple of pieces of fruit, vegemite saladas & some water.  

Then in grade 5 we had an awesome Bike Ed program where we learnt to ride on the roads and the end result was to ride 30 km to Queenscliff, stay the night and ride back.  I was in love!  From that day on, I had a new level of what was possible.  I was not even 11!

Its not until you take the time to reflect on life events that you can see how it all unfolded and today at 42, I still love all the things I did as a young child, though I don't draw as much, I don't paint, I don't dig up soil to find the clay, but in my life I create as an adult and I haven't stopped loving exploring the unknown. Sometimes this is literally about getting out and exploring and other times its about life, and jumping into the unknown with no guarantee of where you are headed but doing it anyway because the journey is the part that is the most fun anyway.

I am going to fast forward a few years to 1987.

We all have pivotal moments that make or break us and in 1987 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of cancer and was given some awesome stats on making it through, but I was 14 and now I was dealt this!
Chemotherapy was started instantly and this was a massive challenge.  Hours of feeling very ill, then hours of vomiting, followed by slow gradual hair loss over the next 10 months.

I was in high school now and hated missing out on school.  I loved all my teachers, the subjects and the students. School was fun and hospital was not.  Throughout my treatment I had about 10 days off in total for the year.

Chemo and the side effects taught me a massive lesson, that I remember acknowledging even back then, that to fight your way to get what you want, to reach the place of GOOD, to achieve the end result you are after, the harder the fight the greater the reward…and that fighting and persevering was about resilience and self belief.

The moment I was told about cancer and that I had it, and that I might not live and perhaps not live to be a certain age, and that maybe I might not be able to have children, that very moment all these words went into my brain and came out with a peace of mind that I actually was going to live, I was going to be ok.  

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I don't know when, why or how, but since a very young age, I always saw the lesson to be learnt, the good to be had, and the journey to be lived.

Cancer was crap. Vomiting was horrendous.  Losing hair was a pain. Being anaemic most of the time made simple tasks extremely hard.

In response to feeling crappy, I asked my mum if I could get a membership at the local leisure centre and started swimming and going to aerobics classes and gym.  

Having cancer was probably one of the best life lessons thrown at me,

I survived and learnt so much about myself and what is truly possible when you just go with it, believe the process and believe you can do it.  It wasn't nice, but thank goodness for that.  How can we live a life that is total awesome 100% of the time, this is not how we grow and learn and turn the world into an amazing place.  

After 1987, I turned into a person who really did not care too much about staying within the norm.  I used to catch the train to Melbourne and visit the state library and the art gallery and museum by myself.  I would then stay the night at my grandma’s in Reservoir and do all this by myself on the train.

I was also attending Camp Quality and found a friend or two that lived in Sydney. I conjured up a plan to ride my bike to there and carry panniers and camp the night on the side of the road, stay there a couple of days and catch the train back.  My mum whilst praising me on a wonderful concept did not allow it for fear that I might die.  Fair enough.  I was 15 and the roads were full of trucks and the Hume was not like it is today.

But she did suggest I do the Great Victorian Bike Ride as a family friend George was doing it.  I did some research (go to library and get an enrolment form) and found out that I needed a guardian over the age of 18…or be a part of a school group! Jackpot.  The next day I asked one of my favourite teachers if he thought we could do it.  And so was born the first Matthew Flinders Girls High School Great Vic Bike ride group. We did some training and that was it.  

I tidied up my my stepdad Tonys Repco 10 speed steel road bike with cage pedals and thought I was a superstar!

The Great Victorian Bike Ride was 8 days of riding with 1 rest day, 9 days in total.  It was hard however I just loved it so much on my return I really suffered a bit of the post event blues.  All I could dream of was doing it again and riding my bike every day.

The next year I saved up some money and bought my own bike which cost me $500 back in 1989.  It was blue and I had a yellow Atom helmet.    
I also paid for my own GVBR entry fee and spending money, thats how much I wanted to go.  I was now 16.

Again on our return, I experienced that mild depression on your return of something awesome, vowing to do it again some time soon.

The following year was year 12 and I was not going to be doing this GVBR.

I met Norm at the end of this year and we got married the next year, I was still 18!
My request for Norm was a simple one, marry me and be my best friend and promise me that we will do a 3 month tour of Europe on a bike before I turn 40.  

Norm was in the Navy and was posted in Sydney, which meant I found a University to attend and we started life as a married couple.

Now whilst we had 5 weeks off after our wedding on December 1st, we went to a water fun park in the west of Sydney.  There was some fun water slides and we were having a great time, until Norm suggested we go on the dead straight steep speed slide.

What I am about to tell you was but a small moment that resulted in a huge catalyst in my thinking to what was possible.

I was dead scared of this slide. It looked fun for other people but I was holding back and did not know why.  Norm asked me, “Do you want to do it?” I said that I did.

He asked me to watch for a bit, and look at what sort of people were coming out at the bottom, and what sort of injuries they were carrying or if they looked scared or were crying.

I had to admit they were all happy and there were no tears or blood, just a few post speed slide wedgies.

At this point, Norm did not have to ask if I wanted to do the speed slide, I already knew the answer and I had to do it even though I was still scared.  But based on my case study of success right in front of me, there was no reason for me to hold back any longer.

I did it and I loved it, I did it again and again and again.

The doors this simple speed slide incident opened up were huge and many.

I was never the same Jess Douglas again.

The secret for me was to look for role models, people before me that had experienced failure and success and to learn their methodology.  From this I gained strength and knew that if they could do it, I could do it!

….and this is where the next 20 odd years of my life really blossomed but I have reached 2279 words and need to save the next part of this story for you next week.

I would love you to send me an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to share your story on how you realised you were capable of so much more than you ever thought.