brokenbiscuits

The Happiness of Pursuit: A Father's Courage, a Son's Love and Life's Steepest Climb - Davis Phinney, Austin Murphy, Lance Armstrong This was a very inspiring book, the true story of a world-class cyclist who has not let Parkinson's Disease quench his zest for life, and whose son is now also a champion cyclist.

I knew zero about cycling before reading this book--had heard of Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France, but that was as far as it went. I learned a lot. All the information was presented as part of the action, but it was clear and easy to follow even for a newbie. Phinney and his co-author tell gripping vignettes from his cycling career (amazing victories, depressing defeats, bloody smash-ups etc) to illustrate how Phinney took the lessons he learned from racing and used them in the more challenging struggle with Parkinson's Disease. Because the book is not chronological, occasionally I found the transitions confusing, but overall I enjoyed the format. For me, the most touching part of the book was the description of Davis Phinney's relationship with his father, a rocket scientist who had difficulty relating to his family and who didn't approve of his son's racing career. All Davis wanted was for his dad to be proud of him. At the end of his father's life they were able to repair their relationship and grow very close.

Phinney discusses the etiology of Parkinson's and says that while there's a genetic component, environmental toxins play a big role. He jokes about the fumes in the basement of his childhood home from his father's darkroom chemicals and solvents he used in a hobby business. A pretty grim joke. During the course of the book, Davis Phinney tells that his mother had an unnamed and maybe undiagnosed mental illness, his father died of cancer, he himself developed young-onset Parkinson's, and his daughter had a seizure disorder. On his wife's side, her mother had MS and her brother had a metastasized lymphoma. On the one hand, this all made me reflect that the family dealt very gracefully with these troubles. On the other hand, it made me reflect: heavy metal toxicity! If I were the youngest Phinneys, I would do hair tests straightaway and get them interpreted by a top expert to check for heavy metal poisoning.

Phinney presents an upbeat but realistic picture of living with an incurable disease and learning to cherish the happy moments and finding victory in the everyday. He began a charitable foundation, travels the world, and continues to bike as much as he can. Because medication wasn't working for him, he also did an interesting brain surgery that gave him a lot of relief from his symptoms. I think if you like sports stories, medical memoirs, or stories about family love, you will enjoy this book as much as I did.